2023 International Reviews: Kansas City Royals

The Royals spread their bonus pool money around, with 12 players who signed six-figure deals, along with around another dozen players signing for smaller bonuses.

When the opportunity presented itself and the organization still had bonus pool money available shortly after the signing period began on Jan. 15, the Royals were able to capitalize and sign one of the top power hitters in the class. 

Top Of The Class

Dominican outfielder Tony Ruiz looked set to sign with the Red Sox, but a broken leg that required surgery in 2022 slowed his progress. He was still doing tryouts when the international signing period opened on Jan. 15, going on a stretch of hitting home runs off live pitching for different teams, including one to dead center at the Royals academy. The Royals later that week signed him for $1,197,500. Ruiz is 6-foot-3, 170 pounds at 17, exhibiting excellent bat speed and power for his age. He has broad shoulders and a lot of room to fill out, flashing plus raw power that could end up a plus-plus tool. Ruiz has a fluid swing and has shown the ability to crush fastballs for extra-base damage in games. He’s a corner outfielder whose offensive production should drive his value, with the arm strength that should fit in right field.  

Names To Know

Darvin Cruz, OF, Dominican Republic: Cruz is a 17-year-old, lefthanded outfielder the Royals signed for $722,500. He’s 5-foot-11, 165 pounds and moves around well in center field. He’s an average runner, so it’s not traditional center field speed, but his actions and defensive instincts are advanced for his age. He has shown solid bat-to-ball skills with a line-drive approach and gap power. 

Enmanuel Santos, OF, Dominican Republic: Santos, 17, signed for $647,500 after showcasing his power upside. He’s a strong, muscular 6-foot-2 who already drills the ball for hard contact and extra-base damage from the right side, with encouraging early signs of him being able to tap into that power in games. He’s a corner outfielder with a strong arm that profiles in right field. 

Jose Paulino, OF, Dominican Republic: The Royals signed Paulino for $597,500. He’s a quick-twitch athlete with plus speed and a natural, gliding stride in center field. He defends his position well for a 17-year-old, and while he doesn’t project to be a big power threat, he’s starting to fill out his 5-foot-11, 165-pound frame and shown solid bat-to-ball skills from the left side. 

Daniel Lopez, OF, Dominican Republic: Lopez stands out for his high physical upside on a 6-foot-2, 165-pound frame that’s wiry but strong, with a lot of space left to add good weight for everything to tick up. A lefthanded outfielder signed at 17 for $497,500, Lopez has a good swing and could see time in center field, though a corner seems most likely long term. 

Marwys Jorge, RHP, Dominican Republic: Jorge, who got $477,500, was one of the top pitchers in the Dominican Republic who signed this year. He has a good pitcher’s build for 17 at 6-foot-3 with more room to fill out and a fastball that was mid-to-upper 80s early in the tryout process and has grown to reach 93 mph. There should be more velocity to come, but Jorge already separates himself from most his age with his pitchability. It’s a starter look, with tight spin on a curveball that he’s added more power to as he’s gotten stronger and a changeup that rounds out his three-pitch mix. 

Lloyd Downs, RHP, Nicaragua: There aren’t too many signings each year from Nicaragua, but Downs established himself as one of the better pitchers in the country and signed for $307,500, the biggest bonus for a Nicaraguan player this year. He’s 6-foot-2, 175 pounds at 17, a solid strike-thrower who moves well on the mound. Lloyd isn’t overpowering, but he attacks hitters with a fastball/curveball mix and has been up to 90 mph with more velocity that should come once he fills out. 

Pedro Roque, SS, Dominican Republic: Roque’s glovework stood out when he signed with the Royals for $247,500 at 17. He’s 5-foot-10, 165 pounds and a skilled defender with the hands and footwork to make all the routine plays as well as the ability to get outs on the flashier, more challenging ones with a plus arm. He’s a defensive-oriented player who will need more strength for his righthanded bat to develop.

Asbel Gonzalez, OF, Venezuela: Signed at 17 for $157,500, Gonzalez’s defensive tools stick out in center field. He’s a quick-twitch athlete at a lean, lively 6-foot-2, 170 pounds with a strong arm and plus speed in a glove-over-bat profile. 

Brandon Herbold, LHP, Netherlands: Herbold is an 18-year-old who in September 2022 pitched for the Netherlands at the U-18 World Cup in Bradenton, Fla., where he struck out 10 with four walks in 8.2 innings, allowing four runs (two earned) in two starts. Signed for $135,000, Herbold has an enormous frame at 6-foot-6, 180 pounds and is throwing in the mid 80s now with room to grow into low-90s velocity once he packs on more weight. He mixes in a slurvy curveball and a changeup as well.

Sandy Ruiz, 3B, Dominican Republic: Ruiz worked out for clubs as a catcher when he was an amateur, but it was what he did in the batter’s box that drew the most attention. He signed for $122,500 as a catcher and has since moved to third base, where his offensive game could profile well if he stays there. He has shown good contact skills and ability to drive the ball for consistently hard contact from the right side of the plate, with encouraging early returns against live pitching. 

Sleeper Watch

Catcher Ramon Ramirez was born in Venezuela but was living in the Dominican Republic when the Royals signed him for $57,500. He wasn’t a high-profile signing, but he has the attributes to stick behind the plate with good catch-and-throw skills for 16. He’s 6 feet, 180 pounds with good contact skills from the right side, a line-drive approach and gap power.

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