Major League Baseball’s international signing period for 2023 has officially opened up today, with many of the big names signing almost immediately. Teams have long since agreed to verbal agreements with newly eligible teenage players, and today’s signings largely represent confirmation of what was anticipated. Still, it’s a day of no small moment, particularly for the young men embarking upon the start of their professional careers.
As previously mentioned, most of the agreements have been known for a while, with Baseball America’s Ben Badler and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez having listed each player’s expected landing spot. You can find each team’s total bonus pool and other information on the process right here. Here are a few key deals:
- Ethan Salas, C, Venezuela — Padres ($5.6MM): Ranked as the top prospect by both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline, the 16-year-old is considered by MLB Pipeline as “one of the best catching prospects in recent history” and is lauded for his strike zone control, power, and defense. Scouts have specifically highlighted his swing and soft hands. Born in June 2006, the backstop is the youngest player in MLB Pipeline’s Top 10 International Prospect Rankings. The young switch-hitter is no stranger to high-level baseball, with his grandfather, father, and uncle all playing professionally, and his older brother Jose Salas signed by the Marlins in 2019. Salas’ $5.6MM deal will comprise almost all of the Padres’ base signing pool of $5.825,000.
- Felnin Celesten, SS, Dominican Republic — Mariners ($4.7MM): MLB Pipeline’s second-best prospect and Baseball America’s third-best, Celesten has been heralded as having “the highest ceiling of any international shortstop prospect in a decade” by MLB Pipeline. Scouts have noted the switch-hitter’s plus speed, arm, and raw power. However, Baseball America reports that Celesten has “an aggressive approach” and “might need to become a more selective hitter.“
- Brando Mayea, OF, Cuba — Yankees ($4.4MM): Baseball America’s second-best prospect and MLB Pipeline’s ninth-best, Mayea has drawn praise for his bat speed, power, and approach to the plate, with one scout going as far as to describe the 17-year-old as a “mini Gary Sheffield.” Scouts have praised the righty’s strong arm, with some expecting an eventual move to a corner outfield position.
- Alfredo Duno, C, Venezuela — Reds (Unknown): MLB Pipeline’s fourth-best prospect and Baseball America’s seventh-best, Duno is a 17-year-old catcher that boasts three above-average tools — his fielding, arm, and power. Scouts have praised his “elite bat speed” and defensive ability. MLB Pipeline and Baseball America both predict that Duno will remain behind the plate, but both also cite his swing-and-miss tendencies as a result of his aggressive approach.
- Emmanuel Bonilla, OF, Dominican Republic — Blue Jays ($4.1MM): Baseball America’s fourth-best prospect and MLB Pipeline’s seventh-best, Bonilla profiles as a slugging outfielder that has a chance to remain in centerfield but will likely move to a corner position as the 16-year-old matures. Scouts have praised the righty’s bat speed and swing, with Baseball America reporting that some scouts believe Bonilla has “one of the best combinations of hitting ability and power in the class.”
- Luis Morales, RHP, Cuba — Athletics (Unknown): MLB Pipeline’s fifth-best prospect and Baseball America’s ninth-best, Morales is a hard-throwing righty with a fastball that sits between 94-97 MPH with a slider, changeup, and curveball as secondary pitches. Born in Cuba, Morales was considered the best U-18 pitcher on the island, setting a record for strikeouts (161) in 82 2/3 innings between 2019 and 2020. He defected in 2021 while playing for Cuba’s U-23 team in Mexico. Morales, 20, is one of the oldest high-profile international prospects and thus may be potentially fast-tracked through the A’s system.
- Sebastian Walcott, SS, Bahamas — Rangers (Unknown): Baseball America’s sixth-best prospect and MLB Pipeline’s eighth-best, Walcott is a 6’3, 170 lbs (6’4, 190 lbs, per Baseball America) 16-year-old that has impressed scouts with high raw power and bat speed. Despite being 6’3, Walcott has drawn praise for his contact skills, hand-eye coordination, and his fluid swing. Baseball America projects that as Walcott matures, he will outgrow the shortstop position and transition to third base.
Several other well-regarded prospects also secured bonuses of $2M or more, with the specifics provided by Sanchez:
- Brailer Guerrero, OF, D.R., Rays ($3.7MM) [MLB Pipeline #12, BA #5]
- Jesus Caba, SS, D.R., Phillies ($3MM) [MLB Pipeline #11, BA #8]
- Ariel Castro, OF, Cuba, Twins ($2.5MM) [MLB Pipeline #11, BA#13]
- Rayner Arias, OF, D.R., Giants ($2.8MM) [MLB Pipeline #15, BA #8]
- Camilo Diaz, OF, D.R., Astros ($2.25MM) [MLB Pipeline #17, BA #19]
- Luis Almeyda, SS, D.R., Orioles ($2.3MM) [MLB Pipeline #20, BA #17]
- Roberto Calaz, OF, D.R., Rockies ($2.5MM) [MLB Pipeline #24, BA #14]