Major League Baseball has approved Juan Carlos Paniagua's $1.5 million deal with the Cubs, one year after terminating his $1.1 million deal with the Yankees that he signed using the same age and the same name.
According to a source familiar with the situation, MLB ruled Paniagua's age undetermined, a decision that put the onus on the Cubs of whether to continue forward with the contract. Paniagua received his visa from the U.S. Consulate and made his first start for the Cubs yesterday in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he threw two scoreless innings of relief with one walk and one strikeout.
Paniagua, a 22-year-old Dominican righthander who signed with the Cubs last month, has had two previous pro contracts terminated despite using the same date of birth (April 4, 1990) to sign every time. Paniagua originally signed with the Diamondbacks for $17,000 in May 2009 as Juan Carlos Collado, pitched in 2009 and part of 2010 in the Dominican Summer League on a pending contract, but his contract was terminated due to fraudulent paperwork.
He was declared ineligible to sign for one year, then signed with the Yankees for $1.1 million in 2011 as Juan Carlos Paniagua, but MLB terminated that contract due to what the league called "falsified documents." Paniagua was again declared ineligible to sign for one year, then signed with the Cubs on July 19 once his penalty ended using the same name and the same age he used to sign with the Yankees.
Paniagua had touched 98 mph back in 2011, but more recent reports—including a May workout in Puerto Rico—have had him around 93-95 mph. His changeup has long been his No. 2 pitch but he has shown an improved 81-84 mph slider over the past year. Since Paniagua signed his contract after July 2, his bonus will count against Chicago's $2.9 million international bonus pool for the 2012-13 signing period.
The Dodgers have signed Julio Urias, a 16-year-old lefthander from Mexico.
Some scouts considered Urias, whose rights were transferred from Mexico City of the Mexican League, to be one of the better pitching prospects on the market. He has touched 92 mph and shown good feel for pitching for his age. Baseball America subscribers have access a complete scouting report on Urias.
Terms of Urias' deal were not immediately available, but whatever the Dodgers did pay to secure his rights, not all of it will count against their $2.9 million international bonus pool for the 2012-13 signing period. MLB has said that for Mexican League transfers of Mexican-born citizens, only the amount that goes to the player (usually 25 percent) will count against the team's international bonus pool.
Dominican righthander Simon Mercedes has received his visa from the U.S. Consulate, putting him one step closer to officially joining the Red Sox.
Mercedes will still need official approval of his contract from Major League Baseball, but a visa is a major step toward the end of the process.
Mercedes, 20, signed with the Red Sox for $800,000 in March. He had previously signed with the Giants for $400,000 in 2011, but that deal fell apart and MLB declared him ineligible to sign for one year, although MLB has never publicly stated why Mercedes received the penalty. He is still using the same name and date of birth he used to sign with the Giants.
At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Mercedes has touched 96 mph with his fastball and has flashed an average to above-average breaking ball, though he'll need to smooth some things out with his mechanics. Since Mercedes signed before July 2, his bonus will not count against Boston's 2012-13 international signing bonus pool of $2.9 million.
The Cardinals have signed 16-year-old righthander Ronald Medrano, one of the top Nicaraguan prospects for July 2.
Medrano is 6 feet, 170 pounds and pitches to both sides of the plate with a fastball that sits around the high-80s and has touched 90-91. He has shown good pitchability for his age and feel for his secondary stuff, including a curveball with good spin that could become an above-average offering, as well as a changeup. Medrano trained at the Nicaragua Baseball Academy run by former major league righthander Dennis Martinez and Gary Wendt.
Medrano is the fourth confirmed international signing for St. Louis so far since July 2. The Cardinals also signed Panamanian shortstop Edmundo Sosa as well as catcher Joshua Lopez and outfielder Luis Bandes, who are both from Venezuela.
Last week the Yankees signed lefthander Corby McCoy, who was considered one of Nicaragua's top pitching prospects along with Medrano.
