With the 2018-19 international signing period opening on July 2, we’re previewing the projected signing classes for all 30 teams. Below are Baseball America’s signing forecasts for each team in the American League East.
Orioles’ ownership has essentially decided to punt on signing any notable players from Latin America, a remarkable demonstration of incompetence and poor strategy from the top of the organization. There are no signs of change in 2018, with other teams likely to hit up the Orioles for their bonus pool money in exchange for fringy, longshot minor leaguers.
Boston Red Sox
Dominican outfielder Eduardo Lopez looks like the top target for the Red Sox this year. While Lopez doesn’t have any explosive tools, he’s one of the better hitters and all-around present ability players in the country. He’s expected to sign for around $1.5 million. Eduardo Vaughan, who was the captain of the Panamanian team at last year’s COPABE 15U Pan American Championships, is another outfielder connected to the Red Sox, likely on a bonus near $500,000. Venezuelan catcher Naysbel Marcano, Venezuelan shortstop Brainer Bonaci, Venezuelan righthander Claudio Ochoa, Venezuelan outfielder Elio Prado and Dominican righthander Carlos Reyes are other names that have popped up in connection with the Red Sox. Boston is also typically one of the most aggressive teams in scouting and signing Venezuelan players, a trend that probably will continue again this year.
New York Yankees
For a while, it looked like two of the top 2017 prospects out of Venezuela, outfielder Raimfer Salinas and catcher Antonio Cabello, might wait until 2018 to sign with the Yankees. Instead, after Shohei Ohtani signed with the Angels in December, the Yankees opted to sign Salinas and Cabello (who has since moved to the outfield) later that month. So while the Yankees weren’t as aggressive early in the process for 2017 players compared to other teams, they still look poised to come away with a strong class.
The Yankees are tied to Osiel Rodriguez, a Cuban righthander who has reached 96 mph, throws a swing-and-miss breaking ball and has advanced pitchability for a 16-year-old. He has a case as the top pitching prospect in the class, with a bonus likely coming in just north of $1 million. Venezuelan catcher Antonio Gomez, another top prospect connected to the Yankees, has elite arm strength and pop times to shut down the running game. Dominican outfielder Kevin Alcantara has a tall, slender, 6-foot-5 frame with the speed and athleticism to play center field. He’s expected to sign with the Yankees for around $1 million. Agustin Ramirez, an offensive-minded catcher from the Dominican Republic, is also connected to the Yankees with a high six-figure bonus likely. Cuban righthander Denny Larrondo, Dominican righthander Juan Carela and Dominican shortstops Marcos Cabrera and Maikol Escotto are other players connected to the Yankees. So is Mauro Bonifacio, a 6-foot-5 Dominican outfielder who was eligible to sign last year but is expected to sign with the Yankees on July 2.
Tampa Bay Rays
Last year, the Rays signed the No. 1 prospect in the class, Dominican shortstop Wander Franco, who has been annihilating the competition in extended spring training. This year, the Rays are expected to land another top Dominican shortstop, Alejandro Pie, though Pie is a much different player than Franco. Pie has a long, slender, 6-foot-4 frame with plus speed and arm strength, with a bonus expected to come in around $2 million. Dominican outfielder Estanli Castillo is a big, strong corner outfielder with some of the biggest raw power in the class, though he will have to make adjustments to tap into it more in games. Castillo and Dominican shortstop Daury del Rosario are both likely to sign with the Rays, with Rosario standing out for his bat and a likely position change candidate. Dominican righthander Justino Dominguez and Venezuelan lefthander Brayan Dum are also connected to the Rays.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have become one of the most aggressive teams in Latin America. This year, they are expected to give the top bonus for a 16-year-old player in the 2018 class, with Dominican shortstop Orelvis Martinez connected to the Blue Jays and likely to sign for more than $3 million. Martinez is a physical righthanded hitter who generates easy power, and while he might begin his career at shortstop, he profiles well at third base. Venezuelan catcher Javier D’Orazio and Dominican outfielder Amell Brazoban are also Blue Jays targets.