15 New International MLB Signings With Breakout Potential
Most of the attention for new international signings tends to go to the players who sign for the biggest bonuses.
Yet when it comes to projecting players who are signing at 16, things can change quickly, and there are factors beyond a player's ability or future projection that have an impact on his signing bonus.
We have published more than 200 reports on international signings from this year's class, which opened on Jan. 15 and runs through Dec. 15. These are 15 players who signed for under $500,000 (focusing mostly on players who got low six-figures or less) who are prospects with breakout potential.
Jose Fernandez, SS, D-backs: Fernandez is a Venezuelan shortstop with a tall, lean, ultra-projectable frame at 6-foot-3, 165 pounds, with an exciting mix of skills on both sides of the ball and the strength projection left for those tools to continue trending up. He's a righthanded hitter with a good swing who has hit well in games and had a high contact rate. It's gap power now but he hits the ball hard with back spin to all fields and the strength projection to grow into above-average power once he packs on size. Fernandez is athletic with slightly above-average speed and is a fluid mover at shortstop. He has good actions and fields the ball with sweet hands and an arm that's flashing plus and could get even stronger with physical maturity. If he outgrows the position, he could go to third base, but he has the ability to stick at shortstop as long as he maintains his agility and athleticism.
Carlos Jorge, SS, Reds: Jorge was an athletic but small, light-framed shortstop early on in the scouting process who has been trending up. He's still on the smaller end at around 5-foot-9, but he's added some wiry strength and is a quick-twitch athlete with plus-plus speed. He has hit well in games with a simple, direct stroke without much wasted movement, leading to frequent contact with some lift and the ability to put a surprising charge into the ball for his size. Jorge has the actions and athleticism to stay in the middle infield and a solid arm, with a chance he ends up flipping over to second base. He has some similarities to Vidal Brujan, a Top 100 prospect with the Rays and another 5-foot-9, speedy middle infielder from the Dominican Republic with a high contact rate.
Yhoangel Aponte, OF, Blue Jays: Aponte is a Venezuelan outfielder with a chance for five average or better tools that play up because of his instincts, especially in center field. With solid-average speed and arm strength, Aponte is a diligent, focused worker when it comes to his defensive craft and it shows in games. He's not a burner, but he reads the ball well off the bat, has a quick first step and glides to balls in both gaps with efficient routes and diving catches. He has performed well against live pitching too, making frequent contact with good strike-zone judgment, a lot of line drives and surprising power from his 5-foot-11 frame.
Rayne Doncon, SS, Dodgers: Doncon is 6-foot-2 with a high waist, long limbs and promising physical upside out of the Dominican Republic. In 2020, he got stronger while staying lean, improving both his power and the chance that he could stay at shortstop. He has fast bat speed and good contact skills in games. As he's gotten stronger, he has quieted down some of the extra movement he previously had in his trigger to get his swing started, with a chance to grow into average or better power. A near-average runner, Doncon could still end up outgrowing shortstop, but he has shown good instincts in the field.
Alvaro Mejias, RHP, Red Sox: In their previous signing class, the Red Sox signed Venezuelan righthander Luis Perales, whose velocity climbed to reach 95 mph at 16 after signing. Mejias is another Venezuelan righthander the Red Sox signed who experienced a velocity bump, with his fastball jumping up to reach 96 mph last year after working more in the mid 80s when teams were heavily scouting him. He's still a skinny 6-foot-2 with big hands and feet and loose, whippy arm action, all signs that point to more velocity coming once he packs on weight. He's an athletic pitcher with feel to spin a three-quarters type breaking ball that's ahead of his changeup.
Daniel Ferreira, OF, Cubs: At 5-foot-10, 170 pounds from the Dominican Republic, Ferreira isn't that big, but he's able to generate impressive power with good bat speed from his strong, compact frame. He has a good track record of performing in games, with a sound righthanded stroke with good rhythm and balance. Ferreira is a solid-average runner who may lose a step as he fills out, with a near-average arm and a likely corner outfield profile.
