The International Signing Market: Part 1

Now that I’ve finished the organizational prospect lists, it’s time to circle back to the amateur baseball coverage and give some updates on what’s happening there. Before I jump into the international signing (most often referred to as the July 2nd group, because that’s the date players become eligible to sign) news, I’ll first give some updates on two Cubans and a Bahamian that should sign deals around that time as well, but don’t fit perfectly into the player pool.

Not Quite July 2nd Prospects

I wrote up 19-year-old Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez (Video) after I watched him throw a few innings in the last open workout for new Dodgers infielder Hector Olivera (Video). I said then that Alvarez was clearly superior to new Diamondbacks RHP Yoan Lopez (Video), a roughly comparable Cuban talent due to age, size and lack of track record of results. Lopez got $8.25 million and signed late in the international calendar, when many teams had already spent their money. Alvarez isn’t eligible to sign yet, but is awaiting a ruling from MLB on a waiver to make him eligible immediately.

The expectation is that even if Alvarez is granted the waiver that he will wait until July 2nd to sign. This is due to the persistent rumors that the Dodgers will be blowing past their international bonus pool for 2015-2016 (starting on July 2nd), with Alvarez their top target. The Dodgers offered Red Sox 2B Yoan Moncada (Interview & Background) $35 million (more than Boston’s winning $31.5 million bid) to wait until July 2nd to sign, but he passed. The Dodgers want to maximize their haul in their year of crazy spending and if they paid Moncada when he wanted to be paid, he would’ve been their only big signing, which would draw a two year penalty of not being able to give another young international prospect $300,000.

I lay that out as the evidence that the whole scouting world is pointing to of the Dodgers’ plan, beyond the rumors of targets, and I’ll mention those below. I’ve heard from multiple international scouts that believe the Dodgers already have a deal with Alvarez for $16 million (which would cost the Dodgers $32 million total, due to the dollar-for-dollar tax by MLB on 23 and under international prospects), but his reps deny a deal is done. Alvarez can’t sign right now anyway and, while a deal may not be done, everyone I’ve talked to thinks Alvarez will end up with the Dodgers (though a number of other teams are interested), and the price is about where scouts thought it would end up, so this makes a lot of sense.

21-year-old Cuban second baseman Andy Ibanez was supposed to be on the same timeline as Moncada, if not signing sooner, but he’s still out there for reasons that are unclear to scouts. His reps aren’t talking much and he hasn’t been working out for scouts often, but he has a workout in Miami coming up at 1:30 pm this Friday. Scouts’ best guess is that Ibanez’s market didn’t materialize like he was hoping and the plan is now to wait until July 2nd when budgets reset and the penalties incurred by the Cubs and Rangers are over. I wrote more about Ibanez as a player here, but, in short, he’s a high contact second baseman with good instincts, some power and fringy speed that should draw a multi-million dollar bonus.

Bahamas-born SS Lucius Fox (Video) turns 18 on July 2nd and was on the showcase circuit early this summer as a rising senior at powerhouse American Heritage High School in Delray Beach, FL. He moved back to the Bahamas and petitioned MLB to be declared an international free agent and (wait for it) MLB is taking their time making a decision about his eligibility. It’s expected that he’ll be declared an international prospect and would likely wait until July 2nd to sign, like the two Cubans, due to clubs’ budgets. He’s a plus plus runner that’s added bulk since the video was taken and now projects to stick at shortstop with feel to hit from both sides of the plate. He’s in the mix for the top 50 picks in the draft if he’s declared a domestic player and would also get seven figures on the international market.

The Top Projected July 2nd Bonuses

The July 2nd playlist on the FG YouTube page has video of almost all of the projected seven figures prospects. It’s also worth noting that the final bonus amounts typically vary 10% or so from the reported ones months in advance for various reasons, but are normally pretty accurate, barring unusual situations where something notable happens, like an injury or a GM overruling his scouts late in the process, etc. I have the players ordered here by projected bonus, but I’ll have a list of the order I’d put them in closer to signing day, along with longer reports.

