2018-19 International Reviews: Oakland Athletics
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): 28
Oakland exceeded its international bonus pool in the 2016-17 signing period, so the Athletics were in their second and final year under the penalty in 2018-19. They couldn't sign anyone for more than $300,000, but despite their restrictions, the A's were able to sign one of the more promising Venezuelan pitchers in the class, 17-year-old righthander Luis Carrasco, a cousin of Indians starter Carlos Carrasco. He's 6-foot-1, 180 pounds with a projectable frame that should help him add to a fastball that is up to 91 mph. Carrasco throws a curveball and a slider, with his curveball his primary offspeed pitch, a potentially above-average offering with tight spin in the mid-70s. He's a strike-thrower whose pitchability is advanced for his age. Carrasco trained with Jose Montero.
While Major League Baseball had banned teams from signing Mexican League prospects, there weren't any restrictions on signing players from the country who aren't affiliated with a club, which is how the A's signed 16-year-old Mexican righthander Roberto Garza for $300,000 in July. A lot of young Mexican pitching prospects sign with a lot of game experience, but that wasn't the case with Garza. He was multi-sport athlete who spent time playing volleyball, basketball and swimming, and some clubs initially scouted Garza as a shortstop. For someone without much time on the mound, Garza (6-foot-2, 175 pounds) has a fairly clean, sturdy delivery and throws strikes with a mid-80s fastball. His changeup is more advanced than his breaking ball.
The A's in November signed Lester Madden, a 19-year-old outfielder from Cuba, for $300,000. He spent a while in the Dominican Republic before signing, but the A's saw him take quality at-bats with strength in his swing from the right side of the plate. He's a strong, physically mature 6-foot-2, 190 pounds and worked out in the Dominican Republic as a center fielder, though his defensive tools probably fit best in a corner. He's in Arizona now for spring training and probably stays in the United States for his pro debut this year.
Nelson Beltran is a 17-year-old Dominican shortstop the A's signed for $200,000 in July after training with Decarte Corporan. Beltran is 5-foot-10, 160 pounds and doesn't have one loud tool or much power, but the A's liked his righthanded bat and chances to stick at shortstop. He's an average runner with a strong arm.
Like Beltran, 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Ronny Santana also played in the Dominican Prospect League, with Santana inking a $175,000 deal to join Oakland in July. While Beltran has a smaller frame, Santana is long limbed and lean with a high waist at 6-foot-1, 165 pounds. There were times when Santana struggled putting the ball in play, but the A's liked his swing from both sides of the plate. Santana has more physical upside than Beltran, although he's a below-average runner and could end up outgrowing shortstop depending on his physical development. Santana trained with Jabalera.
The A's paid $200,000 to sign 18-year-old Cuban catcher Marcos Betancourt on July 2. In 2017, Betancourt played in Cuba's 18 national league for Las Tunas, batting .253/.333/.352 in 103 plate appearances. He played in the country's 15U league the previous season, batting .302/.461/.414 in 115 plate appearances. He's 6 feet, 165 pounds with a strong arm behind the plate and projects as a bottom of the lineup bat from the right side.
The A's signed 17-year-old lefthander Gerald Garcia on July 2 for $200,000, making him the top paid player from Nicaragua last year. Teams don't devote much time to scouting in Nicaragua, so Garcia fell a bit under the radar, but he has a big frame (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) and good arm speed on a fastball up to 89 mph with a chance to eventually sit in the low 90s. He mixes in a slurvy curveball that's further along than his changeup.
2019 MiLB Best Tools
As voted on by minor league managers and their coaching staffs, here are the players with the best tools in each minor league in 2019.
Oakland also added righthander Adriel Gonzalez, a 16-year-old from Panama, for $160,000 on July 2. Gonzalez is 6-foot-2, 145 pounds—a skinny pitcher with a lot of room to add weight and eventually throw harder with a good delivery, quick arm speed and a mid-80s fastball that reaches 87 mph. He throws a slider and a curveball, with his slider the better pitch right now.
Another pitcher, Luis Martinez, is a 17-year-old righthander the A's signed out of Venezuela in July. Based on his age, Martinez would have been eligible to sign in 2017, but he wasn't registered to sign with the commissioner's office, so he waited until the 2018-19 period opened to sign. He's 6-foot-2, 170 pounds and is usually shows good control of a a fastball that's up to 92 mph and projects as a potential plus pitch, as well as an overhand curveball he has feel for landing in the zone.
For $100,000 in July, the A's signed Brayan Buelvas, a 16-year-old center fielder from Colombia. Buelvas stood out playing for Colombia at the 2017 COPABE 15U Pan American Championships in Cartagena, then after signing he played a bit of winter ball in the Colombian Professional Baseball League. At 5-foot-11, 155 pounds, Buelvas is an instinctive player in all facets of the game, managing his at-bats well from the right side of the plate and getting good reads off the bat in center field, where he takes advantage of his plus speed.
The A's also gave $90,000 to 16-year-old Dominican third baseman Christopher Cruz in July. At 6 feet, 180 pounds, Cruz will have to work to at his defense to avoid moving to an outfield corner, but he stood out for his bat/power potential from the right side while training with Luis Scheker.