A new crop of international amateur free agents have hit the market today, and teams are already chomping at the bit to sign them. Just 19 players are on the list, and with five teams spending well over the cap last year, just 15 teams will be able to bid on the top talent.
The top of the litter this year appear to be a bevy of Dominican players, including 16-year-olds, LHP Adan Silva, and RHP Ricardo Franco, along with 17-year-old LHP Manny Velenzuela. Silva is said to be demanding in the area of $2.6 million, but Franco and Valenzuela are seeking $4.8 and $4 million respectively.
The top position players are 16-year-old Venezuelan phenom Willie Ramirez, expected to develop into a contact-plus-power first baseman, who could command a signing bonus of $4.2 million, and Panamanian teen Marco Lopez, a highly-developed hitter for his age who patrols the infield corners. Lopez is said to be looking for a bonus in the area of $1.7 million.
The top value pick could be Hector Lozano, a 16-year-old Venezuelan who is tracking to be another good contact and power player, though he is still developing as an outfielder. Lozano has good bat speed, a great first-to-third time, and some discipline at the plate. He is seeking just $370K for a signing bonus.
While most teams will be bidding for the top available talent, several have spent themselves out of the 2018 amateur free agent race due to blowing over the cap last year.
The Arizona Cowboys, a team seemingly in desperate need constantly of younger talent in their organization, blew the budget at over $12.8 million last year. Under league rules, they cannot sign any player for more than $291,666 this year.
In 2017, the Cowboys went gangbusters on amateurs, with their top bonus of $2.44 million going to Dominican Jose Solis. Now 19, Solis is toiling away at A-level this season, and was named the #37 prospect in the league back in May. He’s an aggressive hurler with a dominant changeup, and hasn’t registered a loss yet this season.
The Dallas Deputies rang up over $14 million in signing bonuses to international amateurs last season, and that will also severely cramp their ability to play in this year’s market. They will have the same signing restriction as Arizona. The Deps biggest payout went to LHP Alex Rivera, now a 17-year-old waiting for a chance to break into rookie league, but projected to one day be a viciously dominant fastball-changeup pitcher with a great defensive mindset.
The Deputies signed 6 other amateurs last year with bonuses of over $1 million each, none of whom have been put on their rookie team yet. They will miss out on this year’s crop of youngsters, but have almost certainly loaded their international pool of talent considerably and will be better off for it in 3-5 years when these kids are working their way up through their pipeline.
Another team that overspent, though not quite so much, was the Detroit Motorheads. With a total outlay of just over $7.8 million, they looked frugal compared to Dallas and Arizona as they mined the pool for talent. But they made efficient signings, with $3.4 million going out to Dominican Mario Galindo, now a 17-year-old solid outfielder who has been tearing up rookie league this year, hitting .284 and stealing 29 bases. Earlier, Galindo was named the #48 prospect in the Bull League.
Rounding out the list of teams who will be restricted from international amateur signings this year are the Nevada Speeders, and Seattle Salts.
Though the international amateur signing cap is $3.5 million, most teams have budgeted well under this for 2018. Among the top serious bidders this year will be Boston, Calgary, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, Ohio, Rimouski, and Toronto. Each of those clubs has set aside over $1 million for signing bonuses to international amateur free agents.
Nevada and Seattle have budgeted a large amount each as well, but with their signing restrictions of $291,666 per individual player, they are not likely to land any true talent. The lowest anticipated signing bonus will still exceed the restricted amount by over $100K.
The international amateur free agent signing period opens today and runs until all 19 available players are signed.