It’s worth noting, as I mentioned in my previous July 2nd piece, that this year’s class is strong, especially the depth of seven figure prospects, but the higher top bonuses this year relative to last year doesn’t tell the whole story. Most scouts (myself included) would take last year’s top player, Brewers SS Gilbert Lara (Report & Video), who got about $3.1 million (the highest bonus last year) and probably would take last year’s second best player, Rays SS Adrian Rondon (Report & Video) over anyone in the 2015 class. The difference is that this year, more teams are spending their full pools, some teams are still going over their pools and the deals started very early. Also hurting Lara’s bonus was that the drunken sailor of last year’s period, the Yankees, weren’t on him, so his price didn’t get bid up by them, while the Rays locked up Rondon so early that some teams didn’t get good looks at him.

In part two, I’ll talk more about specific team plans, or what they appear to be at this point, and lean on the international bonus pool amounts for my math. I previously wrote up the top five bonuses, although a sixth player’s bonus now sounds like it’s high enough to jump into that group. First, a quick recap of this first five, with longer reports on them found here:

Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., RF, Dominican Video: Heavily rumored to have a deal with the Blue Jays for about $4.4 million (estimates vary a bit) that should be the biggest of this year’s class. Has advanced feel to hit and current plus raw power with some projection, but a pretty mature frame and only an average arm, with many suggesting he’ll end up at first base.

Jhailyn Ortiz, LF/1B, Dominican Video: Heavily rumored to have a deal with the Phillies for about $4.2 million (these estimates vary a bit as well) that mark the Phillies biggest international bonus by a huge margin, leading the rebuild effort. Ortiz is listed at 6’2/260 but is shockingly quick on his feet, has some looseness to his swing and 70 present raw power, but some trouble with breaking stuff.

Wander Javier, SS, Dominican Video: Heavily rumored to have a deal with the Twins for $4.0 million, Javier is a solid shortstop that checks all the boxes defensively, flashes average raw power and feel for the bat head.

Starling Heredia, CF, Dominican Video: Rumored to be a Cubs target, then rumored to be a Dodgers target, then not rumored to be anyone’s target when it appeared L.A. would sign Moncada and now once again rumored to have a deal in place with the Dodgers, for $3.0 million. I wrote twice length about how Heredia’s mature frame and skills give some scouts pause about giving him tons of money, but he flashes plus speed and plus raw power, so he’s hard to ignore.

Seuly Matias, CF, Dominican Video: Matias is rumored to have a deal with the Royals for $2.2 million, though some have suggested it may be as high as $3 million. Matias is a prototypical July 2nd outfielder, with above average speed that could be plus one day and a slight build, but above average power projection and a plus arm.

Leodys Taveras, CF, Dominican Video: The player that’s new to this group is Taveras, who I’m told is realted to Willy Taveras and is believed to have a deal with Texas, with estimates ranging from the mid-1’s (considered a bargain) to $3 million (closer to consensus value), with most assuming it’s at the high end. Taveras is an above average runner with a chance to play center field, a solid average arm and a chance for above average raw power at maturity.

The next group of players are believed to be getting bonuses in the $2 million range. You’ll notice from these reports that the rest of the bonuses tend to go either to big tools types with less feel for the game or medium tools types with lots of feel for the game.

Gilberto Celestino, CF, Dominican Video: Celestino had been tied to a few teams, but now it sounds like Houston will be his destination, with a rumored $2 million bonus. He’s an above average to plus runner that gives very different run times on different days, but has great defensive instincts that could make his a plus defender and shows above average arm strength, average raw power projection and good feel to hit in games.

Aramis Ademan, SS, Dominican Video: Ademan has been tied to the Cubs for awhile, with a rumored $2 million price. He’s only 5’10/150, but he has slick hands and should be able to stick at shortstop, with advanced feel for contact and a smooth cut from the left side.

Derian Cruz, SS, Dominican: Cruz is expected to get a bonus around $2 million and the Braves are among the interested teams circling him. He’s a plus plus runner that puts up gaudy times in the 60-yard dash, has the tools to stick at shortstop and solid contact ability.

Daniel Montano, RF, Venezuela Video: Montano is rumored to be headed to the Rockies for a $2 million bonus and the 6’1/180 Venezuelan is an average runner with average raw power but a chance to develop more, along with an average arm and really good feel to hit in games.

