2020-21 MLB International Prospects Class
By Ben Badler
Our list below provides an overview of the international prospects expected to sign for the top bonuses in the 2020-21 class.
It is not a talent ranking—I'll get to that more below—but instead a board sorted by the expected top signing bonuses in the 2020-21 class, with reports on every player that include where they're expected to sign and videos. We will continue to add more information as we get closer to the signing date, which moved back from July 2, 2020 to Jan. 15, 2021.
Like last year, I do not believe it would be honest or fair to anyone—the players, the clubs or our readers—to publish a talent ranking yet, given the realities of how players are now being scouted in Latin America. Players are often committing to teams multiple years in advance of when they're eligible to sign, so many of them are no longer being rigorously scouted by 29 other clubs.
That's a continuation of an evolving trend in the industry. I wrote a story six years ago regarding how teams were scouting and trying to secure agreements with players younger than ever. That process has accelerated, as I wrote in a cover story last year before July 2, to the point that players are often committing to sign with teams at 13 and 14 years old.
In the United States, high school players routinely commit to colleges at the same ages. Blaze Jordan, one of the top 2020 high school draft prospects, committed to Mississippi State when he was 13. But unlike with international prospects, American players continue to play in front of scouts leading up to the draft in high school games, travel circuits and showcases. All 30 teams scouted Jordan and other top high school players last summer and would have continued to watch them all spring leading up to the draft—if the season hadn't been canceled.
It's different for international players. Once they commit to a club, they stop working out for other teams and don't get scouted at showcases. A scout from another club might happen to see that prospect at his trainer's field while going there to see other players in that program, but it's usually a quick glance at a player taking infield or batting practice, a look that's not suited for a more substantive evaluation.
During that window from age 14 to 16, players change significantly. They can put on 30 pounds, grow a few inches, go from a 30-runner to a 60-runner, or from a below-average arm to a plus arm and gain five mph of velocity. Or they stagnate and don't progress the way a team had anticipated. Those changes can happen in a few months, so a period of multiple years is enormous at that age.
The challenges are even more pronounced than usual right now due to Covid-19. Teams were prohibited by MLB rules from seeing players in person for six months between March and September, even if it was just to check in on players they're expecting to sign on Jan. 15. Even now, clubs are prohibited from bringing amateur players into their academies.
Rather than force a talent ranking right now that wouldn't meet our standards, I think an honest approach that adds the most value is to look at the 2020-21 international market as a whole, with our 2020-21 international board sorted by expected signing bonus. It's a good guide to the big prospects to know in the 2020-21 class that include a snapshot of each player and where they're expected to sign, plus videos of the players over the last few years. Out of caution, some Cuban free agents are not on the list because it's not clear yet which teams will sign them, but the board will be updated as that changes.
Our rankings of the Top 100 international signings from the 2019 class are available here.
Pedro LeonCuba OFVideoNotes:
Born: May 28, 1998. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 185.
Report: Leon became a free agent in the last international signing period, but he will wait until the new 2020-21 bonus pools start on Jan. 15 to sign. Soon after general manager James Click took over, the Astros had most of their 2020-21 international bonus pool still uncommitted in February 2020, when they reached a deal to sign Leon for around $4 million. Leon didn't play much in Serie Nacional in Cuba and wasn't scouted heavily by clubs when he left the country and began training in the Dominican Republic, so there's a lot of uncertainty with him at the moment. He has a smaller, muscled-up build and has shown the raw power to drive the ball out of the park from the middle of the field over to his pull side.More Less
Armando CruzDominican Republic SSVideoNotes:
Born: Jan. 16, 2004. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 165.
Report: The Nationals are expected to sign Cruz, with a bonus likely to be around $4 million. He's a defensive wizard with phenomenal hands and a strong arm, combining the ability to make acrobatic, highlight plays along with the internal clock and game savvy well beyond his years. There's more of a split camp on his offensive potential, but Cruz has a chance to be an elite defensive shortstop. He trains with John Carmona.More Less
Yiddi CappeCuba SSVideoNotes:
Born: Sept. 17, 2002. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 178.
