2010-11 International Reviews: NL East

July 2 eligible six-figure signings are players who became eligible to sign last year during the July 2 international signing period as 16-year-olds. The “other six-figure signings” include players who became eligible to sign from previous July 2 classes but did not sign until 2010. Signings exclude Cuban defectors.

Atlanta Braves
Top signing:
 SS Edward Salcedo, Dominican Republic, $1.6 million
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: RHP Mauricio Cabrera (Dominican Republic), SS Jose Peraza (Venezuela), OF Jose Morel (Dominican Republic), C Carlos Sanchez (Panama), LHP Oriel Caicedo (Panama)
Other six-figure signings: 3B Robinson Arno (Dominican Republic)

Edward Salcedo’s drawn out journey to begin his professional career took nearly two years longer than expected. Salcedo had reportedly originally agreed to terms for a $2.9 million deal with the Indians in 2008 before questions about his age popped up and the deal fell apart. Salcedo left the Boras Corp. last year to join the Born To Play academy run by Edgar Mercedes, who was able to quickly clear up MLB’s issues with Salcedo’s paperwork. MLB declared Salcedo eligible to sign in February and he agreed to terms with the Braves shortly thereafter. Using the same date of birth (July 30, 1991) that he had presented from the start, Salcedo officially signed with the Braves in April for $1.6 million, the largest bonus the franchise has ever given an international amateur.

A 6-foot-3, 205-pound righthanded hitter, Salcedo has impressive size, bat speed and offensive ceiling. Opposing managers in the Dominican Summer League were impressed, but Salcedo wasn’t ready to handle an aggressive jump to low Class A Rome, where pro scouts were surprised at how raw he was, both at the plate and in the field. He runs well and has a strong arm, but scouts expect him to move off shortstop soon, most likely to third base, though right field is also a possibility. He committed seven errors in 20 games at shortstop in the DSL, then another 28 in 52 games in the South Atlantic League.

Atlanta’s top international signing from last year’s July 2-eligible signing class was Dominican righthander Mauricio Cabrera, who signed for $400,000 on July 2. Cabrera’s brother, 22-year-old righthander Alberto Cabrera, is the No. 9 prospect in the Cubs farm system after running his fastball up to 97 mph for Double-A Tennessee last year. Mauricio Cabrera, 17, is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds and threw a high-80s fastball that touched 90-91 mph when he signed, but his velocity has climbed since then and he has touched 95. His changeup is advanced for his age and is already an average pitch with the potential to be above-average. Cabrera throws strikes and shows some feel for spinning a curveball, though it’s his No. 3 offering at this point.

Jose Peraza, a 16-year-old shortstop from Venezuela, signed with the Braves on July 2. Peraza is a 6-foot-1, 180-pound righthanded hitter who stands out for his athleticism and plus-plus speed. He’s a toolsy shortstop who could stick at the position and has offensive upside with the potential to hit for average and present gap power, with the potential for 10-15 home runs per year down the road.

Jose Morel, 18, is a 6-foot-1, 185-pound right fielder from the Dominican Republic who agreed to terms with the Braves in July. Morel is an athletic switch-hitter with solid raw power and a good arm. Robinson Arno is a large-framed 6-foot-3, 200-pound third baseman signed in August out of the Dominican Republic. Arno, 17, stands out for his quick bat and raw power from the right side. He’s very physical and can drive the ball to the opposite field, but he is still raw at the plate. He has a strong arm but will have to stay on top of his conditioning to avoid a move to first base or right field.

How well have the Braves scouted Panama? There are just three Panamanian prospects in the 2011 Prospect Handbook, and all three—Randall Delgado, Christian Bethancourt and Dismasther Delgado—were signed by Braves scout Luis Ortiz. Atlanta signed five more Panamanian players last year, most notably catcher Carlos Sanchez and lefthander Oriel Caicedo. Sanchez stands out behind the plate, where he has good defensive instincts, a plus arm and moves around well thanks to his athleticism. At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Sanchez is a below-average runner who stands out mostly for his defense, but he has some offensive upside as well with gap power now.

Caicedo’s brother, also named Oriel Caicedo, is a 19-year-old righthander who pitched for Atlanta’s DSL club last summer. The younger Caicedo, 17, is 5-foot-11 and has feel to pitch with a mid-to-high 80s fastball and the beginnings of a solid curveball.

The Braves also have an academy in Tenerife, Spain, and in April they signed Spanish catcher Victor Velazquez, the only signing from Spain last year. Velazquez (5-foot-11, 165 pounds) is a raw 18-year-old righthanded hitter but has some defensive potential.