Joel Diaz, RHP, Mets: Diaz is arguably the best player in the Mets class, with the Dominican righthander's stock having grown considerably over the past year. Diaz was throwing more in the mid-to-upper 80s when a lot of teams were scouting him, but his fastball has jumped to the point where he's touching 95 mph now. There's more physical projection left in his 6-foot-2 frame, so he should continue to throw harder. He has starter traits as a strike-thrower with a three-pitch mix that includes an advanced curveball for his age with a chance to be plus and feel for a changeup with good fade.
Jesus Montilla, SS, Indians: Montilla isn't that big but he's a savvy player with high-level game acumen for his age out of Venezuela. He has a good chance to stay at shortstop, where his hands and feet work well with good instincts. That feel for the game shows up in the batter's box too, where he has good plate discipline and bat control.
Sebastian Javier, RHP, Rays: Javier is 6-foot-1, 185 pounds and has trended up since a lot of scouts saw him in November 2019 for an MLB Trainer Partnership Program in Arizona, where he was up to 90 mph. He's now touching 95 mph, with starter traits between his projectable build, athleticism, delivery, loose arm action and stuff. The Dominican righthander complements his fastball with a curveball that has good rotation and a changeup that he sells well with his arm speed.
Dario Borrero, OF, White Sox: In the last year and a half, Borrero hit a growth spurt, going from a skinny 6-foot-2 up to now 6-foot-5, 200 pounds. For such a tall player, Borrero still has a fairly simple, short stroke for his size from the left side that's loose, relaxed and easy. The Venezuelan outfielder does a good job of going with where the ball is pitched, showing the bat control to shoot pitches on the outer third to left field or pull pitches on the inner third. His power has started to spike now, with a chance to grow into significantly more thunder once he packs on another 30-40 pounds. Borrero moves around fairly well for his size and will start out as a corner outfielder, though with how big he is he might end up at first base.
Carlos Rodriguez, C, Orioles: A Venezuelan catcher, Rodriguez was one of the smaller bonus players to watch from Baltimore's international class. He's extremely athletic for a catcher, with slightly above-average speed underway and a good arm from behind the plate. Rodriguez has also hit well against live pitching, showing the ability to drive the ball with impact, especially for a smaller signing.
Podcast: Braves, Astros Are One Win Away
On the newest Baseball America playoff podcast, Carlos Collazo and JJ Cooper wrap up a busy day of LCS action that saw Framber Valdez become the innings-eater this postseason has lacked and saw the Braves give their fans something they are unaccustomed to--hope.
Ruben Vizcaya, OF, Pirates: Vizcaya stood out for his tools and athleticism in a stocky strong frame at a workout for Venezuelan players in Aruba in November 2018. Since then, his tools have only ticked up, and he took up switch-hitting after previously hitting righthanded exclusively, and it's clicked to the point where he can continue to hit from both sides in pro ball. Vizcaya now has a muscular 5-foot-10 build with the tools for center field between his plus speed and plus arm. He's an aggressive player with a solid swing and the mix of strength and bat speed to show over-the-fence power already.
Ellian Nuñez, RHP, Mets: A 6-foot-2 Dominican righthander, Nuñez has continued to see his velocity climb, sitting in the low 90s with the ability to reach 97. It's a lively fastball with a lot of running action and a high spin-rate curveball with power and tight rotation in the upper 70s, giving him a weapon that could potentially miss a lot of bats.
Eddy Beltre, OF, Padres: Beltre was one of the most improved players over the course of the scouting process. His tools have spiked upward as he's developed into a quick-twitch athlete with plus speed and a 60 arm in center field, where he covers a lot of ground and projects to stick. He tightened up what was a long, loopy swing into a shorter stroke with a flat, down-and-through path and gap power from his 5-foot-11, 165-pound frame.
Jose Olivares, RHP, Twins: For a while, Olivares trained as an outfielder in Venezuela, but he took off once he moved to the mound, with his velocity popping at games in the Dominican Republic last year. Previously eligible to sign in 2019, Olivares is now an 18-year-old righthander with a sturdy, physically mature frame and a fastball that has been up to 96 mph with lively riding life up in the zone. He pairs it with a good curveball that's more advanced than his changeup.