MLB Draft Coverage
2014 MLB Draft Reactions: Day One Live Blog
2014 MLB Draft Rankings: The Draft Board
2014 MLB Draft Podcast: Jim Callis
Not a whole lot has changed since I shared all the info I had in February and that's indicative of some of the problem with this year's crop and the rules in the CBA. With teams getting more comfortable with the new CBA, the unintended consequences have now emerged:
1) large revenue teams (the Yankees most egregiously this year, but others as well) are blowing everyone out of the water financially while most teams play by the rules
2) players agree to bonuses at age 15 and sometimes 14 as clubs see that as the only way to lock in a discounted bonus, with most teams treating the bonus pools as hard caps
Yankees Pace The Spenders
As I reported first back in January, the Yankees are set to spend over $20 million in bonuses and penalties, though the list of players they are signing isn't as clear as it was back then. Everyone I talked to agreed that the Bombers had locked up 6 kids in December and had another wave of signings scheduled for this spring. That wave never really happened as scouts believe the media attention from my initial report pushed a few clubs over the line from possibly going over their bonus pool to definitely doing it, especially with rumors that the Yankees' actions has sped up the timetable for an international draft. That combined with the usual acrimony from agents, kids and teams trying to find the best deals despite standing verbal agreements and the Yankees not wanting to wildly overpay for every player led to a more reasonable outlay than initially expected.
It's way too early to know if the Yankees will get the desired effect from this July 2nd class, but there are some things a majority of scouts agree on. The Yankees didn't get the best player this year, with most saying that title belongs to Dominican infielders Adrian Rondon or Gilbert Lara, though the Yankees did get a bunch of guys ranked just behind them. The Bombers are also in play for Colombian mystery man Bryan Emery and at least one international scouting director told me he may be the best player in the crop, so my opinion may change if they end up with him.
My calculations have the Yankees spending about $15 million on bonuses, which would trigger another roughly $12.5 million in penalties. The previous bonus record was set by the Rangers in 2011, who also spent roughly $15 million in the last year before this current CBA, so there were no bonus pools or penalties to worry about that year. One funny suggestion from a scout is that the Yankees could trade some of their signing pool space for big league help, as all that would cost them is a higher penalty payment, of which they're obviously already going to pay plenty.
The two players in the Yankees' crop that scouts tend to agree on is Dominican 3B Nelson Gomez and Korean SS Hyo-Joon Park. Neither is a superstar and some think the price for Gomez is a little steep, but they all tend to agree both are solid players with everyday upside. The opinions on the other major Yankee signings vary from "yeah, I like him for that price" to "that guy might not get out of A-Ball"; such is how opinions vary when you're scouting immature kids at ages 15 and 16.
The verdict right now is that this crop is pretty average for the price, but getting lots of seven figure type kids is as good as way as anyone knows to get good big leaguers from this market, so take that news in context. It's also worth noting there's still another half dozen kids out there connected to the Yankees with no word of done deals, so the bonuses could still go much higher as could the estimation of this class.
How 2014 Differs From 2013
With teams scrambling to get players locked up earlier and earlier to get those savings on the big bonuses (and rumors that 2015 July 2nd kids are already locked up, with lots of firm offers already extended), most of the top players in the class were locked up before I got down to the Dominican in January, and thus weren't showcased, so I couldn't see them. About half of those already locked up still showed up to some of the events in a limited capacity, but Rondon, Gomez, Emery and Espinoza all didn't show up, so it's hard for me to have a hard opinion on them, though I've heard a lot from scouts.
2. Marlins: $4,622,400
3. White Sox: $4,273,200
4. Cubs: $3,962,700
5. Twins: $3,686,600
6. Mariners: $3,440,700
7. Phillies: $3,221,800
8. Rockies: $3,026,700
9. Blue Jays: $2,852,900
10. Mets: $2,697,800
11. Brewers: $2,611,800
12. Padres: $2,531,200
13. Giants: $2,455,300
14. Angels: $2,383,700
15. D'backs: $2,316,600
16. Orioles: $2,253,100
17. Yankees: $2,193,100
18. Royals: $2,136,800
19. Nationals: $2,083,600
20. Reds: $2,033,400
21. Rangers: $2,015,500
22. Rays: $1,998,100
23. Indians: $1,980,700
24. Dodgers: $1,963,800
25. Tigers: $1,946,900
26. Pirates: $1,930,400
27. Athletics: $1,913,900
28. Braves: $1,897,900
29. Red Sox: $1,881,700
30. Cardinals: $1,866,300
See this article for a breakdown of the penalties for going over your pool.
