2020-21 MLB International Reviews: Atlanta Braves
The Braves are in the final year of their sanctions stemming from international signing violations. During the 2019-20 signing period that started on July 2, 2019, Major League Baseball reduced Atlanta's bonus pool to $0, meaning the Braves could only sign players to bonuses of $10,000 or less, since those are exempt from the bonus pools.
For the 2020-21 signing period that was scheduled to open on July 2, 2020, the Braves had their bonus pool reduced to 50% of their original allotment. They also signed two free agents—Will Smith in November 2019 and Marcell Ozuna in January 2020—who turned down qualifying offers, which led to a $1 million reduction in their bonus pool space.
What hurt the Braves (and other clubs) more was when MLB changed the rules in the middle of the process during the coronavirus pandemic, not only delaying the start of the signing period to Jan. 15, 2021, but also prohibiting teams from trading bonus pool space as they had done before. That rule change meant the Braves could no longer trade up for a bigger bonus pool, costing them Dominican shortstop Yeferson Tineo (who signed with the Rangers), and significantly limiting Atlanta's 2020-21 signing class.
Top Of The Class
The centerpiece signing for the Braves' class was Ambioris Tavarez, a power-hitting shortstop from the Dominican Republic who trained with Fifo. Tavarez is the nephew of Domingo Guzman, a righthander who made eight relief appearances for the Padres between the 1999-2000 seasons and spent several years pitching in Japan. Tavarez is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds with long arms and plenty of strength in his wrists and forearms to generate impressive bat speed. He sets up with his hands high and doesn't load them back much, but he's able to take advantage of that hand strength to snap the barrel through the zone in a hurry, producing impressive power that should develop into a plus tool as he fills out his projectable frame. Where Tavarez ends up defensively is more in question. He's going to start his career at shortstop, though many scouts see him as a future third baseman or possibly a right fielder. He has an unorthodox, abrupt throwing motion but plenty of raw arm strength, a 60 tool now that could become a 70 in the future. Some scouts liked his hands and thought he could fit at third base, while others thought his defensive actions and range would eventually push him out of the infield to a corner outfield spot.
The Braves didn't have much wiggle room with the rest of their bonus pool after signing Tavarez, but they were able to get Dominican outfielder Yorlis Lendor for $10,000. Lendor is a gigantic, 6-foot-6, 230 pounds with plus raw power, surprising speed for his size and a good arm. Lendor's physicality, athleticism and ability to drive the ball with impact stick out right away, though he still has a ways to go to make everything click against live pitching. He trained with Rudy Santin.