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2014-15 International Prospects Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
JULY 2nd: The Mariners have agreed to terms with top international prospect Brayan Hernandez, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. Hernandez, a 16-year-old outfielder from Venezuela, will receive a $1.85MM bonus, per Sanchez.
A switch-hitter, Hernandez ranked No. 8 on MLB.com’s list of top international amateurs and third on Baseball America’s version of the same list. Sanchez, BA’s Ben Badler and Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel have all connected the Mariners to Hernandez in the past, with McDaniel making the link all the way back in February.
Badler called Hernandez one of the most well-rounded players and best athletes in this year’s class. He has the potential to hit 15 to 20 homers with slightly above-average speed but a below-average throwing arm, per Badler. Sanchez calls him a contact hitter with a balanced setup that could improve quickly upon getting into regular games, due to a natural swing and strong hand-eye coordination.
The Athletics announced that they have acquired minor league right-hander Rodolfo Fernandez from the Brewers for the No. 57 international bonus slot, which carries a value of $339K.
The Brewers have been rumored to be on the hunt for some additional bonus money, as they’ve agreed to terms with Dominican shortstop Gilbert Lara on a $3.2MM bonus but have an international bonus pool of just over $2.6MM. This new move boosts their overall bonus pool $2,950,800, which is still $249,200 short of Lara’s reported bonus. That means that their agreement with Lara would still result in an overage of 8.4 percent, which would be enough to prevent them from signing a player in next year’s signing period for any more than $500K.
While MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez has since listed Lara’s signing bonus, even that $149,200 overage would still result in a 5.05 percent overage. The Brew Crew needs to keep the overage under five percent in order to avoid restrictions on their spending next season, so it seems likely that the team will pursue further bonus slots in order to come in under that number. Further trades will have to be completed before Lara’s signing is officially announced, as teams cannot acquire additional bonus money once they have already exceeded their signing pool.
Fernandez, a 24-year-old Cuban right-hander, has a 2.87 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings at Low Class A this season. He didn’t rank among Milwaukee’s Top 30 prospects, per Baseball America or the team’s Top 20 prospects, per MLB.com. The trade serves as another example of teams moving international bonus money for relatively marginal returns.
The Astros have agreed to sign Dominican outfielder Ronny Rafael to a contract with a $1.5MM bonus, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter link). The 20-year-old ranked 20th on MLB.com’s list of top 30 international prospects, while he checked in at 25th on Baseball America’s top-30 list.
A 6’0″, 177-pound product of Santo Domingo, the MLB.com scouting report notes that “some scouts believe Rafael is the perfect mix of power, speed and football-type athleticism” with plus speed and aggressive base-running, the ability to play any of the three outfield positions and good raw power. BA’s scouting report is a little more pessimistic, calling Rafael a “strength-based tools guy who’s still learning feel for the game,” and “a free swinger whose pitch recognition needs work, so his offensive profile projects to be power over OBP.”
Rafael is the third international prospect to sign a seven-figure deal with the Astros, following their $1MM contracts with Franklin Perez and Miguel Sierra. Houston has room to be aggressive since they have the highest international bonus pool of any team in MLB.
- The Royals have signed Dominican shortstop Ricky Aracena, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). Aracena, who ranked 24th on Sanchez’s Top 30 list and 17th per Baseball America’s Ben Badler, will receive a bonus of $850K, Sanchez says. Sanchez notes that Aracena is a switch-hitter with equal bat speed and home run power from each side of the plate, and he has the tools to stick at shortstop. Sanchez likens him to Rafael Furcal in terms of body type, while Badler (subscription required) compares him to a larger version of Jose Altuve. Scouts “marvel” at how polished and instinctive Aracena is at such a young age, according to Badler.