AL Central 2018 International Signing Forecasts
With the 2018-19 international signing period opening on July 2, here are Baseball America's forecasts of every American League Central club's expected signings.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are in the second year of a two-year penalty for exceeding their bonus pool to sign Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, so all of their bonuses will be for $300,000 or less. Anthony Espinoza (video below) is a quick-twitch shortstop out of Venezuela who is expected to sign with the White Sox. They’re also expected to sign third baseman Bryan Ramos and catcher Alberto Lemay Bernal, both from Cuba, and Venezuelan catcher Luis Pineda. For a while, the White Sox looked like they were going to sign Miguel Tejada Jr., a former corner outfielder who recently moved to shortstop, but now the son of the 2002 AL MVP looks like he might be headed elsewhere.
Last year the Indians went after two offensive-minded players, outfielder George Valera and shortstop Aaron Bracho, as their top two signings. They look like they’re taking a similar approach in 2018, with two offensive-oriented shortstops their top targets. One is Gabriel Rodriguez, who was the shortstop for Venezuela’s 15U national team last summer, has a strong hitting track record and is one of the top overall prospects in the class. The other is Junior Sanquintin, a switch-hitting shortstop out of the Dominican Republic with good bat speed expected to land a bonus of a little more than $1 million.
Dominican shortstop Angel Martinez, the son of former big league catcher Sandy Martinez (currently the Nationals’ Dominican field coordinator and Dominican Summer League manager), is also linked to the Indians, as is Dominican outfielder Sterling Romero, with both players expected to sign for around $500,000. Jesus Lara, a bat-first shortstop out of Venezuela with a strong track record of hitting performance in games, is another player connected to Cleveland. They’re also expected to sign Dominican shortstop Jose Baez, the younger brother of their all-star third baseman Jose Ramirez, likely for a low six-figure deal once he turns 16 on Aug. 30.
The Tigers aggressively scouted the 2018 class. They are connected to Dominican outfielder Jose de la Cruz, who has one of the most explosive tool sets in Latin America. He’s expected to sign for close to $2 million. The Tigers are also connected to Adinso Reyes, a strong, stout shortstop who probably moves off the position quickly but stands out for his physicality and power. Reyes is expected to sign for more than $1 million. Dominican shortstop Geury Estevez, Venezuelan righthander Rolando Sirit and Cuban outfielder Lester Benitez are other names that have popped up with ties to the Tigers.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals have ties to a pair of switch-hitting shortstops from the Dominican Republic, including Omar Florentino. While Florentino is small, he has good actions in the field and as a hitter from both sides of the plate. The other high-profile Dominican shortstop the Royals are connected to is Wilmin Candelario, a graceful defender with slick actions. Both players are expected to land bonuses in the $700,000 area. Venezuelan outfielder Jose Freites is another Royals’ target for July 2.
Devin Smeltzer Transitions Smoothly To Starting Role
Acquired by the Twins last July, Smeltzer has excelled in his return to being a starting pitcher.
In 2015, the Twins paid $4 million to sign Wander Javier, a tooled-up Dominican shortstop with premium athleticism and question marks on his bat. Injuries have sidetracked Javier’s progress, but when healthy, he has hit well and shown exciting upside. Last year, the Twins’ top signing would have been Jelfry Marte, another high-end athlete and a true shortstop with risk in his bat, although the Twins voided Marte's contract following his physical and he signed with the Rays instead. When the 2018-19 signing period opens on July 2, the Twins are expected to sign another athletic, premium position player in Misael Urbina, a center fielder from Venezuela. After Urbina, the Twins will probably spread around the rest of their pool money to several players, with Venezuelan outfielder Alexander Pena one player connected to them.