While it takes time to be able to measure the results of a team’s draft, scouts usually can tell within a couple of years where a team’s draft class is headed.
When it comes to international signings, who often enter pro ball as young as 16, it’s even more of a challenge to evaluate a team’s recent overseas production. One way we can start to figure out how teams have done in the international arena in recent years is to look at the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook to see which teams have signed the most international prospects in the book, the same as we’ve done the last two years.
In the chart below, a team gets credit for any foreign player in the Prospect Handbook it originally signed, regardless of the player’s current organization, so the Yankees get credit for Mariners catcher Jesus Montero and the Blue Jays can claim White Sox righthander Nestor Molina. We included recent international signings who would have made a Top 30 had they signed and had their contracts approved last year, including Rangers righthander Yu Darvish, Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Cubs lefthander Gerardo Concepcion and Yankees righthander Jose Rafael DePaula.
Several variables can affect the number of international signings in an organization’s Top 30, chief among them is that teams that draft well might have less room for international players. Most of the international players in the Prospect Handbook signed within the last seven years, but some players, like Cubs 2006 signing Starlin Castro or Mariners 2005 signing Michael Pineda, zipped to the big leagues in a hurry, so they’re not accounted for here, but we’ll try to highlight notable international big leaguers signed since 2005 when relevant.
The numbers aren’t a ranking of which teams have done the best job at international scouting or which ones have spent their money the most efficiently, but in general, the teams that have been the most productive internationally the last five to seven years tend to rise to the top.
|TEAM||TOP 30||NOTABLE SIGNINGS|
|Tigers||16||Francisco Martinez, Brenny Paulino, Avisail Garcia|
|Rangers||14||Yu Darvish, Jurickson Profar, Martin Perez|
|Cubs||11||Hak-Ju Lee, Welington Castillo, Rafael Dolis|
|Mets||11||Jeurys Familia, Cesar Puello, Jenrry Mejia|
|Phillies||11||Sebastian Valle, Freddy Galvis, Jonathan Villar|
|Red Sox||11||Xander Bogaerts, Jose Igelsias, Felix Doubront|
|Royals||10||Cheslor Cuthbert, Kelvin Herrera, Yordano Ventura|
|Twins||10||Miguel Sano, Oswaldo Arcia, Liam Hendriks|
|Padres||9||Rymer Liriano, Juan Oramas, Simon Castro|
|Yankees||9||Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, Arodys Vizcaino|
|Blue Jays||8||Adeiny Hechavarria, Carlos Perez, Nestor Molina|
|Indians||8||Chen Lee, Luigi Rodriguez, Elvis Araujo|
|Mariners||8||Jose Campos, Phillips Castillo, Guillermo Pimentel|
|Angels||7||Jean Segura, Alex Torres, Ariel Pena|
|Giants||7||Francisco Peguero, Ehire Adrianza, Hector Sanchez|
|Reds||7||Daniel Corcino, Didi Gregorius, Ronald Torreyes|
|Rockies||7||Wilin Rosario, Rosell Herrera, Edwar Cabrera|
|White Sox||7||Juan Silverio, Eduardo Escobar, Jefferson Olacio|
|Braves||6||Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Edward Salcedo|
|Rays||6||Alex Colome, Enny Romero, Albert Suarez|
|Marlins||5||Marcell Ozuna, Jose Urena, Jesus Solorzano|
|Pirates||5||Starling Marte, Luis Heredia, Ramon Cabrera|
|Athletics||4||Yoenis Cespedes, Chih-Fang Pan, Renato Nunez|
|Brewers||4||Wily Peralta, Santo Manzanillo, Orlando Arcia|
|Cardinals||4||Carlos Martinez, Oscar Taveras, Eduardo Sanchez|
|Orioles||4||Jonathan Schoop, Gabriel Lino, Roderick Bernadina|
|Astros||3||Ariel Ovando, Jorge DeLeon, Jose Cisnero|
|Nationals||3||Eury Perez, Sandy Leon, Adrian Sanchez|
|Diamondbacks||2||Yonata Ortega, Socrates Brito|
|Dodgers||2||Alfredo Silverio, Angel Sanchez|
Tigers: No team signed more international players in the Prospect Handbook than the Tigers. It’s a combination of good scouting and them using several of their international signings in trades, including third
baseman Francisco Martinez, center fielder Gorkys Hernandez and lefthanders Lester Oliveros and Mauricio Robles. Astros righthander Rhiner Cruz, the No. 1 pick in last offseason’s Rule 5 draft, was also originally a Tiger signing, though they released him in 2006.
Under international director Tom Moore and Latin American director Miguel Garcia, the Tigers have been aggressive in Venezuela, where the Tigers are one of only four teams remaining with a Venezuelan academy. The country has yielded them toolsy position players like Martinez and outfielder Avisail Garcia, as well as righthander Bruce Rondon, who throws 100 mph but doesn’t always know where it’s going. Dominican righthander Brenny Paulino is one of the most exciting players in the system with a fastball that can touch 97 mph.
