Top 2016-17 signing: C Saul Torres, Dominican Republic, $300,000.
Total signings: 43.
The Yankees blitzed the international market in 2014-15, which put them under the penalty the last two signing periods. They couldn’t sign anyone for more than $300,000 last year, the second and final year of their penalty. They will have a $4.75 million bonus pool without any individual player bonus limits when the 2017-18 signing period opens this year on July 2.
Despite being under the penalty, the Yankees were able to sign one of the best pitching prospects on the market, righthander Roansy Contreras, for $250,000 on July 2. Several teams tipped their caps to the Yankees for getting Contreras, the top-ranked pitcher in the Dominican Republic last year. Contreras, 17, struck out five of the nine batters he faced last year at the MLB international showcase, flashing a three-pitch starter’s mix. Contreras isn’t that big (6 feet, 175 pounds), but he has a strong lower half with good arm action and not much effort to his delivery. His fastball sits at 88-91 mph and has touched 93. His true curveball is a separator, a big-breaking pitch with deep, downer action, good shape and tight spin. It’s a swing-and-miss pitch that already flashes above-average. He hasn’t thrown his changeup much but he’s shown feel for that pitch too. Some teams saw erratic control from Contreras early in the tryout process, which may have contributed to his price, but others saw him throwing more strikes later on. Contreras trained with Basilio Vizcaino, who is known as “Cachaza” and also trained other Yankees signings like Gary Sanchez and Miguel Andujar.
Their biggest bonus went to Saul Torres, a Dominican catcher who had previously been eligible to sign in 2015 but waited until last year on July 2. Torres, who got $300,000, has a strong, powerful build (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) and the tools to match. He will stay behind the plate because he receives well and has a plus arm. He’s a righthanded hitter who can drive the ball over the fence with a chance for solid-average power. He puts together competitive at-bats with an offensive profile weighted more toward power than pure hitting ability. Torres trained with Amauris Nina.
The Yankees also gave $300,000 to shortstop Eduardo Torrealba in July, though his situation was unusual. Torrealba was one of the five Venezuelan players Major League Baseball removed from the Red Sox as a penalty for what the commissioner’s office considered to be circumvention of the bonus pools through “package deals.” Only the amount over $300,000 that each of those five players signed for counted against their new signing team’s bonus pool, so while the Yankees did pay Torrealba $300,000, none of it counted against their 2016-17 pool. Between the DSL Red Sox and Yankees, Torrealba batted .253/.359/.292 in 185 plate appearances with more walks (23) than strikeouts (13). The low extra-base hit total (4) isn’t surprising, as Torrealba is just 5-foot-8, 150 pounds. Torrealba stands out more for his smarts, instincts and sharp plate discipline. He has a small strike zone and doesn’t expand it much, taking a short, handsy swing from the right side to spray singles to all fields. He’s an average runner with good hands, efficient footwork, enough arm for shortstop and a good internal clock, though he might end up sliding across the diamond to second base at some point. Torrealba had originally trained with Jose Montero.
Jose Devers is a Dominican shortstop the Yankees signed for $250,000 on July 2. Devers is a cousin of Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, though they have very different body types and skill sets. Jose is lean and wiry (5-foot-11, 155 pounds) and drew the Yankees’ attention for his athleticism, good hands and footwork to stay at shortstop and a quality lefthanded swing with hard line drives. Devers isn’t that big but getting stronger has already helped his tools, including his speed, which is now above-average. As Devers has gotten stronger, his arm action improved too, since he doesn’t need to use extra effort to get the ball across the diamond like he was before. Like Contreras, Devers also trained with Cachaza. Venezuelan shortstop Oswald Peraza signed with the Yankees for $175,000 on July 2. Still 16, Peraza is athletic, projectable (6 feet, 165 pounds) with solid tools across the board. He’s a slightly above-average runner with the arm, actions and athleticism to play shortstop, along with a sound, line-drive stroke with gap power from the right side. Getting stronger will be important for Peraza to take the next step forward. He trained with Jose Montero.
The Yankees signed 17-year-old Dominican righthander Abel Estevez for $160,000 on July 2. Estevez used to be a shortstop, but he moved to the mound before signing and showed a fastball up to 92 mph. He has a projectable frame (6-foot-1, 170 pounds) with room to add weight and has flashed some feel to spin a breaking ball, but he’s understandably still in the process of learning how to pitch.
Venezuelan shortstop Asdrubal Alvarez, 17, signed with the Yankees for $150,000 on July 2. He’s extremely skinny (6 feet, 155 pounds) but he’s a quick-twitch athlete with slick actions at shortstop. He has sound hands, a clean exchange and an average arm. Getting stronger could help his arm and below-average speed tick up, as well as his bat, which isn’t as advanced as his defense. He’s a righthanded hitter with an unconventional swing but he does show solid bat-to-ball skills in games. Alvarez trained with Ranses Lara.
Carfred Espana is a 17-year-old Venezuelan righthander who signed with the Yankees for $125,000 on July 2. Espana is 6 feet, 155 pounds with a quick arm, a fastball that’s touched 91 mph and the physical projection for more, with a solid delivery and strike-throwing skills to go with feel for a curveball. Like Peraza, Espana also trained with Jose Montero.
Rodrigo Garcia is a pitchability righthander the Yankees signed for $100,000 on July 2. He fills the strike zone with a fastball that sits in the high-80s and scrapes 90 mph. Garcia is 6-foot-1, 180 pounds with a good delivery and advanced feel for how to attack hitters, with the hope that his stuff will tick up in time.
Another Dominican righthander, Wellington Diaz, also got $100,000 from the Yankees on July 2. Diaz was a previously eligible player with a big frame (6-foot-4, 180 pounds) and a low-90s fastball that has hit 95. He throws a curveball and a changeup too, but the main draw with Diaz is his present fastball and the potential to ramp the velocity up even higher once he fills out. The Yankees signed Dominican center fielder Alexander Santana for $100,000 when he turned 16 on July 7. He has a lively, athletic build (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) with plus speed and loud contact from the right side, standing out more for his athleticism and tools than his hitting right now.
The Yankees also picked up a trio of quick-twitch center fielders with premium speed, including Robert Javier, an 18-year-old from the Dominican Republic who got $75,000 on July 2. He’s 5-foot-11, 160 pounds and excellent athleticism and a quick bat from the right side. Jonathan Capellan, another 18-year-old burner from the Dominican Republic, got $35,000 on July 2. He’s 5-foot-10, 160 pounds and makes steady contact in games, though without much power. The other well-above-average runner, Jesus Severino, is a 16-year-old the Yankees signed for $30,000 on July 2. He’s 6 feet, 160 pounds with strong hands for an extremely lean, wiry player and has a sound swing path from the right side.
Among lower dollar pitchers the Yankees added last year, 17-year-old Venezuelan righthander Yoendrys Gomez is one to watch. Signed for $50,000 on July 2, Gomez has 6-foot-4, 170-pound frame that screams projection. He’s been up to 92 mph with downhill angle and should be able to get his velocity spike once he adds weight. He’s shown pretty good control of his body for a long-levered, lanky pitcher to be a solid strike-thrower with feel to spin a breaking ball.