July 2 Notebook

Pena suspended, Royals tied to Cuthbert




Various international news and notes collected over the weekend before the international signing period begins on Thursday, July 2:

• Major League Baseball suspended Padres third baseman Jefri Pena for one year after discovering that he had misrepresented his age and his identity. The Padres signed Pena out of the Dominican Republic for $325,000 in August 2008 under the impression that he was 16 years old, as Pena had presented his date of birth as January 14, 1992. Instead, according to Padres international scouting director Randy Smith, Pena is really four years older and his real last name is Mercedes.

"It's unfortunate," Smith said. "I think MLB is doing a much better job with the plan they have in place now, and hopefully it becomes less of a problem as we go forward. I like the fact that they're being a little more proactive."

Pena is still a member of the Padres' organization and is in the team's complex in the Dominican Republic. He had cleared his initial background investigation last year, but Pena was among the players that MLB had been re-investigating at the request of the U.S. Consulate in the wake of the Esmailyn Gonzalez scandal.

"It's surprising," Smith said. "This was a guy there was competition for. We liked his ability and we felt pretty decent about the signing. We still like the player, but it changes the timetable and it means you need to step on the accelerator to have any hope of moving up the ladder."

• Two international scouts said they believe Nicaraguan third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert will receive a seven-figure bonus from the Royals on July 2. Bonus numbers have ranged from $1 million to $1.5 million. The Pirates were among the other teams that had interest in Cuthbert.

• Multiple sources said the Braves have strong interest in Dominican lefthander Edgar Ferreira, whose fastball has been clocked up to 93-94 mph. The Braves certainly seem to like to collect lefthanders; seven of Atlanta's top 30 prospects entering the season were southpaws (they have since traded Jeff Locke to the Pirates), and that's not including 2009 first-rounder Mike Minor or Dominican lefthander Carlos Perez, who signed with the Braves for $600,000 last summer.

Wagner Mateo appeared to be the Giants' top July 2 target, but that ship appears to have sailed with Mateo now likely headed to the Cardinals. So what is San Francisco's next move? The Giants have spent big money on Dominican power bats Angel Villalona and Rafael Rodriguez in recent years, and they have been linked to a pair of other Dominican power hitters this year: Jacob Beltre and Rosel Herrera. The Brewers and Cubs are also believed to be interested in Beltre, while sources say Herrera has drawn interest from the Rockies and Dodgers.

• One result of a July 2 market that is taking longer than usual to unravel is the toll it appears to be taking on some of the players, especially the pitchers. Scouts say many position players appear to be worn down after months and months of non-stop showcasing, while several of the top pitchers are seeing their velocities dip due to overuse and having to be used on short rest to show for teams.

One player who isn't slowing down is Dominican shortstop Miguel Sano, who homered in a game on an offspeed pitch against one of the better available July 2 arms, according to one scout who watched Sano recently. The feeling in the international scouting community is that Sano has a chance to break Michael Ynoa's international amateur free agent bonus record of $4.25 million from a year ago, though it's unclear where Sano's bonus will ultimately land. Sano's agent, Rob Plummer, negotiated the second-highest international amateur free agent bonus ever last year when he got Rodriguez signed for $2.55 million with the Giants.