The Yankees may have missed out on Shohei Ohtani, but there are still a ton of international prospects available for them to spend the $3.5 million they still have in IFA money on. It was a bummer when Ohtani didn’t even give the Yankees a seat at the table, but there are still some major talents on the board internationally and the consolation prizes may help alleviate some of the hurt we are all feeling right now. Let’s all let out a cathartic “if you’re scared of big markets you couldn’t make it in New York anyway!” and move on to the guys who may want to have a future in the best city in the world.
Two new developments have made this IFA period even more interesting. The Braves were recently penalized for inappropriate signing practices with international free agents and 13 more international players just became available. Two of them, Kevin Maitan and Yefry Del Rosario, already signed with teams (the Angels and the Royals respectively). The other development is that Julio Pablo Martinez just migrated out of Cuba and will likely declare free agency this offseason. He instantly becomes perhaps the best consolation prize to Shohei Ohtani on the market now.
So far in this signing period, the Yankees have already made a bit of a splash. They signed four players on Baseball America’s top 50, and three of the top 15 talents as per both Baseball America and MLB.com.
- Everson Pereira – 5-foot-11, 165-pounds, RHB, CF, 16-years-old – Considered one of the most well-rounded prospects in this year’s class, Pereira has everything he needs in his tool belt. He projects to stick in center field, is a plus runner, and has a good arm. He has a good, short swing path and the bat speed is a positive as well. He has good hand eye coordination and gets the barrel on the ball. He has gap power which could become better as he gets stronger. He’s the best prospect the Yankees were able to get this signing period, and has everything in place to be an impact prospect if things go well.
- Ronny Rojas – 6-foot-0, 170-pounds, SH, SS, 16-years-old – He’s got patience, contact skills, the ability to barrel the baseball, and a smooth swing from both sides of the plate. The power is already notable. He has all of the tools needed to be an impact bat. Defensively there are questions about whether he will stick at short or have to move to second later. He has above average speed and average arm strength for a short stop. He too has the tools to be an impact prospect, now it’s time to get the Yankees’ development team to work on him.
- Roberto Chirinos – 6-foot-0, 165-pounds, RHB, SS, 17-years-old – Defensively, Chirinos already has versatility as he can play infield or outfield. He has the ability to play shortstop, including the hands and the arm. The only question about whether or not he sticks at short is his range. Long term he could be moved to second, third, outfield, or all of the above. Offensively he has a short bat path and good bat speed. He barrels the ball well and has gap power. These kids are so young and so much can change over the years, so he is one to keep tabs on.
- Anthony Garcia – 6-foot-5, 205-pounds, SH, OF, 17-years-old – He’s a big dude with surprising athleticism and above average power. Unsurprisingly he has an issue with making contact, but has excellent bat speed and could become a serious power threat over time. He currently has plus speed, especially for his size but is expected to settle in as a corner outfielder over time. Lots of play dough to mold here.
The following are all of the other signings by the Yankees. None of these guys have scouting reports available anywhere, but they are worth mentioning. You never know when one of these guys is going to end up becoming the next Luis Severino or Estevan Florial. Sometimes the low dollar signings are the best ones, especially with the Yankees
Stanley Rosario – OF, Miguel Marte – SS, Enyerberth Ascanio – C, Alfred Vega – RHP, Nelson Medina – CF, Ezequiel Duran – SS, Jose Martinez – 3B, Yordy Nunez – RHP, Victor Soteldo – RHP, Angel Rojas – SS, Reiner Ascanio – C.
The Braves Group
Since Kevin Maitan and Yefri Del Rosario have already been signed, that leaves the following guys still available.
- Yunior Severino – 6-foot-1, 185-pounds, SH, 2B, 17-years-old – He’s got good power and bat speed, and makes hard contact when his swing is in sync. He’s not quick and needs to improve defensively at second base to stay there, but the offensive profile is impressive and he had a good season in the GCL. He hit .286/.345/.444 with 3 HR, 17 doubles, and two triples. He strikes out too much as of now and this will be another area he looks to improve going forward. Ranked the 15th best prospect in the GCL, the Yankees would love to scoop him up as a lottery ticket who has already showed promise at the lower levels.
