Global Baseball

One man\’s year-long journey through the world of baseball

And We Have A Record… maybe?

If El Nuevo Herald can be trusted, the Boston Red Sox just obliterated the record international amateur signing bonus by inking Dominican SS/3B Michael Almanazar to a $3 million contract to open their 2007 signing season with a bang. Among other things, this ends the reign of Joel Guzman’s hold on the title, and the former Dodger turned Devil Rays farmhand will now almost certainly be relegated to obscurity.

Update: Reader Navin points out conflicting reports that have Almanazar’s bonus sitting at a measly $1.5 million.  Perhaps Guzman’s name will live on as an answer to an obscure trivia question for another year.

July 4, 2007 Posted by | Signing Period | 10 Comments

BA’s pre-Signing Period Article

Chris Kline, over at BA, offers up a laundry list of top international guys available this year.  When it comes to working the phones on the international guys, Kline’s the man.  The article is subscriber-only, but offers up some interesting nuggets I feel ok about reproducing here.

Most notably, this piece of information:

According to another source, the price tag for most players has been elevated this season because of the increased network of improved facilities and more agents than ever, especially in the Dominican and Venezuela, flooding those areas.

“It’s going to become more the norm than the exception,” a front office official from an American League club said. “The market is just so much more sophisticated than is was even five years ago.”

This has been happening the past few years, as the introduction of American agents has really revolutionized the international signing game, but the explosion of the market really went into overdrive last year, and signs point to that continuing.

The development of the international market and the closing of the gap in pricetags between Latin American players and players acquired through the draft is very good news.   The more sophisticated the infrastructure of international scouting becomes, the closer we get to the possibility of an international draft.

June 29, 2007 Posted by | Signing Period | 4 Comments

Taiwanese Signing

TaiwanBaseball is reporting another 6-figure signing out of the East China Sea.  This time, it’s the Cincinnati Reds making their first foray into the Taiwanese market, inking 19-year-old LHP Tzu-Kai Chiu to a signing bonus somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000.  Chiu’s apparently a pretty soft tosser, so if the price the TT’s hearing is accurate, this might be something of a statement signing on the Reds’ part, announcing their intentions to compete for top Taiwanese talent in the future.

March 17, 2007 Posted by | Signing Period, Taiwanese Baseball | 2 Comments

Next Year’s Signing Period

Baseball America and the New York Times have highlighted 4 Dominican outfielders on the early schedule for showcasing, but from what I’m hearing, this year’s Latin American crop is going to be heavy on pitching.  Two 16-year-old pitchers, one a rare top target from one of the several training programs on the fields adjacent to the Estadio Olympico in the middle of Santo Domingo, and the other from San Cristobal, are generating considerable buzz.  Apparently one of them has already turned down an $800,000 offer (though of course, any such offer would have to have been under the table, since we’re well in advance of July 2).

The top bonus I’m aware of for a “July 2” pitcher (that is, a 16/17 year old Latin American player) is Francisco Liriano’s $900,000 bonus back in 2000.  There may be a signing I don’t know about, but in any case, it’s only a matter of time before someone exceeds Liriano’s mark.  Maybe this is the year.

March 17, 2007 Posted by | Signing Period | 5 Comments

Red Sox 2007 International Signings

Same as the Yankees post: divided into Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Misc. International, and Misc. Latin America. I include certain Caribbean islands where they don’t necessarily speak Spanish in the Misc. Latin America category because, well, it’s convenient, and I don’t really feel like giving the Dutch Antilles its own category.

An aside before I list the amateur signings: the Red Sox seem to have signed live-armed Venezuelan pitcher Edgar Guaramato away from the Seattle Mariners. Guaramato was converted to the mound relatively late in his career (I believe at age 20), and rated as a top-20 prospect in the Northwest League by Baseball America during the 2005 offseason. He throws low-90s and consistently strikes out better than a batter an inning, but suffers from some pretty severe control issues. Guaramato’s a longshot at best after putting up an ERA north of 5 in relief in low-A last year, but not a bad free get by the BoSox scouting department.

Onto the new names.

