It’s easy for fans to ignore the international signing market—most of the players are just 16 years old and will never make the big leagues—but it’s still incredibly important. With the signing period beginning July 2, the New York Mets may have already signed their next great prospect—or could sign him in the coming days.
A multitude of the current top prospects throughout baseball were international signees. Some of them earned big bonuses, some small, as the market is very unpredictable. What that means is that every signing is significant, no matter what the difference in cost between the prospects, as any of them could blossom into the next great Met.
The Mets' 2012-13 signing class exhibits perfectly why you should be excited about both the Mets' biggest signings as well as the smaller ones.
The two most notable names from this class are Amed Rosario and Marcos Molina, the most and least expensive signings from the period. Both are now very well-regarded prospects throughout baseball (Rosario was ranked the No. 7 prospect in the system by Baseball America after the 2013 season) and are performing well for the Brooklyn Cyclones.
The biggest catch of the 2014-15 signing period for the Mets was Venezuelan shortstop Kenny Hernandez. While he is technically not allowed to sign until his 16th birthday in August, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reported that he and the Mets had agreed to a deal for $1 million.
Hernandez’s value comes from his bat, as Ben Badler, the expert on the international market from Baseball America, wrote in his international signing preview (subscription required):
A member of Carlos Guillen’s academy, Hernandez has one of the best pure swings in the class. His hands are quick and short to the ball with a classic smooth lefty stroke. He has good bat speed, stays balanced and keeps the barrel in the hitting zone a long time, which helps him make plenty of contact. Several scouts believe he’s one of the best hitters available. It’s mostly gap power now, but his swing has good finish and he projects to be big, strong and grow into average or better power.
Hernandez is listed as a shortstop now, but he is seen as a future second or third baseman. His progress should be fun to watch over the next few years as he has the chance to become a plus-offensive player.
Badler reported that the Mets signed two additional Venezuelan shortstops in Yoel Romero and Edgardo Fermin for $300,000 and $250,000, respectively.
About Romero, Badler wrote (subscription required):
At 6 feet, 175 pounds, Romero moves around well at shortstop with good agility and average arm strength that plays up because of his short arm stroke and quick release. More quick than fast, he’s a fringy runner with gap power from the right side and projection to grow into more strength.
Badler also believes the Fermin can stick at shortstop, writing (subscription required):
At 6 feet, 145 pounds, Fermin’s game will benefit from additional strength, with solid tools that play up because of his advanced instincts and feel for the game. He’s a below-average runner with a fringy arm but is smooth at shortstop and moves around well at the position. He has shown a line-drive stroke from the right side with occasional gap power and the ability to hang in against good velocity.
The Mets also signed two intriguing pitchers from Venezuela, right-hander Jhoander Chourio and lefty Daniel Guzman.
Chourio, who signed for $130,000 is especially interesting, as Badler reported that (subscription required):
Chourio packs good stuff for his age and excellent athleticism into a smaller 5-foot-10, 175-pound build. He has touched 92 mph and shows feel for a hard curveball in the mid-70s that could evolve into an out pitch for him, with feel for a changeup as well.
Any time you have a 16-year-old throwing over 90 mph with already developed secondary pitches, it’s easy to get excited.
Guzman is a very different pitcher than Chourio coming from the left side, as Badler wrote (subscription required):
Guzman stands out for his advanced feel for pitching. He throws in the mid-80s now with projection to get to an average fastball in the future, but his strength is his ability to throwing strikes, along with his feel for the secondary stuff, including a curveball and a changeup.
The Mets have already signed an intriguing crop of international free agents, all of whom Badler correctly predicted would sign with the Mets prior to the signing period. Badler also predicted that the Mets would sign Mexican catcher Juan Uriarte and Venezuelan outfielder Tulio Garcia, who both should sign with the team in the near future.
You probably won’t hear about most of these players ever again, and the ones you will hear about won’t resurface for number of years. Still, it’s quite possible that one of these players will be a big part of the Mets’ future, and for that reason, it’s worth keeping an eye of all of the new international signings.