2018-19 International Reviews: Kansas City Royals
This is part of Ben Badler's 2018-19 International Reviews series chronicling all the moves made by teams on the international market over the prior year. To see all 30 teams, click here.
Total signings (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2018): 51
The Royals started their 2018-19 signing period spending before July 2 arrived, signing a pair of prominent former Braves prospects—righthander Yefri del Rosario and outfielder Juan Carlos Negret—who counted against Kansas City's 2018-19 pool. As part of Major League Baseball's penalties for the Braves' international signing violations, several of Atlanta's international signings became free agents in December 2017. When those players signed with another team, only the amount over $200,000 for each player would count against a team's international bonus pool, with clubs having the option to apply that player's signing toward either its 2017-18 pool or for the upcoming July 2 in the 2018-19 period, so the Royals counted del Rosario and Negret's deals toward 2018-19.
Once July 2 arrived, the biggest bonus the Royals gave to an international player went to Wilmin Candelario, a 17-year-old shortstop signed for $847,500 in July. Candelario was one of the best defensive shortstops in the 2018 class. He's extremely light on his feet, floating around at shortstop with sweet hands and slick, fluid actions. He gets rid of the ball quickly with a lightning exchange to get to a strong arm and is smooth on the double play pivot. He's a 45 runner with a chance to develop into a plus or better defensive shortstop. Candelario's defense is ahead of his bat, but his physical development over the past year is a positive sign. He has grown from 5-foot-11, 165 pounds to 6-foot-1. He still has a wiry build, but he now looks like he has more strength projection than what he showed as an amateur. Candelario is a switch-hitter who showed a high swing-and-miss rate that he will have to cut down by shortening up, with a more advanced stroke from the left side. He trained with Miguel Tejada.
While Candelario is a defensive wiz, 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Omar Florentino is arguably a more complete player. Signed for $722,500 in July, Florentino is a smaller-framed, 5-foot-9, 150 pounds with a promising combination of quick-twitch athleticism and hitting ability from both sides of the plate. He's a skillful player in games for his age, with an advanced offensive approach for his age and a good eye for the strike zone. Florentino controls the barrel well with a quick, efficient swing, making frequent contact against live pitching as an amateur and continuing to do so after signing in the Tricky League, an informal league for July 2 signings. Florentino makes loud contact relative to his size, though his offensive profile will tilt more toward his on-base skills than power. A solid-average runner, Florentino is a quick-burst athlete who fields his position well at shortstop. Some scouts thought Florentino might end up at second base, but he fields his position quickly with smooth hands, quick feet and a fast exchange to a strong arm. Florentino trained with Wellington Gonzalez.
Jose Freites is a 17-year-old Venezuelan outfielder the Royals signed in July. He's 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and impressed the Royals with his ability to hit in games from the right side, both as an amateur and since signing. He has strong hands that he uses well in his swing, working well through the zone and generating average raw power. Freites is an average runner with a good arm, with enough defensive tools to play center field for now, though he probably ends up on a corner. Freites trained with Dennis Suarez.
Jaswel de los Santos is a 17-year-old center fielder the Royals signed out of the Dominican Republic for $347,500 in July. He's 6-foot-1, 175 pounds and sticks out for his explosive athleticism, with plus speed and the tools to stick in center. De los Santos is more raw athlete than skilled game player, so he may need more time for his lefthanded bat to develop. He trained with John Carmona.
The Royals also gave $347,500 in July to Christian Paulino, a 17-year-old lefthander from the Dominican Republic. He's 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, an athletic pitcher with the loose arm action and physical projection to throw harder once he gets stronger. He's ticked up slightly since signing, when he was throwing in the mid-80s, with his fastball now more in the mid- to-upper 80s and hitting 90 mph with sneaky late life. Paulino's breaking ball has quick, late bite, and he shows feel for landing of all his pitches for strikes.
Kris Bubic: 2019 Kansas City Royals Minor League Player Of The Year
The former Stanford southpaw had dramatically improved one of his secondary pitches, setting him on a path to dominate two Class A levels.
Most teams don't commit resources to scouting Japanese high school players, especially underclassmen, since it's rare for any of those players to sign with an MLB club after graduating. Righthander Kaito Yuki was an exception, signing with the Royals in July for $322,500 as a 16-year-old. Yuki is a good athlete with a lean, projectable build (6-foot-2, 170 pounds) and should be able to add to a fastball that reaches the upper-80s, along with feel for a slider.
Dominican righthander Samuel Valerio signed with the Royals for $242,500 in July. Valerio, 17, has a big frame at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and the aptitude for making adjustments that have already helped him develop into a better prospect. After signing, Valerio worked with Royals coaches, taking his high arm slot and lowering it while getting his legs more into his delivery. That has helped him throw harder, going from an upper-80s fastball when he signed to now reaching the mid-90s. He's a power arm with room to continue adding velocity, along with a slurvy slider.
Luis de la Rosa is a Dominican righthander the Royals signed for $147,500 when he turned 16 on July 6 after training with Alfredo Arias. De la Rosa has an array of positive projection indicators, with some of that projection already starting to bear out. A former shortstop who moved to the mound before signing, de la Rosa is a bouncy athlete who has grown two inches to 6-foot-2, 175 pounds with a fastball that has also grown since signing. He's now reaching the low-90s, with loose, easy arm action and the projection for more velocity to come. For someone without much experience on the mound, de la Rosa has shown surprising pitchability, with a slider and an advanced changeup for his age.
The Royals signed 17-year-old Venezuelan catcher Dionmy Salon in July. Salon started to tick up later in the scouting process, showing a good bat for a catcher from the right side, firing his hips well to generate power to his pull side with the potential for 15-20 home runs down the line. He's athletic or a catcher and projects to stick behind the plate.