International Reviews: New York Yankees
Top signing: SS Jesus Bastidas, Venezuela, $300,000.
Total signings: 57.
After blasting through their international bonus pool in unprecedented fashion in 2014, the Yankees were in the first year of the penalty beginning on July 2, 2015, so they were limited to signings of no more than $300,000. From that monster 2014 haul, shortstops Wilkerman Garcia and Hoy Jun Park have already done well in the United States, with Garcia ranking as the team’s No. 8 prospect. Shortstop Diego Castillo, third baseman Nelson Gomez and catcher Miguel Flames were all high-dollar 2014 signings who performed well last year in their pro debuts in the Dominican Summer League. So while the Yankees essentially did multiple years of shopping in one signing period during 2014-15, they still remained aggressive in 2015-16, signing more players than any other team during the 2015 calendar year, with several prospects already starting to tick upwards.
The only player the Yankees spent their maximum $300,000 bonus on in the 2015-16 signing period was Jesus Bastidas, a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop who trained with Eduardo Navarro. Bastidas is a skinny, underdeveloped 5-foot-10, 145 pounds but is a sure-handed shortstop who’s adept at picking balls to his back hand side. He projects to stick at the position and play it well, with above-average speed, a slightly above-average arm with sharp accuracy and good overall defensive instincts. Bastidas lacks strength, but he has quick, strong hands and the ball jumps off his bat well already for his size, making contact in games and staying in the middle of the field with gap power. He will debut this summer in the DSL.
Dominican righthander Luis Medina, who trained with Victor Baez, was touching the mid-90s as a 15-year-old. In June, the month after he turned 16, he reached 100 mph multiple times and signed in July for $280,000. Medina has a strong, athletic, frame (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) with broad shoulders, a high waist and an enormous fastball, but it’s very much a power over feel profile, both in terms of his ability to throw strikes and change speeds. He’s made some progress with his delivery to help him throw more strikes and throws a power breaking ball that might eventually morph into a slider. Medina could end up struggling with his control in the DSL this year, or he might be so overpowering with his fastball that he could get pushed to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Andres Chaparro, a 16-year-old Venezuelan third baseman from Carlos Guillen’s program, signed for $215,000 on July 2. He has a heavy frame (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) and has performed well in games from the right side of the plate. He’s strong and could grow into above-average power, though he focuses on being a hitter first rather than selling out for power. A former catcher, Chaparro is an offensive-minded third baseman who will have to keep his conditioning in check. He’s started to do that already and has seen his arm strength improve, with a chance to stick at third base if he focuses on improving his footwork.
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Dominican righthander Deivi Garcia has an electric arm in a small frame, drawing a $200,000 bonus on July 2 after training with Luis Mejia. Garcia, 16, is slightly built at 5-foot-11, 155 pounds (and that’s after gaining 10 pounds since signing) but has an extremely quick arm. He touched 93 mph before he signed, but now he’s sitting in the low-90s and has reached 95-96 mph, showing feel to spin a tight, true curveball with top-to-bottom action. Garcia is a solid strike-thrower but will have to be monitored carefully because of his youth and smaller stature.
Alfred Pujols is a 17-year-old Dominican third baseman who signed for $150,000 on July 2 after training with Javier Rodriguez. While many Dominican amateur third basemen are heavy-framed players who have to prove they can stay at the position, Pujols is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds with a flexible, well-proportioned frame and good fielding skills. He’s a below-average runner, but he has smooth hands and a solid-average arm. The Yankees believed in his righthanded swing and projectable power as well.
The Yankees signed 17-year-old righthander Edward Paredes for $150,000 from Jose Montero’s program in Venezuela on July 2. He has room to fill out his 6-foot, 160-pound frame, along with the delivery, arm action and arm speed that point toward an uptick in stuff. That has already started to happen, with Paredes touching 92 mph when he signed and more recently hitting 94 with good life. Paredes is a strike-thrower whose sinking changeup is advanced for his age, ahead of a slurvy breaking ball he shows some feel to spin.
Eligible to sign in 2014, Dominican righthander Anderson Reynoso waited until July 2 last year to sign with the Yankees for $100,000. Reynoso, 18, is similar to Paredes, impressing the Yankees with his feel for pitching, delivery, arm action and a projectable 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame. He throws strikes with a chance for three average pitches if his stuff ticks up, with a fastball touching 92 along with a curveball and changeup. Reynoso trained with Leo Figueroa.
Jhonatan Munoz signed for $100,000 when he turned 16 on Aug. 10, making him one of the youngest players in the class. He’s 6 feet, 180 pounds with a quick arm and inconsistent velocity, but he’s been up to 92 mph with tight spin and good shape on his curveball. Munoz trained with Erick Hernandez.
