International Reviews: San Francisco Giants
See Also: 2014 Giants International Review
See Also: 2013 Giants International Review
See Also: 2012 Giants International Review
Top signing: SS Lucius Fox, Bahamas, $6 million.
Total signings: 22.
The Giants haven’t shied away from big bonuses throughout their history, but after signing Dominican outfielder Gustavo Cabrera for $1.3 million in 2012, they have spread their money around more to players in the mid six-figure and under range. They likely would have stayed with that approach in 2015, but that plan changed when Lucius Fox became available through international free agency instead of the draft. The Giants signed Fox for $6 million, the biggest international bonus ever for an international free agent who isn’t from Cuba. Later on, the Giants thought they also had a deal with Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez to sign for $2.5 million, but that unraveled and he ended up going to the Cubs for $3 million.
Fox took an unconventional path to earning the highest international bonus ever for a non-Cuban player. Fox went to American Heritage (Fla.) High, where he played second base and would have been a high school senior who was expected to go in the top three rounds of the 2015 draft. Instead, Fox relocated to the Bahamas, where he was born, and petitioned the commissioner’s office to make him an international free agent.
In April, Major League Baseball determined that Fox would be subject to the international signing system, eligible to sign on July 2. Early on in the process, the Rangers appeared to be in the driver’s seat for Fox, then the Dodgers emerged as the favorites before the Giants surprised many in the industry, landing him for $6 million on July 2, his 18th birthday. The Giants did plenty of homework on Fox. He played for some of their scouts on their East Coast Pro Showcase in the summer of 2014, with the Giants having top two rounds grades on him at the time. Fox went to the Dominican Republic to play in the Dominican Prospect League, where he showed a more polished skill set than the younger, less experienced competition. Before making the record commitment to Fox, the Giants’ front office went to Florida to watch him in a private workout, flying in some of their minor league pitchers from Arizona to get a better gauge of his ability to hit against better competition. While it’s debatable whether Fox would have even been a first-round pick, he was a standout for his athleticism, plus-plus speed and ability to play a premium position. Scouts highest on Fox saw a potential leadoff hitter with a line drive stroke and good feel for hitting from both sides of the plate with gap power from his 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame. His swing can get uphill and he’s not consistent with where he sets his hands, but he has good hand-eye coordination and the athleticism that bodes well to make any adjustments. Fox has a chance to stay at shortstop, where he has a plus arm to go with quick hands and feet. There’s still some crudeness to his defensive actions and instincts for the position, but even if he’s unable to stick at shortstop, his speed and arm strength would play well in center field. Fox will make his pro debut this year at one of the organization’s U.S. affiliates.
The Giants’ pool-busting year was all about Fox, with Venezuelan catcher Ricardo Genoves getting their second-highest bonus at $500,000 on July 2. His older brother, Ernesto, used to catch in the Astros system from 2008-13. Ricardo trained with Felix Luzon, who in 2014 had Red Sox righthander Anderson Espinoza, so Genoves has experience handling quality velocity. Still 16, Genoves has a strong frame (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) with broad shoulders and projects to stick behind the plate because of his advanced defensive skills and makeup. He has a plus arm with a chance to be an above-average defender overall. He’s a righthanded hitter who drew question marks from other clubs about his offensive upside, but his defense should be good enough for him to stick around and get opportunities for his bat to develop.
Beyond those two players, the Giants mixed in several lower six-figure signings, including 17-year-old Venezuelan righthander Jorge Labrador for $250,000 on July 2. Labrador has a strong 6-foot-1, 190-pound build and pitches off an 88-93 mph fastball. The Giants also liked his feel for his secondary pitches, a curveball and a changeup. William Suarez, a 17-year-old Dominican righthander who got $170,000 on July 2, is more of a long-range projection with his stuff, but he has good arm action and a lot of room to fill out his projectable 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame to add to his 87-90 mph fastball, with a curveball and changeup rounding out his arsenal. Venezuelan outfielder Diego Rincones, who is still 16, signed for $175,000 on July 2. He’s 6 feet, 175 pounds with solid strength, physical upside and good bat speed to project him growing into bigger power in the future. Rincones is a corner outfielder who will have to cut down on his swing some for that power to play more in games. One of the more advanced hitters the Giants signed last year was Nishell Gutierrez, a 16-year-old Venezuelan catcher who got $125,000 on July 2. Gutierrez doesn’t immediately jump out for his size (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) or tools, but he’s a switch-hitter who performs well in games with a sound approach and a high-contact bat geared for line drives with gap power.
With Genoves and Gutierrez likely both going to the DSL, the Giants have also given Gutierrez some time at second base to increase his versatility and maximize his playing time. Dominican righthander Johan Herrera signed for $125,000 on July 2. Herrera, 17, has a projectable build (6-foot-1, 170 pounds), quick arm speed and a fluid arm stroke to project on his 86-89 mph fastball. His changeup is advanced for his age and already ahead of his breaking ball.
Robinson Batista is a 17-year-old Dominican shortstop the Giants signed for $120,000 on July 2. He’s an athletic player who stands out for his plus speed and an above-average arm at shortstop. Batista is 5-foot-11, 167 pounds and a switch-hitter whose offensive game is based on putting the ball on the ground and using his speed. Another July 2 signing, 17-year-old Venezuelan righthander Kervin Castro for $100,000, is a former catcher who had been pitching for three months when the Giants signed him. Between his strong frame (6 feet, 185 pounds) and his arm stroke, Castro’s catching background is evident, but he impressed the Giants with surprising feel for his breaking ball already to go with a quick arm and an 87-91 mph fastball. He’s still learning a changeup but his arm speed bodes well for him to pick up that pitch.
Giants Remain Patient With Heliot Ramos
Before being sidelined with a minor knee injury, the 19-year-old outfielder was off to a solid start at high Class A San Jose.
Dominican righthander Camilo Doval is an 18-year-old the Giants signed for $100,000 in October. He’s 6-foot-1, 180 pounds with a loose arm whose best pitch is his slider, with an 86-90 mph fastball that will have to tick up.