July 2nd Signing Period Q&A with Ben Badler

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I usually don’t spend too much time covering July 2nd signing period, because there are so many false reports and so much sketchy information out there about international amateur players that it’s hard to know what’s reliable and what’s not. One place that always has reliable info is Baseball America, and I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk exchange emails Ben Badler, BA’s international free agent guru.

In case you don’t know, July 2nd is when teams can begin to sign international players who aren’t draft eligible as free agents. Most players come from Latin America, but in recent years we’ve seen teams scour Australia, Asia and even parts of Europe for talent. The players must be at least 16-yrs old to sign but, as always, there are some loopholes that could be exploited. Jesus Montero is the Yanks best international signing of late, and big leaguers Melky Cabrera, Robbie Cano, Chien-Ming Wang and Mariano Rivera were all acquired this way in the past.

You can read Ben’s stuff at BA’s site, and you could also follow him on Twitter for more prospect info than you can handle. I think I speak for all of the RABiverse when I say that I greatly appreciate Ben taking time from his hectic schedule to drop some knowledge on us. Here we go…

Mike: The worst kept secret on the international market this year is the Yankees’ interest in catcher Gary Sanchez, and in fact it seems like he’s all but signed on the dotted line. What can you tell us about him, and what kind of bonus is he looking at?

Ben: Sanchez is the top catching prospect this year from Latin America. Anyone I talked to about Sanchez leading up to July 2 figured he would sign with the Yankees, and now it looks like he’s going to sign with them for a bonus of around $3 million (the exact number isn’t clear), which will probably be the third-highest bonus for a Latin American player this year after Miguel Sano and Wagner Mateo. There is another Dominican catcher who is looking at a considerable bonus by the name of Jacob Beltre, but most scouts with whom I have spoken think Sanchez is the better all-around prospect. Some scouts I have talked to aren’t quite as impressed as the Yankees apparently are; he’s got the arm strength, the quick release and he can crush the ball in BP, but some of them aren’t sold on him hitting in games. But the Yankees have seen him more than anyone, and if they’re going to give him approximately $3 million, I’m sure they’re comfortable with his ability to hit in games, either presently or in the future.

How does Sanchez compare to the patron saint of Latin American catching prospects, Jesus Montero?

It’s not a given that Sanchez will stay at catcher, but I think he has a better chance to stay behind the plate than Montero because of his tools and athleticism, although there has been some concern from scouts in recent months about Sanchez’s body, so I think he’s going to have to stay on top of his conditioning. Still, his arm is stronger than Montero’s and his pop times are quicker as well. The problem is that his receiving skills and his footwork still need to improve, so making progress in those areas is going to be vital for Gary. Sanchez has considerable offensive potential, but his bat isn’t in Montero’s class. Then again, there are few players who can hit like Montero.

We’ve also seen the Yanks loosely connected to outfielder Guillermo Pimentel, although last month you reported that the Rangers were the favorites to land him. How does he compare to last year’s Latin American darlings, Rafael & Yorman Rodriguez?

Well, now it looks like the Mariners are the favorites to sign Pimentel. I heard in spring training that the Mariners liked him, but by the time I wrote my first July 2 preview in May, everyone I talked to about Pimentel said he was going to sign with the Rangers. Rafael Rodriguez and Yorman Rodriguez were solid players, but the scouts I spoke with last year never understood what all the fuss was about them. Rafael Rodriguez is a big guy with raw power, but he never showed much feel for hitting in game situations. Yorman Rodriguez–and I saw him once this year as well–is a great athlete with plus-plus speed and a great body to project on, but scouts say his bat also needs a lot of work. Pimentel sounds like a more advanced hitter than either of those guys, as do several of this year’s top July 2 hitters. Pimentel’s swing is short and direct to the ball, and he has very good power for a 16-year-old kid.

Any other hitters connected to the Yanks that we should know about?

Man, I hope you guys don’t hate this answer. Mike, you sent me these questions at least a week ago, and I tried to hold out as long as I could until I got some reliable information on who the Yankees had atop their wish list after Sanchez. If you asked me this question at this time last year, I would have had more information. But this year’s July 2 market has been slow to develop (probably because of the economy, MLB’s stricter investigations, new teams getting involved in Latin America, among other variables), and it seems especially so for what the Yankees plan to do. They should sign Sanchez, but other than him, it’s really not clear which hitters they are going to target. The talk I’ve heard within the industry is that the Yankees are expected to make some of their moves between Monday and Thursday (same with many other teams), but there is also talk that some teams might hold back until after July 2 for some of these players’ prices to drop. There are rumors out there, but I’m always cautious to believe anything I hear, and I’d be skeptical of anything I read as well.

There’s no Michael Ynoa this year, no pitcher who stands head and shoulders above his peers both literally and figuratively. Who are some of this year’s notable arms?

