With rookie league action not set to start until June, the Cubs continue to add to their ranks with their 2016 International Free Agent class. The Cubs went over their spending allotment in 2015 and under the former CBA, cannot spend over $350,000 on any prospect. With many of the top players going for $1 million plus, the Cubs scouts were limited but signed players from seven countries.
Headed by scout Sergio Hernandez, the Cubs have been successful in acquiring players from Mexico the past three years, including five more this signing period. Second baseman Carlos Sepulveda became a Cub in 2014 and played last year in South Bend, showing good skills with the bat and glove.
The Cubs inked six prospects from Mexico during the 2015 signing period, including right-handed pitcher Jose Albertos for a reported $1.5 million. Shortstop Isaac Paredes earned all-star honors in the Arizona Rookie League and was promoted to South Bend for the playoffs, where he teamed with Sepulveda.
Since the July 2 signing period opened, the Cubs have added five players from Mexico, including four pitchers, one the Mexican League’s 2015 Rookie of the Year. After debuting as a 17-year-old for Yucatan, Manuel Rodriguez earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2015, posting a 4-0 record with a 1.84 ERA in 50 games out of the bullpen. The right-hander fanned 45 over 49 IP while walking 20 and holding hitters to a .222 BAA. Signing for a reported $100,000 bonus, Rodriguez only threw 16 innings in 2016 that included two stints on the reserve list and ended his year in June.
Rodriguez wasn’t the only hurler the Cubs signed off the Yucatan roster, inking 26-year-old Mario Meza. The right-hander made his Mexican League debut back in 2012 and has played with three different teams. Leading the league with 24 holds in 2016, Meza was 4-2 with a 1.59 ERA in 53 relief appearances, fanning 51 over 51 innings.
The Cubs also dipped into Yucatan’s “minors” and added 17-year-old left-hander Ferrol Heredia Signed for a reported $50,000 bonus, Heredia has a fastball in the 88-91 range with a good curve.
Francisco Gracia, an 18-year-old right-hander, was the fourth pitcher signed out of Mexico. The 6-foot Gracia is a product of the Mexico City Red Devils Baseball Academy.
The mound wasn’t the only place the Cubs added prospects, inking outfielder Carlos Pacheco. Pacheco was cited as a five-tool player but according to Hernandez, his best tool is his bat. Pacheco should start his pro career in the DSL.
The Cubs agreed to terms with ten more pitchers from five different countries, including Columbian Danis Correa, who received a reported $225,000 bonus. The 17-year-old throws right-handed and joins countryman Erling Moreno in the Cubs system. Chi-Feng Lee, an 18-year-old right-hander from Taiwan, signed for $30,000.
Other pitchers signed by the Cubs include
LH Carmelo Alfonzo, 19, Venezuela, 6-foot-, 177 pounds
RH Keiber Arredondo, 19, Venezuela, 6-foot, 178
LH Jonathan Bruzuall, 16, Venezuela, 6-foot-1, 172
RH Kleiber Carreno, 18, Venezuela, 6-foot-2, 165
RH Yovanny Cruz, 17, Dominican Republic, 6-foot-1, 190
RH Jose Gomez, 19, Dominican Republic, 6-foot-2, 165
RH Denmy Sanchez 18, Dominican Republic, 6-foot, 190.
LH Didier Vargas, 17, Panama, 6-foot, 175
While a majority of the IFA class are pitchers, the Cubs did add four infielders including these shortstops— Josue Huma (S/R, 6-foot-1, 175) and Vicente King (R/R, 5-foot-7, 160), both 16-year-olds from the Dominican Republic, and Oswaldo Pina, 18, Venezuela. Jeinser Brete, a 16-year-old third baseman from the Dominican, is six feet tall and bats right-handed.
A pair of outfielders from Venezuela—Ricardo Verenzuela, 16, (L/R, 6-foot, 175) and Carmelo Alfonzo, 18, (L/R, 6-foot, 177)—will start their pro careers in the DSL.
You can expect most of these players to begin their pro careers in the Dominican Summer League with the exception of Lee, Meza and Rodriguez.