International Scout's View: Michael Almanzar




The international free agent market opens in July, when teams can sign players over the age of 16.

In the past, we at Baseball America would hear news of a signing and then get a breakdown on each player. This season, we hope to get ahead of that curve somewhat, bringin you scouting reports on international players prior to the July 1 opening date.

We started the international free-agent frenzy with Julio Teheran, a 16-year-old righthander from Colombia who is being courted by both the Braves and Yankees, according to several sources.

We then moved on to 6-foot-5, 210-pound Dominican outfielder Itaniel Arias Guzman, who has garnered interest from several teams.

Last week, we took a look at Dominican outfielder Kelvin Deleon, and this time around we'll stay in the D.R. to break down shortstop Michael Almanzar.

The 16-year-old Dominican is the son of former big league righthander Carlos Almanzar, who pitched for the Blue Jays, Padres, Yankees, Reds and Rangers from 1997-2005.

With those bloodlines, along with Almanzar's plus bat speed and raw power potential, at least six clubs are currently courting the young shortstop.

The Red Sox appear to be the frontrunner in the Almanzar sweepstakes, though he is likely to command a bonus upwards of $1 million.

We talked to an international scout with an American League club to provide us with a sneak preview of one of the top players in this year's international crop:

"We're talking big money here," the scout said. "The market is going crazy right now and a lot of guys who probably aren't worth it are going to cash in big time. (Almanzar) might wind up getting more (than $1 million).

"I like the bat a lot. He kind of wraps it a little bit, but he's line drive to all fields with that little flick at the end that tells you he's going to hit for some power, too. It might wind up being a lot more power than people are projecting.

"I'm not sure about his ability to stay at short. He's already big for the position and he's probably going to wind up at third base. The bat will have to carry him, and he shows gap power now as a 16-year-old kid. I like the approach at the plate. He gets a good load, trigger is good, bat speed is plus.

"I'm not on him so much defensively. He's got a 40 arm (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and is a 40 fielder overall. He doesn't have real good first-step quickness. The hands are OK, but I wouldn't call them soft. He kind of drops his elbow on his throws, which leads them to be pretty erratic at times.

"He's athletic and I like the bat, but he's not a shortstop. I do think he has the ceiling to be an OK third baseman with raw power in that bat though."