The Diamondbacks have signed Jose Ordaz, a lefthanded outfielder from Venezuela.
Ordaz, who turned 16 on Saturday, has an athletic 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame and a broad skill set, including a solid hitting approach for his age and a good swing plane that helps him hit to all fields with gap power. He doesn't have one major carrying tool, but he has a chance to stay in center field with a possible solid-average or better arm once he gains strength.
Ordaz trained at the academy of former big leaguer Carlos Guillen, whose other players this year have included righthander Jose Mujica and catcher David Rodriguez (both signed with the Rays) and outfielder Alexander Palma, who signed with the Yankees.
The Diamondbacks have been busier than usual since the 2012-13 international signing period opened on July 2. Arizona also signed Dominican shortstop Sergio Alcantara (the No. 18 international prospect for July 2), Dominican outfielder Ismael Pena, Colombian catcher Osvaldo Garcia and Dominican shortstop Fernery Ozuna.
The Mariners have signed Brazilian lefthander Luiz Gohara, the No. 7 international prospect for July 2.
Gohara, who turned 16 on July 31, is 6-foot-3, 220 pounds and some teams felt he was the top pitching prospect available in this year's international signing class. Gohara throws a fastball that has touched 94 mph along with a quality slider. He has represented Brazil at multiple international tournaments, including one this month in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Baseball America subscribers can access a complete scouting report on Gohara.
The White Sox have agreed to terms with Victor Done, a 16-year-old righthander from the Dominican Republic.
Done is 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with a solid delivery for his age and a fastball that has reached 91 mph. He has flashed a sharp 74-78 mph curveball that's ahead of his changeup right now. Done is from Villa Mella and trained with Tomas Giron.
The White Sox have significantly increased their international presence over the last year. Since July 2, they have also landed Dominican corner outfielder Hanlet Otano, Dominican shortstop Johan Cruz and Dominican third baseman Luis Castillo.
The Yankees have signed two Nicaraguan lefthanders, including Corby McCoy, one of the top pitchers from the country for this year's July 2 class.
McCoy, a 16-year-old who signed for $150,000, is 6-foot-3, 170 pounds with an athletic, projectable body. His velocity has been inconsistent, ranging from 85-88 mph for some teams, but more recently he has touched as high as 91. McCoy also throws a breaking ball that's in its nascent stages.
The Yankees also signed 16-year-old Luis Garcia, whose bonus is under $50,000 and will likely be used as one of the exemptions every team gets under its $2.9 million international bonus pool for six players of $50,000 or less. Garcia is a raw, projectable lefty with a 6-foot-4, 185-pounds frame and an 85-88 mph fastball.
McCoy and Garcia both trained with Hubert Silva.
The Yankees have already signed Venezuelan catcher Luis Torrens ($1.3 million), Venezuelan outfielder Alexander Palma ($800,000) and Dominican shortstop Yancarlos Baez ($650,000), so the McCoy signing puts them at exactly $2.9 million between those four players. Unless the Yankees decide to dramatically exceed their bonus pool and pay a heavy penalty, the McCoy signing may be the last significant international amateur deal for the Yankees until July 2, 2013.
Leiva, 18, tested positive for metabolites of both Stanozolol (commonly sold as Winstrol) and Nandrolone (commonly sold as Deca-Durabolin), both anabolic steroids. Leiva signed with the Braves out of Nicaragua last year in July for $120,000–Atlanta's sixth-highest international signing bonus in 2011–and was pitching in the Dominican Summer League. Leiva threw 87-89 mph when he signed but has increased his fastball to the low-90s, complementing it with a curveball. He throws strikes but had a 5.27 ERA in 13 2/3 innings over eight relief appearances with four walks and nine strikeouts this year.
Bermudez, 19, tested positive for metabolites of Stanozolol. He had been pitching in the Venezuelan Summer League, where he had a 5.40 ERA in six relief appearances over 10 innings with nine walks and two strikeouts.
