2023 MLB International Prospect Preview: Million-Dollar Shortstops
Once the international signing period opens on Jan. 15, 2023, there should be 15-20 infielders who will sign for at least $1 million.
They're mostly all shortstops now, with some true shortstops who could play there up to the major leagues, though for many their future is likely at second, third or in some cases the outfield.
We covered some of the top shortstops who are signing in 2023 last week. Today, we have a look at more of the top shortstops in the class who are signing for more than $1 million once the signing period begins.
Sebastian Walcott, SS, Bahamas
The Bahamas continues to be a fruitful source of talent. The top player there this year is Walcott, a player several scouts consider one of the premium prospects this year, with a bonus likely coming in above $3 million. It's an impressive combination of size, athleticism and power potential from a player who already has good components to hit. Early in the process, Walcott was a slender player lacking strength, but he has grown to 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, getting taller and stronger while staying lean and athletic with plenty more physical upside remaining. Walcott drives the ball with impact now and has the bat speed to develop plus raw power once he fills out. For a 16-year-old hitter with his long limbs, he's able to keep his swing intact and has the hand-eye coordination where he has shown good contact skills in games, too. An above-average runner underway, Walcott is a shortstop now but might end up outgrowing the position and sliding over to third base or possibly the outfield. He has outstanding arm strength for his age, grading out plus with a chance to tick up as he fills out.
Derniche Valdez, SS, Dominican Republic
Valdez drew a lot of praise from scouts for his mix of athleticism and hitting ability at a premium position. He has good hand speed with a fast, whippy swing to barrel good fastballs and feel for the strike zone that has led to good game performance with gap power that's trending up as he fills out his 6-foot-1, 165-pound frame. He moves around well at shortstop as well with the ability to stick at the position, with a bonus in the $2.5 to $3 million range.
Yoandry Vargas, SS, Dominican Republic
At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Vargas is tall, lean and athletic with a good mix of athleticism, physical upside and power potential. He's a tick above-average runner who should stick at the position because he ranges well to both sides, has good hands and the arm strength for shortstop. His power continues to trend up, with some swing and miss to his game, but a chance to develop above-average power from the right side, with a bonus north of $2 million.
Luis Almeyda, SS, Dominican Republic
Almeyda was well known from an early age on the college recruiting trail when he was growing up in New Jersey. While he could have had his pick among some of the top college programs in the country, he instead moved to the Dominican Republic and will sign for what should be a bonus above $2 million as an international free agent. At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Almeyda has a long, lanky build with righthanded power that has started to spike as he's begun to fill out, typically putting together solid at-bats with a mature approach for his age. Almeyda has smooth actions and is light on his feet at shortstop, where he has a chance to stick, though depending on how much more he grows he could end up at third base.
Camilo Diaz, SS, Dominican Republic
With a bonus likely in the $2 million range, Diaz has impressive raw tools. There's high-level bat speed, the ability to hammer the ball for damage and put on a power show during batting practice. He should have at least plus raw power once he's done filling out his 6-foot-2, 165-pound frame, though it's hit over power and he will have to keep his swing and miss to a manageable level. Diaz is athletic and a plus runner with a plus-plus arm, though defensively he's learning to slow the game down and could end up at third base or possibly the outfield.
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Welbyn Francisca, SS, Dominican Republic
Francisca isn't that big, but he's a switch-hitter and one of the more advanced hitters in the class, the archetype of many recent Guardians international signings. Francisca has a smooth swing with good rhythm and balance, producing a high contact rate against live pitching with gap power. While a lot of scouts viewed Francisca as a future second baseman, his defense has taken a step forward, with improved defensive actions and arm strength that gives him a better chance to stick at shortstop.
Yoelin Cespedes, SS, Dominican Republic
Team: Red Sox
In terms of pure hitting ability, Cespedes draws some of the best reviews in the class from international scouts. At 5-foot-9, he isn't that big and might move off shortstop to either second or third base, but he has some of the best bat-to-ball skills in Latin America. He has good hand-eye coordination and an aggressive approach, allowing him to barrel balls in or out of the strike zone. Cespedes has surprising juice for his size as well, flashing over-the-fence power in games.
Christopher Larez, SS, Venezuela
Larez has a well-rounded skill set at shortstop with good offensive upside for his age. He's a 6-foot righthanded hitter with a mature approach at the plate, showing good bat-to-ball skills and driving the ball well to both alleys with a chance to develop average raw power. Larez is an above-average runner with the arm strength for shortstop, with a chance that he could have enough range for shortstop but a possibility he could fit at second or third base.
Edwin Solano, SS, Dominican Republic
At 5-foot-10, Solano has a strong, compact frame. That strength helps him drive the ball with impressive impact already, with a physically mature build for his age but a chance for plus raw power. Scouts highest on him thought he was an advanced hitter for his age as well. Solano has a strong arm and is an above-average runner underway, though he might end up losing a step and is more of an offensive-minded player who could end up at third or second base.