2014-15 International Prospects Rumors

International Notes: Alvarez, Fox, July 2

Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has an extensive update on the upcoming amateur international market, including some familiar and some new names. Be sure to give the piece a full read for details, but we’ll run through some of the key notes here:

  • Word is that young Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez will wait until after July 2 to sign, even if he gets a waiver to do so sooner, in large part because of chatter suggesting that the Dodgers will be major players in the market at that time. Los Angeles is widely tabbed as the likeliest team to land Alvarez, with some believing that a $16MM deal is already in place.
  • One interesting name to watch is shortstop Lucius Fox, who was born in the Bahamas, played high school ball in the states, and then moved back to his home country while asking MLB to declare him an international free agent. He would likely land over a million dollars and wait til July 2 to sign if, as expected, MLB grants his request. If not, McDaniel says Fox could be a top-50 selection in the draft.
  • McDaniel also breaks down the latest on this year’s crop of more traditional July 2 prospects. Among those expected to crack the $4MM bonus barrier include Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (expected to sign with the Blue Jays), Jhailyn Ortiz (Phillies), and Wander Javier (Twins). 
  • There are a whole host of July 2 players discussed beyond that group, most all of whom are documented by video.

Latest On Yoan Moncada

Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada has yet to receive any formal offers from teams, agent David Hastings tells FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter link).  Despite this, Hastings said it’s “realistic” that his client could sign within the next week.

This represents a slight change from Hastings’ most recent statement about Moncada’s future, as the agent had previously set February 23rd as a rough date to “have all the input we need to make a decision on where he’ll start — and hopefully end — his professional career.”  Hastings has expressed an eagerness to get Moncada into a Spring Training camp as soon as possible, so while this shifting timeline may amount to just a day or two, it could possibly hint that Moncada already has some idea of where he wants to play if the right offer is made over the next seven days.  As of three days ago, Moncada was still scheduled for four or five more private workouts with teams (including the Diamondbacks and Cubs) and it isn’t believed that he would sign before his workouts are complete.

Given the widespread interest in Moncada, it’s perhaps a bit surprising that no club has officially submitted an offer yet.  Then again, considering the high price tag attached to signing Moncada (a bonus between $30MM-$40MM, plus an equal amount in penalty taxes for going over the international bonus limit), I can understand why teams would want to be absolutely sure he’s worth the investment.  Moncada has worked out for some teams multiple times, so if one of his forthcoming workouts is another return engagement, I would guess it’s possible that this team will see enough to confirm their interest and then present an offer.

International Notes: Alvarez, Olivera, Moncada

Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez has quickly become one of the most talked-about prospects on the international market, and the buzz among scouts, per Yahoo’s Jeff Passan (on Twitter), is that the Phillies, Dodgers and Diamondbacks are expected to heavily pursue the 18-year-old. In a recent workout in the Dominican Republic, Alvarez showed 93-to-97 mph heat, and as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has shown in posting video, he also features a promising slider. A previous report noted that the Twins had their VP of player personnel and other scouts watch Alvarez also, though their specific level of interest remains unclear.

Here’s more from the international front…

  • The Angels are looking at Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports (Twitter link). It’s unclear how serious the Halos’ interest is at this juncture, Fletcher cautions, but certainly their long-term outlook at second base is hazy at best. Grant Green, Josh Rutledge and Johnny Giavotella will compete for reps at the keystone this season, but the Angels could benefit from adding an MLB-ready (or close to it) second baseman. Then again, the Angels have persistently refused to make moves that would put them over the luxury tax threshold, and Olivera is expected by teams to seek as much as $12MM annually.
  • Yoan Moncada worked out for the Dodgers in Florida today, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. A number of the Dodgers’ top executives were present to get a first-hand look at the 19-year-old infielder. The Dodgers are said to be one of the most serious suitors for Moncada, along with the Yankees, Red Sox and possibly the Padres.
  • The Dodgers are reportedly wary about limiting themselves for future international signings by making a big splash for Moncada, though Baseball America’s Ben Badler opined (via Twitter) that he wouldn’t be surprised if L.A. signed both Moncada and Olivera. I agree with Badler — if the Dodgers are willing to exceed the international pool limit anyway, they might as well load up on international talent now since they’ll be virtually unable to make any such signings until June 2017.
  • If Moncada was eligible for the 2015 draft, he’d be a strong candidate to be the first overall pick, MLB.com’s Jim Callis notes in his comparison of Moncada to current top infield prospects. “His overall 65 grade would place him among the top dozen prospects in baseball right now, and it’s arguably a bit conservative, because teams haven’t had the chance to evaluate him against much quality competition,” Callis writes.

