Identifying Suitors for Top 10 International Prospect Targets

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2014

Identifying Suitors for Top 10 International Prospect Targets

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The 2014 international signing period officially opens on July 2, and while the frenzy of international free agency has been quelled a bit by the new bonus pool system, there is still plenty of competition for the best high-ceiling talent Latin America has to offer.

    For as big of a crapshoot as the MLB amateur draft has proven to be over the years, shelling out seven-figure deals to 16-year-old kids with little scouting exposure is infinitely riskier.

    That being said, it's a chance teams almost have to take these days. If you're not playing the international market, you're missing out on a chance at finding the next Miguel Cabrera or Pedro Martinez who could one day turn into a superstar in the majors.

    It will be years before we really find out whether these players were worth the money they'll receive in the weeks to come, but here is a look at the top 10 international prospect targets and the teams expected to procure their services.

Christopher Acosta, RHP, Dominican Republic

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    Born: 1/15/1998

    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 170 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

     

    Player Overview

    One of the top pitching prospects in this class, Christopher Acosta is viewed as a more polished option than some of his counterparts, at least relative to where most 16-year-old pitching prospects are at.

    His changeup is his best pitch and already grades out as a plus offering, and he pairs it with a low-90s fastball and a curveball that has a chance to be an above-average offering as well. He has a big, projectable frame, and if everything falls into place, he should be able to stick as a starter.

     

    Top Suitors

    The Boston Red Sox are viewed as the "most likely destination" for Acosta, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America (subscription required).

Juan De Leon, OF, Dominican Republic

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    Born: 9/13/1997

    Height: 6'1"

    Weight: 175 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

     

    Player Overview

    Viewed by many as a potential five-tool talent and one of the best two or three prospects in the class, Juan De Leon has perhaps the best bat speed in the class. He should generate plenty of power with his compact stroke as he adds more muscle but figures to have a plus hit tool as well. 

    As he fills out, he could wind up sliding over to right field down the line, where his plus arm plays fine, but he will likely begin his pro career manning center field.

     

    Top Suitors

    The New York Yankees reportedly have a verbal deal in pace with De Leon for $2 million, according to Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com.

Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Venezuela

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    Born: 3/9/1998

    Height: 6'0"

    Weight: 170 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

     

    Player Overview

    With a low-90s fastball that can touch 94 and an easy delivery, Anderson Espinoza has the best arm of any pitcher in the class. The question now is what kind of pro will he develop into, and just how much can he get out of his undersized frame?

    He pairs his fastball with a terrific curveball/changeup combination that should give him the three plus pitches necessary to stick as a starter. His similar stature and power stuff have drawn comparisons to Kansas City Royals rookie Yordano Ventura.

     

    Top Suitors

    Espinoza reportedly has a $2 million verbal commitment in place, with the Boston Red Sox believed to "have the inside track," according to Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com.

Dermis Garcia, SS, Dominican Republic

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    Born: 1/17/1998

    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 182 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

     

    Player Overview

    Dermis Garcia has the best raw power of any prospect in this class, and that has made him one of the more talked-about international options for the past year or so.

    His overall offensive game still needs refining, and he is likely headed for third base long-term, but his ceiling may be the highest of the group. He is a project, but the payoff is well worth the risk that comes with making him one of the highest-paid prospects of the class.

     

    Top Suitors

    The New York Yankees reportedly have a verbal deal in pace with Garcia for $3 million, according to Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com.

Nelson Gomez, 3B, Dominican Republic

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    Born: 10/8/1997

    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 210 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

     

    Player Overview

    Nelson Gomez has had more exposure than most Dominican prospects, playing in the Under Armour All-American game last year among other showcases, and it's his bat that will make him one of the highest-paid players of the class.

    He has below-average speed and will never contend for a Gold Glove if he even winds up sticking at third base long-term, but the hit/power tools alone are enough for him to make an impact if he reaches his full potential.

     

    Top Suitors

    The New York Yankees reportedly have a verbal deal in place with Gomez for $2.8 million, according to Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com.