The Yankees also gave $100,000 on July 2 to gigantic Dominican lefthander Argelis Herrera. At 6-foot-6 and just 165 pounds, he has a frame that screams projection. Herrera, 17, was throwing 82-84 mph early on in the scouting process, but he reached 91 with good finish to his fastball by the time he signed. He could reach the mid-90s or better since he has room to put on 50 or more pounds. He shows some feel already for his changeup, which is more advanced than his slow, slurvy breaking ball, but he will need time and strength to be able to keep his lanky levers coordinated in his delivery.
Rony Cabrera, 18, is a more physically mature pitcher (6-foot-3, 200 pounds), with a sturdy, durable frame and wide shoulders. He was passed over in 2014 and signed with the Yankees for $100,000 on July 2. He throws strikes with a low-90s fastball that is up to 95 mph with good life from his three-quarters arm slot, flashing some feel for a slurvy breaking ball and changeup at times, though both pitches need more consistency.
The Yankees also gave $100,000 on July 2 to 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Oswaldo Cabrera. He’s the younger brother of 18-year-old outfielder Leobaldo Cabrera, who batted .298/.367/.382 in 59 games last year for the Yankees in the Dominican Summer League. Oswaldo isn’t that big (5-foot-10, 145 pounds) but he’s a heady player with instincts and savvy who should stick in the middle infield. He’s a righthanded hitter who performed well last summer in the Tricky League (an unofficial league for July 2 signings), showing an all-fields approach with good hands at the plate and gap power. He’s an average runner with a 55 arm and is smooth on the pivot turning double plays. Before the clock ran out on their 2014-15 signing period spending binge, the Yankees got in a few more six-figure signings, which ended up costing them double that amount because of the 100 percent overage tax they had to pay the commissioner’s office for exceeding their pool.
One of their last signings of that period, Dominican outfielder Estevan Florial for $200,000 in March, could be one of their best. Florial trained with Bernardo Tatis, played in the Dominican Prospect League and had originally presented himself to teams as Haniel De Oleo, born Dec. 22, 1997. He had loud tools and was expected to be one of the top prospects for 2014, but instead Major League Baseball declared him ineligible to sign for one year. He came forward with a new name and slightly different date of birth (Nov. 25, 1997) on a Haitian birth certificate, going through a long process detailed by Joel Sherman in the New York Post. Florial dominated in his DSL debut, batting .313/.394/.527 in 57 games with 30 walks, 61 strikeouts, 11 doubles, eight triples, seven home runs and 15 stolen bases in 20 attempts. He already has a visa and is in the U.S. now for spring training.
Florial, 18, is an excellent athlete with a bundle of tools. He’s 6-foot-1, 185 pounds with 70s for speed and arm strength, making him a threat to steal bases and giving him good range in center field. He’s a lefthanded hitter with plus raw power that he already taps into in games, using the whole field and hitting balls over the fence to center and the opposite way. His 23 percent strikeout rate was on the higher end, but it’s manageable and overall his performance was excellent for his DSL debut, which combined with his tools makes him one of the more exciting players the Yankees have at the lower levels.
The Yankees used Trackman data to help solidify their belief in 17-year-old Colombian lefthander Heiner Moreno, who they signed for $135,000 in May. Moreno is 6 feet, 181 pounds and was touching 92 mph with good finish. The Yankees felt his curveball was a potential out pitch, with Trackman data showing his curveball had a well above-average spin rate. Moreno came down with arm soreness after signing though, so he pitched just four innings last year in the DSL.
One other six-figure signing in the 2014-15 period, 17-year-old Dominican righthander Jhostin Vargas, got $100,000 in March. In his DSL debut, he posted a 4.76 ERA with a 34-17 K-BB mark in 34 innings. Vargas has an athletic frame (6 feet, 170 pounds), a quick arm and a fastball up to 92 mph, showing the ability to spin a curveball that’s ahead of his changeup. The Yankees signed 57 international players in 2015, by far the most in baseball and nine more than even the No. 2 team in terms of signing volume.
Among the lower-bonus sleepers to keep an eye on are a pair of Venezuelan catchers, Carlos Narvaez ($50,000) and Meure Rodriguez ($60,000) signed on July 2. Narvaez, 17, is calm behind the plate, with good flexibility, advanced receiving skills, an average arm and good leadership qualities for a catcher. A 6-foot, 190-pound righthanded hitter, his defensive skills will give him opportunities to stick around. Like Chaparro and Cabrera, Narvaez also trained with Carlos Guillen. Rodriguez, 16, is a converted shortstop. He’s 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and is athletic for a catcher (he’s an average runner) with a strong arm, though his receiving skills are understandably nascent. He’s mostly a line-drive hitter from the right side but will show occasional power to his pull side. Rodriguez trained with Emiro Barboza.