Report: Cappe is 18, so he's old enough to have signed in the last international signing period. Yet because of how quickly the international market moves, teams had already unofficially committed big chunks of their bonus pool space to other players, which is why Cappe is instead waiting to sign—expected to be with the Marlins for around $3.5 million—once the 2020-21 period opens and the new pools kick in on Jan. 15. Cappe has a tall, extremely thin body type. He immediately draws attention in the field for his quickness, smooth hands and slick actions. Cappe has long, lanky limbs, which can add some length to his swing, and a lot of his future will depend on his physical development.More Less
Carlos ColmenarezVenezuela SSVideoNotes:
Born: Nov. 15, 2003. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 175.
Report: Colmenarez is arguably the best Venezuelan player in the class and is in the conversation among the top overall players this year. He makes everything look easy, starting with his pure, smooth swing from the left side. He stays calm with good rhythm and balance in the box, unleashing an an explosive, efficient stroke with good bat path. That leads to a lot of contact in games, with the strength and bat speed to generate impressive power as well. He has easy, fluid actions at shortstop as well. The Rays are expected to sign Colmenarez, who trains with Ponchipu in the Dominican Republic.More Less
Cristian HernandezDominican Republic SSVideoNotes:
Born: Dec. 13, 2003. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 165.
Report: On pure talent, Hernandez has a case to make as the top overall player in the international class. He has an outstanding, high-level swing, with fast bat speed and a barrel that stays on plane through the hitting zone for a long time. He has performed well in games and drives the ball with impact, giving him a chance for plus or better raw power, especially once he fills out his projectable build. Hernandez's bat is what generates the most attention, but he's also a good athlete and a plus runner. The Cubs are expected to sign Hernandez, who trains in the Mejia Top 10 program, for around $3.5 million.More Less
Cristian SantanaDominican Republic SSVideoNotes:
Born: Nov. 25, 2003. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 175.
Report: Santana is the top target this year for the Tigers, who are expected to sign him for around $3 million. The Tigers should know him well—he's a cousin of Tigers low Class A shortstop Wenceel Perez. Santana, who trains with El Niche, is one of the top shortstops in the class, standing out for his athleticism and ability to hit in games with a short swing and an advanced offensive approach for his age.More Less
Wilman DiazVenezuela SSVideoNotes:
Born: Nov. 15, 2003. B-T.: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 165.
Report: The Dodgers signed the top player in Venezuela in 2018 (catcher Diego Cartaya) and in 2019 (Luis Rodriguez). In 2020, they're again expected to sign a player in the mix as the country's top prospect in Diaz, who trains with Alexi Quiroz. The Dodgers have followed Diaz closely for years, having also signed Cartaya and 2019 catcher Yeiner Fernandez from the same program. Has has an athletic, projectable frame and high offensive upside, performing well in games with a loose, easy swing, good bat speed, a mature approach and big power.More Less
Shalin PolancoDominican Republic OFVideoNotes:
Born: Feb 6, 2004. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170.
Report: In 2019, the Pirates signed a high volume of international players, with their highest bonus ($850,000) going to Dominican righthander Cristopher Cruz. In 2020, they're expected to spend more for their top signing, with Polanco connected to the Pirates for a bonus of around $2.5 million. Scouts highest on Polanco liked his short, fluid lefthanded swing and power potential once he adds strength to his projectable frame. Polanco trains with Sandy Nin.More Less
Danny De AndradeVenezuela SSVideoNotes:
Born: April 10, 2004. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 165.
Report: De Andrade has been training in the Dominican Republic with Jaime Ramos and is expected to be the top signing this year for the Twins. De Andrade has quick hands, a sound swing and has performed well in games, with an approach geared to hit the ball to all fields. Mostly a line-drive hitter with doubles power early on, De Andrade has grown into more over-the-fence power lately as he's added strength. He has shown good instincts in the field as well, getting quick reads off the bat with good body control at shortstop.More Less
Manuel BeltreDominican Republic SSVideoNotes:
Born: June 9, 2004. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 165.
Report: One of the best hitters in the class, Beltre is a baseball rat who has spent years documenting his path to professional baseball on his social media accounts, sharing his daily training and highlights on his Instagram account of more than 60,000 followers. Beltre has a short, simple swing, performing well in games with a high contact rate, good feel for the strike zone and gap power. Beltre isn't as tooled-up as some of the other top prospects in the class, but he has a ton of game experience relative to his peers and it's evident in his all-around instincts and fundamentally sound play. Beltre, who trains trains with Jaime Ramos, is expected to sign with the Blue Jays.More Less
Pedro PinedaDominican Republic OFVideoNotes:
Born: Sept. 6, 2003. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 180.
