2013-14 International Reviews: Atlanta Braves
Top signing: LHP Luis Barrios, Colombia, $600,000
Six-figure signings: SS Ozhaino Albies (Curacao), SS Kevin Josephina (Curacao), RHP Luis Perez (Dominican Republic), SS Alejandro Salazar (Venezuela).
Total players signed: 32.
Teams spend the overwhelming majority of their international dollars for amateur players in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, but the Braves have been one of the most prominent teams in the less heavily saturated countries in Latin America. The Braves signed Julio Teheran for $850,000 out of Colombia in 2007 and have been industry leaders in Panama, where they signed righthander Randall Delgado and catcher Christian Bethancourt.
In 2013, the Braves did more than half of their spending outside of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, led by the $600,000 signing of Colombian lefthander Luis Barrios on July 2. Barrios, a 17-year-old who trained with Javier Montano, is 6-foot-2, 190 pounds with a good frame, an easy, repeatable delivery and a loose arm. Barrios was throwing 84-88 mph when he signed, but scouts felt he should be throwing harder given his build and the way his arm worked. Now that velocity is starting to come, as the Braves have seen him throwing 88-90 mph and touch 92. Scouts who saw Barrios before July 2 were mixed on his control and secondary stuff (a curveball and a changeup), but the Braves were drawn to Barrios for his feel for pitching and what they believe is a plus changeup. Barrios will probably begin his career in the Dominican Summer League, although a jump to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League by the end of the year isn't out of the question.
Atlanta added a pair of shortstops from Curacao on July 2, including 17-year-old Ozhaino Albies (video), a $350,000 signing. Albies is small--he was listed at 5-foot-7, 133 pounds a year ago, but now is 5-foot-9, 150 pounds--but has surprising tools for his size. Albies is a plus-plus runner with a good arm, so he should be able to stay at shortstop. Albies hit well in Curacao but hasn't faced many high-caliber arms yet. He's a switch-hitter with limited power projection because of his size, so his game will have to be more about line drives and getting on base.
The Braves also gave $300,000 to another switch-hitting shortstop from Curacao, 17-year-old Kevin Josephina. At 6 feet, 170 pounds, Josephina has the frame to grow another inch or two and add another 30 pounds, which could end up moving him to third base down the road. For now he's an above-average runner with a good arm and a gap power, though he should grow into more sock once he gets stronger.
On July 2 the Braves signed Dominican righthander Luis Perez for $275,000. Perez, who already graduated from high school, is a skinny 6-foot-1, 185 pounds and throws 88-91 mph. Perez shows feel to spin a power curveball, though he's still working to develop a changeup.
Atlanta also signed Venezuelan shortstop Alejandro Salazar (video) for $100,000 on July 2. At 6 feet, 170 pounds, Salazar, 17, is a gamer with good instincts who the Braves believe can be an offensive infielder who sets up from the right side with a wide base and no stride in his swing. His hands and arm are solid, though he's not a burner, so he could end up a better fit defensively at third base than shortstop. He trained with Ricardo Petit, who is the brother of Rolando Petit, Atlanta’s Venezuelan-based assistant director of Latin American operations.
The Braves only paid $50,000 for 17-year-old Jose Pina on July 2, but the Venezuelan outfielder was under the radar and more advanced than his bonus might indicate. He's 6-foot-2, 198 pounds and a righthanded hitter with a chance for three above-average tools with his raw power, arm strength and speed. He played for the Venezuelan 18U team in September in Japan, where he hit .267/.290/.333 in 30 at-bats over eight games.