Source for bonus pool info
For this reason, I opted to just rank the players in this year's class based on expected bonus rather than also ranking my top 10-15 players on talent. That said, you can probably tell which players I and the scouts I talked to like the most based on the comments. My looks are always limited—usually a handful of games and workouts over a couple months—but in this case I didn't see a couple of the top prospects and the looks are getting even more segmented than before with buscones looking to control the looks scouts get more than ever. It's also worth noting that the consensus is this is a down crop from recent years, with some of last year's top players, such as SS Gleyber Torres and RF Eloy Jimenez (now both with the Cubs), both being better than anyone in this class.
For example, one of the Yankees' early deal guys (OF Jonathan Amundaray) didn't really stand out when I saw him in January, but I was told he had shown better in other settings, so I chalked it up to a bad look. I was told he was a raw guy with big power he didn't show in the BP I saw, but he struggles in games, while other scouts told me he was a game-oriented guy that doesn't gear his training for showcases but stands out in game situations. I was told he was the best guy the Yankees got and I was told he looked so bad at times the Yankees tried to wiggle out of the deal. I've never had anything close to this level of disagreement on an domestic high school prospect; you can disagree on projection but the basic information and general evaluation is agreed-upon.
One reason for this disagreement is that a number of teams aren't sending any scout that doesn't currently reside in Venezuela into the country due to the insurance risk and political concerns. So, most scouts have only seen Amundaray when he's traveled to other Latin countries and basically only area scouts have seen him in a lot of games. Add to that that many of a top prospect's game at-bats will come when they are staying at a club's academy (they can stay at any academy for up to 30 days), when only that club can watch those at bats, so you can see how opinions on the hit tool will vary widely.
I'm sure some of what I heard on Amundaray was embellished, but I'm trying to condense all of this into a scouting report and it gets pretty stupid when I'm also trying to use the two days I saw him to inform my own personal ranking—seeing him less than anyone else I talked to.
This whole process is a little goofy right now anyway. Teams are giving seven figures to kids that are 14 and 15 years old and many don't play in games, when domestic scouts are complaining that they don't have enough information about 18 year old high school kids that they've seen in 10 games. International directors openly admit there will be a kid they've never heard of that gets $700-800K or more on July 2nd. No one international scout has even heard of every guy I've listed below. Imagine a kid going in the 3rd round that a dozen teams have never heard of, or even have only seen a few times. There will be multiple examples of that later this week.
So, I decided to dial back the false sense of precision with July 2nd. I'm not going to write long scouting reports on my 25th ranked prospect because, by the time these kids reach full-season ball and join recently-drafted high school kids, there will be over a dozen guys from this class whose names I don't know right now that will be better prospects than many of the seven figure kids. I could give you background on trainers and performances in various tournaments and name 60 players with two paragraphs on each one, but that information would be essentially useless in 12 months, whereas a draft report and all the history and information that goes into that is often still accurate for players 5 years later, as is the implicit projection of their draft position and signing bonus.
Storylines Since February
I haven't written anything on the July 2nd market since that article in February since I was only getting little nuggets here and there throughout the spring. Here's some of the bigger things that have happened since then, in addition to the Yankee story covered above:
1) Brayan Hernandez and Bryan Emery emerge: Hernandez had a coming-out party at the MLB Showcase I attended in January, but it wasn't clear where his market would settle. It sounds like he'll be getting $2 million, about double what I was hearing in Janurary. Emery's trainer won't let him play in games, but he looks great in workouts and many scouts wouldn't give him more than $1 million, but you just knew some team was going to go double that; it sounds like a couple may be willing to right now.
2) Anderson Espinoza passes Marcos Diplan: Espinoza is the top arm in this year's crop and as a sub 6'0 righty with lively stuff, he was widely compared to a similar guy from last year, Rangers RHP Marcos Diplan, who signed for $1.5 million. I've received reports that Espinoza has hit 97 mph and still may have a little projection left, despite only being 5'11.