Report: Pineda is a strong, athletic, physical center fielder with a loud tool set and a power/speed threat. He has excellent speed, a fast bat and the power potential to hit 25-plus home runs. Pineda trains with Nube and is expected to sign with the Athletics.More Less
Yoelki CespedesCuba OFNotes:
Born: Sept. 24, 1997. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 205.
Report: The 23-year-old brother Yoenis Cespedes, Yoelki looks to be ticketed to the White Sox for around $2 million, the latest in their run on Cuban players that includes righthander Norge Vera also in the class, following shortstop Yolbert Sanchez last year for $2.5 million, and outfielder Luis Robert and first baseman Jose Abreu before him. Cespedes played for Cuba in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but it’s hard to relay an accurate, reliable report that’s up to date like we normally would. Cespedes has been training at his brother’s ranch in Port St. Lucie, Fla. and hasn’t been scouted much due in part to the coronavirus pandemic and MLB’s scouting ban on international players that ended in September. He played for Granma in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, batting .273/.353/.400 in 289 plate appearances with 17 walks, 42 strikeouts and six home runs in the 2017-18 season. The next year was his final season in Cuba and he hit .319/.355/.389 with two walks, 18 strikeouts and no home runs in 77 PAs as a 21-year-old. He has a shorter but strong, athletic frame with added bulk since leaving Cuba, showing good bat speed and a strong arm from the outfield. More depth will probably have to wait until Cespedes gets tested and scouted against more live pitching.More Less
Denzer GuzmanDominican Republic SSVideoNotes:
Born: Feb. 8, 2004. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 178.
Report: Last year the Angels' top international signing was Arol Vera, a physical, switch-hitting shortstop from Venezuela. Their top target in 2020 is Guzman, another physical, offensive-oriented shortstop with a bonus expected to be around $2 million. Guzman makes a lot of contact against live pitching with a loose, easy swing, with the bat speed and physical projection to grow into considerable power as well. His strong arm should play on the left side of the infield, though his defense might fit better at third base.More Less
Yemal FloresDominican Republic OFVideoNotes:
Born: Nov. 22, 2003.B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 170.
Report: One of several players for this class in Jaime Ramos' program in line for a seven-figure bonus, Flores has a strong, sturdy build and big power. It comes at the expense of some swing-and-miss tendencies, but Flores generates loft, backspin and drives the ball with impact when he connects. A former third baseman, Flores moved to the outfield and fits best in a corner, with a strong arm for right field. He's expected to sign with the Phillies.More Less
Jackson Brayan ChourioVenezuela SS/OFNotes:
Born: March 11, 2004. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 150.
Report: The Brewers went heavy on Venezuelan prospects in their 2019 international class, led by two of the top outfielders last year in Hedbert Perez and Luis Medina. Their top signings this year are again likely to be Venezuelan prospects, led by Chourio, who has split time between shortstop and center field. A quick-twitch athlete with plus speed, Chourio has a skinny frame but drives the ball with surprising impact, generating lift and backspin with his swing to profile as a potential power/speed threat in the middle of the diamond. Chourio is represented by Cesar Suarez.More Less
Malvin ValdezDominican Republic OFVideoNotes:
Born: Oct. 14, 2003. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 174.
Report: Valdez is one of the most athletic, toolsy outfielders in the class. He's an explosive player with plus-plus speed and a plus arm, giving him the tools to be a high-level defender in the middle of the diamond. Valdez shines in a workout, though he's still raw in other facets of the game, with quick bat speed and a chance to hit for power, though his pitch recognition will need to improve. Valdez trained with Rudy Santin and is expected to sign with the Reds for close to $2 million.More Less
Jhonny PironDominican Republic OFVideoNotes:
Born: June 2, 2004. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 178.
Report: Piron, who trains at the Quality Baseball Academy, is expected to sign with the Rays for a bonus in the $1.5 to $2 million range. He's a lean, fast-twitch athlete, standing out for his quickness and speed in the middle of the field. He's a plus or better runner underway who accelerates quickly to cover a lot of ground in center field. Piron's pure hitting ability isn't as advanced as his raw athleticism, with some chase tendencies at the plate, but he has a quick bat and has started to drive the ball with more impact as he's added weight over the past year.More Less
Yeison MorrobelDominican Republic OFVideoNotes:
Born: Dec. 8, 2003. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 170.