Dominican Republic

Angel Beltre, OF, 17, $575,000

Oscar Tejada, SS, 17, $525,000

Juan Bonifacio, OF, 18

Eudi Cordones, 3B, 20

Marcial de Nieve, 18,

Eddie Lara, 1B, 18

Wilfred Pichardo, 2B, 17

Stolmy Pimentel, 17, RHP

Manuel Rivera, LHP, 17

Venezuela

Anthony Alvarado, RHP, 17

Pedro Chourio, 3B, 17

Alberto Conzalez, RHP, 19

Leandro Morin, RHP, 18

Ernesto Reyes, LHP, 16

Maykol Sanchez, C, 19

Misc. International

Michael Lennox, 3B, 17 (Australia)

Misc. Latin America

Randy Consuegua, RHP, 17 (Columbia)

Dennis Neuman, 17, RHP (Curacao)

March 17, 2007 Posted by | Minor League Free Agents, Signing Period | 3 Comments

Yankees 2007 International Signings

The most frequent question I get is whether or not I have information on any new international signings by team X. Almost always, the answer is no. At this point in the season, however, a lot of teams have released their media guides, both in hard cover form and .pdf. I have access to the latter, and figured I’d throw up a list of all of a random team’s new signings. Will I do this with all 30 teams? Almost certainly not. Will I do it again? If someone asks me for a specific team, sure.

We’ll start with the Yankees. I’ll add salary information when I know it, but I don’t have any new information since posting my list of known international bonuses back in January. For convenience’s sake, and because it’s important to me to see who’s scouting where (for research as well as contact purposes), I’ll break the signings down by country (read: Dominican, Venezuela, and Other).

Dominicans: (Name, Position, Age)

Aris de la Cruz, INF, 17
Jairo Heredia, RHP, 17
Ariesky Lupaix, OF, 18
Jimmy Paredes, INF, 18
Yaquensi Romero, OF, 17
Damian Taveras, INF, 17, $200,000
Jose Toussen, INF, 17
Carlos Urena, OF, 17, $350,000

Venezuelans

Alberto Acosta, INF, 17
Francisco Arcia, C, 17
Juan Mercano, LHP, 16
Jesus Montero, C, 17, $1,600,000
Jose Pirela, SS, 17, $300,000
Yohanny Reyes, RHP, 18

Other

Rogelio Noris, OF, 17, Mazatlan, Mexico

Almost all of these guys will be playing on one of the Yankees’ two Dominican Summer League teams come mid-June.

Non-DR or Venezuela areas where the Yankees are most active: Mexico and Panama.

March 6, 2007 Posted by | Signing Period | 14 Comments

BA Discusses This Year’s Crop

Chris Kline over at Baseball America has done yoeman’s work over the past 12 months or so in improving American sports media’s coverage of international signings by leaps and bounds. Last year, Kline surveyed a number of Latin American scouting directors and published a preliminary list of top names for the upcoming signing season – sending prospect junkies and hardcore fans into a frenzy daydreaming about their team’s next great Latin American (or Asian, or Australian) phenom.

Kline’s coverage starts early this year, in a blurb in his latest prospect pulse (subscriber only – sorry) . In it, he mentions 3 Dominican outfielders generating buzz as teams start formulating opinions and priorities in ancipation of July 2, 2007. The first names to remember: Ricardo Garcia, Itaniel Guzman, and Anderson Pujols (no clue if there’s any relation).

Kline also reports that he’s hearing the two Boston signees, Angel Beltre and Oscar Tejeda, along with Venezuelan Yankees’ signee Jose Pirela, are widely considered the best hauls/values of last year’s signing period. I’ve heard similar things about Beltre, who has been universally praised by everyone I’ve spoken to.

As exciting as it is to have real coverage of the international talent pool, we should remember that the whole process, while slightly more reliable than throwing darts blindfolded at sticky notes on a wall, is pretty much a crapshoot. This guy signed for $500,000 with the Cubs in 2002, and put together a .525 minor league OPS over 3 seasons before the team decided to try converting him to the mound in ’04. This one was an $800,000 signing just 3 years ago. This guy looks likely to resurrect his career as a relief pitcher after signing a bonus north of $700,000 to play third base in the late ’90s. And of course, the jury’s still out on this kid, inked to the largest bonus ($710,000) given to a pitcher in 2005, but initial results don’t look too hot (the Brewers are still cautiously optimistic).

