Ben Badler: Thanks for joining us! And thanks for all the support on our Top 50 and all of our international coverage leading up to July 2. At some point during the chat, our team by team forecasts for what to expect from all 30 teams are going to go up for BA subscribers, so keep an eye out for that very soon!
Greg (Atlanta): If the Braves really are set on keeping Freeman and Teheran, how are they supposed to get a difference making bat? I'm a Braves fan trying not to get frustrated with the rebuild, but I don't see any other way they can get the bat they need.
Ben Badler: I think they trade Teheran. I don’t buy the public rhetoric. Now’s the time to maximize his trade value.
Dustin (Winnipeg): I've read recently that the Padres are going to be signing a 17 year old Korean pitcher named Yun Seong-bin. Just wondering if you have heard anything on this and if you would have a little scouting report on him. With most, if not all, of the International signing period prospect reports pertaining to South Americans, I would like to get your take on what the Padres may be getting in Seong-bin. Thank you.
Ben Badler: I don’t expect him to sign with an MLB team, which is partially why I haven’t written him up yet, but also our reports on him are just OK. Big frame, fastball up to 93 mph, mixed reviews on secondaries with control and health question marks.
Bernie (Beach): Do you think any of the high profile Cuban players are in play for the Braves?
Ben Badler: Not immediately on July 2, but as the signing period goes on, the Braves are going to be one of the few teams that can still spend money. The people handling some of these Cuban players are, I think/hope, eventually going to realize they can’t just coerce teams into meeting some of their outrageous asking prices and will come back to reality.
Bryan (New York): Delvin Perez and Kevin Maitan. Right now who is the better prospect and who would you rather have?
Ben Badler: I’d rather have Maitan.
Philip (San Diego): Where would Morejon/Ona rank on the international top 50 list if you ranked them?
Ben Badler: Right up by the top. All the good Cuban players–those guys, Norge Ruiz, Vladimir Gutierrez, Randy Arozarena, etc.–are more advanced than all the 16-year-old kids coming out of the DR and Venezuela. It sucks that they all have to compete for the same bonus pool money when the pools weren’t designed for this level of volume of young Cuban prospects in mind.
dave (grayson, ga): Almost every player from your top 50 is from the DR or VZ. Is talent down this year in other countries like Panama, Colombia, and Nicaragua? What's the status of amateur baseball in Australia? It seems like well-regarded prospects from there are more rare than in the past.
Ben Badler: I asked a lot of scouts if there were any top players this year from those countries, but the answer I kept getting was a consistent no, at least for the high-level guys. Beyond Ornelas in Mexico, there’s a catcher named Carlos Soto who was eligible last year that people liked, but nobody at the level of someone like Miguel Amaya who the Cubs signed out of Panama last year. But those countries are not scouted as exhaustively as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, so I’m sure there will be under-the-radar guys who pop up later from there.
Dave (DC): If Maitan is advanced as they say and shows well this Fall, any chance he gets sent to LoA next year for his age 17 season?
Ben Badler: I don’t think so. Even if he does sign with the Braves, who are now one of the most aggressive teams in terms of first-year assignments for their Latin American signings, that would be super super aggressive. The Blue Jays skipped Vladimir Guerrero Jr. over the GCL and put him in the Appy League this year, and I could see something like that for Maitan if someone really wanted to push him. But what’s the rush?
Tom Elliott (London (England)): Thanks for the great content as always. Where does this crop of international prospects rank among those from the last 5 years?
Ben Badler: I get asked that a lot, but it’s hard to say with any real accuracy when these kids are still 16 years old. I’ve been covering July 2 for almost a decade now, and almost every year, people always say “next year’s class is better.” The truth is these kids are so young, they can go so many different ways and there are so many of them out there (and so many that “disappear”) that pegging the class right now is too hard to say. I can say the class is definitely heavier on shortstops (or at least “shortstops”) and lighter on top-end outfielders than most years. I like Jeisson Rosario, Victor Garcia and some of the other outfielders we have in our Top 50, but there’s nobody at the level of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Leody Taveras last year or an Eloy Jimenez type available.
Derian (Chicago): Is Lazaro Armenteros comparable to Eddy Martinez from last year? both are muscular and fast
Ben Badler: Armenteros is better. Younger, better tools, better track record in Cuba.
Paul (Little Rock): I've read that some top talents are scouted as early as 13 or 14 years old. Is the next Maitan-level prospect to that age yet?
Ben Badler: I try not to write about players who are that young. I realize the trainers who work with the players have to get them when they’re 12 and 13 and teams are scouting players at that age, that’s their job, but honestly I have a hard of enough time handling how to write about kids as young as 15 and 16 as it is. I’m not sure who benefits from me writing about kids when they’re 14.
Alex (Miami): Thank you for taking my question, I am a fan of your work and a big fan of international scouting. Besides Bolivar who can the Red Sox expect to sign in July second?