Report: The Rangers are in on multiple players who are expected to sign seven-figure deals, with the biggest bonus expected to go to Morrobel, likely in the $1.5 to $2 million range. Morrobel has plenty of space to add strength to a lean, athletic frame. He has good bat speed and feel for finding the sweet spot in games, with a line-drive approach and gap power that has started to increase with strength gains. He's an average runner who could play center field or move to a corner depending on how his body and speed develop. Morrobel trains with Edgar Mercedes.More Less
Ariel AlmonteDominican Republic OFVideoNotes:
Born: Dec. 1, 2003. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 190.
Report: A pair of Dominican outfielders are expected to sign deals in the $1.5 to $2 million range with the Reds in 2020, including Almonte, who trains with German. Almonte is a tall, physical corner fielder, with a short swing for his size from the left side. He recognizes pitches well for his age and has easy power that projects to be plus once he's physically mature. He's not much of a runner but has a plus arm that should fit in right field.More Less
Miguel BleisDominican Republic OFVideoNotes:
Born: March 1, 2004. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 170.
Report: Bleis is one of the top athletes in the 2020-21 international class. He has a sleek, athletic frame with high physical upside. He glides around center field with an easy gait and long strides, with average speed that might tick up as he gets stronger along with a strong arm. He has a quick bat with gap power and a chance to turn more of his doubles into home runs once he gets stronger. The Red Sox are expected to sign Bleis, who trains in the Mejia Top 10 program.More Less
Victor AcostaDominican Republic SSVideoNotes:
Born: June 10, 2004. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 165.
Report: Acosta projects as a true shortstop with a chance to be a plus defender at the position. A plus runner with an above-average arm, Acosta has quick reactions off the bat and nimble footwork, with good body control and instincts in the field. A switch-hitter, Acosta has a slashing offensive approach, with more bat speed and power from the left side. He trains with Hector Evertz and is expected to sign with the Padres with a bonus in the $1.5 to $2 million range.More Less
Daniel VazquezDominican Republic SSVideoNotes:
Born: Dec. 15, 2003. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 158.
Report: The 2019 international class for the Royals centered around Erick Peña, a Dominican outfielder who got $3,897,500 and ranked as the No. 3 player in the class. This year, the Royals are planning to spread their money around more, with Vazquez their top target for a bonus expected to come in between $1.5 to $2 million. Vazquez has continued to grow taller and stayed lean over the past year while training with Jaime Ramos, showing a promising mix of athleticism, strength projection and good actions on both sides of the ball. He has a short, line-drive swing with good contact skills and gap power that should grow as he gets stronger, along with smooth actions and good body control in the field.More Less
Hans MonteroDominican Republic SSVideoNotes:
Born: Dec. 25, 2003. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 160.
Report: The Yankees landed the top international prospect in the 2019 class, signing Dominican center fielder Jasson Dominguez for $5.1 million. This year they're going to spread their bonus pool space around more, with Montero likely their top target. Montero projects to stay at shortstop, with soft hands, a strong arm and above-average speed. He has a short righthanded swing with a line-drive approach and gap power.More Less
Starlin AguilarDominican Republic INFVideoNotes:
Born: Jan. 26, 2004. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 177.
Report: Aguilar trained with Rudy Santin, whose program produced Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers and Rays shortstop Wander Franco. Like Devers and Franco, Aguilar has a sweet swing, a compact lefty stroke with excellent bat speed and good path through the hitting zone. He has good feel for manipulating the barrel and an all-fields approach, driving the ball out of the park now with the potential to grow into plus power. Aguilar has spent some time at shortstop, but he's an offensive-minded player and built similar to Devers, with third base likely where he fits best if his defense improves. He's expected to sign with the Mariners for around $1.5 million.More Less
Ambioris TavarezDominican Republic SSVideoNotes:
Born: Nov. 12, 2003. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175.
Report: As a penalty for their international signing violations, the Braves could not sign anyone for more than $10,000 during the most recent 2019-20 signing period. The penalties continue into the 2020-21 period that opens on Jan. 15 with a bonus pool that will be reduced by 50 percent. With the pool space they have, they are expected to make Tavarez, who trains with Fifo, their top signing, with a bonus likely around $1.5 million. Tavarez has shown good strength projection, fast bat speed, big raw power and a strong arm at shortstop, though some scouts think his defense will fit better at third base or the outfield.More Less