2013 International Signings In Review
The July 2 international signing day came and went a week and a half ago and like much of the rest of the baseball world, I spent the day reading half-baked scouting reports on 16-years-olds, many of whom I may never hear from again. As a dynasty leaguer, I feel compelled to read up on these guys because they will become relevant soon but I’ve always struggled with just how soon.
2015’s class has some older prospects at the top that will beat the timelines of the typical July 2 signee. 19-year-old Yadier Alvarez and 20-year-old Eddy Martinez are Cubans who MLB added to the July 2 pool and 18-year-old Lucius Fox played high school baseball and the showcase circuit in the United States. You should be aggressive with those three. What about the rest?
I went back and looked the 2013 international crop to see where some of its top prospects are today. This is just one class and I have no idea if it’s representative – maybe that’s a study for another day – but I thought it might be instructive in answering how long I can wait before I get serious about Jhailyn Ortiz, Wander Javier, Seuly Matias, and the rest of the Dominican’s teenage population.
Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago Cubs
Jimenez was universally considered the top prospect in the 2013 class and is a prototypical right field prospect. He stands 6’4″/205 and has a big arm to go with even bigger power potential. His .227/.268/.367 line in the Arizona League last year obviously isn’t very good but he was hampered by a shoulder injury and 17 years old. Jimenez’s 2015 season began with the short-season Northwest League’s Opening Day in mid-June and he’s been impressive in his first 16 games, registering a .302/.362/.413 triple-slash with a pair of home runs and generating positive reviews from scouts who have seen him. Jimenez has the kind of tools that can rocket him up a prospect list with a continued strong showing and though he’s still far away from the major leagues, we’ve arrived at the point where he should be owned in leagues that roster 150 or more prospects.
Gleyber Torres, SS, Chicago Cubs
Unlike Jimenez, who I suspect is still widely available because of how far he is away from the major leagues, if you’re just now coming around on Torres it’s too late. The 18-year-old shortstop took the last slot in Baseball Prospectus’ recent ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball and Baseball America was even more aggressive, ranking him 28th. Those rankings perhaps overstate Torres’ fantasy impact, as his power and speed are 45-50 grade tools. The second youngest player in the Midwest League can really hit though, as his .309/.377/.399 line shows. The future is bright for Torres but fantasy owners might look to capitalize on the differential between his real-life status and fantasy upside by finding a trade partner who is swayed by the former.
Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox
Welp, I guess these scouts are pretty good? Devers was ranked third in the class by Baseball America and sixth by MLB.com. Like Torres, Devers has ascended quickly and is spending his age-18 season in full-season low-A. Scouts have been raving about Devers, who sticks out on a loaded Greenville squad. His .294/.324/.439 line includes seven home runs, most of which have generated lusty tweets. I don’t need to go on here, Devers is a top 15 prospect in the game and Bret had him all the way up to 225 in his mid-season top 500 rankings update.
Marcos Diplan, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Diplan was the top pitcher for both Baseball America and MLB.com and holds the distinction of being the highest ranked player on either list to have been traded already, as he went from the Rangers to the Brewers as part of the Yovani Gallardo deal. At 5’11″/160 and lacking physical projection, he’ll hear persistent questions about whether he can start but that hasn’t stopped any number of live-armed Dominicans that came before him. Diplan has a fastball that can get to 95 as well as breaker and offspeed that are solid offerings for an 18-year-old. Four starts in to his 2015 season, he’s got a top five strikeout rate in the Northwest League but is struggling with both free passes and long balls. Diplan is a long ways from fantasy relevance and can be safely ignored for now.
Leonardo Molina, OF, New York Yankees
Molina was perhaps the best athlete in the 2013 and while much of his value came from the idea that he could eventually be a speedy, plus defender in centerfield, projections on his hitting were also positive because of his quick hands, bat speed, and projectable frame. Molina came stateside at age 16 last year to play in the Gulf Coast League and while a .193/.267/.260 triple-slash quantify his on-field struggles, scouts praised the tools they saw in the process. Baseball Prospectus was the high man on Molina in the offseason, with an ultra-aggressive eighth overall ranking in a solid Yankees system. Molina is hitting more in his second go-round in the GCL, slashing .298/.328/.333 in 63 plate appearances. The power hasn’t shown up yet but he’s a 17-year-old kid for a few more weeks and reports say he’s beginning to add bulk. On the down side, he’s only stolen eight bases in two years and that added size comes at the expense of a step or two. Molina remains forever away from the major leagues but it’s a profile that’s worth buying on the early side. The range of outcomes is extreme but if you play in a league with 200 or so rostered prospects, he’s worth the add now.
Micker Adolfo, OF, Chicago White Sox
The slugging rightfielder with double-plus raw was all the way up at number two on MLB.com’s board and though BA was a little more cautious with him, Adolfo was still inside the top ten. Adolfo played in the Arizona League last year and struggled with swing-and-miss, striking out 85 times in 179 at-bats. After positive reports from instructs, he’s struggling again in 2015, hitting .247/.314/.312 in his second turn in the desert. Adolfo is still striking out a bunch (22 in 77 at-bats) and the contact issues stemming from a long swing and aggressive approach (six walks so far) are preventing him from getting to his power in games. He hasn’t homered yet and only has three extra base hits. Patience with 18-year-olds is always recommended – in baseball and otherwise – but it’s fair to start asking some questions, especially when you compare Adolfo to the other elite hitters in the 2013 class.
So, what does this completely inexhaustive look at the top of the 2013 class tell us? If it’s representative – and again, I have no idea if it is – there are a couple prospects who will solidify their place among the game’s best in short order, a couple more whose tools point to a very bright future, and more still that have a long, long ways to go. None of this should be surprising since the starting point was a pool of 16-year-olds. It should also be noted that a couple lower ranked players from this class have become top prospects. Ozzie Albies is a top 50 guy and Franklyn Kilome is knocking on the door, though neither was ranked in Baseball America or MLB.com’s top 30 prospects on signing day.
As I mentioned above, 2015’s class is unique and you should be aggressive with Alvarez, Martinez, and Fox (and let’s be real, Vlad Jr. too…he’s a Vladimir Guerrero), but your approach with the rest is to gamble on a small handful of the top guys now if you’re in a deep league and wait and see with the rest, with an eye on scouting reports and quick, tools-based trigger.