The Tampa Bay Rays have had a disappointing season so far, but there might be reason for optimism, as shortstop Adrian Rondon has signed with the team.
Rondon, currently Baseball America's No. 1 international prospect, signed a contract for a reported $2,950,000 on Monday, per Ben Badler of Baseball America. Badler provided more details on what this means for the Rays organization:
Rondon became eligible to sign today, his 16th birthday, and has earned widespread praise from scouts for his offensive potential at a premium position. The signing puts the Rays well beyond 15 percent over their $1,998,100 bonus pool, which means they will have to pay a 100 percent tax on their pool overage and won’t be allowed to sign any player for more than $300,000 in the next two signing periods.
Not such a bad Sweet 16 gift for the young prospect.
Rondon, a 6'2" infielder out of the Dominican Republic, is one of the youngest players in this year's class of prospects. Though not much is known about him statistically, he blossomed while playing in the International Prospect League.
Baseball America provides Rondon's scouting report, as well as a pro-player comparison:
Rondon also has the attributes that should allow him to stick at shortstop. He’s more of a steady defender than a flashy one, with speed and arm strength that both grade out as 50-55 tools on the 20-80 scale.
... Scouts highest on Rondon think he could make a rapid rise, along the lines of Starlin Castro.
While Castro has experienced some ebbs and flows throughout his career thus far, he was already an All-Star shortstop for the Chicago Cubs at 21 years old. If Rondon can match that with the Rays, they'll certainly have a great prospect for the future.
Bill Chastain of MLB.com provided his thoughts on the deal:
Rays sign SS Adrian Rondon, one of the top players on the International market. #Rays Nice pickup.— Bill Chastain (@wwchastain) July 7, 2014
Are the Rays spending too much on an unproven prospect?
In a division where the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are constant forces and both the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles have experienced recent success, acquiring Rondon for the future could wind up being huge for the Rays.
With 31-year-old Yunel Escobar currently mired in a season where he's hitting a career-low .244 with just four home runs and 22 RBI, Rondon might have a spot in the near future. But at only 16, it's difficult to see him truly making an impact in the next few seasons.
If Rondon can make a quick ascent through Tampa Bay's minor league system, he has a chance to join young players such as Chris Archer and Wil Myers in the majors. Thanks to already having a good core intact, the Rays have time to make sure he materializes.
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