2013-14 International Reviews: New York Yankees
Top signing: OF Leonardo Molina, Dominican Republic, $1.4 million
Six-figure signings: SS Yonauris Rodriguez (Dominican Republic).
Total players signed: 45.
With the third-lowest bonus pool ($1,877,900) for the 2013-14 signing period, the Yankees put all of their pool money into two players. Beyond them, the Yankees signed more than 40 other players to fill out two rosters in the Dominican Summer League. Every team is allowed six signings of $50,000 or less that don't count against their pool, so the Yankees signed four players last year for $50,000, three of which came during the current 2013-14 signing period. Every team is also allowed unlimited signings for up to $7,500 that don't count against their pool, so the rest of the Yankees signings were for $7,500 or less.
The key to the Yankees' international class was Dominican outfielder Leonardo Molina (video), who signed for $1.4 million when he turned 16 on Aug. 1. Training with Decarte Corporan and playing in the Dominican Prospect League, Molina set himself apart with some of the best raw tools and athleticism in Latin America last year. Molina is lean, projectable (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) and has an explosive first step to go with plus-plus speed. With an above-average, accurate arm, Molina has the tools to be a premium defender in center field, though he's still learning to get better reads off the bat and take more efficient routes.
Molina has performed well for some teams at the plate, though his inconsistent performance against live pitching is his biggest question mark. He has plus bat speed and a level stroke with good swing path, but he has an unorthodox load that causes his hands to get started a little early. Molina showed the ability to backspin a ball with gap power when he signed, but with added weight and strength since then, his power has already started to tick up significantly, taking balls over the center-field batter’s eye in batting practice. He has a good chance to begin his career in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
The Yankees spent $570,000 on July to sign 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Yonauris Rodriguez (video), who also played in the DPL. Rodriguez was one of the better defensive shortstops available last year out of the Dominican Republic. With a wiry 6-foot-1, 155-pound frame, Rodriguez projects to stay at the position with good hands and an above-average arm. He improved his speed to above-average as July 2 approached and shows good range at the position with a nose for the ball. Rodriguez's defense is ahead of his righthanded bat. He will hit some doubles but doesn't have much power, so he'll have to focus on line drives and getting on base. Rodriguez trained with Angel Perez.
Among the team's lower-dollar signs, the Yankees saw strong early returns on Dominican center fielder Frank Frias, who signed for $7,500 last year in February. Frias had an excellent debut as a 19-year-old in the Dominican Summer League, where he ranked ninth in the league in OBP while batting .305/.434/.433 in 249 plate appearances with four home runs, 38 walks, 57 strikeouts and 26 stolen bases in 36 attempts. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Frias has a projectable body and projects to stick in center field with his athleticism and plus speed. Frias is a righthanded pull hitter with good bat speed and average raw power, though he doesn't generate big loft power in games, so his game will be more about getting on base than slugging.
The Yankees spent $50,000 in October to sign Orby Taveras, a 6-foot-4, 226-pound lefthander from the Dominican Republic. Taveras, 19, throws 88-91 mph, scrapes 92 and complements it with feel for a changeup that's ahead of his three-quarters breaking ball. He also throws a shorter cutter/slider, with solid pitchability given his lack of experience.
For $3,000, the Yankees got encouraging early returns on 6-foot-4, 190-pound Dominican righthander Jhon Morban, a 21-year-old who pitched exclusively in relief in the DSL last year and posted a 2.59 ERA with a 31-12 K-BB mark in 31 1/3 innings with a fastball that's hit 96 mph.