International Notes: Olivera, Moncada

Here’s the latest on some of the top international players who seem set to join Major League Baseball in 2015…

  • The Athletics, Padres and Yankees are the teams who have been particularly connected to Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera, sources tell Baseball America’s Ben Badler.  All three teams have a need at second base, and Badler opines that the Nationals could also be a contender for Olivera given their lack of depth at the keystone.  The Marlins were also linked to Olivera earlier in the offseason though their subsequent acquisition of Dee Gordon may have solved their need for second base help.
  • Also from Badler, he describes Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada as a “potential franchise player” in a clip from a new documentary by Jonathan Miller and Sami Kahn. Badler’s commentary is a continuous stream of praise, which is perhaps unsurprising given the 19-year-old Moncada’s reputation. Moncada is reportedly currently in Florida, waiting to be cleared by the US Office Of Foreign Assets Control before he can sign with a big-league team.

At Least Four Teams Interested In Yoan Lopez

Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez has drawn “strong interest” from several teams, including the Diamondbacks, Giants, Padres and Yankees, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports.  The 21-year-old Lopez held one showcase for scouts earlier this month and will showcase himself again next week in the Dominican Republic.

Lopez is a 6’4″, 190-pound pitcher who has three seasons under his belt for Isla de la Juventud of Cuba’s Serie Nacional.  Major League Baseball has declared Lopez a free agent, but the righty still has to receive clearance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury before he can sign with a team.

According to Sanchez, Lopez “throws a cut-fastball, a change, a curve and a slider, but is best known for a fastball that hovers in the 93-to-95 MPH range. His fastball has been clocked at 100 MPH three times since he began working out for teams.”

The Yankees are one of four clubs (the others being the Rays, Red Sox and Angels) who have already exceeded their spending pools for the 2014-15 international signing period, as Sanchez notes.  This could make these teams more apt to spend on Lopez since they’re already being penalized anyway, though if Lopez doesn’t receive his clearance by June 15, the quartet will be prohibited from spending more than $300K to sign Lopez or any pool-eligible player for each of the next two international signing periods.  If one of the other 26 teams particularly fancies Lopez, of course, they can always exceed their pool limit and accept a penalty themselves.

The D’Backs made a big splash in the international market yesterday by signing Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, while the Padres and Giants were finalists for Tomas’ services.  San Francisco and New York were recently listed by Baseball America’s Ben Badler as two of the top contenders for another star Cuban prospect, Yoan Moncada.  The Yankees, of course, were by far the most active team of the 2014-15 signing period, making deals with ten of Baseball America’s top 30 international prospects.

Cuban 2B Andy Ibanez Is In Dominican Republic

NOVEMBER 18: Ibanez is in the Dominican Republic, sources tell Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (Twitter links). There is still no timetable for a showcase, per McDaniel, who says that Ibanez appears to have arrived in the D.R. within the last week. It appears, however, that Ibanez is at least now set to begin the process of making himself available to be signed by MLB clubs.

OCTOBER 27: Andy Ibanez, a 21-year-old second baseman, has left Cuba in pursuit of a Major League contract, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports.  The 5’10”, 183-pound, right-handed hitting Ibanez is believed to have left Cuba sometime before September 21, which was the start of the Serie Nacional season.

Baseball America recently ranked Ibanez eighth on their list of the best prospects still in Cuba, with Badler writing that Ibanez “doesn’t have any premium tools or star upside, but his value lies in being steady in all phases while playing in the middle of the diamond.”  He posted a .267/.377/.435 line over 280 PA last season and won a Gold Glove in his 2011-12 rookie year.  Badler figures that Ibanez would start his Major League career at high-A or Double-A ball.

Since Ibanez has only three seasons of experience in Serie Nacional, he’ll be subject to the 2014-15 international bonus pools.  If Ibanez can get cleared to sign before the 2014-15 signing period ends on June 15, Badler thinks this could give the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays an advantage in signing him since those clubs have already exceeded their pool limits (and thus they don’t have to worry about spending more on new signings).  Those overages will prevent the three teams from signing any bonus pool-eligible players for the next two years, however, so the AL East trio will be out of the running for Ibanez if he isn’t a free agent by that June 15 date.

