Top signing: SS Wander Javier, Dominican Republic, $4 million.
Total signings: 21.
The Twins had a $3,948,500 bonus pool in 2015-16 and they chose to max it out to sign Dominican shortstop Wander Javier for $4 million on July 2. That put them 1.3 percent over their pool, which means they will only have to pay a small overage tax of $51,500 and won’t face any future signing restrictions. They added other players after July 2 for bonuses of $10,000 or less—those signings are exempt from the bonus pools—but the main draw of the class is Javier, whose bonus was the highest among Dominican shortstops and second only to Phillies outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz in the whole country.
In terms of pure tools and athleticism, the 17-year-old Javier stacks up well against any of the top signings from last year. He has a long-limbed, wiry build and several tools that are 60s now (like his speed and arm strength) or project to be in time. Several scouts felt confident Javier would stick at shortstop, where he has good actions to make the routine plays as well as the flashier ones.
Like many young shortstops, there are times when he can play out of control, but he has the athleticism and arm strength to make plays from deep in the hole and could develop into an above-average defender. It’s rare to find a shortstop in the draft with Javier’s tools, but the widespread question from scouts was about whether Javier will be able to develop into a better hitter to reach the significant upside that his tools suggest.
Javier is still fairly raw at the plate, so that process of developing those hitting skills might take a few years, but he has several positive indicators on his side. His strong, quick wrists generate good bat speed, so he hits the ball with good exit velocity and should have above-average raw power. Accustomed to a tryout setting to try to show his power in batting practice, Javier starts his swing with a big leg kick and often lunges out on his front foot too early, which throws off his timing, particularly against offspeed pitches. He has a long swing and lacks natural rhythm and balance, but he does have a level swing path, good hand-eye coordination and the athleticism that scouts highest on Javier believe will help him make the proper adjustments.
The Twins have been pleased with the progression of Javier’s overall baseball IQ since signing and plan to start him in the Dominican Summer League.