While players from The US, Canada and Puerto Rico have to go through the draft process, players from Latin America and to a lesser extent the far east go through the International Free Agent signing period, which starts today. 16 year olds all across Latin America, Europe and the far east will be signed for enough money to make your head spin.
The cream of the crop this year is 16 year old Dominican shortstop Miguel Sano. Sano is expected to move to third base as he fills out, but that’s not expected to hurt his value too much. Baseball Prospectus’s Kiley McDaniel notes that Sano’s bat invokes comparisons to Evan Longoria, Hanley Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez. Will Sano turn out to be the next version of one of those three? Probably not, but some team will take the risk.
The Pirates and Twins have been the co-favorites for Sano’s services almost from the very beginning, forging close personal relationships with him and those around him. Lately the Orioles have come into the market and although they have the cash to outbid the other two teams, they don’t have the personal relationships the Bucs and Twins do.
The Twins haven’t been terribly active in Latin America over the past few years, especially versus other teams, but they have made strides in Australia and Europe. That may pay off this year as Germany’s Max Kepler, one of the best European prospects ever, is in this year’s class. Kepler is a descendent of famous scientist Johan Kepler, so maybe he can better understand the spin of the baseball or something. Who knows.
I’ll be heading out of town for the 4th of July weekend sometime today, but if Sano signs anywhere or the Twins sign anyone before I leave I’ll tack on an edit to this post, and I’ll have your weekend links up sometime as well.