Top signing: 3B Luis Encarnacion, Dominican Republic, $1 million.
Six-figure signings: C Jose Gonzalez (Dominican Republic), OF Bryan Martelo (Colombia), OF Edwin Rodriguez (Dominican Republic).
Total players signed: 35.
The Phillies have become more willing to spend on high-end international free agents in recent years, bringing Venezuelan outfielder Carlos Tocci, Dominican catcher Deivi Grullon and Dominican outfielder Jose Pujols into the mix in recent years. They stepped up further this year with a $1 million commitment to Dominican third baseman Luis Encarnacion (video), their biggest signing of the year outside of Cuban righthander Miguel Gonzalez.
No matter where he went–the MLB international showcase in January, the International Prospect League, a game against the Canadian junior national team in May or to private workouts with teams–Encarnacion seemed to always be getting hits in games. Encarnacion, who signed when he turned 16 on Aug. 9, takes an aggressive righthanded swing and makes consistent hard contact against live pitching. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Encarnacion shows plus raw power in batting practice that ranked among the best in last year’s July 2 crop, crushing balls out to dead center field. Encarnacion is prone to overswinging at times and hasn’t seen many good breaking pitches yet, but he can demolish a fastball and takes his power to the games, leading the most optimistic scouts to project him as a middle-of-the-order bat.
While Encarnacion shows plenty of promise at the plate, scouts from other teams give him little chance to stay at third base and expect him to quickly end up in left field or at first base. Encarnacion will start his career this season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League at third base, but he’s a below-average runner who struggles with his infield actions and has a below-average arm with a funky throwing stroke. It’s a profile with some similarities at the high end to Billy Butler and Allen Craig, as well as Bobby Borchering, the No. 9 overall pick in 2009. Encarnacion trained with Juan Herrera, who is known as “Mon.”
The $1 million bonus for Encarnacion surprised several people in the industry, since the expectation was that the Phillies would give Encarnacion $1.3 million. They did give $300,000 to another player from “Mon,” Dominican catcher Jose Gonzalez, in April during the 2012-13 signing period. Shortly after signing, Gonzalez hurt his elbow and had Tommy John surgery, which kept him off the field the entire Dominican Summer League season. Gonzalez, who turned 19 in December, is 6 feet, 195 pounds, had shown the Phillies a 55 arm and drew the attention of their scouts for his hitting against live pitching with gap power.
The Phillies were also drawn to the bat of Colombian outfielder Bryan Martelo, who trained with his father Robinson and signed for $230,000 in July. Martelo, 17, is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds and hit well in the Venezuelan parallel league after signing, batting .282/.333/.397 with six doubles, a home run, five walks and 16 strikeouts in 78 at-bats. He reacts well to breaking balls and shows pop in his bat from the right side. He showed a 55 arm at his best but has been hindered by tendinitis, with fringy speed that makes him fit best in right field. The Phillies think highly enough of his bat that he’s expected to debut this year in the GCL.
Dominican outfielder Edwin Rodriguez signed with the Phillies for $100,000 after impressing the Phillies with his hitting ability. Rodriguez, 16, is a slender 6-foot-1, 175-pound lefty with fringy tools who will play in an outfield corner but caught the Phillies’ attention for his consistent contact in games and knack for centering the baseball. Rodriguez trained with Victor Garcia Sued and Aldo Marrero.