The Red Sox have signed Dedgar Jimenez, a 16-year-old Venezuelan lefthander, for $175,000.
Jimenez has an extra-large, David Wells-type frame listed at 6-foot-3, 254 pounds. He has represented Venezuela at international youth tournaments since he was 10, joining players like Blue Jays shortstop Franklin Barreto and Yankees catcher Luis Torrens on several travel teams.
There aren't many pitchers who are built like Jimenez at 16, but his tournament experience is evident on the mound. Jimenez shows good pitchability for his age with a fastball up to 88-89 mph and flashes feel to spin a curveball.
Jimenez, who is from Portuguesa, trained with Felix Olivo and had also been working out in the Dominican Republic at La Academia.
Update, Aug. 13: While Jimenez was listed at 254 pounds at a Major League Baseball showcase in February, I have heard that he's since trimmed down to about 230 pounds upon signing.
Four teenagers from the Dominican Summer League have been suspended 50 games each after testing positive for steroids.
MLB announced the suspensions of the following players:
• Mets RHP Nicolas Debora, an 18-year-old who tested positive for metabolites of Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid commonly sold as Winstrol.
• Cubs LHP Andin Diaz, a 19-year-old who tested positive for metabolites of Stanozolol.
• Yankees LHP Carlos Diaz, a 17-year-old who tested positive for metabolites of Stanozolol.
• Royals RHP Jose Geraldo, a 17-year-old who tested positive for a stack of Stanzolol and Nanrdolone, an anabolic steroid often sold as Deca-Durabolin.
The Orioles are promoting Dylan Bundy to Double-A Bowie, but that news is fairly small compared to the announcement the Orioles made tonight that they plan to promote shortstop Manny Machado to the major leagues tomorrow.
Machado, who turned 20 last month, was the third overall pick in the draft out of high school two years ago and has hit .266/.352/.438 in 109 games this season for Double-A Bowie. Machado has hit especially well lately. Since the all-star break, he's posted a .275/.365/.505 line with four homers, 11 walks and 15 strikeouts in 104 plate appearances.
There's plenty to be excited about with Machado, the No. 9 prospect in baseball. He's a potential all-star who earns future plus grades for both his hit tool and his power from scouts. He has a knack for putting the barrel to the ball, with the hand-eye coordination to make contact even if he gets caught out front against offspeed stuff. He may end up outgrowing shortstop as he continues to fill out, but he has the tools to handle the position for now.
Still, the decision to bring Machado to Baltimore is surprising. With 51 games left in the season, it's a small enough sample size that the range of outcomes for Machado the rest of the way is extremely wide. Machado has shown a tendency to get pull-conscious at times, but if he can maintain the approach he's shown recently hitting the ball to all fields, he may be able to hold his own. If not, he probably won't swing and miss too much, but it's fair to wonder what kind of immediate impact he can have considering he hasn't dominated the Eastern League for more than a brief stretch.
Machado's debut will be exciting, especially with the Orioles still in contention. The ceiling here is still a future star, but the immediate expectations just have to be tempered.
Dominican third baseman Juan Carlos Arias has failed his age investigation, according to a major league source.
Major League Baseball has declared Arias, who has presented himself as a 16-year-old born Sept. 16, 1995, ineligible to sign for one year. He will be eligible to sign on June 12, 2013, which means he will still be eligible to sign during the 2012-13 international signing period window. Arias did pass the league's investigation into his identity, although Baseball America could not verify whether the league made a determination on what it believes is Arias' true age.
Arias, who is from San Pedro de Macoris and trains with Alfredo Arias, is 6-foot-3, 220 pounds and stood out for his strength and raw power, though scouts have said he's had trouble getting to his power in games and will have to put in work to stay at third base.
Four years after he signed for the then-largest international amateur signing bonus ever, Michael Ynoa has made it out of the Arizona League.
