Rangers Sign Dominican Lefty Francis Cespedes For $750,000

The Rangers agreed to terms with one more high-priced pitcher before the end of the 2012-13 international signing period, signing Dominican lefthander Francis Cespedes for $750,000.

The 2012-13 signing period closed on June 15, so Cespedes’ contract will count against the Rangers’ $2.9 bonus pool for that signing period. Major League Baseball is currently in a “closed period,” during which no prospects are allowed to sign until the 2013-14 signing period begins on July 2. Cespedes’ contract is still contingent on him passing MLB’s standard investigation into his age and identity.

Cespedes, an 18-year-old from Santo Domingo, has a lanky, long-armed frame at around 6-foot-4, 195 pounds with the physical projection to easily add at least 25 pounds and build on his low-90s fastball, with a curveball and a changeup rounding out his arenal. Compared to Jacob Constante, a 19-year-old Dominican lefthander who signed with the Reds for $730,000 in January, Cespedes has a tick less power on his fastball but is more athletic and some scouts think he has a better chance to remain a starting pitcher, although he will have to improve his control.

Cespedes trained with Javier Rodriguez and Rudy Santin, who also represent shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri and third baseman Rafael Devers, a pair of top Dominican prospects for July 2. Cespedes is the second high-dollar Dominican pitcher the Rangers have signed recently after landing Dominican righthander Omarlin Lopez for $825,000 out of Victor Baez’s program.

While teams historically haven’t been willing to invest large signing bonuses in Latin American amateurs players once they are older than 16, teams in the last few years have started to pay more money for “older” Dominican pitchers. Cardinals righthander Carlos Martinez, who signed for $1.5 million in 2010 when he was 18, and Yankees righthander Rafael DePaula, who signed for $500,000 later that year when he was 19, are the two most prominent examples. Cubs righthander Juan Carlos Paniagua ($1.55 million) and Yankees righthander Manolo Reyes ($600,000) also both signed last year out of the Dominican Republic when they were 22, while the Red Sox paid righthander Simon Mercedes $800,000 last year as a 20-year-old.