- Abrahan Gutierrez – 6-foot-2, 214-pounds, RHB, C, 18-years-old – Gutierrez is a big catcher who is expected to stick at the position and hit for power long term. He has been around the game for a long time and has excellent foot work and a good enough arm to stick behind the dish. The big question with him is going to be whether or not he can hit enough long term. This year he hit .264/.319/.357/.676 with one homerun and nine doubles in 35 games. He struck out just 21 times, showing good contact. The Yankees could use some lower level depth at catcher so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees take a chance on him. He was the 15th ranked international prospect in 2016.
- Livan Soto – 6-foot-0, 160-pounds, RHB, SS, 17-years-old – Soto was the 16th ranked international prospect in 2016. He has good hands and instincts at shortsto, and is an average runner. He has a plus arm and scouts think he will be a plus defender. He has good bat control and takes it the other way. There is very little power at this point. This year he hit .225/.332/.254/.586 in the GCL with five doubles and seven SB. If he can catch up with the bat a bit he could be an asset going forward. Think Kyle Holder.
- Ji-Hwan Bae – 6-foot-1, 170-pounds, LHB, SS, 18-years-old – One of the 2017 signings, Bae is a well-rounded, athletic middle infield who could stay at short. He has plus speed and not much power. He still hasn’t played in the United States yet and wasn’t a high profile international free agent this year so not much else is known about him at this point.
- Juan Contreras – 6-foot-2, 180-pounds, RHP, 18-years-old – Contreras struggled in his stateside debut in the GCL, with 21 BB and just 12 K in 19.2 innings. He also had a 5.95 ERA. What he lacks in performance though, he certainly has in arm strength. He’s already throwing 92-97 mph and is big enough to add more velocity. He has no legitimate secondary pitches yet either. More of a long term project at this point, maybe the Yankees can buy low on him and mold him into another 100 mph beast.
- Yenci Pena – 6-foot-2, 180-pounds, RHB, SS, 17-years-old – He has good bat speed, a good swing, and has a strong, wiry frame. He could grow into some power as well. Scouts don’t think he will stick at shortstop, and he’s likely a third baseman long term. He didn’t do much in the DSL this year, but his development still has a long way to go. He hit .230/.328/.327/.655 with two homeruns, eight doubles, one triple, and seven SB in 45 games. If the Yankees believe the tools are there they could take a flier on him.
- Guillermo Zuniga – 6-foot-3, 195-pounds, RHP, 19-years-old – A converted outfielder who now throws 93-96 mph, Zuniga is still very raw but that also means he still has a ton of upside. He’s still very inexperienced but has the makings of a good curveball. He’d probably still be relatively low cost and would be a huge upside play.
- Juan Carlos Negret – 6-foot-1, 190-pounds, RHB, CF, 18-years-old – I don’t know much about Negret except that he is fast and athletic enough to play center field. He played well in the DSL with a .264/.410/.391/.801 line in 50 games. He had two homeruns, 14 doubles, and one triple and stole 23 bases. He also struck out 47 times in 50 games. Seems like he has a power and speed combo and if things break right he could be a valuable asset to whatever team signs him. He wouldn’t be a huge get at this point but he could end up being a bargain if he takes a leap forward in his development.
Others: Antonio Sucre, Angel Rojas, Brandol Mezquita
Traditional International Free Agents
- Julio Pablo Martinez – 5-foot-10, 180-pounds, LHB, CF, 21-years-old – He is a classic power and speed combo centerfielder. He was a stud last year in Cuba’s professional league, hitting .333/.469/.498/.967 with just 30 K in 264 plate appearances. He had 52 walks, six homeruns, and 24 SB. According to scouts, he’d be well suited for High-A or Double-A this season. He’d be a great addition to the farm system and probably an immediate top 100 prospect. He’d be some healthy competition for Estevan Florial and also even more depth at the position. There is an upcoming vacancy in centerfield with Brett Gardner’s impending departure, so it would be nice to have two guys in the upper minors who might be capable of filling the vacancy. Now that Ohtani and Maitan are no longer available, this is the top guy left. He could end up being a star too.