Ben Badler: We’ll have a bunch of the specific names in the team forecasts that are about to go up, but lots of Venezuelan players again, similar to last year. From everyone I talk to, Eddie Romero has spent a ton of time the past two years in Venezuela, which isn’t a place a lot of scouts want to be traveling to these days, but there’s value to be had there and I think the players Venezuela is producing are only going to continue to get better.
Juan peguero (Dom rep): Que jugador de este año crees que tendrá impacto más rápido para el equipo que lo firme
Ben Badler: Kevin Maitan, Luis Almanzar.
Jon (LA): Have the off and on injuries for Jose De Leon, dimmed his potential for you at all? Is he up and contributing this summer?
Ben Badler: Dimmed is a fair word. Any new arm injury where a pitcher misses significant time adds another layer of risk, but the upside is still the same and he’s looked great when he’s been on the mound. I think he helps their MLB rotation in the second half.
Billy (Boston): Now that the Reeds (AJ + Cody), Urias, Giolito and Taillon are up, who is in the next wave of prospects that could have an impact this year besides the obvious Bregman and Glasnow? Thanks!
Ben Badler: Alex Reyes could be a wild card down the stretch for the Cardinals. He has to throw more strikes and that’s been the knock on him for a while, but the athleticism and the delivery all point to a guy who should be able to figure that out. If he does, wow. You won’t find many better fastball/curveball combinations at any level.
Hansford (Mansfield, Tx): Any new information on when and where norge ruiz or jose miguel fernandez will sign? The information on those two is scarce.
Ben Badler: Ruiz hasn’t been cleared yet. He’s been training in the Bahamas with Cionel Perez, so they’ve been scouted, but a little different than when guys are in the Dominican Republic. Fernandez is pretty fascinating because I’m not sure what’s going to happen with him. I’m a believer in the bat control, the ability to control the strike zone and get on base. I don’t like his defense at second base but I think the OBP potential will make up for it and the defense should at least be playable. The problem is he doesn’t have big power or speed to stand out in a showcase, the defensive concerns are obvious and I think realistically the only position you can play him is second base. Then you have a bunch of teams who already have a good second baseman at the MLB level—Altuve, Kinsler, Cano, Pedroia, Odor and on and on—that have nowhere to put him. Some of those teams with good MLB second basemen like him, but they aren’t going to sign him, and I know some teams that do have an immediate need at second but don’t like him, or if they do, they’re more in a rebuild and aren’t looking to spend on a 28-year-old. I like the player, but those are some of the reasons he’s been a free agent for a while now and still hasn’t signed.
Justin (Roseville, CA): Why haven't the A's been very involved with the July 2 process? Will they be more involved this year then the last two?
Ben Badler: On the first part, I don’t know. A team like that should be spending $3-4 million or whatever is in their bonus pool every year on international free agents. Being a small revenue team is only more reason to invest internationally, where the payoff can be much greater at prices that won’t handcuff your organization for years if you whiff on a $1 million or $2 million guy. But this year they are definitely getting back into the game. They’re going to sign at least three of our Top 50 and you’ll probably see at least four guys sign for $500K+ bonuses.
Tim (LA): Can Willie Calhoun be a top 100 guy? That bat is ridiculous for 2B
Ben Badler: Yes. I love everything about Calhoun’s swing and the power for someone that size is impressive. Tremendous pick by the Dodgers.
Andrew (Chicago): Any idea as to how the international signing period is going to change? The current system just seems to lead to rotating teams not being able to sign players.
Ben Badler: I’ve asked a bunch of different people who would know about whether we’re getting a draft or sticking with the bonus pools, and the information is very mixed. But what’s obvious is a.) the owners want a system that controls their costs, and b.) the union is willing, maybe even eager, to sell out the rights of international players (or draft picks, minor leaguers… really anyone not on the 40-man roster) to get something back from MLB in the negotiation. So even if there’s no international draft, I would expect a stricter system where either you aren’t allowed to go over your bonus pool period or where the penalties are so outrageous that teams won’t go over any more.
Bubba (Ohio): Where would you rank Alfredo Rodriguez?
Ben Badler: That is one prominent Cuban player I would not have quite as high as those others I mentioned. Rodriguez is an extremely slick defender, plus runner, very light on his feet, but that bat has a long ways to go.
DH (Pittsburgh): Who do you think has the better bat, AJ Reed or Josh Bell?
Ben Badler: AJ Reed
Teddy (Chicago): Hey Ben, are most of the trainers academies in the DR, Venezuela etc. located close to major cities, or are they more rural settings? And do the players live at the academies? If so, who pays for their expenses? Thanks
Ben Badler: It varies. In the Dominican Republic, the teams are mostly set up in the south in the Santo Domingo/Boca Chica area, so the trainers who have their fields around there have an advantage, especially with the rule restrictions now that teams have where they can’t bring a lot of kids into their academy. It’s a lot harder logistically to get a top decision-maker out to see a player who is from up north the Cibao region in Santiago or Puerto Plata, or for those players to come down closer to the capital. Then in Venezuela it’s even more spread out, and you can imagine how hesitant even Venezuelan scouts are to travel too far off in that country right now. It would be great if teams could fly players in from Venezuela to their academies in the Dominican Republic to evaluate them in that environment, but MLB doesn’t allow teams to pay for those players’ travel expenses. If I ran MLB, I’d change that rule as soon as possible.
