2015 International Class Shaping Up To Be An All-Time Group
For teams with a top 12 overall pick in the 2005 draft, the deck was stacked heavily in their favor. The D-backs drafted Justin Upton with the first pick. Alex Gordon went next to the Royals. The Mariners whiffed on Jeff Clement at No. 3, but Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero, Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce all went in the top dozen picks. In all, 75 percent of the top 12 players in the 2005 draft developed into all-stars.
There isn’t an international draft. The proliferation of high-profile foreign signings and million-dollar bonuses doesn’t have deep enough history to run a comparable analysis on the international side.
But even considering only recent years, the 2015 international signing class is shaping up to be exceptional. The top two prospects in baseball—Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr.—both came from that class.
That doesn’t include Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, who got to the major leagues at 19 and is already one of the best hitters in baseball.
Even excluding Soto, 10 players from that 2015 international class rank as Top 100 Prospects. With another wave of depth behind them, 2015 is shaping up to be a stellar group.
VLADIMIR GUERRERO JR., 3B BLUE JAYS
Guerrero ranked as the No. 1 international prospect in the class, lauded for his combination of hitting ability and power. Even the Blue Jays didn’t expect Guerrero to be this good, this fast. Yet he had reached the majors as a 20-year-old rookie this season after winning Minor League Player of the Year in 2018. He is one of the top young hitters to come along in the last decade—he hit .331/.413/.531 in the minors with more walks than strikeouts—who has developed into a capable third baseman after signing as a projected left fielder/first baseman.
JUAN SOTO, OF NATIONALS
The book on Soto when he signed was that he was one of the best pure hitters in the 2015 class, with a sound swing and an advanced offensive approach as the No. 13 international prospect. That was an understatement. Soto won the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League MVP as 17-year-old in his pro debut in 2016, then despite missing most of the 2017 season, he hit .292/.406/.517 in 116 games as a 19-year-old rookie last year. Soto wasn’t a big power threat when he signed, but he has answered that question by developing true all-fields, over-the-fence thump at 20 years old.
FERNANDO TATIS JR., SS PADRES
The White Sox deserve immense credit for signing Tatis, who was not a consensus top prospect when he signed for $700,000. He had a tall, lanky frame and a high baseball IQ, but he didn’t have the electric tools he shows today, with other clubs concerned about his swing-and-miss tendencies and a defensive profile that seemed suited for third base. Tatis has gotten stronger, faster, added more power, developed a more efficient swing and exceeded expectations defensively. He now looks like a franchise cornerstone, albeit for the Padres instead of the White Sox.
ANDRES GIMENEZ, SS METS
Other teams were kicking themselves when the Mets got Gimenez out of Venezuela for $1.2 million. He ranked as the No. 2 international prospect in the 2015 class, impressing scouts with his hitting ability, tools and athleticism at a premium position. The report has mostly played out, with Gimenez developing into the team’s top prospect as a 20-year-old in Double-A.
YORDAN ALVAREZ, 1B ASTROS
The international signing period opens on July 2 each year and closes the next year on June 15. On the last day of the 2015-16 signing period, the Dodgers signed Alvarez for $2 million—they were already over their bonus pool, so with the 100 percent overage tax, the deal essentially cost the team $4 million. Alvarez, who turned 20 a couple weeks later, wasn’t a super famous prospect like other Cuban players who signed that year—the Dodgers even traded him to the Astros that year on Aug. 1 for reliever Josh Fields before he ever played a game for them—but he has developed into a monster. He’s the best first base prospect in baseball who combines plate patience with immense raw power that should have him in the big leagues soon.
JAZZ CHISHOLM, SS D-BACKS
Chisholm impressed the D-backs with his speed and defensive actions at shortstop when they signed him out of the Bahamas for $200,000. Now he has developed into a power-speed threat at a premium position, albeit with a higher strikeout rate that’s still a red flag as he adjusts to Double-A. He is Arizona’s top prospect.
YUSNIEL DIAZ, OF ORIOLES
The Dodgers signed Diaz ($15.5 million) and middle infielder Omar Estevez ($6 million) together out of Cuba, then eventually traded Diaz to the Orioles last July as the centerpiece of the Manny Machado deal. Diaz showed good athleticism, hand-eye coordination and performance at a young age coming out of Cuba. He has shown more raw power since leaving, though it hasn’t translated into games. His performance has backed up since he joined the Orioles, but he entered the year as the club’s No. 1 prospect.
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CRISTIAN PACHE, OF BRAVES
Pache signed with the Braves for $1.4 million when he ranked as the No. 21 international prospect in the 2015 class. He was a quick-twitch athlete with high-end speed and defensive skill, though his hitting ability drew a split camp from scouts. The defensive report rings true—Pache is in the conversation as perhaps the best defensive center fielder in the minors—and he has rewarded the Braves’ confidence in his bat, hitting well with Double-A Mississippi as a 20-year-old.
ONEIL CRUZ, SS PIRATES
The Dodgers spent heavily on Cuban players in their 2015 signing class, but they also spent $900,000 to sign Cruz, a Dominican shortstop whose growth spurt radically changed his profile. He stood 6-foot-1 at age 15 then grew to 6-foot-4 by the time he signed with the Dodgers. Now he’s closer to 6-foot-7. Cruz was raw at the time, but he had a smooth swing from the left side with natural leverage and lift to project on future power. Now with the Pirates after being traded for Tony Watson, Cruz hits the ball as hard as nearly anyone in the minors, with a high-risk, high-reward profile.
ISAAC PAREDES, 3B›SS TIGERS
The Cubs might be the most aggressive team in Mexico. They went over their bonus pool in 2015-16 when they gave big deals to righthander Jose Albertos ($1.5 million) and Paredes, who got $800,000 after hitting well as an amateur, including at the 15U World Cup in 2014 where he made the all-tournament team at shortstop. While Paredes now splits his time between shortstop and third base for the Tigers, his hitting ability is his calling card. He reached Double-A last year as a 19-year-old.
DEIVI GARCIA, RHP YANKEES
The Yankees were limited to signings of $300,000 or less in 2015-16 as a penalty for exceeding their bonus pool the previous year. One of their lower six-figure deals went to Garcia, who got $200,000 out of the Dominican Republic after showing a fastball that touched 93 mph and a tight-spinning curveball from a small, 5-foot-9 frame. Garcia now sits in the low-to-mid-90s and uses that hammer curveball to miss a ton of bats at Double-A.