The 20-year-old righthander gave up three runs, two of them earned, to Hudson Valley in 2 1/3 innings of work for short-season Vermont. After giving up one run in the first, Ynoa's biggest mistake was a two-run home run by Charlie Valerio in the third that ended his night. He walked two and failed to strike anyone out.
"It's been four years, and it was truly his first time under the lights and in front of a crowd," Vermont manager Rick Magnante said Thursday. "He did nothing you could hang your hat on that wasn't positive. He did it easy and there were no physical glitches." [...] Continue Reading »
Righthander Andres Serrano's $750,000 bonus deal with the Cardinals would have been the biggest deal for a Dominican amateur pitcher signed last year, but Major League Baseball has terminated his contract, according to multiple sources.
Serrano, who signed with the Cardinals in October, failed both the age and identity sections of his investigation, according to a league source. Serrano had signed using a May 29, 1994 date of birth, which would have made him 17 at the time of his signing and 18 now. Baseball America could not verify whether the league had made a determination about Serrano's true age or identity.
The league has also declared Serrano, who trained with Maximo Grullon and worked with David Toribio, ineligible to sign for one year. Serrano's disciplinary action will end on June 26, 2013, but unless he can get his penalty reduced, the first date upon which Serrano can truly sign will be July 2, 2013.
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the window between June 16 through July 1 is a "closed period," during which teams are not allowed to sign any international players. Since Serrano's penalty ends during the closed period, he will have to wait until next July 2 to sign, which will prevent him from signing during the 2012-13 signing period and force him into the 2013-14 signing period.
That timing may ultimately have an impact on where he signs, since unlike this year when every team has a $2.9 million bonus pool (and some teams have already spent most or almost all of it), next year's bonus pools will be tiered based on reverse order of 2012 winning percentage.
Serrano, who would have been the top international signing for the Cardinals last year, is 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with long arms, good athleticism and a 90-95 mph fastball. He has also flashed a plus curveball and a changeup that is still in its early stages, though he throws it with good arm speed.
Players, managers and coaches getting ejected happens at every level of pro ball. What apparently happened tonight in a high Class A Florida State League game, however, seems like a first.
As the Daytona Cubs posted on their Facebook page:
"We've just entered the twilight zone at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. Our music man, Derek Dye, has been EJECTED from tonight's game. The umpire, Mario Seneca, was apparently not happy when Derek played "Three Blind Mice" after a questionable call. With no music system, a fan has stepped up to call out player introductions from the stands."
Wonder if he'll stick with "Call Me Maybe" next time.
Update, 12:35 am: Creighton sports information director Rob Anderson points us to another minor league organist ejection from 1988.
The Blue Jays have voided the contract of Luis Castro after the Venezuelan shortstop did not pass his physical, according to a source familiar with the contract.
Castro, 16, had agreed to terms with the Blue Jays for $800,000 when the international signing period opened July 2 and had ranked as the No. 9 international prospect. Since the contract was never finalized, Castro will not receive his bonus and will become a free agent.
Castro, who trains with Jose Aguiar, is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds and impressed scouts with his righthanded bat, including his performances at international competitions. Several teams expected he would end up at another position, likely either third base or second.
While the Blue Jays had exceeded their $2.9 million international bonus pool for the 2012-13 signing period, that's now no longer the case. The Blue Jays also signed Venezuelan shortstop Franklin Barreto, the top international prospect, for $1.45 million, as well as Dominican shortstop Richard Urena, the No. 13 international prospect, for $725,000.
A new league for amateur players has started in the Dominican Republic.
The National Prospect League, founded by four Dominican trainers, opened with its first game on Saturday and will continue to play games twice a week with amateur players from the Dominican Republic looking to sign with teams. The league's organizers include former scout Epy Guerrero, Felix Liriano, Franklyn Ferreira and Baltazar Mesa, who is the brother of former major league righthander Jose Mesa.
The four-team league will play every Tuesday and Saturday at Guerrero's complex in Santo Domingo. In addition to having players who are handled by the NPL's organizers, the league says it also has 20 other trainers to work with them along with recruiting from more than 40 little leagues in the country.
