But the Rangers' team of scouts in Latin America––led by A.J. Preller and Mike Daly––took things to another level this year. The club dished out a pair of record bonuses and spent approximately $9.9 million on a trio of prospects.
While the following piece highlights the prospects that have officially signed, these aren't the only players the club will ink before next season. There will almost certainly be more deals announced down the line.
Many of the major signings (seven figure or high-six figure) were no doubt completed on July 2. But the Rangers will likely have a few more six-figure deals to come. Texas signed a handful of players––including middle infielders Rougned Odor, Luis Marte and Alberto Triunfel––to six-figure bonuses in late-2010.
The actual bonus figure––as Mazara was officially signed and introduced at a press conference in Arlington a few days later––was $4.95 million. It marked a record figure for any Latin American amateur player.
Oakland A's right-hander Michael Ynoa had the previous high bonus record at $4.25 million in 2008. And the former high for a Latin position player was Twins outfielder Miguel Sano, who signed for $3.15 million in '09. Mazara's deal shattered both.
While there isn't a wealth of scouting information on Mazara at this time, Jason Parks ran down two of the players on TexasFarmReview.com––his Rangers-centric prospects site. Parks wrote the following on Mazara:
Lots of speculation out there at this point, as will be the case until these players make the transition to professional baseball, but from what I've been told Mazara has enormous power potential, and one scout suggested it could eventually grade as a legit 80 on the 20/80 scale. The 16-year-old Dominican already stands 6'5" and has a frame to add serious mass to, which will limit his overall effective as an outfielder, but it shouldn't matter as the power is supposedly worth the price of admission. With hands classified as having heavy life, and a big leg kick that generates tremendous bat speed and a leveraged swing, it remains to be seen what kind of hitter Mazara will become. That said, the scout mentioned how extreme the power potential was; how easily the ball exploded from the bat. $5 million is a pretty hefty price, but hitters with 80-grade power potential don't grow on trees, and Mazara looks like the best power bat to emerge out of the Latin American market in several years. Impressive signing.
When Mazara traveled to Texas for his introductory press conference, he took a couple rounds of batting practice before the Rangers' game that night. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram was kind enough to take some video of the BP, which put Mazara's excellent raw power, fast hands, and big leg kick on display.
Guzman officially signed with the Rangers on July 9, and the figure given then was $3.45 million.
While Guzman's bonus isn't quite in Mazara's neighborhood, it is still rather unprecedented. Before this year's July 2 signing period, Sano had the record bonus for a Latin position player at $3.1 million. The Rangers have signed two outfielders to deals north of that.
Guzman's July 2 was a big one, as he also graduated from high school on the same day. He showcased his talents both in the Dominican Prospect League and in the States at the Under Armour All-American event in Chicago last year as a 15-year old.
The DPL has posted three videos of Guzman––one of him taking batting practice, a video feature, and a clip from the 2011 DPL home run derby. There is also a clip of Guzman making throws from the outfield and taking BP at an Under Armour All-American workout.
Guzman's advanced education for his age is evident in this video interview with Rangers' Spanish-language broadcaster Eleno Ornelas. Guzman, who speaks English in the video, is shown taking a few hacks in the batting cage.
Parks also provided a brief scouting report of Guzman's game on his website:
Viewed by many as the top positional talent available in the market, Guzman looks to be a potential plus hitter and plus power threat, with an easy swing that shows bat speed, torque, and barrel ability. The arm and range have been described as left-field quality, but again, we have to wait and see how these players translate to professional ball. My sources seem to think Guzman was the "no-brainer" offensive talent in the market thanks to his offensive projections and his overall intelligence, which is an attribute that can't be ignored when looking at talented so immature.
Both Mazara and Guzman––like all of this year's July 2 signings––have inked contracts for the 2012 season. For now, they'll go to the Rangers' Dominican complex in Boca Chica, where they will play in unofficial games before participating in fall instructional league.
The top signees will likely travel to Arizona for instructs in the U.S. All of them will attend Dominican instructs, which begin after U.S. instructs concludes in mid-October.
As of July 26, the Rangers haven't officially announced the Payano deal––but that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't coming eventually.
Mendez, who officially signed on July 24, received a $1.5 million bonus. It's the most money the Rangers have ever given to an amateur Latin American pitching prospect.
Widely considered to be the top Venezuelan southpaw in this year's international class, Mendez is a tall, projectable hurler that shows advanced feel for his secondary stuff.
According to Baseball America's Ben Badler, Mendez "is mostly in the mid-to-high 80s right now, though he does have a clean delivery, projectable size and some feel for his secondary pitches."
Mendez is property of the Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League––the same club that features Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus and outfielder Endy Chavez. The left-hander made three starts with the Navegantes' Liga Paralela club (winterball minor leagues) this winter. He worked seven innings, giving up two earned runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out four.
The Liga Paralela features a wide variety of players. Some––like Mendez––are extremely young. But a handful of more mature players, like the Rangers' Renny Osuna and David Paisano, also play in the circuit every season, as they wait for a call-up to the 'big' club.
As it turns out, the 5-foot-11, 150-pound outfielder received a $300,000 signing bonus.
While Pinto lacks a projectable body and power projection, he is an advanced all-around player. The left-handed hitter and lefty thrower played for the Navegantes in Liga Paralela (with Mendez) last season and batted .329/.396/.409 with 13 steals in 164 at-bats. He had 13 doubles and drew 19 walks while striking out just 11 times.
Pinto impressed his winterball club enough to suit up with the big team for one game last season, per this Spanish-language story. The prospect filled in for injured outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and says he was able to learn from current Rangers' centerfielder Endy Chavez.