3) Not a lot of players from non-powerhouse countries: The top players are all from the Dominican and Venezuela aside from Colombia's Emery and Korea's Park. There's a handful of solid six figure prospects from outside of the two traditional July 2nd powers, but not a lot at the top.
4) Huascar Ynoa fades: Ynoa was very good at the MLB Showcase when I saw him, flashing three above average pitches that could become plus and there were multiple teams ready to offer him $2 million soon afterwards. Clubs wanted to see him a few more times before pulling the trigger and the real heavy hitters never saw that kind of stuff again; Ynoa was in the high 80's with no command at some of his most attended outings. I still think he'll get seven figures, but there are rumors that he's already agreed to a deal for $800,000.
5) Padres in question: With the firing of GM Josh Byrnes earlier this month, the Padres activity on July 2nd is a question mark for many scouts. They're believed to be the team that will get Ynoa and are the favorites to land Emery and Venezuelan C Ricardo Rodriguez, while being in the mix for other top players. It isn't clear if it's status quo on the international end, or if they'll be forced to reevaluate with new leadership.
6) Who will blow past their pool? The Yankees are an obvious example, the Red Sox appear to have long planned to go past their pool with their top signing that was verbally done in in 2013 (Espinzoa for $2 million) already going slightly over their pool. The same is true with the Brewers (Lara, $3.2 million) and the Rays (Rondon, $3.1 million) going even further over with their top signing. The Padres are tied to enough high dollar players to go over, but it isn't clear what their intention are, as mentioned above.
Here's a sample of the video I have for most of the top players. See all of them with longer scouting reports and more projected teams/bonuses, all for subscribers
1. Gilbert Lara, 3B, Dominican Republic
Projection: Brewers, $3.2 million
The Skinny: Big kid has plus bat speed and raw power with some looseness, but may not stick at third and has a wild, high-effort cut.
2. Adrian Rondon, SS, Dominican Republic
Projection: Rays, $3.1 million
The Skinny: Arguably the top all-around player in the class has a chance to stick at short with everything above average now, except for raw power.
3. Dermis Garcia, 3B, Dominican Republic
Projection: Yankees, $3.0 million
The Skinny: Has a clean swing that produces plus raw power and should play third, but isn't as loose as his peers and some think his swing is grooved.
4. Nelson Gomez, 3B, Dominican Republic
Projection: Yankees, $2.8 million
The Skinny: Body is a little soft, but he can play third and has hit everywhere with enough power to profile everyday.
5. Brayan Hernandez, CF, Venezuela
Projection: Mariners, $2.2 million
The Skinny: Well-rounded center fielder is plus runner that hits well in games and may develop average raw power.
6. Bryan Emery, RF, Colombia
Projection: Padres, $2.1 million
The Skinny: Colombian Man of Mystery doesn't play in games but is great in workouts and some think he's the best player in the class; comes with a good bit of risk but his buscone is notorious for beating bonus expectations.
7. Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Venezuela
Projection: Red Sox, $2.0 million
The Skinny: Would get a good bit more than this projected bonus if he wasn't off the market in December; 5'11 righty has above average stuff and has hit 97 mph.
8. Juan De Leon, RF, Dominican Republic
Projection: Yankees, $2.0 million
The Skinny: Flashes the arm for right, possibly the speed for center, plus bat speed and maybe plus power with flashes of feel to hit but some scouts doubt the game hitting ability.
9. Jonathan Amundaray, RF, Venezuela
Projection: Yankees, $1.5 million
The Skinny: Has plus raw power and is a good athlete that likely settles in right, but accounts of his ability to hit in games varies widely.
10. Pedro Gonzalez, 3B, Dominican Republic
Projection: Rockies, $1.4 million
The Skinny: 6'5 athlete is long and coordinated with feel to hit, but can't stick at shortstop given his size.
11. Juan Meza, RHP, Venezuela
Projection: Blue Jays, $1.4 million
The Skinny: Throws a heavy 88-91 mph sinker with three pitches that already flash average or better.
12. Chris Acosta, RHP, Dominican Republic
Projection: Red Sox, $1.3 million
The Skinny: Has projection, a clean delivery and flashes above average stuff at times.
