The summer signing season is just five days old, and we've already seen two of the 12 highest bonuses in international history. The Cardinals signed Dominican center fielder Wagner Mateo for $3.1 million, and the Yankees inked Dominican catcher Gary Sanchez for $3 million. Below is the list of record international bonuses:
|Largest International Bonuses|
|Year||Player, Pos, Team||Bonus|
|1997||Hideki Irabu, rhp, Yankees||$8,500,000|
|2007||Hiroki Kuroda, rhp, Dodgers||$7,300,000|
|1997||Rolando Arrojo, rhp, Devil Rays||$7,000,000|
|2002||Jose Contreras, rhp, Yankees||$6,000,000|
|2000||Ichiro Suzuki, of, Mariners||$5,000,000|
|1999||Danys Baez, rhp, Indians||$4,500,000|
|2008||Michael Ynoa, rhp, Athletics||$4,250,000|
|2007||Kosuke Fukudome, of, Cubs||$4,000,000|
|2008||Dayan Viciedo, 3b/of, White Sox||$4,000,000|
|2009||Wagner Mateo, of, Cardinals||$3,100,000|
|2004||Kendry Morales, 1b/of, Angels||$3,000,000|
|2009||Gary Sanchez, c, Yankees||$3,000,000|
Ben Badler has been all over the international signings and will continue to update them as they happen at our Prospects Blog.
There's going to be a lot of turnover on our Cardinals Top 10. Looking at our 2009 list, Rasmus (the No. 1 prospect) has graduated to the majors, Chris Perez (No. 3) has been sent to the Indians in the Mark DeRosa trade and Jason Motte (No. 8) will exceed the rookie/prospect maximum of 50 big league innings by season's end. David Freese (No. 9) is 26 and probably will drop off the list, and Bryan Anderson (No. 5) may fall by the wayside as well.
I don't see St. Louis' draft producing any immediate Top 10 candidates besides Miller, who was a steal at No. 19 (assuming the Cardinals sign him, which I believe they will). Catcher Robert Stock (second round) and shortstop Ryan Jackson (fifth) have questionable bats, righthander Joe Kelly (third) has little track record of success and righty Scott Bittle (fourth) has serious shoulder issues.
Below is my best guess as to what our St. Louis Top 10 will look like at season's end. I'm assuming the Cardinals will sign all of their significant draft picks, and that righthander Mitchell Boggs and shortstop Tyler Greene will have played enough in the majors to lose their prospect status.
1. Brett Wallace, 3b
He's an elite hitting prospect, though it remains to be seen whether he can stick at third.
2. Shelby Miller, rhp
The 19th overall pick in June had the best fastball among the draft's high schoolers.
3. Daryl Jones, of
He's building on a breakout 2008 performance with a steady season in Double-A.
4. Wagner Mateo, of
Dominican power hitter signed for a club-record $3.1 million last week.
5. Jess Todd, rhp
Don't be surprised if he emerges as St. Louis' closer of the future.
6. Clayton Mortensen, rhp
Currently filling a bullpen role in the majors, he has the stuff to be a No. 3 or 4 starter.
7. Pete Kozma, ss
Tends to start slow, then make adjustments every time he reaches a new level.
8. Jaime Garcia, lhp
Needed Tommy John surgery shortly after reaching St. Louis last July.
9. Lance Lynn, rhp
Sinkerballer has gone 7-2, 4.05 in Double-A in his first full pro season.
10. Adam Reifer, rhp
Reliever pitches in the high 90s but lacks command, gets hit more than he should.
As mentioned above, Ben Badler is our international prospect guru, so I'll turn this question over to him. Here's Ben's response:
The track record of Latin American teenagers who received seven-figure bonuses isn't good. In theory, with more agents trying to find the best players and with teams gaining more experience and investing greater resources in scouting Latin America, the success rate of high-priced prospects should improve.
But there's still an enormous amount of uncertainty with these players: they're so far away from the majors; questions remain about their true ages even if they pass MLB's improving investigations; the ways in which they have to be scouted; the unfortunate reality that bonus skimming and shady dealings are still commonplace. So often the best players sign for little money, and not necessarily on or around July 2. Ask any international scouting director and he'll tell you about a player he signed for around $50,000 who he genuinely believes is just as good if not better than another prospect who signed for $1 million or more.
Dominican shortstop Sano (who's still unsigned), Cardinals outfielder Mateo and Yankees catcher Sanchez all have great potential. However, there are scouts with concerns about all three players, and none of them is a surefire bet to be a big league regular. A player with Mateo's skills could be the next Fernando Martinez, but we're willing to wait another year to gain more information on all of these prospects. The player with the best chance of those three at the Top 100 is Sano, who if he is 16—which MLB reportedly has yet to determine—has an advanced offensive skill set with a good fundamental swing, bat speed, power potential and athleticism. Assuming Sano signs, he'll get consideration for the Top 100, but he's not a lock to make the list.
Chapman is in a different category. While scouts are projecting Athletics righthander Michael Ynoa (the top prospect in the 2008 class) to one day throw in the mid-90s, we already know that Chapman can touch 100 mph, which is better than any other southpaw on the planet. There's risk with any pitcher and probably moreso with Chapman. His medical history is mostly unknown, and there will always be questions about the true age of any Cuban ballplayer. But based on his current ability and projected future talent, Chapman stacks up with the top handful of pitching prospects in baseball and would rank accordingly.
The other major factor with Chapman is whether he'll sign with a major league team by the time our 2010 Top 100 list comes out. Viciedo left Cuba in May 2008, but wasn't declared a free agent until November and didn't sign with the White Sox until December. If Chapman has the same seven-month lag between defecting and signing, he'll be cutting it close to be eligible for the Top 100 come next February.
We're working on a midseason Top 25 Prospects list for the current issue of Baseball America, and Kelly is a strong candidate to make the cut. If we did a full Top 100, he'd be a safe bet to check in somewhere in the 20-35 range. Though he spent his pro debut last summer playing shortstop, the Red Sox thought he was the most advanced high school pitcher in the 2008 draft. He has spent this year showing why Boston believed that and invested a $3 million bonus to lure him away from a Tennessee football scholarship.
Kelly is only 19 and already shows three quality pitches. He has excellent command of low-90s fastball with late sink, and he backs it up with a sharp 12-to-6 curveball and an advanced changeup. His lean body (6-foot-3, 194 pounds) and the power to his curveball bode well for his chances of adding more velocity in the future. His athleticism allows him to repeat his delivery and throw strikes with ease.
At this point, Kelly stands out more defensively than offensively as a position player. He's a fluid shortstop with an obviously strong arm. He has some power potential but hit .215 with 42 strikeouts in 130 at-bats in his pro debut. He still has a long ways to go with making consistent contact and solving breaking pitches.
I wouldn't worry Kelly's strikeout rate (7.0 per nine innings). His K-BB (69-15 in 89 innings) and groundout/flyout (1.55) ratios have been outstanding, as he has filled the strike zone and induced a lot of ground balls. He should develop a stronger fastball with more time, and he'll miss more bats as he improves the consistency of his curveball and changeup. All three of his offerings are potential out pitches.
Kelly prefers playing every day to pitching once every five games, and to sign him the Red Sox had to agree to give him every opportunity to make it as a shortstop. He has shown considerably more potential on the mound in the early stages of his career, but Boston will allow him to return to shortstop after he pitches in the Futures Game next weekend. He'll play for about a week in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League before the Red Sox figure out where to assign him.