Scouting Reports, Predictions, Likely Suitors for Top International Free Agents

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJuly 1, 2013

Scouting Reports, Predictions, Likely Suitors for Top International Free Agents

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    The 2013-14 international signing period begins July 2, and it represents the first day that teams can sign a 16-year-old international prospect. Any player who turns 16 before Aug. 31 is eligible for this year’s class, though the player must wait until his birthday to officially sign.

    As usual, a majority of the players in this year's international class hail from the Dominican Republic, where each organization has an academy and at least one team in the Dominican Summer League. And as usual, there is also a large contingent of prospects from Venezuela.

    This year, international bonus pools have been configured based on the reverse order of each team’s winning percentage from the 2012 season. Therefore, in a similar format to the first-year player draft, teams that finished with the worst records in 2012 will have the most money to spend on international prospects. Additionally, each organization is allowed to offer only six players a signing bonus of $50,000 or less without it counting against their overall bonus pool.

    For a full breakdown of each club’s bonus pool, be sure to check out this article by Ben Badler of Baseball America.

    Here is a look at the top 10 prospects in this year’s international class as well as their likely suitors.

10. Jose Herrera, C, Venezuela

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    Position: C

    DOB: 2/24/1997

    Height/Weight: 5’10”/180 pounds

    Bats/Throw: B/R

    Country: Venezuela

    Top catching prospect in this year’s international class; broad, physically strong frame; slightly above-average power potential; generates backspin carry thanks to combination of bat speed and extension through contact; sound swing from both sides of the plate; has tools to remain behind the plate; quick, agile defender; above-average arm strength; still raw overall in terms of receiving and blocking; plenty of room to improve.

    Signed by: Arizona Diamondbacks, $1.06 million signing bonus

9. Carlos Hiciano, SS, Dominican Republic

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 10/29/1996

    Height/Weight: 6’2”/175 pounds

    Bats/Throw: R/R

    Country: Dominican Republic

    Premium athlete at 6’2”, 175 pounds; projectable frame; plus-plus speed; above-average arm strength; lacks the actions and instincts of a long-term shortstop; likely to move to center field at next level; lacks potential impact bat; wraps barrel behind head; strong wrists make him quick to the ball despite length of swing; high follow through; tends to feel for contract rather than working to drive ball and create leverage.

    Signed by: Oakland Athletics, $750,000 signing bonus.

8. Marcos Diplan, RHP, Dominican Republic

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 9/18/1996

    Height/Weight: 5’11”/160 pounds

    Bats/Throw: R/R

    Country: Dominican Republic

    Undersized right-hander at 5’10”, 160 pounds; wiry frame with broad shoulders; some room to add strength; legitimate feel for pitching with advanced arsenal for age; very quick arm with some effort to his delivery; fringy long-term projection as starter; fastball sits 88-92 and bumps 94 mph; curveball has above-average potential with tight spin and good shape; raw changeup has been used sparingly.

    Signed by: Texas Rangers, $1.3 million signing bonus

7. Yeltsin Gudino, SS, Venezuela

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 1/17/1997

    Height/Weight: 6’0”/155 pounds

    Bats/Throw: R/R

    Country: Venezuela

    Well-rounded player who lacks a standout tool; plenty of room to add strength to wiry frame; quick, compact swing; direct bat path to ball; feel for the strike zone; controls barrel through the zone; line-drive approach; lacks projectable power.

    Above-average defensive shortstop capable of remaining at the position; intelligent player who controls the pace of the game; smooth defensive actions with soft hands and reliable glove; average runner whose speed plays up in games due to instincts and positioning; average arm strength would also play at second base. 

    Suitor: Toronto Blue Jays

    Considering that the Blue Jays targeted and signed similar players last summer in Franklin Barreto and Richard Urena, they seem to be the favorite to sign Gudino, according to Ben Badler. 

6. Luis Encarnacion, 3B, Dominican Republic

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 8/9/1997

    Height/Weight: 6’2”/195 pounds

    Bats/Throw: R/R

    Country: Dominican Republic

    Younger player with plus raw power that may be the best in this year’s class; aggressive right-handed hitter; already an extra-base machine who should develop easy over-the-fence pop; has some length to his swing; will need to get more weight off his back side.