Rangers: No team in baseball has the combination of quality and quantity
that the Rangers have in their farm system from the international ranks under the tenure of international scouting director Mike Daly and his predecessor A.J. Preller, now the team’s director of player personnel. While Darvish was an international celebrity and belongs in a separate category, the Rangers signed four other international players—Curacaoan shortstop Jurickson Profar, Venezuelan lefty Martin Perez, Cuban center fielder Leonys Martin and Mexican third baseman Christian Villanueva—who rank among the Top 100 prospects.
Venezuelan second baseman Rougned Odor may already be one of the South Atlantic League’s best hitters as an 18-year-old, Colombian catcher Jorge Alfaro has big-time arm strength and power and Dominican first baseman Ronald Guzman may have been the best international prospect signed last year. Players like Luis Sardinas, Leury Garcia, David Perez and Miguel de los Santos might get more attention if they were in another organization, but for the Rangers, they’re just more depth in a wave of international talent at the lower levels.
Mets: When Omar Minaya was general manager, the Mets revved up their spending in Latin America, most notably to sign a trio of Dominican players from Ivan Noboa in Fernando Martinez, Cesar Puello and Jefry Marte. Their scouts have been able to find quality players for lower prices, including Panamanian middle infielder Ruben Tejada, outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and hard-throwing Dominican righthanders Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. More recent additions like Dominican righthanders Domingo Tapia, Luis Mateo and Rafael Montero have kept the system stocked with intriguing young arms, though they are still far away.
Phillies: The Phillies are never among the top spenders in Latin America
but always seem to find quality players over the last decade under the watch of international scouting director Sal Agostinelli. The Phillies signed Antonio Bastardo on the cheap in 2005 when he was 19, and he emerged as one of the nastiest relievers in baseball last year. Sebastian Valle is the organization’s No. 3 prospect and he signed for $30,000 as a Mexican amateur. Freddy Galvis cost them $90,000 out of Venezuela and, while he may fit best as a utility guy, he’s filling in as Philadelphia’s everyday second baseman as a 22-year-old who plays premium defense. Dominican shortstop Jonathan Villar ($105,000) and outfielder Domingo Santana ($330,000) helped the Phillies add Hunter Pence and Roy Oswalt.
Royals: After Dayton Moore officially became the Royals general manager in June 2006, one of his first hires came two months later when Rene Francisco, Moore’s former colleague with the Braves, was named a special
assistant to the GM in charge of the team’s international operations. In the 2007 Prospect Handbook, the Royals’ Top 30 prospects included only one international player signed by the Royals as an amateur, righthander Carlos Rosa. It’s not hard to see the transformation that has taken place under Francisco, Latin American supervisor Orlando Estevez and their staff. In October 2006, the Royals signed Venezuelan catcher Salvador Perez, who made his major league debut last year at 21.
Two months later they signed Dominican righthander Kelvin Herrera, who also reached Kansas City last year at 21 and touches triple digits out of the bullpen.
Most of the Royals’ Latin American talent is still in the lower levels. Nicaraguan third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert is the No. 84 prospect in baseball. Dominican righthander Yordano Ventura is under 6 feet but reaches 100 mph. Dominican outfielder Jorge Bonifacio is an 18-year-old breakout waiting to happen in low Class A Kane County, while several teams considered Dominican outfielder Elier Hernandez one of the premium
prospects from the 2011 international signing class.
Yankees: If you exclude Cuban and Japanese professionals, the Yankees signed more international players among the Top 100 prospects as amateurs than any other organization. Montero, Mexican lefthander Manny Banuelos, Dominican righthander Arodys Vizcaino
and Dominican catcher Gary Sanchez all entered the season in the Top 100. DePaula and Dominican center fielder Ravel Santana could soon join that club. They also signed infielder Jimmy Paredes out of the Dominican Republic in 2006.
Rockies: The Rockies add quality pitching every year in Latin America under international director Rolando Fernandez, beating teams with great scouting and development rather than a bigger checkbook. The Rockies used Dominican righthander Aneury Rodriguez (2005) to trade for righthander Jason Hammel, while Dominican righthander Juan Nicasio (2006) is a flamethrower who pitched well last year until he suffered a freak neck injury after getting hit in the head with a line drive. Lefthander Edwar Cabrera led the minors in strikeouts last year and continues to befuddle hitters with his changeup. Dominican catcher WIlin Rosario’s major league career has gotten off to an uneven start, but his raw power and arm strength make him one of the game’s better catching prospects.
Cardinals: Even though they appear toward the bottom of the list, what the Cardinals have done in the Dominican Republic in recent years is noteworthy. Other than the Yankees, the Cardinals are the only team with
two Dominican signings in the Top 100. Righthander Carlos Martinez, who
signed for $1.5 million in 2010, throws smoke with plus movement. The organization’s faith in the bat of outfielder Oscar Taveras, who signed for $145,000 in 2008, looks prudent with Taveras excelling in Double-A at 19. The Cardinals struggled to find talent for many years in Latin America before the arrival of international director Moises Rodriguez, who was hired following the 2007 season, and Latin American supervisor Juan Mercado, who left the Cardinals after the 2011 season to join the Pirates.