Ben Badler of Baseball America has provided three separate looks at the 2017-18 international free agency period over the past week or so, running down 20 well-regarded prospects as well as their likely destinations once the signing period kicks off on July 2. Badler’s scouting efforts do require a subscription, though I’d highly recommend it for those who are interested in the international market (as well as the upcoming amateur draft, which BA obviously covers extensively as well). Financial details on all of the names within aren’t available, though Badler does report that 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Wander Franco (not to be confused with the Royals prospect of the same name) is expected to sign with the Rays for a bonus just shy of $4MM. Franco also ranked No. 1 on the International Top 30 of MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez — another invaluable resource for those wishing to brush up on the top international prospects on the market in the weeks leading up to the new signing period. Those seeking a refresher on the new international spending limitations from the most recent collective bargaining agreement can refer back to Badler’s recap from this past December, as well (no subscription required on that one).
A couple more notes on the international market…
- Cuban shortstop Jose Israel Garcia was recently declared a free agent by Major League Baseball, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, and he’s drawing interest from a number of clubs. To this point, the Reds, Astros and Padres have all shown interest in Garcia. That would seem to indicate that he’s looking to sign before the current period comes to a close on June 15, as each of those teams has exceeded its 2016-17 pool allotment to the point that they’ll incur maximum penalization in the 2017-18 class. There’s not much data on the 19-year-old Garcia, though Heyman has described him as “slick-fielding.”
- ESPN’s Keith Law wonders (Insider subscription required and recommended) whether the White Sox made a mistake in making such a substantial commitment to Cuban star Luis Robert. As Law notes, position players from Cuba have flopped in the Majors more than they’ve succeeded. Law also adds that he’s spoken to a number of scouts to gauge Robert’s abilities, as he’s yet to be able to see Robert himself, and each scout to whom he spoke offered concerns about Robert’s hit tool. All agreed that he’s athletic and is a plus runner in addition to possessing above-average bat speed and raw power as well, however. Conversely, Law suggests that if one team was going to “overpay” and take such a significant gamble on Robert’s upside, the Cardinals had the best rationale. The Cards are without their top three picks in the 2017 draft after forfeiting one to sign Dexter Fowler and losing another two as punishment in the notorious data breach scandal, thus depriving them of means to add high-impact young talent. While Robert is certainly a risk, the Cardinals’ lack of alternative means of acquiring young talent would’ve made them a better fit to make the gamble. St. Louis was also already over its bonus pool even without Robert, while the Sox only just pushed themselves into the penalty bracket with Robert’s deal.