- Raimfer Salinas – 6-foot-0, 175-pounds, RHB, CF, 16-years-old – Turning 17 on December 31st, Salinas has tools galore. He has plus speed, a plus arm, and good baserunning. He is likely to add more speed as the years progress too. He has good patience and bat speed, and hits to all fields. Salinas possesses above average power, especially for a centerfielder. He’s still pretty raw, and has some swing and miss to him, but with his toolset he has the potential to be an impact prospect. He’s ranked 10th by baseball America and 6th by MLB.com
- Osleivis Basabe – 6-foot-0, 150-pounds, RHB, SS/CF, 17-years-old – Basabe is another one of these tools galore type of kids. He has plus speed and can play shortstop and centerfield. He has a plus arm to go along with his plus speed. He has good bat speed but his hitting needs work. If someone can clean up his swing and get him in a good development program, a team could develop him into a star. He is definitely a long term project though. He is an excellent base runner and despite unconventional swing mechanics has developed a knack for hitting line drives with gap power. Baseball America ranks him 46th and MLB.com ranks him 25th. The Yankees have always been the favorites to sign him, but there’s a question whether he will sign in 2017 or 2018. 2018 would be better for the Yankees since he is considered a long term project and this gives them another year of control.
- Antonio Cabello – 5-foot-10, 160-pounds, RHB, C, 17-years-old – He is strong, athletic, and can play second base, centerfield, and catcher. He actually has plus speed as aa catcher. He’s a good catcher with a solid arm and solid catch and throw. At the plate he has good hand-eye coordination and has quick wrists and a short path. He has good patience, and has been a really good hitter in games. The Yankees are looking for catcher prospects so he would be a good choice for them as a guy who has now talent with some real physical tools. He’s ranked number 8 by MLB.com and number 15 by Baseball America.
- Jelfry Marte – 5-foot-10, 140-pounds, SH, SS, 16-years-old – He’s a plus runner and will for sure stay at shortstop. He makes a lot of good, hard contact and has good bat speed. He is expected to grow and mature and possibly develop some power over time. He signed with the twins for $3 million but the contract was voided because of vision issues. If it is something correctable he could still have a lot of value and might be worth a flier. He definitely has a ton of tools, even if vision isn’t currently one of them. He’s ranked number 13 by Baseball America and number 3 by MLB.com.
- Mauro Bonifacio – 6-foot-5, 205-pounds, RHB, OF, 16-years-old – He has above average speed, moves well for his size, and obviously has a ton of power potential with his size. He has a lot of swing and miss which is not surprising. In the field he has good routes and an average arm. A guy like him has a world of potential but also a high probability to busting. At the right price he might be a good guy to get into the system, although he’s gonna need a lot of seasoning and is a long term project for sure. He’s ranked number 34 by Baseball America and unranked by MLB.com.
- Wildred Patino – 6-foot-1, 175-pounds, RHB, CF, 16-years-old – He is another plus-plus runner and good range in the outfield. His arm strength is a question mark, but he has tremendous athleticism. His bat is also a question mark though. He does have gap power already, but there are a lot of question marks with him. When he’s this young though, the question marks don’t matter as much. All of these kids are lottery tickets of sorts. Many times the best ones end up busting and others come out of nowhere to become the next Luis Severino or Estevan Florial. Only time will tell. He’s ranked number 27 by Baseball America and 25 by MLB.com
- Stir Candelario – 5-foot-11, 170-pounds, RHB, OF, 17-years-old – Apparently already equipped with a cannon for an arm, Candelario is one of the more intriguing guys who is not even on Baseball America’s top 50. He is ranked 29th by MLB.com, who states some scouts think he has the potential to hit for plus-plus power. That’s always something that should make teams take notice. He has trouble with breaking balls and off-speed pitches, and his speed is nothing to write home about. That said, to get the kind of power he reportedly has is always good. He is connected with the Mariners currently, but with Shohei Otani still on the table for them, the Yankees could try to sneak in and grab him.