Before the calendar even turned to July 2nd, most of this year’s crop of international prospects were already linked to major league organizations. As it turns out there have been very few surprises in the last week and a half. Of the top-30, ranked by Baseball America only 5-6 (reports vary) remain unsigned and only two have landed somewhere other than with the team that was projected to sign them.
The Houston Astros were projected to land Nicaraguan SS Jesus Lopez, but he instead signed with the Oakland Athletics for $950,000.
Dominican RHP Maykay Perez wasn’t linked to any particular team with a great deal of certainty but he still threw the predictions a bit of a curveball when he signed with the San Diego Padres. Perez was loosely projected to ink a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates but on July 2nd reports were circulating that the Minnesota Twins were also still in the mix for his services. They were waiting to see if his asking price was going to come down and the waiting game may have cost the Twins as the Padres paid him $634,000 to get him under contract.
With respect to what Perez brings to the Padres organization, and what the Twins missed out on, Ben Badler wrote the following about the 16-year old righty:
Perez, who trains with Adan Ramirez, stands out for his size and arm strength. He has room to add weight and a few ticks to his fastball, which is already advanced for a 16-year-old. He throws anywhere from 87-92 mph with late life that helps him get groundballs. He has thrown his fastball with the same speed since last summer, so some scouts wonder why they haven’t seen an increase in velocity. His slider is ahead of his firm changeup.
It’s hard to fault any team for not shelling out over half a million dollars to sign a 16-year old arm, regardless of talent, but Minnesota had more than enough remaining in their bonus pool this year to get a deal done with Perez if they elected to do so. There are enough questions surrounding Perez to make what the Padres paid him a bigger gamble than most international prospects but you have to pay to land talent and sometimes you have to take risks.
Another player that Minnesota was known to have interest in was right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng from Taiwan. While he hasn’t officially signed, reports are out there that he’s “close” to a deal with the Chicago Cubs that will pay him $1.5 million. If that’s the case, Chicago it should be noted has officially blown past their allotted bonus pool and will be paying dearly. They will pay a 100% tax on their “overage” and will be severely restricted when it comes to signing players in the 2014 international class. Whether or not the gamble will pay off in the long run remains to be seen and it will likely be at least 5-6 years before any real judgments can be made but it definitely merits watching. Despite being two years older than most of the other international prospects signing in the last ten days, Tseng (18) may be an even bigger risk than his peers in the class. As noted by BA’s Ben Badler:
Tseng simply hasn’t been as electric this year. At his best last year, he pitched at 89-92 mph and touched 95, and at times earned plus grades for his curveball and changeup, with some scouts grading the changeup as a potential plus-plus pitch. He showed the ability to throw his curve for strikes consistently with tight spin and mixed in an average slider. At the WBC, his fastball parked in the high 80s, his breaking ball was loose and his control was erratic. Scouts who have watched him since then have said his stuff and command are still down. Some have expressed concern about Tseng’s durability due to his frame and mechanics, and others think his usage could be the culprit and that his stuff could bounce back after he signs.
The Minnesota Twins didn’t wind up with Maykay Perez, and if reports are accurate and the deal comes together they also didn’t land Jen-Ho Tseng. They did however land Dutch 3B prospect Ruar Verkerk. He’s not a Top-30 prospect and hardly as well known as some of the other teenagers that have been signing but International Power Showcase did a profile of him that included the following:
Ruar has a natural left-handed swing and hits the ball well to all fields. Still needs to learn how to pull the ball and drive the ball to right field, which will happen when he matures and gets stronger. He already plays in a wood bat league against much older competition. He is strong for his age, but also a hothead when things don’t go his way. Which is in a way a great virtue to have as this is a way to show he really cares. However, in baseball failure is imminent and he will have to learn to deal with this to really fulfill his potential. Off the field, Ruar is very laid back and is a typical teenager. Always wanting to be at practice and learning more about the game.
Details of his bonus amount have not been disclosed but Twins Daily did catch up with him for a quick Q&A.