Over at Baseball America, Ben Badler provides an outstanding preview of the coming July 2 international signing period. Of particular note, Badler reports that the Astros are expected to exceed their spending limits and incur the maximum penalty (a 100% overage tax and two-year ban on $300K+ bonuses). Houston has been making huge outlays through the draft in recent years, but saw its domestic amateur spending capacity plummet after the club’s excellent performance at the major league level one year ago. With that pipeline now constrained, Badler says the ’Stros will blow past their available $2.2MM or so in pool allocation on just one player — Cuban shortstop Anibal Sierra — while likely adding several other pricey youngsters.
More from Badler’s column and from some other outlets as both the Draft and the 2016-17 international signing period draw near…
- Badler goes on to detail the latest elsewhere in the market, listing some of the high-dollar prospects attached to the Braves, Padres, Nationals, and Cardinals, which are the other clubs he expects to top their cap this year. He also explains the interesting case of Dominican infielder Freudis Nova, who lost an apparent ~$2.5MM agreement with the Marlins after testing positive for steroid use. He now appears to be up for grabs, with his landing spot and ultimate bonus uncertain. Badler writes that the Padres and Astros make sense as logical possibilities, as each is already expected to shatter their bonus pool, while clubs that are planning to stick within their set limitations have largely allocated most of their funds via verbal agreements already.
- The Reds, meanwhile, may yet be able to stay within their second-in-the-majors allotment, per Badler. Cincinnati is still expected to give shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez a $7MM bonus, but could still pick up enough slots via trade to keep the total spend within the limits.
- Sticking with the international free agent scene, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports that Cuban outfielder Alexei Bell, who has been playing in the Mexican League, has asked for his release from los Tigres de Quintana Roo (Twitter link). Per Sanchez, Bell has been hit on both the hand and the arm and doesn’t want to risk a serious injury. It should be noted, too, that Bell was scuffling at the plate in his limited sample, batting just .171/.310/.314 through 42 plate appearances.
- The Brewers’ top baseball decision-maker, GM David Stearns, has paid visits to watch high-school pitchers Jason Groome and Riley Pint as well as University of Miami catcher Zack Collins, Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs reports on Twitter. Longenhagen also adds (Twitter link) that Rockies GM Jeff Bridich recently took a long look at Groome, who was previously favored to go first overall but has slipped in recent mock drafts.
- Speaking of mock drafts, there are several new ones worth taking a look at for those interested in prognostication. Frankie Piliere of D1Baseball.com still likes the Phillies to grab University of Florida lefty A.J. Puk at 1-1, which is also the prediction of ESPN.com’s Keith Law (Insider link). Law has Kyle Lewis going second to the Reds and Groome heading to the Braves with the third choice. Baseball America’s John Manuel, meanwhile, now thinks the Phils will go for high school outfielder Mickey Moniak, leaving Cincinnati to grab Puk and setting up Atlanta to take Louisville’s Corey Ray.