International Reviews: Oakland Athletics
Total 2017 signings: 30.
Top 2017-18 signing: Several at $300,000.
Since the Athletics busted through their international bonus pool in 2016-17, they were capped at signing bonuses of no more than $300,000 during the 2017-18 international signing period, which opened last year on July 2. It’s the first of a two-year penalty for the A’s, who will be under the same restrictions in the upcoming 2018-19 period.
The top player the A’s signed during the 2017-18 period was 17-year-old Danny Bautista Jr., who got a $300,000 contract in October out of the Dominican Republic. Bautista’s father, Danny Bautista, had a 12-year major league career from 1993-2004 as an outfielder with the Tigers, Braves, Marlins and D-backs, and Bautista Jr. was born in Phoenix while his dad played for Arizona.
Bautista Jr. has a good combination of athleticism to play a premium position and game polish relative to his peers. No surprise given his background, Bautista has good baseball acumen, which shows in a righthanded swing with good path to the hitting zone and an advanced approach for his age. Bautista has quick bat speed, with a line-drive stroke and gap power, and the frame (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) to develop more power as he gets stronger. Bautista should play somewhere in the middle of the diamond. He’s a plus runner with a solid-average arm and signed as a shortstop, though he could see time in center field at some point, too.
The A’s gave $300,000 to a handful of other players as well, including 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Jhoan Paulino on July 2. He’s a projectable 6 feet, 160 pounds, with a high waist who impressed the A’s with his ability to consistently square up live pitching. An average runner, Paulino is a righthanded hitter with gap power and the physical upside to grow into more extra-base juice. While his bat stood out initially, he is a good athlete who has improved his defense, giving him a chance to stay at shortstop.
The top pitcher the A’s signed last year was Wilkin Ramos, a 17-year-old Dominican righthander who got a $300,000 deal in July. Ramos is tall and lanky with long limbs on a 6-foot-5, 165-pound frame that screams projection. Ramos signed with a fastball that touched around 90 mph and he has since reached 92 mph, with quick arm speed and the upside to add velocity once he packs on weight. Ramos has a solid delivery for a lanky teenager and has shown good movement on a slider with three-quarters action.
The other $300,000 bonus the A’s gave last year went to lefthanded Dominican outfielder Juan Santana, who turned 16 on July 17 and signed shortly thereafter. Santana stood out for his size and future strength projection in his lean 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame. A corner outfielder, Santana is still raw as a hitter, but he has a chance to hit for power if his bat develops.
Geykler Davila is an offensive-minded Venezuelan catcher the A’s signed for $250,000 in July. Davila, 17, has a strong, sturdy build (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) and performed well in games from the right side of the plate. Davila has shown a knack for hitting in games, with the strength to hit for solid power as a catcher. Davila has a good arm, but he will have to clean up a lot with his receiving and blocking to show he can remain at the position. He trained with Andres Puerta.
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Coming from the Bahamas, 17-year-old center fielder Davonn Mackey doesn’t have the same baseball experience as other 2017 signings from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, but the raw tools and upside were enough for the A’s to sign him for $225,000 in July. Mackey’s baseball skills are still crude but he has a projectable, athletic frame (6-foot-2, 170 pounds) with plus speed to stay in center and flashes of burgeoning power from the right side of the plate.
Dairon Blanco is an 80 runner from Cuba who signed with the A’s for $200,000 in December. At 25, Blanco is much older than the rest of the A’s class, but he was still subject to the international bonus pools. Blanco played in Cuba’s Serie Nacional during the 2015-16 season and got off to a rough start, then rebounded to finish the year at .296/.351/.427 with 29 walks and 42 strikeouts in 373 plate appearances. One of the fastest players in Cuba, Blanco also led the league in both stolen bases (29 in 33 attempts) and triples (8). At 6 feet, 170 pounds, Blanco is an excellent athlete whose speed is his calling card. Despite his experience he’s still more tools than skills, both from the right side of the plate and with his defensive instincts, although he did win a gold glove award in Cuba.
Colombian corner outfielder Marshall Cantillo signed with the A’s for $200,000 in July. As an amateur, Cantillo played the outfield and pitched, and while some scouts thought he showed more potential on the mound, his preference was to sign as a hitter. Cantillo, 17, is 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, with a righthanded bat that will take patience to develop. His plus arm is his best tool, making him a pitching conversion candidate at some point.
Dominican outfielder Kelvin Garcia, 17, signed with the A’s for $200,000 in July. Garcia’s best tool is his power, with a projectable 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame to add more thump over the next few years. Garcia is a corner outfielder with a power-over-hit profile.
Joshwan Wright is a 17-year-old infielder who had experience representing Panama at multiple international youth tournaments prior to signing with the A’s for $175,000 on July 2. He’s little (5-foot-8, 150 pounds), but is an instinctual player who stands out more in games than a workout. He’s a switch-hitter with a mechanically sound swing that helps him make frequent contact with a strong performance record as an amateur. Wright can occasionally shoot a ball to the alleys, but he’s mostly a line-drive hitter who might occasionally sneak a few balls out to his pull side down the road. Wright is playing second base now, with a chance to get some experience at third as well.