Florida Marlins
Top signing:
 OF Yeison del Rosario, Dominican Republic, $97,000
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: None
Other six-figure signings: None

The Marlins have ranked among the bottom of the league in international spending in recent years, though despite limited resources they have been able to find hard-throwing relievers Jhan Marinez, Sandy Rosario and Arquimedes Caminero as well as toolsy outfielder Marcell Ozuna. The Marlins’ international spending in 2010 was again among the lowest in the league with a budget of around $1.2 million. The organization didn’t make any six-figure signings, instead spreading their money for Latin American players.

Their top 2010 signing was Yeison del Rosario, a righthanded-hitting Dominican center fielder who signed for $97,000 in July. Del Rosario, 17, is a long-limbed athlete at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds. A solid-average runner leading up to July 2, del Rosario increased his speed with additional strength and now runs above-average with a solid arm. Del Rosario has a quick bat and shows feel for making contact in games, with gap power that could project as average down the road. He’ll likely start in the DSL outfield alongside Dionicio de la Cruz, a 17-year-old Dominican righthanded hitter who also signed in July. De la Cruz could handle center field now but probably profiles better in a corner, with less speed and a more compact, muscular frame than del Rosario at around 6-foot-1, 175 pounds.

Lefthander Jarlin Garcia, an 18-year-old from the Dominican Republic, is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds with advanced feel for pitching. He has some projection left on his fastball that he can run up to 88 mph, throws strikes and has some feel for his curve and changeup.

Rehiner Cordova, a 17-year-old signed in September, is an athletic shortstop who stands out in the field. At 6-foot, 160 pounds, Cordova’s hands and feet work well in the field, where he shows an average arm, average speed and the ability to make the flashy play. Cordova is a switch-hitter whose glove is ahead of his bat, but he has some bat speed and will benefit from additional strength.

Rigoberto Santamaria, a 16-year-old signed in November, pitched for the Panamanian youth national team in Thunder Bay, Canada, at the 18U World Junior Championship in July. A former outfielder who converted to pitching within the last couple of years, Santamaria’s mechanics and control are still raw but he’s already seen his velocity climb. A relatively physically mature 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Santamaria was topping out at around 87-88 mph last summer but touched 90-91 mph at a recent national youth tournament and mixed in a developing curveball as well.

New York Mets
Top signing:
 OF Vicente Lupo, Venezuela, $350,000
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: 3B Pedro Perez (Colombia), SS Alfredo Reyes (Dominican Republic)
Other six-figure signings: None

First-year general manager Sandy Alderson spent most of 2010 as MLB’s consultant in charge of reforming the league’s operations in Latin America. Thanks to a potentially dynamite international signing class in 2007, the Mets are already stocked with Latin American talent, as their three best prospects and seven of their top 13 prospects are all Latin American.

The Mets scaled back their spending in 2010, but as usual they came away with some of the top power bats in Latin America. Venezuelan outfielder Vicente Lupo was their top signing for $350,000 on July 2. Lupo, 17, drew attention for his plus raw power while representing Venezuela in August 2009 at the World Youth Championships in Taiwan. Lupo has strong forearms and good bat speed, though he’s had mixed results in games because he is a free swinger. At around 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Lupo is shorter than most prototypical power hitters, and his lack of speed and arm strength fit best in left field.

Pedro Perez, another player long connected to the Mets prior to July 2, signed in November for $280,000. Perez was one of the youngest players from last year’s July 2 class, as he didn’t turn 16 until Aug. 31. Though Perez is from Colombia, he moved to the Dominican Republic over the summer to work out in front of more teams. A 6-foot-2, 190-pound switch-hitter, Perez has above-average power but is still learning to tap into it against live pitching. He has a good arm but isn’t the most fluid fielder at third base, with some scouts thinking he could move off the position eventually. Some scouts were intrigued by the idea of converting him to a catcher, but the Mets will use him as a third baseman.

A few days before they signed Perez, the Mets added Dominican shortstop Alfredo Reyes for $200,000. Reyes, 17, is a good athlete who should be able to stick at shortstop, where he shows an average to a tick above-average arm. A wiry 6-foot-2 righthanded hitter, Reyes shows advanced feel for making contact and controlling the strike zone, though he’s still growing into his power.

The Mets were one of the teams connected to Elvis Sanchez last summer, but they surprised many in the industry by signing the Dominican third baseman for just $40,000 in September. Sanchez stands out for his plus raw power and arm strength, though his game swing can get long and a bit choppy. He’ll have to monitor his conditioning and might ultimately end up at first base anyway, but there’s plenty of value for the price.

Philadelphia Phillies
Top signing:
 LHP Franklyn Vargas, Dominican Republic, $330,000
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: None
Other six-figure signings: RHP Miguel Nunez (Dominican Republic), C Angel Chavarin (Mexico), 3B Maikel Franco (Dominican Republic)

The Phillies have squeezed considerable value out of a limited international budget year after year, adding Carlos Ruiz to the big league roster while using Carlos Carrasco and Jonathan Villar as key trade pieces to acquire Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt.

