International Reviews: Oakland Athletics

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Baseball America's annual International Reviews provide scouting reports on every team's top international amateur signings from the 2012 calendar year, as well as a look at any notable signings from the Cuban market.

See also: 2011 American League West International Review

Oakland Athletics

Top signing: OF Luis Barrera, Dominican Republic, $450,000.
Six-figure signings: OF Jhonny Rodriguez (Dominican Republic), Yairo Munoz (Dominican Republic), C Robert Mullen (Panama), RHP Jesus Zambrano (Venezuela).
Notable Cuban signings: Yoenis Cespedes.

Oakland went through its first year under international scouting coordinator Sam Geaney after Dan Kantrovitz became the Cardinals scouting director following the 2011 season. No team made a bigger impact signing last year in the international market than Oakland, which signed Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million last year in March. Cespedes was one of the most exciting players to come out of Cuba in years and immediately delivered on his glowing scouting reports to help the A's reach the playoffs.

In the amateur ranks, Oakland's top signing last year was Luis Barrera (video), a lefthanded Dominican outfielder who landed a $450,000 bonus shortly after July 2. Barrera, who trained with Kiko Pena and played in the Dominican Prospect League, traveled to Venezuela to play in the Junior Caribbean Series in April 2011. Barrera, who turned 17 in November, stands out for his swing. His bat stays in the hitting zone a long time, he hits to all fields and he offers average power potential. He has a tendency to chase pitches out of the strike zone, so he'll need to tighten his plate discipline. With his thick 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame, below-average speed and below-average arm, it's left field or first base for Barrera, so hit bat will have to carry him.

Dominican outfielder Jhonny Rodriguez (video) also played in the DPL and he signed for $300,000 when he turned 16 on July 20, making him one of the younger players in last year's signing class. Rodriguez, who trained with Fausto "Chiki" Mejia, has lots of projection in his body. He's already added 20 pounds since signing and is up to 6-foot-3, 185 pounds. It's not a quiet approach but Rodriguez shows feel for hitting from the left side with a good swing and a quick bat. With his size and projection, there's more power projection than Barrera, though Rodriguez is also a limited runner with an arm that profiles in left field.

Panamanian catcher Robert Mullen, who played on the same Panama Metro youth team as Cardinals shortstop Edmundo Sosa, signed for $225,000 shortly after July 2. Mullen, 16, is 6 feet, 180 pounds with an average to above-average arm, a quick release and good receiving skills. Some think he'll have to make adjustments to hit breaking pitches, but he has sneaky power from the right side of the plate.

Jesus Zambrano
is an athletic Venezuelan righthander who trained with Jose Colmenares and signed for $150,000 in August. Zambrano signed on Aug. 24, the day after he turned 16, making him one of the youngest players to sign a pro contract in 2012. Zambrano isn't physical (5-foot-11, 175 pounds), but he threw 87-88 mph when he signed and ramped up to 89-91 mph during Dominican instructional league in November. There may be a little more velocity left in the tank, but he already has a sound delivery and the potential for two quality secondary pitches in his curveball and changeup.

Last year in January, the A's added Dominican shortstop Yairo Munoz for $280,000. Munoz, an 18-year-old from Cabrera who trained with former Yankees infield coach and played in the Dominican Prospect League, is the younger brother of Royals 21-year-old righthander Jairo Munoz, who spent the last two seasons pitching in the Dominican Summer League. Yairo played in the DSL last year as well and hit .229/.297/.352 in 119 plate appearances. A 6-foot-1, 165-pound switch-hitter, Munoz is athletic, agile and has a good arm, but he's a very raw player both at the plate and in the field who's still learning to slow the game down.

Oakland also added 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Eric Marinez for $95,000 in November. Marinez, who is from San Cristobal, trained with Josue Mateo and played with Barrera and Rodriguez in the DPL. He wasn't very strong or physical a year ago, but the 6-foot-2, 170-pound switch-hitter improved as the year went on. Marinez doesn't have much power now but the A's were drawn to his hitting and potential to stay at shortstop thanks to his actions, hands and solid-average arm, though he is a below-average runner.