Here’s the latest news from the international scene:
- Major League Baseball announced on Thursday the launch of a new Trainer Partnership Program that will strive to combat PED use among international amateurs prior to their signing with MLB organizations. The new partnership, per the league’s formal announcement, will require participating trainers to “enroll their players in MLB’s drug testing program, submit themselves and their employees to background checks, keep updated records of amateur players in their care, and comply with MLB rules regarding international players.” In exchange for that level of transparency, MLB will provide enrolled trainers and their players with “enhanced scouting opportunities.” The league will also promote trainers who are enrolled in the Partnership Program to Latin American players and their families.
- It’s obviously good to hear of an initiative that holds out the promise of improving the health and wellness of young amateur players, though of course many have argued that the trainers (generally known as “buscones” in Latin America) have themselves played a major role in creating the problematic conditions in the first place. MLB’s engagement with this shadowy world has long been a point of controversy without clear solutions. It seems that this agreement represents quite a notable step toward a more formalized relationship between the league and at least certain trainers, though no doubt there’ll still be quite a lot to sort out along the way.
- In Japan, meanwhile, MLB teams interact with amateur and professional talent under quite different circumstances. Generally, young Japanese players spend quite a bit of time playing professionally in their home country before the possibility of hopping the Pacific is entertained. But there have been notable exceptions — specifically, Junichi Tazawa — and now the Diamondbacks have potentially upset the apple cart by reportedly agreeing to terms with a 23-year-old amateur Japanese hurler named Shumpei Yoshikawa. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic says there is indeed an agreement in place, as Japanese media reports had indicated, with a $650K bonus going to Yoshikawa if it is finalized. As Piecoro explains, that signing seemingly violates the norms of player movement between Japan and the majors. While in this case the player in question was pitching in the Industrial League after previously being bypassed in the Nippon Professional Baseball draft, he had emerged as a significant NPB draft target. It’s certainly an interesting development; those who wish to learn more on the subject should read the full article.
- While many teams have already done the bulk of their heavy lifting on the international prospect market, additional signings will nonetheless filter in between now and next June. A few that have surfaced over the past couple of days …
- The Angels have signed Dominican outfield prospect Alexander Ramirez, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link). Ramirez, who took home a $1MM bonus according to Ben Badler of Baseball America (also via Twitter), ranked 24th on MLB.com’s rankings of this year’s international prospects and 25th on Badler’s rankings over at BA. He had to wait until his 16th birthday (yesterday) for the signing to become official. Badler noted that Ramirez has average tools across the board, adding that scouts who like him the most are highest on his hit tool.
- Elsewhere, the Orioles announced another pair of international signings this week, adding 16-year-old infielder Moises Ramirez and right-hander Carlos Del Rosario — both out of the Dominican Republic. Neither was considered among the top 50 amateurs on this offseason’s class, per Baseball America’s rankings, though it’s nonetheless notable to see Baltimore continue to make some additions from a market they’d previously avoided almost entirely. Then again, the O’s did still dish out $750K of their 2018-19 pool in order to acquire first-base prospect Jack Zoellner — a 23-year-old 2017 ninth-rounder still in Rookie ball — in a trade with the Phillies earlier this week. And the Royals have signed right-hander Jin Woo-young — a high school righty out of South Korea (h/t: Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net, on Twitter). Naver Sports reports that he received a bonus of $150K.