Randy Smith: We got the go ahead from Sandy (Alderson) and Kevin (Towers) to go above and beyond the budget. We felt there were a couple of players worthy of that. Sandy and Kevin gave us a pretty healthy increase.
Talk about the seven guys you signed and what you saw in them that made them priorities for you and your staff.
Randy Smith: The first guy is a middle infielder, Jhonaton Spraut. He is a 16-year-old kid that is 6-foot-2, 175-pounds. A live, athletic body with a real nice stroke and some power to go with it. Runs well, shows pitch recognition at an early age. We are pretty excited about him.
There was some stiff competition for him. We were very aggressive on (signing Spraut) and obviously felt good with the results.
The other kid that we feel fits along those lines is Ryner Liriano. He is an outfielder. He just turned 16 on June 20.
He is a 5-tool corner outfielder with power, run and throw tools. Those are three that are above or slightly above average so this is a good looking corner athlete that we think is going to be fun one to watch develop.
We signed another outfielder named Jose Gonzalez. He is 16, 6-foot-2, 160-pounds. A corner outfielder as well. He makes consistent hard and loud contact with a plus arm – or average that will be plus in the future.
We signed a right-handed pitcher out of Venezuela named Freddie Cabrera. He is 17 and is 6-foot-3, 175-pounds. A good frame with the body potential. Right now, he is mid-80s, but we think that is projectable, and he has the makings of a very good slider.
A kid out of Curacao – Mariekson Gregorius – also 17, left-handed hitter but right-handed thrower that is 6-foot-1, 170-pounds. Very good athlete with a solid line drive type of contact hitter with exceptional arm strength. That is his tool that stands out – and his athleticism. He is an outfielder, but he can play anywhere. Great makeup in the way he goes about his business. Could be an interesting guy.
We signed a kid from Mexico – Mauricio Tabachnik – that is 6-foot-2, 185-pounds. He has a quick arm 87-88 MPH, a good body and we like the potential arm strength.
The guy we haven't talked about yet is Edinson Rincon. We signed him a little over a month ago and he will be 16 all year. This guy is special. He has a special bat. He shows pitch recognition and discipline already. At 16, he has a strong arm. He has outstanding makeup and has shown leadership ability already.
I can't say enough good things about this kid. He has exceeded our expectations initially with his makeup and his defense at third – he is better than I even thought he was.
I saw quite a few errors early in the year from him – what makes you say he is better?
Randy Smith: I was down there last week and saw him make a few errors. Really some is just being 16, rushing a throw. I saw one that he made the other day where the ball was hit to him with runners on first and second and no one was on second as he wanted to get the double play. He turned around to get the force at third and could not get back there and then made a short-hop throw. I am not saying he is going to be a Gold Glove third baseman, but he is better than what I thought when we signed him.
The thing that drew us in was the bat. His bat will play somewhere. The bat has a chance to be special.
He will play all this year at 16 and all next year at 17 – that is pretty young.
The same guys who turned 17 that you mentioned previously – Gregorius and Cabrera – they turned 17 during the season and were able to sign?
Randy Smith: They were eligible to sign last year and did not. It is not so much talent. Some of it is bonuses and some of it is guys just not ready to go yet – physical maturity. Both were eligible a year ago.
You didn't name anyone from Australia. That has been a market you have been aggressive in over the past few years.
Randy Smith: Nope, we didn't sign anyone out of Australia. We didn't see the players that really warranted us going after them. We followed some players and looked at. The crop next year is going to be better and we have a couple of guys on our radar screen. This year it wasn't a match.
When signing these guys – what is one lesson you have learned?
Randy Smith: Maybe the guy we signed for the least amount of money turns out to be the best player. You don't know because they are so young and you have to look so far down the road.
Was there one guy that got away – someone you really wanted to sign but signed elsewhere?
Randy Smith: Really, no. Well, that is not really true. There is always someone along the lines.
The three guys we really, really wanted, we got them. Rincon a month ago, Spraut and Liriano. It was a real shot in the arm for our program.
If you had an unlimited budget you would go after everyone. But, being realistic and realizing these kids are a long way from the big leagues, we stretched our budget thanks to Sandy and Kevin.
Who is the most instrumental in helping you scout this talent?
Randy Smith: Felix Francisco is the guy. But, we bring in everyone to the Dominican so they can compare what they have at home from Venezuela to Australia – Grady went down there – so we had a number of guys lay eyes on them and that was helpful.
You signed a few position players this year after going heavy in the pitcher department in year's past. What changed?
Randy Smith: Usually down there you are going to have more arms than position players because of supply and demand. You have to look at the financial commitment to get position players like we did this year.
How do you feel when you compare last year to this year?
Randy Smith: Last year, was a pretty good year for the Dominican program but I think we got quite a few guys off that top tier, the three guys in particular. Those are really top-tier players.
You look back over the course of the year (with signings since last July 2), (Jose) De Paula earlier in the year, (Juan) Chavez, (Luis) De La Cruz – these are kids we think can be pretty darned good. Some other guys may jump out as well. These are the guys we identify right now.
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