2023 International Reviews: Oakland Athletics

Oakland’s international class centered around a player who received the highest bonus among all international pitchers this year. Here are scouting reports on nine players to watch from the Athletics’ latest international signing class.

Top Of The Class

Cuban righthander Luis Morales signed with the Athletics for $3 million, by far the biggest bonus of the year for a pitcher, with no other international pitching prospect getting a seven-figure deal so far. Morales is 20, so he’s older than the top pitchers signing out of the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, and he pitched in Cuba’s top league at a young age. As a 17-year-old starting pitcher for Sancti Spiritus in the 2020-21 season, Morales posted a 5.95 ERA in 42.1 innings with 58 strikeouts and 30 walks. In 2019, pitching at 16 in Cuba’s 18U national league, Morales registered an ERA of 0.99 in 63.1 innings with 95 strikeouts and 33 walks, good for first in the league in strikeouts and fifth in ERA. He pitched again in the league in 2020, when he had an ERA of 0.87 (fourth in the league) with 135 strikeouts (most in the league, 48 more than the No. 2 pitcher) and 18 walks in 82.2 innings. Morales is an athletic pitcher at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with a lively fastball that was 94-98 mph during showcases. Given his arm speed and strength projection remaining, he could end up throwing 100 mph. Morales throws hard and pairs his fastball with a solid slider that could develop into an out pitch for him. Scouts were split on whether he would be a starter or a reliever long term. He will need to improve his changeup and his track record of command has been spotty, possibly stemming from some mechanical inconsistencies, though his athleticism could help him make adjustments. He should start this year in the Dominican Summer League. 

Names To Know

Darling Fernandez, OF, Dominican Republic: Fernandez signed at 17 for $750,000. He’s 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, and scouts highest on Fernandez praised his hitting ability, pointing to a polished righthanded swing with impressive bat control that led to frequent contact. Fernandez has over-the-fence power as well, though it’s a hit-first approach geared for hard line drives across the park. What Fernandez does in the batter’s box will drive his value, with below-average speed and arm strength that likely limit him to left field. 

Ramon Landaeta, C, Venezuela: Early in the scouting process, Landaeta separated himself with his strength, physical maturity and offensive upside, ultimately signing for $750,000. He has since grown to 6-foot-2, 180 pounds with a smooth swing that generates easy power from the right side at 17. He has sound hitting mechanics, so he doesn’t have to sell out to generate his power, and he has a patient approach for his age. Landaeta is an offensive-oriented player who will need a lot of work to be able to stay behind the plate, though his value in the batter’s box could still be enough if he has to change positions. 

Tzu-Chen Sha, RHP, Taiwan: There aren’t many players from Taiwan who sign with major league clubs each year, but the A’s have been one of the most active teams in the game signing them. Sha is their latest signing, receiving a $375,000 bonus. At 19, he still has a skinny 6-foot-1, 165-pound build with good body control and a repeatable delivery that helps him throw strikes. He has scraped 95 mph, though more typically he operates in the low 90s, mixing in a curveball, slider and changeup. Sha leans mostly on his breaking stuff when he wants to change speeds, but some scouts think his changeup could end up being his best pitch in the long run thanks to its late tumble with bat-missing action. 

Alvin Veras, RHP, Dominican Republic: At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Veras has a great pitcher’s frame, with a fastball that’s mostly 87-91 mph now at 17 with the physical upside to be throwing in the mid 90s in time. Signed for $200,000, Veras has shown good control for his age with that fastball. He backs it up with a hard curveball that has good depth and sharp bite with the potential to develop into an out pitch, with his curveball ahead of his changeup. 

Paul Chacon, RHP, Venezuela: Chacon, a 17-year-old righthander who signed for $190,000, has a strong, physically mature frame for his age at 6 feet, 185 pounds. He’s up to 93 mph now with the arm speed to suggest mid-to-upper-90s velocity is in his future. Chacon’s fastball is his best pitch, with an inconsistent, slurvy slider.

Reynaldo De La Paz, OF, Dominican Republic: A cousin of Franmil Reyes, de la Paz has a big frame (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) at 17 with the power to match. He’s a righthanded-hitting corner outfielder who can put on a big show in batting practice, launching balls out with flashes of plus raw power. De la Paz has a swing that’s still fairly crude, so it’s a power-over-hit profile, but he has worked to condense some of the bigger movements in his swing to quiet it down over the past year. He signed for $150,000. 

Jesus Fernandez, SS, Venezuela: Signed for $150,000, Fernandez is a wiry 5-foot-11, 155 pounds at 17, an athletic middle infielder with a knack for making hard contact against live pitching. He shows good bat control from the right side, whipping the barrel through the zone with surprising bat speed for his size. He’s a good athlete who should fit somewhere in the middle infield. 

Sleeper Watch

Dominican righthander Francis Marte signed with the A’s for $80,000. He has a big 6-foot-3 frame and a fastball that has touched 93 mph at 17. Marte has the potential for two big pitches between his fastball and slider, potentially fitting as a power reliever.

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