Ronny Brito, SS, Dominican: Brito is rumored to be another of the Dodgers targets and the rumor is that he’ll get a bonus of $2 million. He has Manny Ramirez-like swing mechanics (though obviously not the same hitting tools) with some bat speed and the ability to stick in the dirt, but likely not at shortstop.

The last group I’ll talk about in this article are some of the prospects that should get bonuses between $1 million and $2 million:

Carlos Vargas, 3B, Dominican Video: Rumored to have a deal for $1.8 million with the Mariners, Vargas is a lanky 6’3/180 with kinda funny swing mechanics, but above average power projection, some looseness to his hands and I’ve already seen him hit a few homers in games.

Gregory Guerrero, SS, Dominican Video: Guerrero’s defensive and offensive actions remind me of the top player from last year’s class, Brewers SS Gilbert Lara (Report & Video). Lara has a good bit more juice in his bat and I think both eventually end up at third base, but Guerrero has looseness to his swing and above average bat speed and power projection, so he would profile fine there. He’s rumored to have a deal with the Mets for $1.8 million.

Juan Soto, RF, Dominican Video: Soto is rumored to have a deal for $1.5 million with the Nationals and is an advanced lefty bat with above average power potential, bat speed and arm strength.

Alvaro Seijas, RHP, Venezuela Video: The 6’0/175 Seijas is expected to sign for about $1.5 million and is the top arm in this year’s class, but I haven’t heard of him having a deal in place yet. He sat 90-92 and hit 93 mph in a multi-inning stint that I scouted in February, with great feel for his age and a potential solid average curveball and changeup; the changeup is a little further along, but he used it less often.

Christopher Martinez, 3B, Dominican Video: Martinez is believed to be another of many Cubs targets, with rumors he has a deal for $1.5 million. He has solid average raw power and arm strength along with the hands to play in the infield, though his feet are a little slow at this point.

Cristian Pache, CF, Dominican Video: Pache was the best performer at the February MLB showcase in the DR, swinging about a dozen times and not missing once, hitting a foul homer and making tons of loud contact with his loose swing. He’s a 55 runner with solid average power projection and a fringy arm, giving him a shot to stick in center field. He’s expected to get around $1.5 million, with the Braves among the most interested clubs.

Franklin Reyes, RF, Dominican Video: I wrote about Reyes back in October and I also scouting him over a year ago when the DPL showed some of their top underclass prospects during the 2014 July 2nd winter showcases. He’s always had big power and bat speed, both showing 60 on their best days along with some unexpected looseness to the 6’3/235 slugger’s swing. He has an above average arm but is a below average runner that may eventually move to first base. He’s expected to sign with the White Sox for around $1.4 million.

Jeison Guzman, SS, Dominican Video: Guzman was another player I saw in October that stood out, though Guzman is a below average runner with below average power. He’s a very advanced defensive shortstop, maybe the best in this class, with very good feel for the bat head in games and scouts expecting the foot speed to come later. He’s expected to sign with the Royals for $1.3 million.

Albert Guaimaro, RF/C, Venezuela Video: Guaimaro also isn’t believed to have a deal, but is expected to get over $1 million. He has average raw power, solid average speed that should dissipate over time due to his thick frame and advanced feel to hit. One scout said he’s seen Guaimaro play pretty well behind the plate and thinks his solid average arm would work back there.

Oneil Cruz, SS, Dominican Video: I’m not aware of Cruz having a deal at this point, but he’s one of my favorite prospects in the class, with similar tools to 2014 #5 overall pick Twins SS Nick Gordon, but showing them a few years earlier than Gordon did. Cruz has a projectable 6’1 frame, loose lefty swing with above average bat speed and average raw power potential, along with the tools to stick at shortstop.

More prospects that project for the low seven figures, or possibly the high six figures if their markets don’t materialize:

Andres Gimenez, SS, Venezuela

Yonathan Perlaza, SS, Venezuela Video

Miguel Amaya, C, Panama

Jonathan Sierra, RF, Dominican Video

Robert Barreras, RF, Dominican Video

Luis Medina, RHP, Dominican Video

Daniel Santos, C, Dominican Video

Welin Liriano, 3B, Dominican Video

Anderson Amarista, RHP, Venezuela Video

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Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.

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Philip

No padres ? :/ yikes