Top signing: 3B Rafael Devers, Dominican Republic, $1.5 million.
Six-figure signings: LHP Enmanuel DeJesus (Venezuela), LHP Jhonathan Diaz (Venezuela), OF Yoan Aybar (Dominican Republic), RHP Gerson Bautista (Dominican Republic).
Total players signed: 20.
Excluding Cuban righthander Dalier Hinojosa, whose $4 million bonus in October didn’t count against the team’s international bonus pool, Boston’s biggest international amateur signing last year was Dominican third baseman Rafael Devers (video), who officially signed for $1.5 million in August after playing in the International Prospect League and training with Javier Rodriguez and Rudy Santin. Several teams regarded Devers, who is around 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, as the best lefthanded hitter on the international market. With excellent bat speed and a smooth, compact swing that stays in the zone for a long time, Devers impressed scouts from other organizations for his ability to hit in games. He has a mature approach, recognizes and drives offspeed pitches, uses the whole field, controls the bat head well enough to connect on pitches in and out of the strike zone and hangs in well against lefthanded pitching. He has a level swing with average raw power, with the potential to grow into plus power.
Devers has a round, heavy body type, so the question several scouts have is whether he can stick at third base. Some scouts think he can stay there as long as he keeps his body in check and continues to improve his footwork. He’s flashed average running times in the 60-yard dash, but he’s going to slow down significantly. He’s played some at second base but he probably doesn’t have the range to play there, so if he can’t stick at third base, a move to first is his most likely option, which would place greater demands on his power.
While most teams would likely send Devers straight to the U.S, the Red Sox are still undecided about where Devers will debut. Last year they sent Dominican infielder Wendell Rijo straight to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, though in 2010 they started Xander Bogaerts in the Dominican Summer League.
The Red Sox acquired a pair of Venezuelan lefthanders on July 2, including Enmanuel DeJesus for $787,500. DeJesus, 17, came out of Jose Blasini’s program, which also produced Red Sox lefthander Felix Doubront in 2004. At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, DeJesus has some similarities to Doubront, with a loose arm and more strength and durability than Doubront had when he signed. DeJesus’ stuff requires a lot of projection, has he signed throwing around 85-87 mph. The velocity is starting to come, as he was touching 90 mph and sitting at 86-88 over the winter. His secondary pitches are inconsistent, but he’s shown the ability to spin a curveball with feel for a changeup at times.
Boston’s other Venezuelan lefty, Jhonathan Diaz, signed for $600,000 after training with Julio Torres. Diaz, 17, is extremely athletic and coordinated, so much so that he can throw nearly as hard righthanded as he does lefty, though he’s not going to be a switch-pitcher in pro ball. Diaz is 6 feet, 175 pounds and stands out more for his feel for pitching than his pure stuff. His athleticism helps him repeat his delivery to throw strikes and he has an advanced feel for attacking hitters. He throws 85-89 mph, throws with some deception and shows some feel for his offspeed stuff, with the curveball a little bit ahead of the changeup.
The Red Sox also mixed in a raw outfielder with intriguing tools by signing Dominican outfielder Yoan Aybar (video) for $450,000 when he turned 16 on July 3. Aybar trained with Juan Herrera (known as “Mon”) and played in the IPL, where he looked crude at the plate but made an impression on some scouts with his physical upside and tools. He’s a lefty with a skinny, lean build (6-foot-1, 150 pounds) and plenty of athleticism. He’s not a burner right now–he’s around an average runner–but he glides in center field and has good actions. With his underdeveloped frame, Aybar’s speed could tick up once he gets stronger and allow him to stay in center field, or he could end up outgrowing the position and moving to right field. He already has a plus arm, which is his best tool and could get better once he adds weight. Aybar has good bat speed, some looseness to his swing and mostly gap power that should tick up with size gains, but he’s still raw at the plate and will need time to make adjustments against live pitching. If he can’t, some teams thought about putting Aybar’s strong lefty arm on the mound as a fallback option.
In April, during the 2012-13 signing period, the Red Sox signed Dominican righthander Gerson Bautista for $250,000. Upon signing, Bautista tested positive for Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid sold as Winstrol and commonly used among Latin American amateur players, but the Red Sox decided to keep his contract intact. Major League Baseball suspended Bautista for 50 games, so he didn’t pitch last year in the DSL but should make his debut in the league next season. Bautista, 18, has a lean frame (6-foot-2, 170 pounds) with a loose, quick arm and threw 88-92 mph before signing, then pushed 93 during Dominican instructional league. Bautista is still crude on the mound, but he’s shown some feel for a slider. His changeup is still rudimentary, but he has long fingers that could help the pitch develop later for him.
Boston also added Venezuelan catcher Samuel Miranda, who is a better prospect than his $7,500 bonus might suggest. Miranda signed after he turned 16 toward the end of August, so his youth and big, strong frame (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) are intriguing at a low cost.