Two Dozen International Free Agents Worth Knowing
Given that it's a free market, unlike the MLB Draft, information on the top Latin American talent is hard to come by and it's of great benefit to the teams to keep the players they like the most a secret. So, who are the names we need to know as we move closer to the signing period? What kind of early interest are they drawing and what kind of money could they command? Let's take an early look at the 2010 Latin American crop.
At least until it gets more more organized or there is an International Draft, the picture we get prior to July 2 is going to be pretty fuzzy. Different teams see and prefer different players, and some teams put a bigger emphasis on Latin America or certain countries in Latin America. In other words, there are a lot of variables that make the International class tougher to get a handle on than a draft class.
With that said, many clubs and scouts in Latin America are beginning to get a solid feel for who the elite-level players will be. Given the secretive nature of the proceedings, there are likely names not yet on this list who will cash in on big bonuses and the list is very fluid. Depending on the organization, players may be viewed very differently, but according to a number of sources, this is the consensus top group right now.
It's too early to put much stock in the order of these names, but here's a general look at how they stack up.
1. Eskarlin Vasquez, OF: As it sits right now, Vasquez appears to be the top all-around position player in the class. A right fielder with a strong arm, Vasquez has shown some good power at the dish and could get a bonus north of $2 million. The San Francisco Giants are considered among the favorites at this stage to land him, but several clubs will be involved.
2. Vicmal De La Cruz, OF: It was reported that De La Cruz has already received an offer from the Indians, but whether he has or not, he is probably the second best bat in the July 2 crop. He should draw a seven-figure bonus. Other teams that are said to be hot on his trail are the Padres, Athletics, Twins, and Mariners.
3. Steilon Peguero, SS: Considered one of the toolsiest players available, Peguero shows some flashy skills at shortstop and big upside at the plate. He's an outstanding athlete. He also figures to attract seven-figure offers.
4. Hector Veloz, 3B: Scouts have been somewhat torn on Veloz, who is one of the standouts of the Dominican Prospect League. Some have said his bat is arguably the best in the class and others have been less certain. He should be looking at seven figures from one of the clubs that is more convinced of his offensive potential.
5. Luis Marte, SS: Marte is drawing heavy interesting from several clubs and for good reason. He can handle the shortstop position and shows a lot of pop at the dish.
6. Phillips Castillo, OF: Castillo is one the class' best pure power bats and he should draw high six-figure interest at least.
7. Albert Triunfel, SS: According to sources, Triunfel is the younger brother of Mariners' top flight prospect, Carlos Triunfel so you have to immediately like the bloodlines if that's the case. Scouts like to talk about Triunfel's good feel at the plate.
8. Antonio Gonzalez, SS: The Yankees reportedly will be very involved in the bidding on Gonzalez as well as a number of other clubs. Scouts believe he can stick and play above-average shortstop and that the bat will come along. He could command an upper six-figure bonus.
9. Luis Abad, RHP: In a usually crowded class of a high upside arms, Abad is among the most intriguing. He has a live arm and very good fastball movement.
10. Wilmer Romero, OF: Romero is somewhat of a late bloomer in terms of being among the elite July 2 names. He's already being talked about as a possible seven-figure player but we'll see how things develop over the next month.
11. Edwin Moreno, OF: Scouts love Moreno's bat and he's a guy who could move up on this list and potentially command seven figures.
12. Geronimo Fransua, LHP: A thin left-hander, Fransua is already reaching the low-90s with his fastball and has flashed a decent feel for his secondary pitches.
13. Joel Araujo, OF: Araujo has shown plus speed and good raw power in the Dominican Prospect League this spring. He may be more raw than the names above, but scouts like his upside.
1. Adonis Cardona, RHP: Technically, Cardona is still available but as I reported last week, he seems to have an agreement to sign for $2.8 million with the Toronto Blue Jays. If that ends up being the case and the deal is made official on July 2, Toronto got the top Venezuelan talent in the 2010 crop.
2. Renato Nunez, 3B: A third baseman with a solid frame, Nunez has the potential to hit for plus power.
3. Roughned Odor, SS: Odor has the ability to stick at shortstop, and scouts love his bat. He's expected to be a plus average hitter. The rumor is he is one of the top targets on the Yankees' radar screen.
4. Angel Mejias, LHP: Mejias completes the group that is being talked about as the elite four players in Venezuela. Right now, it appears that after Cardona, Nunez, Odor and then Mejias are the four best talents out of Venezuela this year. After that, it looks like a slight drop-off. Mejias has a solid 6-foot-3 frame and currently sits around 90 mph with the fastball.
5. Yorman Landa, RHP: Landa is more of a projection case. He has a live arm, reaching 90 mph, and figures to add more as he matures.
6. Felix Carvallo, LHP: Another southpaw, the 6-foot tall Carvallo also has excellent upside. He's currently sitting in the upper-80s with the fastball.
7. Cesar Gonzalez, C: A catcher with some good power potential, Gonzalez has made a very good impression in the last month.
8. Argy Raga, C: Raga has been getting some buzz of late for his good athleticism behind the plate and power potential.
9. Yorman Garcia, OF: A late rising sleeper in Venezuela, Garcia is a good athlete with plus speed. Little is known about his bat as of yet, but he's getting some buzz.
10. Anderson Mata, LHP: Mata is a good pitchability left-hander, who has been on the rise of late.
1. Luis Heredia, RHP: There are a couple other names in Mexico that could eventually be talked about in the upper tier of this International class, but right now the lone guy is Heredia. He has a live arm and is a projectable right-hander who is looking like a definite seven-figure guy. He is a little trickier to sign than most July 2 players because his team in Mexico owns his rights, so it will be interesting to see how that unfolds. Heredia is right behind Adonis Cardona in terms of top pitching talent in this class. Right now, it looks like the Oakland Athletics and the Yankees will be the most aggressive bidders for his services.
There's plenty of time between now and July 2, so stay tuned for the latest coverage right here as we approach it. Things can change drastically and rapidly with these names and the teams involved. But, right now if you are looking for the big-ticket players of the year, the guys who will command over $2 million dollars, they appear to be Adonis Cardona, Luis Heredia, Eskarlin Vasquez and Vicmal De La Cruz.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.