More notes on international prospects eligible to sign on July 2 and where they’re expected to sign, plus new information on a team linked to Cuban pitcher Hector Mendoza.
Florencio Serrano, rhp, Mexico
The Cubs will be in their second year of the penalty of being unable to sign anyone subject to the bonus pools for more than $300,000. There is, however, an exception to that rule. For players signed out of the Mexican League, only the amount that goes to the player counts against the bonus pool.
Nearly every Mexican player that MLB teams is with a Mexican League team, and typically the Mexican League team keeps 75 percent of the payment. So if a team signs a Mexican League player for $400,000, only $100,000 would count against that team’s international bonus pool. MLB even allows teams under the penalty to only count the amount that goes to the player toward its $300,000 maximum bonus, so a team in the penalty box could sign a Mexican League player for up to $1.2 million.
That’s what it appears the Cubs will do to sign Serrano, a 17-year-old with Tijuana who used to live in Texas and is one of the better pitchers available this year. He’s 6-foot-1 with a quick arm and a fastball that parks at 88-92 mph and has reached 94. He complements his fastball with a sharp-breaking curveball that could be a future plus pitch. There’s some effort to Serrano’s delivery and some risk he ends up in the bullpen.
Carlos Aguiar, of, Venezuela
Aguiar is a Venezuelan player who has been training in the Dominican Republic and was the co-MVP of the Dominican Prospect League’s tournament in Florida in October. He’s one of the youngest players in the class—he can’t sign until he turns 16 on Aug. 28—but he’s a physical corner outfielder at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds. He’s a lefty with a steep, uphill cut and a swing-for-the-fences approach, taking aggressive swings that can produce towering fly balls in batting practice. He will have to shorten up and level out his swing plane more in games to cut down on his swing-and-miss rate against live pitching. Aguiar has worked out as a center fielder, but he’s a below-average runner who fits best in a corner. The Twins are the favorites to sign Aguiar.
Miguel Hiraldo, ss, Dominican Republic
Some scouts consider Hiraldo one of the best hitters in the 2017 class. He has a compact, powerful build (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) like a catcher with strong forearms, shoulders and legs. He has a short righthanded swing that produces some of the hardest, loudest contact in the class. Hiraldo has shown good feel for the barrel and he’s usually performed well in games with a mature approach for his age. Where HIraldo plays is to be determined, though it’s unlikely to be shortstop. He’s a fringe-average runner who should slow down considerably, most likely sliding over to third base soon. A move to catcher—a position he played in Mexico at the COPABE 15U Pan American Championship—would be intriguing, though that doesn’t appear to be in the works. Hiraldo trains with Juan Herrera, who goes by “Mon,” and is expected to sign with the Blue Jays.
Wilderd Patiño, of, Venezuela
Patiño, who trains with Francisco Ortiz, is one of the better athletes in this year’s group. At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, he has a lean, highly projectable build with plus-plus speed underway to play center field, where he has good actions and an easy running gait. Patiño jumps out more for his physical projection and athleticism than his present ability at the plate, which is still raw. He’s a righthanded hitter with a stiff, arm-heavy swing and gap power. An injury to Patiño’s throwing arm has added some uncertainty to his situation, though it still appears the Rangers are his most likely landing spot. He’s 15 and will be eligible to sign when he turns 16 on July 18.
Hector Mendoza, rhp, Cuba
After missing out on Luis Robert, the Cardinals look like they might turn their attention to Hector Mendoza, a 23-year-old Cuban righthander. Mendoza is exempt from the international bonus pools, so if the Cardinals do sign him, they won’t have to pay any additional overage taxes. When Mendoza was younger, he was one of the better up-and-coming pitchers in Cuba, where he was the closer for La Isla de la Juventud and even had a contract where he pitched for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.
However, Mendoza struggled in Japan, has had trouble staying healthy and didn’t pitch much when he was in Cuba. When he’s at his best, he has a three-pitch starter’s mix with a fastball that has reached 94 mph, a curveball with good depth that can be a swing-and-miss pitch and a changeup with good speed differential off his fastball, though both of his secondary pitches are inconsistent and his fastball command needs improvement. Reports from scouts who have seen Mendoza in the Dominican Republic have been modest, and there’s a significant likelihood that he will end up in the bullpen given his history. He could probably pitch in a high Class A or Double-A league right now.