AL West International Signing Forecasts
The 2017-18 international signing period opens on Sunday, July 2. Here’s what to expect from each team in the American League West and the players they’re linked to, with each club’s bonus pool in parentheses.
Houston Astros ($4.75 million)
The Astros enter their first year of the $300,000 bonus limit for exceeding their 2016-17 pool. Two pitchers they’re linked to drew praise from other clubs as Top 50 candidates, including 6-foot-7 Brazilian righthander Heitor Tokar, who checked in at No. 50. Tokar is a good strike-thrower with a fastball that has touched the low-90s. Scouts from other clubs also liked Jairo Lopez, a 5-foot-11 Venezuelan righthander who misses a lot of bats with a lively fastball up to 91 mph and a potential out pitch curveball. Lopez is also expected to sign with the Astros.
Venezuelan outfielders Abrahan Castillo, Yimmy Cortabarria and Yefri Carrillo are other names that have popped up in connection with the Astros. So is Dominican righthander Jose Betances, who became eligible to sign last year. Betances has a big arm with a fastball that’s reached 95 mph but needs to improve his control. The Astros will also likely sign shortstop Rolando Espinoza, who played on Cuba's 16U World Cup team in Japan in 2015.
Los Angeles Angels ($4.75 million)
The Angels’ decision to break their bonus pool with an $8 million bonus for Cuban shortstop Roberto Baldoquin has not worked out. Baldoquin, 23, is struggling in low Class A and is a long shot to reach the majors. Unable to sign anyone for more than $300,000 the last two years, the Angels are making a competitive push in the international market this year.
Their class is expected to center around a pair of players from the Bahamas, led by outfielder Trent Deveaux, the No. 19 international prospect. Deveaux was eligible to sign a year ago, but a move from shortstop to the outfield and improved hitting while training in the Dominican Republic helped his stock, to the point where Deveaux is now likely to sign for more than $1 million. The Angels are also linked to another player from the Bahamas, switch-hitting center fielder D’Shawn Knowles (No. 37). Dominican outfielder Jose Reyes and Venzuelan lefthanders Jenrri Gonzalez and Willson Gomez are three other players connected to the Angels.
Oakland Athletics ($5.25 million)
It’s the first year of two for the A’s in the penalty box, so they won’t be able to sign anyone for more than $300,000. With one of the larger bonus pools this year, they’re a good candidate for other teams looking to acquire additional bonus pool money. One recognizable name the A’s are linked to is shortstop Daniel Bautista, who some think might fit best in the outfield. He’s the son of former major league outfielder Danny Bautista, who played 12 years in the big leagues from 1993-2004, mostly for the Diamondbacks and Tigers. Dominican shortstop Saul Sanchez, Venezuelan catcher Gleiker Davila and Venezuelan righthander Edwin Rojas are also connected to the A’s.
Seattle Mariners ($4.75 million)
The Mariners are expected to land the top power hitter in the class, Dominican outfielder Julio Rodriguez, when the signing period opens on July 2. Rodriguez, the No. 6 prospect in the class, has the upside to hit in the middle of a lineup and will likely sign for a little less than $2 million. Venezuelan shortstop Juan Querecuto, the No. 21 prospect, has been training in the Dominican Republic and stands out more for his baseball skills than his athleticism or one loud tool like Rodriguez’s power. The Mariners are expected sign both Rodriguez and Querecuto. Cuban lefthander Yorlenis Noa is another player linked to Seattle. The Mariners have found good value identifying pitchers with slightly lesser present stuff but loose, easy deliveries and high physical projection (Enyel de los Santos, Freddy Peralta) and will likely target similar pitching again.
Texas Rangers ($4.75 million)
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There was a point where it appeared the Rangers would sign the No. 2 prospect, Venezuelan catcher Daniel Flores, but that’s no longer the case, with Flores expected to sign with the Red Sox instead. The top two players the Rangers are linked to are from Venezuela, including shortstop Keyber Rodriguez, the No. 24 international prospect. Rodriguez is on the smaller side, but he’s an instinctive player with a good track record at the plate. An arm injury has somewhat clouded the status of Venezuelan center fielder Wilderd Patino (No. 27 prospect), but it’s likely he still goes to the Rangers. Texas is also connected to Mexican righthander Damian Mendoza, with a possible $1 million price, though since only the amount that goes to the player counts toward a team’s bonus pool (typically the Mexican League club pockets 75 percent), that wouldn’t take too much out of their pool. Venezuelan righthander Orcelis Gomez, Venezuelan outfielder Roimel Lascarro, Venezuelan shortstop Derwin Berreto and Dominican catcher Randy Florentino are other players with ties to Texas.