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International Reviews: Chicago Cubs

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: 2015 Cubs International Review See Also: 2014 Cubs International Review See Also: 2013 Cubs International Review Top 2016-17 signing: RHP Manuel Rodriguez, Mexico, $400,000. Total signings: 29. intl-reviews-300x212 The Cubs went over their 2015-16 bonus pool, a class that included outfielders Eddy Julio Martinez and Jonathan Sierra, shortstop Aramis Ademan, righthander Jose Albertos and catcher Miguel Amaya. As a penalty, they had to fish in a smaller pond last year when the 2016-17 signing period opened, unable to sign players subject to the bonus pools for more than $300,000. There is an exception to that rule though.
When major league teams sign Mexican players, the majority of those players are signing from Mexican League teams. Typically, the Mexican League team keeps 75 percent of the money from that signing, though the exact percentage can vary. For Mexican League signings, MLB only counts the amount that goes to the player against a team’s bonus pool. So if a team pays $1 million to sign a player from the Mexico City Red Devils, only $250,000 counts against the team’s bonus pool. Perhaps even more important, MLB allows teams under the penalty that can’t sign players subject to the bonus pools for more than $300,000 to give more than $300,000 to a Mexican League player. If a Mexican League player only gets 25 percent of the payment from his signing, a team under the penalty could sign a player for up to $1.2 million, with $300,000 going to the player. That’s how the Cubs, one of the most aggressive teams when it comes to scouting and signing players out of Mexico, signed righthander Manuel Rodriguez for $400,000 from Yucatan last year in July. Rodriguez was the league’s rookie of the year in 2015, when he posted a 1.84 ERA with a 40-25 K-BB mark in 49 innings of relief. He wasn’t as effective in 2016, when he had a 5.06 ERA and a 15-13 K-BB mark in 16 innings, but he’s a 20-year-old with a lively power fastball, peaking at 97 with late, heavy life. Strong and sturdy at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, Rodriguez throws a slurvy, inconsistent slider for strikes and occasionally mixes in a solid changeup, though he’s mainly leaned on the fastball/slider combination as a reliever. After Rodriguez, the Cubs gave $300,000 signing bonuses in August to a pair of Venezuelan prospects from Roberto Vahlis, including 17-year-old lefthander Jonathan Bruzual. He’s 6-foot-1, 175 pounds and trained with Roberto Vahlis at his academies in Venezuela and in the Dominican Republic. Bruzual is an athletic pitcher with quick arm speed, touching 90 mph when he signed and climbing to 88-92 mph since then. His curveball is more advanced than most lefties his age with above-average potential once it’s more consistent. The Cubs also signed 17-year-old Venezuelan center fielder Ricardo Verenzuela for $300,000 in August out of Vahlis’ program. He’s 6 feet, 170 pounds with solid tools for his age and a hard-nosed, gamer mentality. His quick swing from the left side allows him to turn on good fastballs, with a line-drive approach and occasional power. Verenzuela is athletic and an average runner who plays better than his pure speed in center field, where he has a 55 arm. Danis Correa is only 5-foot-11, 155 pounds, but the 17-year-old Colombian righthander has an impressive fastball already. Correa has excellent arm speed to throw a 91-96 mph fastball with late life and surprisingly good plane for his height. His curveball is inconsistent but it flashes as a potentially above-average pitch due to its power and shape. Correa is just learning a changeup, but his athleticism helps him repeat his delivery. He trained in Orlando Cabrera’s academy. In October, the Cubs signed 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Josue Huma for $140,000. He has projection to add strength to his wiry 6-foot, 170-pound frame with steady tools across the board and a good internal clock at shortstop, with slightly above-average speed and a chance to stick at the position. He’s a switch-hitter with a line-drive approach, solid bat-to-ball skills and ability to manage the strike zone. Huma doesn’t project to hit for too much power, though he has more sock in his bat from the left side right now and uses the whole field. Jeinser Brete, a 17-year-old Dominican infielder who is a cousin of Cubs third baseman Jeimer Candelario, signed for $100,000 in August. Like Candelario, Brete’s best tool is his bat. At 6 feet, 180 pounds, Brete is a righthanded hitter with a good grasp of the strike zone and solid power for his age. Brete showcased at shortstop, but his range is better suited for third base, so he will probably slide over there soon. He has an average arm and did tinker with catching before he signed, something that could be an intriguing option down the road, though the Cubs plan to keep him on the left side of the infield for now. Carlos Paula, a strongly built, 6-foot Dominican righthander, signed with the Cubs for $100,000 in October. He’s a 16-year-old who has already hit 94 mph with late, heavy life in the strike zone and could be reaching the mid-to-upper 90s in the future. Paula has two standout pitches right now between his fastball and changeup, which has good sink and fade, giving him a potential out pitch that’s more advanced that his curveball. Paula will develop as a starter but could have a future as a power reliever. Beyond Rodriguez, the Cubs continued to be busy signing players out of the Mexican League. They signed another Yucatan pitcher, lefthander Ferrold Heredia, in July. He’s a 17-year-old strike-thrower with an 88-91 mph fastball, feel for a slider and good pitchability for his age. They also added 26-year-old Mario Meza, a righthanded reliever with Yucatan who has hit 96 mph with a heavy fastball that induces bad swings. Meza mostly pitches off his fastball with an occasional slider that he will have to mix in more against better competition. Meza (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) posted a 1.60 ERA with a 51-18 K-BB mark in 50.2 innings last season for Yucatan and will probably go to Double-A or higher given his age. Meza was on Mexico’s World Baseball Classic roster too, though he didn’t appear in a game. The Cubs signed two prospects from Mexico City for $100,000 each in October, including Carlos Pacheco, a 17-year-old center fielder who was the MVP of the Mexican League academy last year. Pacheco is a 5-foot-11 who stood out for his hitting ability in games from the right side of the plate with solid power that plays up because of his contact frequency. He’s an average runner with good instincts who reads the ball well off the bat, though his arm is below-average. Righthander Francisco Garcia was the other $100,000 signing out of Mexico. He’s a former third baseman whose arm was his best tool, so he moved to the mound last year. Garcia has been up to 93 mph and has flashed a promising slider for a conversion guy. One promising lower-bonus sleeper to watch is Didier Vargas
Miguel Amaya Buck Davidson MLB Photos Via Getty Images

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, an 18-year-old lefty who signed for $60,000 out of Panama in July. Vargas is 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, and works off an 88-92 mph fastball. His curveball might be his best pitch with good shape and rotation, with feel for a changeup as well.

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