2018-19 International Reviews: San Francisco Giants
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 2018 signings (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2018): 30
When the Giants signed shortstop Lucius Fox out of the Bahamas for $6 million in 2015, they went over their bonus pool. That put them in the penalty box for two years, so they couldn't sign anyone for more than $300,000 in the 2016-17 or 2017-18 signing periods, though they still found promising players at that price point like Alexander Canario, Luis Toribio and Jean Pena.
Out of the penalty in 2018, the Giants paid $2.6 million to sign Dominican shortstop Marco Luciano, the top 16-year-old prospect available last year and the No. 2 overall prospect, behind only Cuban center fielder Victor Victor Mesa. Luciano, now 17, has big offensive upside. He's an athletic 6-foot-2, 180 pounds with an electric swing, snapping the barrel through the hitting zone with strong hands and quick wrists. It's a compact swing from the right side with good rhythm and bat path, and while some scouts saw swing-and-miss risk early on, Luciano generally has a sound hitting approach. He also has some of the biggest power in the 2018 class. He already has plus raw power, and between his bat speed and high-end strength projection, Luciano could get to 70 power.
Luciano grew up playing shortstop, but early in the scouting process while training with Ray Castillo, Luciano spent eight months in the outfield. He moved back to shortstop in February 2017, though some scouts think Luciano will end up back in the outfield or possibly go to third base as he gets bigger and outgrows the position. That's not a given though, as some scouts think Luciano can stick at shortstop. He's athletic, a slightly above-average runner and has a strong, accurate arm, albeit with a longer arm action. Luciano doesn't make the same level of acrobatic plays as some of the top defensive shortstops in the class, but he fields his position cleanly with the hands and arm for shortstop. Luciano is in Arizona now and should stay there for the Rookie-level Arizona League.
While Luciano was the prize signing of the Giants' 2018-19 class, they also added one of the top hitters available, getting Cuban outfielder Jairo Pomares for $1.1 million. Pomares, 18, played in Cuba's 15U national league in 2015. He hit .383/.447/.533 with 16 walks and six strikeouts in 141 plate appearances, ranking sixth in the league in batting average. He's 6-foot-1, 185 pounds with natural hitting actions from the left side and a compact swing that's quick, efficient and fluid. He has good rhythm and balance at the plate, making frequent contact in games with solid plate discipline for his age. His swing and approach tilt more toward line drives than lift, but he can knock the ball over the fence in batting practice and could develop average power. Pomares is a good athlete with above-average speed and an average arm, although he played mostly left field during the 2015 season in Cuba. Several scouts thought Pomares' defensive instincts lagged and that he would fit better in a corner, though the Giants liked his defense and will develop him in center field. He will likely join Luciano this summer in the AZL.
The Giants' 2018-19 group mainly centered around three players they signed on July 2, with Venezuelan outfielder Luis Matos the third prominent player after Luciano and Pomares. Matos, 17, is 5-foot-11, 160 pounds and several scouts considered him one of the top Venezuelan hitters for 2018. He played for Venezuela at the COPABE 15U Pan American Championships in Colombia in 2017 and hit well consistently as an amateur. He puts together quality at-bats with an advanced approach, quick hands and a knack for putting the ball in play. Matos is a line-drive hitter with doubles pop, with what will likely always be a hit-over-power profile. An average runner with a solid-average arm, Matos will develop as a center fielder but could end up in right field, which would put more pressure on his power to jump. Matos trained with Andres Veliz and is likely to open in the Dominican Summer League.
Venezuelan catcher Rayner Santana was one of the youngest players in the 2018 class, signing with the Giants when he turned 16 on Aug. 15 after spending time living in Colombia. He's 6-foot-2 and stands out for his power and arm strength. He has a fairly easy swing from the right side with flashes of above-average raw power. His arm is above-average and he should stick behind the plate, though he will have to focus on his agility and footwork.
Prior to the end of the 2017-18 signing period, the Giants also signed Cuban righthander Julio Rodriguez for $300,000 last March. Rodriguez, who turned 19 last month, pitched as a reliever last year in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he had a 2.20 ERA with 15 strikeouts and 11 walks in 16.1 innings. The Giants liked Rodriguez's breaking ball, with a projectable body (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) that will need to fill out to add to an 86-90 mph fastball.
One lower-profile sleeper from the class is 17-year-old Venezuelan outfielder Victor Bericoto, who signed on July 2. He's 6-foot-1, 170 pounds with an easy swing and loft power, hitting well as an amateur and carrying it over when he stood out at Dominican instructional league. He projects as a right fielder.
2020 MLB International Prospects Preview: Million Dollar Outfielders
Reports and videos on several international prospects expected to sign for $1 million or more in 2020.
See also: 2017-18 Giants International Review (Notable prospect Luis Toribio)
See also: 2016-17 Giants International Review
See also: 2015-16 Giants International Review (Notable prospect Lucius Fox)
See also: 2014-15 Giants International Review (Notable prospect Sandro Fabian)
See also: 2013-14 Giants International Review
See also: 2012-13 Giants International Review
See also: 2011-12 NL West International Review