The Phillies agreed to low six-figure bonus terms with Venezuelan shortstops Anderson Gonzalez and Francisco Silva, but MLB investigations found that both players had lied about their ages and their contracts were never approved. After discovering the fraud, the Phillies signed 6-foot-4 Franklyn Vargas (also known by some scouts as Franklyn Sabala) in October for $330,000, the top bonus for a Dominican lefthander in 2010.

Vargas turned 16 on Aug. 21, making him one of the youngest July 2-eligible prospects last summer. He threw in the mid-80s before July 2 but increased his fastball to the high-80s and touched 90 mph before signing. Vargas has a loose arm and regularly hits 90-91 mph now, so he could have a plus fastball once he fills out his frame. He shows feel for a changeup and a slurvy curveball, though he could eventually end up with a slider. He will almost certainly be the youngest player this summer in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

The Phillies started 2010 by signing Dominican righthander Miguel Nunez and Dominican third baseman Maikel Franco in January. Nunez, 18, made a few starts in the DSL before spending the rest of his summer in the GCL, where he had a 5.40 ERA, 21 strikeouts and 15 walks in 27 2/3 innings. Nunez is 6-foot-6, 215 pounds with a strong lower half, though elbow soreness limited him last year after signing. Nunez was a third baseman until he was 15, when he moved to the mound and was touching 79 mph with a raw arm. Now he throws 88-92 mph but his best pitch might be his breaking ball, a true curve with tight spin.

Franco, 18, hit .222/.292/.330 in 51 GCL games last summer. He stood out more in the field than at the plate, showing good hands and at least a 60 arm on the 20-80 scale. A 6-foot-1, 180-pound righthanded hitter, Franco is a below-average runner and an aggressive hitter who can put the bat to the ball and should develop average power.

In June the Phillies signed Mexican catcher Angel Chavarin, who played briefly for Monclova in the Mexican League after signing before the Phillies brought him over for a 10-game stint in the GCL in late July. Chavarin, 20, is a 6-foot, 176-pound lefthanded hitter from Mazatlan. His swing has some effort but he’s strong and can drive the ball when he gets ahold of a pitch. He’s an offensive-oriented catcher who shows an average arm behind the plate.

Righthander Marek Minarik represented the Czech Republic in Thunder Bay, Canada, at the 18U World Junior Championship in July, but the Phillies signed him in May for $35,000 before other teams could see him there. Minarik, who had also played for the Czech Republic at the World Youth Championship in Taiwan in 2009, made three starts in the seven-game tournament and finished with a 2.76 ERA and a 14-9 K-BB mark in 16 1/3 innings. Minarik, 17, has a projectable 6-foot-4 frame, a loose arm and an 87-90 mph fastball.

Washington Nationals
Top signing:
 RHP Miguel Navarro, Dominican Republic, $120,000
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: None
Other six-figure signings: None

Most of the Nationals’ amateur signing budget has been focused on the draft, where they spent more money than any team in both 2010 and 2009, thanks in large part to the commitment they made to Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. Their international program is still recovering from the Esmailyn Gonzalez signing disaster that cost former general manager Jim Bowden and special assistant Jose Rijo their jobs and put them at the center of an FBI investigation.

In the first full year under new international director Johnny DiPuglia, the Nationals made one major international signing in July, when they signed Cuban righthander Yunesky Maya to a big league deal with a $1 million bonus. Maya, 29, could help the Nationals in 2011 as a back-end starter with an 88-91 mph fastball that touches 93, an average curveball and a changeup with splitter-type action.

Among amateur international prospects, Washington’s top 2010 signing was Dominican righthander Miguel Navarro for $120,000 last year in January. Navarro, 17, is a good athlete with a projectable 6-foot-2, 180-pound body. He throws downhill with a low-90s fastball that has touched 94 mph, mixing in a solid changeup and a mid-70s curve that flashes true rotation and tight spin. Navarro had trouble throwing strikes in an aggressive assignment to the GCL last year, and he’ll likely repeat the league this summer.

Washington’s toolsiest sign from Latin America last year was 19-year-old outfielder Narciso Mesa, who signed for $40,000 in April. Mesa, who is 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, showed in the DSL that his bat is still raw, but his speed and arm are both plus-plus tools, while his previously crude defense has taken steps forward as well.

The Nationals also signed Pedro Severino, a 17-year-old Dominican catcher, for $55,000 in December. A 6-foot-1 righthanded hitter, Severino performed well at the team’s Dominican instructional league, showing the ability to manipulate the bat head and an above-average arm. Arialdo Peguero, a 6-foot-2, 18-year-old Dominican first baseman signed for $70,000 in December, is a good defender with some raw power, though he’s still learning to handle breaking stuff.

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