    Fringy defender at the hot corner; below-average speed; stiff, tense actions; lacks arm strength for position long term; long arm stroke; bat should allow him to move to either left field or first base.

    Suitor: Philadelphia Phillies

    Encarnacion cannot be signed until he turns 16 on August 9. However, that has prevented some teams, including the Phillies, to be tied to him early in the process. 

5. Leonardo Molina, OF, Dominican Republic

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 8/1/1997 (Eligible to sign August 1)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”/165 pounds

    Bats/Throw: R/R

    Country: Dominican Republic

    Arguably the most athletic player in the July 2 draft class; loaded with raw but projectable tools; projectable frame at 6’2”, 165 pounds with plenty of room to fill out; plus-plus speed should allow him to remain in center field long term; above-average arm strength; defensive instincts still developing.

    Scouts divided about bat and future offensive potential; above-average bat speed; has some length to swing but gets barrel on the ball with regularity; consistently stays inside the baseball; decent extension through the ball; present gap power; could offer average power as he adds strength; controlled swing; potential above-average hit tool.

    Suitor: New York Yankees

    He's not eligible to sign until August 1, but both Kiley McDaniel and Ben Badler believe that Molina is headed to the Yankees.

4. Micker Zapata, OF, Dominican Republic

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 9/11/1996

    Height/Weight: 6’3”/225 pounds

    Bats/Throw: R/R

    Country: Dominican Republic

    Physically strong right-handed hitter at 6’3”, 225 pounds; makes exceptionally loud contact; plus speed; quick wrists and forearms generate plus bat speed; plus power to the pull side; above-average power potential overall; will need to adapt a more whole-field approach; some swing-and-miss to his game; explosive nature of swing may impede ability to hit for average at next level; above-average runner; plus arm strength ideal for career in right field; impressive athleticism for his size.

    Signed by: Chicago White Sox, $1.6 million signing bonus

3. Rafael Devers, 3B, Dominican Republic

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 10/24/1996

    Height/Weight: 6’1”/215 pounds

    Bats/Throw: L/R

    Country: Dominican Republic

    Arguably the most advanced prospect—in terms of ability and baseball skills—in this year’s July 2 class; physically strong left-handed hitter; big leg kick with lots of movement; left-handed hitter who starts with narrow stance and upright upper body; widens out during load; loose hands and wrists allows him to whip the barrel through the zone; makes lots of hard contact to all fields; moderate present power; will grow into slightly above-average power.

    Slightly below-average runner; may gain a step as he fills outs, but will never offer much in speed department; good athlete despite lack of wheels; quick feet; instinctual defender; will need to stay in shape be able to remain at hot corner; average arm strength.

    Signed by: Boston Red Sox, $1.5 million signing bonus

2. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Dominican Republic

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 11/27/1996

    Height/Weight: 6’4”/200 pounds

    Bats/Throw: R/R

    Country: Dominican Republic

    Bat involves projection; above-average bat speed; ability to control barrel through the strike zone is impressive for his age; loose, rhythmic swing; quick hands allow him to explode on the ball; average-or-better power potential; can be a bit pull-happy at times; toe-tap load can create a rushed swing; showcases more controlled swing during batting practice. 

    Impressive athlete with a projectable 6’4”, 200-pound frame; currently a slightly above-average runner who moves well for his size; will continue to lose running grades as he grows into large frame; ideal corner outfield profile; has arm strength for right field at the next level.

    Signed by: Chicago Cubs

1. Gleyber Torres, SS, Venezuela

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 12/13/1996

    Height/Weight: 5’11”/185 pounds

    Bats/Throw: R/R

    Country: Venezuela

    Toolsy player with present secondary skills; lacks physical projection; average runner; value tied to bat; above-average hitter with good bat speed; employs high leg kick but is able to remain short to the ball; tends to drift towards front side at point of contact; line-drive oriented swing; impressive bat-to-ball ability; present gap power with average power potential at maturity.

    Questionable profile at shortstop; has the hands, glove and arm strength for position; lacks ideal frame and quickness; may lose a step as he adds strength to mature frame; cleaner long-term fit at second base; bat will play at either middle infield position.

    Signed by: Chicago Cubs, $1.7 million signing bonus

    The Cubs had been linked to Torres for several months, and stood the best shot of signing him, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America.