13. Hyo-Joon Park, SS, South Korea
Projection: Yankees, $1.25 million
The Skinny: Gets compared to fellow countryman Hak-Ju Lee for plus glove, speed and contact ability but limited power.
14. Ricky Aracena, SS, Dominican Republic
Projection: Royals, $1.2 million
The Skinny: Little guy is only 5'7 but is a quick-twich middle infielder that gets compared to Rafael Furcal regularly.
15. Antonio Arias, CF, Dominican Republic
Projection: Rockies, $1.2 million
The Skinny: Most think he gets something around $1 million, but there are rumors he'll get $2 million or more; he's 6'1/180 with classic center field tools but some think he's more of a tweener.
16. Huascar Ynoa, RHP, Dominican Republic
Projection: Padres, $1.1 million
The Skinny: His market has cratered from $2 million after subpar outings and scouts being scared off by his older brother's checkered career; there are rumors he'll settle for $800,000.
17. Chris Torres, SS, Dominican Republic
Projection: Yankees, $1.0 million
The Skinny: Solid all-around baseball player is a switch-hitter that hits in games and could stick at shortstop, but the tools aren't that flashy.
18. Miguelangel Sierra, SS, Venezuela
Projection: Astros, $1.0 million
The Skinny: Another shortstop that may stick at the position depending on how he develops physically, but hits like crazy for every scout that's seen him.
19. Wilkerman Garcia, SS, Venezuela
Projection: Yankees, $1.0 million
The Skinny: Less well-regarded than Torres, Garcia may fit best at second base and also doesn't have loud tools, but is solid across the board.
20. Franklin Perez, RHP, Venezuela
Projection: Astros, $1.0 million
The Skinny: 6'0/180 righty doesn't have tons of projection and stuff is fringy for most scouts, but he'll flash more at times.
21. Juan Yepez, 3B, Venezuela
Projection: Braves, $1.0 million
The Skinny: Subject of some crazy late rumors with multiple teams apparently in for seven figures, possibly as high as $1.5 million, despite mixed reports that say plus raw power is only notable tool.
Projected for $700,000 to $950,000
22. Arquimedes Gamboa, SS, Venezuela: Phillies, $950,000
23. Ricardo Rodriguez, C, Venezuela: Padres, $900,000
24. Diego Castillo, SS, Venezuela: Yankees, $900,000
25. Amado Nunez, SS, Dominican Republic: White Sox, $900,000
26. Miguel Flames, 3B/C, Venezuela: Yankees, $850,000
27. Kevin Vicuna, SS, Venezuela: Blue Jays, $750,000
28. Yeremy Rosario, SS, Dominican Republic: Rockies, $700,000
There is a nearly unending group of players below $700,000 that I could list, but I'll limit myself to those over $250,000. There are still dozens more that will sign in this range, so think of this more of the ones we know about right now, mostly those with well-known trainers and that have been scouted at the big events. It happens to work out that this cut-off brings the list to a total of 50 players.
Projected for $250,000 to $700,000
Lenin Rodriguez, C, Venezuela: Phillies
Daniel Brito, SS, Venezuela
Jonathan Arauz, SS, Panama
Jesus Sanchez, OF, Dominican Republic
Jhoandro Alfaro, C, Dominican Republic
Ronny Rafael, CF, Dominican Republic
Kenny Hernandez, SS, Venezuela: Mets
Bryan Pena, RF, Dominican Republic
Julio Martinez, RF, Dominican Republic
Wei-Chieh Huang, RHP, Taiwan
Juan Ventura, SS, Dominican Republic
Thomas Alastre, RHP, Venezuela
Starling Joseph, OF, Dominican Republic
Esmerlin Gonzalez, SS, Dominican Republic
Starlin Balbuena, SS, Dominican Republic
Elwin Tejeda, SS, Dominican Republic
Yoel Andujar, RF, Dominican Republic
Ismerling Mota, C/1B, Dominican Republic
Christian Capellan, OF, Dominican Republic
Gabriel Corporan, 1B, Dominican Republic
Sandro Fabian, OF, Dominican Republic
Ronaldo Hernandez, 3B, Colombia