The NPL should be able to recruit some of the country's top players. Liriano, who was one of the trainers for Giants $2.1 million signing Angel Villalona in 2006, recently trained righthanders Simon Mercedes ($800,000) and Jose Almonte ($610,000), who both signed with the Red Sox this year, and also worked with Cubs righthander Juan Carlos Paniagua, who signed with the Cubs for $1.5 million this month. Ferreira trained Red Sox center fielder Manuel Margot, who signed for $800,000 last year, as well as outfielder Luis Payano, who signed with the Astros this year for $500,000.
Jose Rijo, the former major league pitcher and former head of the Nationals' Latin American program, has been charged with money laundering in connection with Matias Avelino Castro, a suspected drug trafficker in the Dominican Republic, according to the Associated Press.
Prosector Soraime Vargas, according to the report, announced at a news conference today that close to 80 percent of Castro's assets were in Rijo's name, including a sports complex and two hotels. The Dominican Today reported that the prosecutor asked that bond be set at $20 million and that Rijo be banned from traveling.
Rijo's name popped up in connection with Castro last year. Dominican journalist Jose Agustin Silvestre was kidnapped and shot to death in the Dominican Republic on Aug. 2, 2011, shortly before he had planned to release an investigative report that claimed that Avelino was a drug trafficker and included other allegations of corruption. Dominican authorities had spoken with Rijo at the time about his business ties to Avelino, who has been accused ordering the killing, although Rijo was not detained at the time.
Rijo, 47, had been a special assistant to former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden from 2005-2009, during which time he headed the team's efforts in Latin America. Rijo was instrumental in the team's signing of 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez for $1.4 million on July 2, 2006, only to have it later revealed that Gonzalez was really a 20-year-old named Carlos Alvarez. The scandal led to the departure of Rijo and Bowden in 2009 and the team moved out of Rijo's Dominican academy.
Dominican righthander Juan Carlos Paniagua has parlayed a suspension into a bigger bonus for a second time, signing today with the Cubs for $1.5 million.
Like any international signing, Paniagua will still require a background investigation and the contract approval of Major League Baseball, which in Paniagua's case has been a problem before.
Paniagua, 22, originally signed with Arizona as Juan Carlos Collado for $17,000 on May 8, 2009. He pitched in Arizona's Dominican Summer League program for parts of two seasons with a pending contract (an option that is no longer allowed) but had his deal terminated due to fraudeulent paperwork and was declared ineligible to sign for one year.
During his time off, his fastball rose from peaking at 92 mph to touching 98 mph, and in 2011 he signed with the Yankees for $1.1 million as Juan Carlos Paniagua. MLB also terminated that contract due to what the league called "falsified documents" and declared him ineligible to sign for one year, a penalty that ended today.
Paniagua hasn't shown the same velocity he had when he signed with the Yankees—he sat at 93-95 mph at a May workout in Puerto Rico—but his 81-84 mph slider has improved after some scouts last year thought it was a slurvy pitch that graded out behind his changeup. He also throws an occasional curveball, and while he was around the plate in Puerto Rico, his command and pitchability have been issues in the past.
The date of birth he is using (April 4, 1990) is the same one he used to sign with both the Diamondbacks and the Yankees. Since Paniagua had to wait until after July 2 to sign, his bonus will count against the Cubs' bonus pool for the 2012-13 international signing period if his contract is approved.
Paniagua should have the opportunity to move quickly with the Cubs. The organization also signed Frandy de la Rosa, a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop and the No. 19 international prospect for July 2, for $700,000.
Paniagua has worked with several representatives since leaving the Diamondbacks. He was with Alfredo Arias of the Arias and Goodman academy when he signed with the Yankees, though most recently he has been working out with Felix Liriano, Dario Moreno Marte (known as "Ochoa") and Rudy Santin.
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