Has Latin American scouting somehow gotten better in the past few years? Doubtful. The same guys are still in control of the budgets, and player development has not gotten any better regulated since teams handed out those contracts. It’s much more likely that the international scouting game is every bit the educated crapshoot it’s always been, and most (if not all) of the players who have become household names among their teams’ most dedicated fans thanks to unprecedented exposure will become colossal disappointments.

February 17, 2007 Posted by | Signing Period | 1 Comment

Picturing an Unsigned Dominican

21-year-old Arismendy Arias, formerly known as 19-year-old Jose Luis Arias.

Arias

Credit: Hector Acevedo

February 14, 2007 Posted by | Dominican Baseball, Signing Period | 2 Comments

Okinawa!/Taiwanese signing

Greetings from Okinawa!  I haven’t really gotten used to the fact that I’m half a world away from where I was about 72 hours ago yet, so I’ll probably be putting that ! in whenever I mention the name of the Japanese prefecture for awhile.  Okinawa!  It’s tough to say without getting excited.

This one slid under my radar, which is why we’re so fortunate to have guys like the Taiwanese Terror combing news feeds and milking inside connections to bring us the latest news from the Pacific Rim.  The Colorado Rockies have inked a 6’4″ Taiwanese pitcher named Sheng-An Kuo, who’s apparently a former high school teammate of current maddeningly talented but underperforming Rockies’ prospect Ching-Lung Lo.  According to the TT, Kuo received a bonus somewhere between $150-200k.

As a Mariners fan it pains me to admit it, but the Rockies probably have the best overall international scouting department in the majors.  Well, at least right now.  The Ms cast a wider net more effectively, leaving no stone unturned by scouting places like the Netherlands, Italy, South Africa, and apparently El Salvador, but the Rockies cast a relatively wide net while boasting a VERY successful Latin American program (without spending huge money)  to give them some of the best depth in international talent in the minors.

I want to say the track record for highly touted Taiwanese pitchers the last few years isn’t that great, and their injury rate tends to be pretty high, but not paying all that close attention to the couple dozen Taiwanese players in the minors, don’t hold me to it if it turns out I don’t know what I’m talking about.

February 11, 2007 Posted by | Signing Period, Taiwanese Baseball | 2 Comments

On Age-Gate

This is a direct response to a question I received in the comments section of my post on Arismendy Arias, and I figured it was worth its own post.

Reader Bill asks: “Do you know anything about Fernando Martinez’s age? There are rumors swirling about his real age. Can you find a definitive answer?

There are several rumors I’m hearing swirling around Martinez, from age to potential steroid use that caused 2 Dominican Mets’ scouts to lose their jobs, but nobody will confirm or deny anything. It’s worth pointing out that anytime a Dominican kid comes to the states and succeeds immediately at the age of 17, someone is going to float an age-related rumor. That being said, document falsification is very, very easy. and there’s a huge financial incentive to take advantage of it.

Easy + profitable = well, you do the math.

Of this year’s top international signings, I’ve heard age-related rumors (and reports of teams scaling down bonuses for undisclosed reasons) about pretty much everyone except Carlos Triunfel and Angel Beltre. With a guy like Angel Villalona, people are going to question his age just because of his size. (Then again, Villalona’s the kind of talent that pretty much makes age irrelevent) There’s a lot of “this kid’s cousin who knows a guy who trains with X in La Romana…” information floating around the DR for anyone interested in rumor-mongering to scoop up.
Unless the DR makes huge economic strides in the next decade and follows them up with substantial improvements to government infrastructure, age-gate and resulting rumors will never go away. Teams pay money to investigate players, but in a poor country, a lot of those guys can be bribed, and in general, it’s easy to find ways to sneak guys through.

There’s definitely a multimillion dollar “Juiced”-style book deal waiting for the first retired Latin American player to come forward, admit to falsifying papers, and write all the rumors down for hungry fans to devour. Hey, maybe I should pitch that to somebody and offer my services as a ghostwriter!

February 5, 2007 Posted by | Age-Gate, Dominican Baseball, Signing Period | 5 Comments