Brayan Hernandez, OF, Venezuela

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    Born: 9/11/1997

    Height: 6'1"

    Weight: 170 pounds

    Bats/Throws: S/R

     

    Player Overview

    The consensus top prospect out of Venezuela this summer, Brayan Hernandez has moved back to switch-hitting after an issue with his right shoulder limited him to batting right-handed and impeded his throwing earlier this year.

    He's probably not going to be a prolific power hitter, but he has one of the best hit tools of the group and could develop into a .300-plus hitter with 15-20 home run power. He does not have blazing speed but has good instincts on the bases and in the outfield, where he should boast a plus glove.

     

    Top Suitors

    The Seattle Mariners reportedly have a verbal deal in place with Hernandez for $2 million, according to Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com.

Gilbert Lara, SS, Dominican Republic

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    Born: 10/30/1997

    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 205 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

     

    Player Overview

    One of the more physically mature hitters of the group, Gilbert Lara may have the best raw power in the class outside of Dermis Garcia despite an unorthodox approach at the dish. He's a free swinger and will need to do a good deal of adjusting against better competition.

    Defensively, he doesn't have the quickness to stick at shortstop, but his arm is strong enough that he could wind up at third base or in right field long-term. He'll likely receive one of the biggest bonuses of the class, and his ceiling makes him well worth the investment.

     

    Top Suitors

    After a "spirited bidding war," the bonus for Lara is believed to be $3.2 million, with the Milwaukee Brewers believed to be his destination, according to Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com.

Juan Meza, RHP, Venezuela

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    Born: 2/4/1998

    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 170 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

     

    Player Overview

    His stuff may not be as eye-popping as Anderson Espinoza's, and he may not be as polished as Christopher Acosta, but when all is said and done, Juan Meza may very well wind up being the best pitcher of this international class.

    His fastball already sits in the low-90s, and he has the strong, athletic build to add more velocity in the years to come. He pairs that with a plus changeup and a slurvy breaking ball that needs work but has potential. He has the ceiling to be a front-line arm but should be a useful contributor regardless of what role he winds up in.

     

    Top Suitors

    Meza reportedly has a $1.4 million deal in place, with the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays viewed as the front-runners to land him, according to Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com. According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, the Blue Jays look like the favorites to land him.

Adrian Rondon, SS, Dominican Republic

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    Born: 7/7/1998

    Height: 6'1"

    Weight: 175 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

     

    Player Overview

    One of the youngest players in this class, as he won't actually be eligible to be signed until he turns 16 on July 7, Adrian Rondon is also one of the most highly regarded.

    Ben Badler of Baseball America listed him in the No. 1 spot on his list of the top 30 international prospects, noting that some consider him to be the most advanced hitting prospect of the group.

    He has gap power at this point but could develop some home run pop as he matures, while his glove and arm should be good enough to stick at shortstop long-term. High-ceiling shortstop prospects are always in demand, and Rondon could be the highest-paid prospect of the market.

     

    Top Suitors

    The Tampa Bay Rays reportedly have a verbal deal in pace with Rondon for $3.5 million, according to Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com. Badler noted that the Rays are "enamored" with him, to the point that they are "willing to shatter their international bonus pool" to get him.

Huascar Ynoa, RHP, Dominican Republic

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    Born: 5/28/1998

    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

     

    Player Overview

    The younger brother of Oakland Athletics prospect Michael Ynoa, who received a then-international record $4.25 million bonus back in 2008, Huascar Ynoa has seen his stock fall a bit due to inconsistency.

    At his best, he has been the top pitcher on the market, but his command has not always been there and a lack of projectability in his frame leads to questions about how much room his stuff has to improve.

    He's probably the most polarizing prospect of the class, and there is certainly some risk to signing him, but the ceiling is still there for him to be a front-line starter if everything breaks right.

     

    Top Suitors

    Ynoa is the only player on this list not rumored to have a verbal offer in place prior to the market opening. Ben Badler of Baseball America lists the Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins as the three teams that have been linked to Ynoa, and he is expected to command a bonus somewhere in the $1.5 million neighborhood.