2014-15 International Prospects Rumors

Andy Ibanez Changes Representation

Cuban second baseman Andy Ibanez, who has unexpectedly languished on the market despite being declared a free agent months ago, has changed agents, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. He’ll move from Bart Hernandez and Praver/Shapiro to Relativity Baseball.

The 22-year-old appeared to be preparing to sign earlier in the spring, but with his change of agencies it’s now unclear when that might happen. As Badler notes, there seems to be a reasonable likelihood that he’ll ultimately wait until the calendar flips to a new July 2 period, when a new slate of clubs will pull the trigger on spending cap-busting bonuses. (Ibanez is subject to international bonus pools.)

As Badler writes, Ibanez is a well-known and well-regarded prospect. While he does not have any particularly flashy aspects to his game, he’s regarded as a sturdy ballplayer across the board. Badler rates him above fellow young infielder Roberto Baldoquin, who got $8MM from the Angels, but notes that he could nevertheless fall shy of that mark.

Astros Acquire Int’l Bonus Slots From Orioles For Chris Lee

The Orioles have announced a deal that will send a pair of 2014-15 international bonus slots to the Astros. Baltimore will pick up left-hander Chris Lee in return.

Houston will pick up the 46th and 76th overall slots, per Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). That delivers an additional $391.5K and $264.3K, respectively, to the Astros’ international coffers for the current July 2 signing season, which is obviously nearing a close.

The addition boosts an already league-leading $5MM+ total allocation. Baltimore had a total of about $2.25MM to work with in the present signing period before today’s move.

The Astros have reportedly signed several seven-figure players, including Ronny RafaelFranklin Perez, and Miguel Sierra. Presumably, the extra space will allow the team to add a few extra players or to avoid some penalties for any overages already incurred.

Lee, 22, has yet to move past the low-A level in the Astros organization, though Baseball America rated him Houston’s 24th-best prospect before the 2014 season. He worked to a 3.66 ERA over 113 innings last year, but posted just 6.0 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. In Lee’s 30 2/3 frames this time around, he has a more promising 7.0 K/9 versus 2.9 BB/9, though he is running a slightly higher earned run average (4.11).

Quick Hits: Trout, Martinez, Street, Revere

Mike Trout isn’t the only baseball talent in his family, as Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh details in a piece about the Angels superstar’s father.  Jeff Trout was a Twins fifth-round draft pick in 1983 and he put up an impressive .303/.382/.425 slash line in 1575 career minor league at-bats, with three of his four seasons coming at the Double-A level.  The elder Trout chose to retire early, however, partially due to injuries and partially out of some frustration that his career was stalling in the minors.  Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez could sign with a team as early as next week, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter links).  The 20-year-old was seen by scouts and executives from 17 teams during a workout in the Dominican Republic today.  He boasts a 6.4 second time in the 60-yard dash and has two years of experience in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, including hitting .229/.333/.324 over 133 PA as an 18-year-old in 2013.  Martinez is subject to international pool guidelines, and if he does sign during what’s left of the 2014-15 signing period, it will mean the Cubs and Rangers (due to penalties) won’t be able to land him unless he accepts a bonus of $300K or less.  If Martinez doesn’t sign until after the 2015-16 period opens on July 2, the Angels, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Diamondbacks will be under those penalties.
  • Huston Street “might have gotten the best deal he could get,” Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times opines about the closer’s two-year, $18MM extension with the Angels.  Shaikin thinks that Street might not have found such a generous deal in free agency given how several teams are becoming more likely to rely on cheap power arms in the ninth inning rather than spend big on veteran closers.  An injury also could’ve hurt Street’s value, which is a significant concern given that he’s spent a notable amount of time on the DL in his career.
  • Ben Revere is no stranger to trade rumors, though the Phillies outfielder is trying to focus on playing rather than speculation that he could be dealt, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes.  “I know it’s a business.  I know we need some guys to help this program out, this organization out,” Revere said.  “If I do [get traded], it’s a part of the game. But the only thing I’m trying to do is help the team win. I’m not worrying about it. If it does happen, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’m going to try to bring some W’s to this team.”

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.