Predicting Boston Red Sox's Top Targets in 2014 International Prospect Market

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Predicting Boston Red Sox's Top Targets in 2014 International Prospect Market
Photo by Kelly O'Connor, sittingstill.net

The MLB draft may be over, but teams still have a great opportunity to add tremendous talent to their organizations, as the international signing period begins on July 2.

Although the talent available on the international scene is often less refined than what you'll find in the draft, it's certainly not lacking for upside. Players like Xander Bogaerts, Felix Doubront, Manny Margot, Wendell Rijo and last year's big prize, Rafael Devers, all landed in the Sox's system via the international signing period.

The Red Sox have the second-lowest budget for the upcoming signing period because of new rules under the collective bargaining agreement. But as Ben Badler of Baseball America reported back in May (subscription required), Boston is reportedly planning on blowing past their spending limit of $1,881,700.

If the Red Sox spend enough, they will face penalties under the new CBA. These include paying taxes on the dollars they spend over the limit as well as restrictions on how much they can spend on players in the future. The Sox will only be able to give international players a max bonus of $300,000 for two years if they truly blow past their budget this year.

But as Marc Normandin of Over the Monster points out, that's not necessarily a bad strategy. Teams don't know what their international spending limits will be from year to year, and international penalties are still less restrictive than the current rules of the amateur player draft.

With that in mind, lets take a look at three right-handers who the Red Sox have been linked to in the weeks leading up to the start of the signing period.

 

Christopher Acosta, RHP, Dominican Republic

Acosta is a big Dominican right-hander who projects as a starting pitcher at the next level. He already stands at 6'3", 180 pounds as a 16-year-old, with a "loose arm and a lively fastball," according to Badler. He touches the low 90s with his fastball and features a changeup and curveball that both show plus potential.

What's perhaps most interesting in Badler's report is his praise of Acosta's control, which is generally not a strength for international pitchers. Citing his advanced pitchability and ability to throw strikes during a showcase event in January, Badler gives off the impression that he's impressed with Acosta's current ability to locate the ball.

Acosta is projected to require a signing bonus in excess of $1 million, so the Red Sox would indeed likely need to be willing to go past their budget to sign him, unless they were to make him the focal point of their crop of international prospects.

 

Andres Espinoza, RHP, Venezuela

As of May, Espinoza was the top-rated arm in Baseball America's rankings (subscription required) and their No. 8 prospect for this signing period overall. Despite his lofty price tag of $2 million or more, Espinoza is projected to land with the Red Sox in July, according to Badler, which would be quite the coup for a team with a limited budget.

Smaller than many of the other premier arms in the class, Espinoza stands at just 6'0", 170 pounds. That being said, Espinoza is still only 16. According to Badler, Espinoza has a fastball that ranges from 90-94 mph and has a feel for a changeup and curveball, too.

One more interesting note about Espinoza comes from Normandin, who writes that the Red Sox prefer prospects who have performed in national and international tournaments. Espinoza fits the bill here, and while he'd be an expensive grab, he'd be an exciting one for a team that's always looking to add ceiling to its system.

 

Huascar Ynoa, RHP, Dominican Republic

The younger brother of Athletics prospect Michael Ynoa, Huascar is one of the best and most intriguing arms available on the international market this season. Though he just turned 16 in May, Ynoa can already reach 94 mph with his fastball, and he features a deep repertoire of unrefined secondary pitches, such as a promising curveball and changeup. According to Badler, Ynoa "mixes his pitches liberally, throwing any pitch in any count."

Standing at 6'2", 190 pounds, Ynoa has some projection left in his body. As Normandin points out, the main concern with Ynoa is his control, which can abandon him for long stretches, such as it did during the Arizona International Prospect League this spring.

Ynoa is projected to require a signing bonus of more than $1 million, so if the Red Sox do end up acquiring his services, it's likely that he'll represent their big get from the 2014 class. They could do far worse than to acquire a pitcher of his talent and pedigree, though, and Ynoa would add even more talent to an already deep farm system.

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