Tomorrow (July 2) begins the start of Major League Baseball's International Signing Day. Some of the majors biggest stars have come from this day, which primarily focuses upon Latin American and the Caribbean. Recent years have seen signing bonuses shoot through the roof, however they have not reached a point where the small market clubs are left with bidding on the weakest players. Instead, much of the work is done as the kids develop through team baseball academies, of which is something every team has in almost every country.
However, as the cost of players increases, a time may come where International signings are for the have's, while the have-not's will have to increase their research efforts. According to Baseball America,
Last year, three players received $1 million or more: Red Sox third baseman Michael Almanzar ($1.5 million), Yankees outfielder Kelvin De Leon ($1.1 million) and Mariners shortstop Jharmidy DeJesus ($1 million).
Wily Mo Pena's $2.44 million bonus from the Yankees in 1999 is the record for an international amateur signing...
ESPN.com Enrique Rojas writes that the International Signing Day has become auction-like for Latin American teenagers. Currently, there have been two signings as those players turned 17 prior to the signing day, thus, making them eligible free agents. As per Baseball America,
Players who are 16 years old are eligible to sign with major league teams during the international signing period, which lasts from July 2 to Aug. 31. Players who turn 16 years old during the international signing period are eligible to sign with teams on their birthdays.
All this leads to an exciting time in baseball as the top international prospects can be considered as extensions of the first round. Which leads to the question of why teams hesitate to dish out first round money to international players whom the team then has superior control of. That is, signing a 16 year old and controlling what he throws, how often he throws, and how he throws for an extra 2 to 4 years.
The consensus top player to be signed on July 2nd, is Dominican right handed starting pitcher Michel Inoa. The 16 year old is already 6'7" and weighs 205lbs. In other words, the boy is already a man. Scouting reports from both Baseball America and ESPNDeportes suggest that Inoa throws 91-94mph and does so under impressive control, some project that his fastball could consistently reach 100mph once he fills out. Inoa also possesses what is being called two potentially plus pitches, which he already controls.
According to Baseball America, "Several scouts have told BA that Inoa is a once-in-a-generation talent..." Given the amount of hype, and dollars that are being thrown around in this bidding war, that sentiment is agreed upon even with Major League GM's. As is, reports are suggesting that the Oakland Athletics are poised to break the bank with a signing bonus of $4.25M. Considering the Tigers spent a guaranteed $11M on Rick Porcello-albeit over 4 years-this contract is fairly reasonable.
This $4.25M signing bonus will be the largest the Athletics have ever given to an amateur player.
ESPN provides the next top prospects to be signed outside of Inoa and the Juan Duran, the prospect the Reds signed recently. Here they are, scouting reports at ESPN.com:
2 Yorman Rodriguez OF 16 (N/A) Venezuela
3 Adis Portillo RHP 16 (Dec. 20, 1991) Venezuela
4 Rafael Rodriguez OF 16 (N/A) Dominican Republic
5 Luis Domoromo OF 16 (Feb. 4, 1992) Venezuela
6 Alvaro Aristy SS 16 (Dec. 9, 1991) Dominican Republic
7 Gustavo Pierre SS 16 (N/A) Dominican
8 Santo Franco RHP 16 (Nov. 28, 1991) Dominican
9 Swarling Jimenez LHP 16 (Nov. 27, 1991) Dominican Republic
10 Elvin Tavarez RHP 16 (Sept. 7, 1991) Dominican
11 Julio Morban OF 16 (Feb. 13, 1992) Dominican
12 Ramon Flores OF 16 (March 26, 1992) Dominican
13 Jose Valdivia RHP 16 (March 19, 1992)
14 Carlos Perez LHP 16 (Nov. 20, 1991) Dominican
I will try to announce these signings as they occur. While it will be at least 5 years before we see any of these players in the majors, many of these players will have as much value as the televised MLB draft.