Mariners, Yankees Land Key Prospects

The Athletics grabbed the early headlines by landing this year's top July 2 prospect, holding a press conference in Santo Domingo to announce the signing of 16-year-old Dominican righthander Michel Inoa.

The Padres then announced the signing of five 16-year-old international players, three of whom received bonuses of at least $1 million. Among the Padres' haul were Venezuelan righthander Adis Portillo (for around $2 million), Venezuelan outfielder Luis Domoromo (for around $1.2 to $1.25 million) and Dominican shortstop Alvaro Aristy ($1 million), as well as Australian infielder/outfielder Corey Adamson (likely for around $500,000).

"I think we felt it was a special year," said Randy Smith, the Padres director of professional and international scouting. "We felt there was depth in the international market.

"We don't have the same history in the Dominican that some of the other clubs have—hopefully this is the start of a turn for us."

While teams have yet to officially announce most of the signings from the first two days of this year's international signing period, Baseball America has learned of several prospects who have signed.

The Yankees signed five players, at least three of whom likely received high six-figure bonuses.

The top bonus appears to have gone to shortstop Anderson Felix, who one source said signed a bonus in the $800,000 to $1 million range. Dominican shortstop Gian Carlos Arias, according to one source, received a bonus of around $750,000 from the Yankees. Arias is a shortstop for now, but scouts have predicted that his thick lower half may lead to a move to second or third base.

The Yankees also signed a pair of Dominican outfielders who international scouts had previously predicted would sign with them. New York signed Yeicok Calderon, a lefthanded-hitting left fielder/first baseman with some power and below-average speed. Sources say Calderon's bonus was likely a mid six-figure deal. The Yankees also inked Ramon Flores, a lefthanded hitter, for what international scouts believed would be a $600,000 to $800,000 bonus.

The Yankees also landed Venzuelan catcher/third baseman Jackson Valera.

The Mariners signed outfielder Julio Morban, who international scouts said was one of the better pure hitters available with an advanced approach. Morban, who had previously been linked Seattle, likely signed for a seven-figure bonus in the $1.1 to $1.2 million range, according to international sources. The Mariners also signed righthander Jose Valdivia, a 6-foot-3 righthander with a low-90s fastball from Nicaragua.

The Reds signed Dominican shortstop Junior Arias, a strong, high-waisted athlete.

"He's a good-looking kid," one scout said last week. "He's got good hands, he's a good athlete and he's got good body control. He's a line-drive hitter—it's a short stroke to the ball."

The Cardinals signed Dominican righthander Santo Franco. International scouts indicated that Franco's camp was seeking a $1 million bonus, but doubted that he would receive that much money. Franco, who is a lanky 6-foot-5 at around 185 pounds, has a fastball that has been up to 92 mph, with the potential for considerably more velocity as his frame fills out.

The Blue Jays signed Dominican shortstop Gustavo Pierre. Most scouts expect Pierre to move to the outfield, and the bonus was believed to be for $700,000.

The Rangers signed Venezuelan lefthander Vicente Escobar, a cousin of Brewers shortstop Alcides Escobar, for $350,000.

The Giants announced that they had signed righthander Luis Mateo from the Dominican Republic.