The Rays have signed 16-year-old Dominican outfield prospect Jhon Diaz, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports (via Twitter). Diaz had been widely projected to go to the Yankees, and Sanchez even tweeted on July 2 that Diaz and New York had agreed to a $1.2MM signing bonus. It seems, however, that said deal was never officially finalized. (In the case of today’s report, Sanchez tweeted a photo of Diaz signing with his contract with the Rays.)
The Yankees pledged the vast majority of their $5.398MM bonus pool to fellow Dominican outfield prospect Jasson Dominguez — to the point that they’d have needed to trade for roughly $1MM in additional funds to accommodate both Dominguez and Diaz (at their reported bonus levels). Such a trade never came together prior to the deadline, so perhaps Diaz’s camp simply found another suitor with ample remaining funds in its bonus pool.
When international free agency kicked off on July 2, Diaz ranked as the No. 7 prospect on the market over at Fangraphs and checked in at No. 18 on Sanchez’s list at MLB.com. The specific numerical rankings aren’t of the foremost importance; prospect rankings in general are an inexact science, and that’s even more true when writing about the second tier of more seldom-seen international teenagers. Rather, the key takeaway is that Tampa Bay has added yet another intriguing piece to an already deep farm system that is graded among the game’s elite.
Diaz is a center fielder who draws praise for his above-average speed and defensive instincts in addition to a compact swing and plenty of present-day skill (rather than the pure physical projection that accompanies many 16-year-old signees). He’ll join an international class for Tampa Bay that had previously been headlined by Dominican shortstop Wilmer de la Cruz. Baseball America’s Ben Badler has a list of other prospects the Rays have inked during the current signing period, which runs through June 15, 2020.