2014-15 International Reviews: Cleveland Indians
Top signing: OF Oscar Gonzalez, Dominican Republic, $300,000.
Six-figure signings: OF Christopher Cespedes (Dominican Republic), OF Julio Cabrera (Dominican Republic), 3B Henderson De Oleo (Dominican Republic), LHP Francisco Perez (Dominican Republic), RHP Orlando Cedeno (Dominican Republic).
Total signings: 33.
Cleveland stayed away from the most expensive players on the international market last year, giving six Dominican players low six-figure bonuses for their top payments.
The biggest bonus went to 17-year-old Dominican outfielder Oscar Gonzalez, who signed for $300,000 on July 2. His trainer, Wason Brazoban, is a Dominican singer whose pop song "En Un Solo Dia" reached No. 47 on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart. Gonzalez has a big, strong frame (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) with good power potential from the right side. He's more power than pure hitter right now, with below-average speed and an above-average arm that should fit in right field. He will start in the Dominican Summer League.
Dominican outfielder Christopher Cespedes trained with Jhon Carmona and signed for $200,000 on July 2. He has a tall, slender frame at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds and impressed the Indians with his power potential. He doesn't have the same type of strength and power as Gonzalez right now, but he's ahead of him as a hitter, focusing on line drives with power coming later on. He's a corner outfielder whose arm has improved from below-average when he signed to average now, so there's a chance he could play right field.
Julio Cabrera, another Dominican outfielder, signed for $200,000 on July 2. Cabrera, 17 is a lefty with a strong, compact frame (6 feet, 190 pounds) in center field along the lines of Melky Cabrera (there's no relation between the two). Cabrera is the best hitter the Indians signed last year, with a line-drive swing and impressive performance for the Indians in games, hitting the ball to all fields with gap power. When he signed, his speed was around average to a tick below, but he's ticked up to having slightly above-average speed and an above-average arm.
Cabrera trained with Hector Acosta, as did Henderson De Oleo, who signed with the Indians for $165,000 on July 2. He has an extra-large build for a 17-year-old at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, with righthanded power and average arm strength his best tools. De Oleo is still crude as a hitter so his offensive game will require patience, and with his size he might have to shift across the diamond to first base.
For $100,000, the Indians signed Dominican righthander Orlando Cedeno on July 2. Cedeno trained with Enrique Cruz, who is Pedro Martinez's father in law, so Cedeno spent some time working with Martinez. He's a 17-year-old who's up to 6-foot-2, 195 pounds after getting stronger and tops out at 90-91 mph. Cedeno impressed the Indians with his feel for pitching and ability to spin a curveball that might be his best pitch, with a changeup that he's just learning as well.
In December, the Indians paid $125,000 to sign Dominican lefty Francisco Perez for $125,000, who first became eligible to sign in 2013 and could end up one of Cleveland's better signings from last year. At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Perez has a loose arm and good stuff for a 17-year-old southpaw, sitting in the low-90s and touching 94 with late sink. He has good action on his slider, which is ahead of his changeup, and made a good impression on the Indians with his feel for pitching. His trainer is known as "El Maestro."
The Indians also gave $100,000 to a Cuban righthander, Antonio Romero, in August. Romero, 24, left Cuba through legal immigration with the permission of the Cuban government, going to Italy on a visa. He had pitched in Serie Nacional for three seasons, so his bonus was subject to Cleveland's international bonus pool. At 6 feet, 185 pounds, Romero was never a standout pitcher in Cuba, though he was just 21 in his final season in 2011-12, when he had a 3.58 ERA in 88 innings with 49 strikeouts and 34 walks (including seven intentional walks) mostly as a reliever. Romero pitches backwards, throwing any pitch in any count, working heavily off his breaking stuff (a fringe-average curveball and a below-average slider), which isn't uncommon in Cuba, and while he’s mostly been 87-89 mph with his fastball the Indians have seen him touch the low-90s, along with a changeup as well. He trained with Javier Rodriguez, the same Dominican trainer who also had fellow Cubans Yasmany Tomas, Roberto Baldoquin and Alexander Guerrero.