Jay (GA): Thoughts on Randy Ventura?
Ben Badler: He can fly. He’s probably even faster than Derian Cruz. He’s just really, really small. Want to see him do more beyond the DSL first.
Danny (Brooklyn, NY): Super early but Juan DeLeon has struggled in his brief career- is there any change in tools or bat speed since signing or does he look the same but just not getting results?
Ben Badler: He’s someone who tinkers with his setup and his hitting mechanics a lot to try to fix things when he’s not going well, which tends to just compound things when you’re struggling. I was expecting a bigger year last season, but there’s still breakout potential there.
Neal (Houston): Does it seem like the Braves farm system has massively underperformed this year when you consider the top guys like Albies, Ruiz, Riley, Sims, Swanson, Davidson, Newcomb,Toussaint, Fried, etc., have all ranged from average to terrible. Maybe the Braves system is overranked?
Ben Badler: I wouldn’t put Albies or Swanson in that class. Albies skipped a level, was excellent in Double-A and got to Triple-A as a teenager. Swanson was excellent in High-A and is in Double-A his first year out of the draft, and he’s easily one of the top 15-20 prospects in baseball, being conservative. We’ve talked plenty about how much risk is in that system because of all the high-risk arms they have, and that’s certainly shown this year, but that’s still one of the better farm systems in the game.
Philip (San Diego): Who is Eguy Rosario? Good start for DSL Padres
Ben Badler: Eguy is a guy. Or “Eggy” as people call him. Not that big but strong for his size, quick bat speed, short stroke, line-drive hitter with a feel for the strike zone. Probably fits best at 2B.
dave (grayson, ga): Any idea if teams going over their bonus pools are going to trade away their bonus slots?
Ben Badler: It makes sense to be open to it if you can get something useful in return. The problem is the trade value of the international slots is low to start with, then you have a reduced trade market this year with 10 teams under the penalty and five going over who won’t need to trade for slot values either (unless they’re worried about softening the overage tax), so it’s going to be tough to get much back if you do want to trade them away.
Keith (Farmington, CT): Thanks Ben. Any thoughts on the Phillies starting Jhailyn Ortiz in the GCL this month? Too soon or did he just look great in instructs?
Ben Badler: The hitting concerns that go with the big raw power are still there, but the Phillies always start their biggest international signings in the GCL and skip them over the DSL. They’re one of the most aggressive teams doing that.
chase (minnesota): which July 2 signings from last year have been most exciting so far?
Ben Badler: Hard not to be impressed by our No. 2 and 3 prospects from last year, Mets SS Andres Gimenez and Rangers OF Leody Taveras. Two athletic players with a good combination of tools and skills across the board at premium positions.
Brian (Boston): If Benintendi keeps improving is he going to force his way to the majors this season? Or is he a 2017 guy?
Ben Badler: 2017 is more likely, but I wouldn’t rule out seeing him this year.
Proswagonist (Liberl): Which level do you expect Anibal Sierra to start at? (excluding assignment to rookie ball for game reps)
Ben Badler: Either Low-A or one of their short-season affiliates, given where we are in the season and depending on who’s playing shortstop on those clubs at the time.
Harry (NJ): Thanks for thhe chat Ben. How good can Amed Rosario be and what would you say his timetable is?
Ben Badler: Above-average regular at shortstop. Could see him up the middle of next year.
Brad (MAcon): Of the J2 guys that there is some uncertainty about where they'll sign, are there any that are linked to Atlanta? Trying to see if there's any close names I should follow Saturday other than the ones the Braves are favored for.
Ben Badler: Yefri Del Rosario is the one right now with the most uncertainty, and I don’t know that he’s even going to sign on July 2. My bet right now would be he ends up with Cleveland, but it sounds like that’s still up in the air.
DH (Pittsburgh): How would you now rank the top minor league SS? Is Bregman ahead of Swanson?
Ben Badler: I have Bregman over Swanson. It was closer coming into the year, but Bregman looks like he has a better bat, better plate discipline and more power.
Sergio Q (Tijuana, Mexico): How soon do you Luis Almanzar playing in the US minors? Do you see him skipping the DSL and going directly into low class A?
Ben Badler: Not Low-A, but he should skip the DSL. When Preller was with the Rangers, they had Jurickson Profar and Rougned Odor skip the AZL and go straight to the short-season Northwest League as 17-year-olds. Almanzar’s bat might be polished enough for him to make that jump, otherwise AZL most likely.
Ben Badler: Thanks for all the questions. Our July 2 forecasts for all 30 teams just went up with a bunch of new names in there. Then we’ve got July 2 Best Tools and more reports coming up before the signing period opens on Saturday. And to all the BA subscribers, new ones and long-timers, many thanks for your support!