International Notes: Leyva, Mena

Here’s some news from the international player market…

  • The Orioles have signed Cuban right-hander Lazaro Leyva to a contract with a $725K bonus, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  Leyva didn’t rate a mention in the top-30 international prospect lists released by Baseball America or MLB.com prior to July 2, and there’s little information publicly known about Leyva, both scouting-wise and even in regards to his basic biography.  It’s no surprise that MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko tweets the deal will be official once Levya passes a physical and has his age confirmed.
  • Right-hander David Mena has left Cuba and is looking to establish residency in a South American country, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (via Twitter).  Mena, 21, would be subject to international signing pool guidelines if and when he becomes eligible to join an MLB team.

Mariners To Sign Christopher Torres

The Mariners have agreed to sign Dominican shortstop prospect Christopher Torres with a $375K bonus, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter links). Torres was rated the 18th-best overall international prospect available on this year’s July 2 market by MLB.com.

While Torres’s bonus is nothing to sneeze at, it falls well shy of the $2.1MM that he was reportedly promised by the Yankees before the club backed out of its commitment. New York is said to have been hit with a $20K fine over the situation.

As Ben Badler of Baseball America explained in reporting the dispute, Torres was left in a particularly difficult spot since other clubs had already promised their international pool space to other players. Torres’s trainer also told Badler that the player had previously been offered $1.6MM by Seattle before reaching terms with the Yankees. You’ll want to give Badler’s entire piece a read to understand the ordeal.

According to MLB.com, Torres brings a switch-hitting bat whose hit tool is better from the left side but delivers more power from the right. Defense and speed are his calling cards at present, though he has a large enough frame that he has some projection at the plate.

Yankees Notes: Tanaka, Torres, Judge, A-Rod

The Yankees’ playoff chances may hinge on a game of catch that will take place today at Yankee Stadium.  General manager Brian Cashman confirmed to George A. King III of the New York Post that Masahiro Tanaka will throw today for the first time since a slight UCL tear was discovered in the righty’s throwing elbow.  If Tanaka feels good after his session, he’ll continue his rehab process with an eye towards a return in September.  If he doesn’t feel right, Tanaka may have to undergo Tommy John surgery and could be in jeopardy of missing the entire 2015 season.

Here’s some more about the Bronx Bombers…

  • The trainer for Christopher Torres, a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop, made a complaint to the commissioner’s office claiming the Yankees backed out of an agreed-upon $2.1MM bonus with the youngster, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports.  The Yankees claim no deal was ever reached, while Torres’ trainer says that by not informing Torres of their decision until June, the shortstop was left unsigned with no teams had room left in their international budget.  Badler goes into great detail about the case and the gray area created when teams agree to sign international players months in advance of the July 2 signing period, which is against MLB rules but is very common around the league.
  • The Phillies asked for Aaron Judge in exchange for Marlon Byrd, according to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News.  Needless to say, the Yankees balked at giving up Judge, who was drafted 32nd overall in 2013 and is ranked by MLB.com as the fifth-best prospect in the Yankees’ farm system.
  • With the Yankees struggling at the plate and facing questions at third base and DH for 2015, Newsday’s David Lennon writes that Alex Rodriguez would’ve been a useful piece on the roster right now.  Had A-Rod worked out a 125-150 game suspension last August instead of appealing and ending up suspended for all of 2014, he would already have been eligible to return, Lennon notes.
  • Also from King’s piece, Rusney Castillo‘s private workout with the Yankees will take place on Friday.  The Cuban outfielder also has an upcoming session with the Mariners, and he has already worked out for the Phillies and Red Sox.  King hears from sources that Castillo could sign for between $35-45MM, which is a step up from the $25-35MM we last heard was Castillo’s likely price range, though given the heavy interest in his services and the big-market teams involved, it isn’t surprising his price tag is going up.

Phillies Sign Jonathan Arauz

Here are today’s international signings, with the latest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Phillies have signed 16-year-old Panamanian shortstop Jonathan Arauz to a contract worth a $600K bonus, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports (Twitter link).  Arauz didn’t crack the top-30 international prospect rankings for either MLB.com or Baseball America, though BA’s Ben Badler reports that some scouts considered Arauz to be Panama’s best young player.  The switch-hitting Arauz is “better from the left side with gap power,” Badler writes, and the teenager has the strong arm and smooth hands that could allow him to stick at shortstop.  Philadelphia has been active since the international market opened up on July 2nd, also inking notable Venezuelan youngsters Arquimedes Gamboa and Daniel Brito to a combined $1.55MM in bonuses.