Scouts say it’s a down year for pitching in Latin America, but frankly, there are always going to be good arms that will seemingly come out of nowhere. For me, the two that stand out are Venezuelan lefthander Juan Urbina and Dominican righthander Johendi Jiminian. Yes, Urbina is Ugueth’s son, and it shows in his advanced mechanics and feel for pitching. He’ll probably sign with the Mets. Jiminian is another guy with advanced mechanics and feel for pitching, and he’ll throw 88-90 mph with a better curveball than most 16-year-olds have to offer. There will be some other players who have a chance to get comparable or even more money, but reports from the scouts I have spoken with are generally positive on those two players.

The Yanks have done a nice job landing less heralded pitchers like Jairo Heredia and Arodys Vizcaino the last few years. Have you heard them being in on any intriguing arms?

The Yankees’ recent history has been to get their pitching in the draft and use Latin America to go for the bats, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they landed one of the big-name arms out there. Again, I wish I had more information, but most people I talk to say the Yankees are taking longer than usual to make their moves, so I don’t have any firm information to pass along. I’m extremely hesitant to link a player to a team because there is so much misinformation that gets spread about July 2 prospects, and I would prefer to not be part of the problem. I’m a big Vizcaino fan, by the way, and I’m expecting a breakout performance at some point in the near future.

How good is Miguel Sano really? His agent Rob Plummer described him as “a Hanley Ramirez body and the possible upside of an Albert Pujols-type bat,” but that can’t possibly be true, can it?

Sano will get a lot of money, and the latest rumblings from Latin America is that his bonus could be comparable to or possibly surpass the $4.25 million the A’s gave Michael Ynoa last year. With any 16-year-old player from Latin America, you’re going to get divergent opinions from scouts because of how young the players are and because of the context in which they have to be scouted. But I’ve had several international scouting directors tell me that Sano is one of the best prospects they have ever seen from Latin America. If the economy was better, he’d break Ynoa’s bonus record easily. There are teams that would sign him for $2 million, $2.5 million, but since the bidding is going to be much higher than that, they’ve just dropped out of the race and reallocated their resources to scouting other players. His body, his swing, his power, his athleticism and his arm are all highly advanced for his age, so he has monster upside. There are teams that have scouted Sano since he was 14 years old, but there’s risk involved with any 16-year-old prospect, especially one from Latin America.

If he was draft eligible this year, where would he have been drafted?

With this year’s draft, it’s hard to say. Our draft gurus here at Baseball America ranked BC catcher Tony Sanchez as the No. 32 prospect in the draft, yet the Pirates took him fourth overall. After Stephen Strasburg and Dustin Ackley, teams’ draft boards were all over the place. Who knows? I’ll bet there are people in the Pirates organization that like Sano more than Sanchez, so maybe he goes fourth overall, but there is an elevated level of risk involved in any 16-year-old player. I can’t imagine he’d last beyond the middle to the end of the first round, though.

What in the world ever happened to Edward Salcedo? He was supposedly the best thing since sliced bread, but now he’s seemingly disappeared off the face of the Earth. If he was as good as advertised, someone would have signed him by now, right?

I have never received a definitive answer on Salcedo. He was one of the top prospects in the Dominican Republic a couple years ago after emerging as a late pop-up guy (which is usually bad news), but there were all sorts of questions about him, and he’s still unsigned. I’m not aware of any teams who are interested in signing him right now and he’s not a player I’ve heard anyone in Latin America talking about recently.

Last question, but it’s only half serious. A few years back the Yanks signed a young Dominican southpaw named Melvin Croussett, who has done nothing but crush the competition in the Dominican Summer League for the last three years. He’s a cult hero at RAB. Can you tell us anything about him?

I have never spoken to a scout about Croussett, so I couldn’t tell you.

For shame. Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us.

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  • Manimal

    Don’t you think signing Sanchez is a little too much? I mean we have so much talent at the Catching position you figure we are going to be all set.

    And I knew there would be a Croussett comment somewhere in there. Nice work.

    • Jamal G.

      Even if you think all of the prospects we have behind the plate (all in Double-A or lower) are sure-fire bets, then the answer is still “no”, because you can trade away those up-the-middle prospects for other valuable pieces.

      • pat

        Outside of young fireballers, good young catchers are GOLD JERRY GOLD!!

    • whozat

      “Don’t you think signing Sanchez is a little too much? I mean we have so much talent at the Catching position you figure we are going to be all set.”

      No. It’s the same as in the draft, you get the most talent you can, and then you figure it out later. What’s the downside here? That Sanchez and Murphy and the kid they got last year all show up in AAA around the same time, and Montero and Romine are already splitting time for the Yanks in the bigs? So they trade Romine and a AA pitcher for some other young stud, move Murphy and a reliever for another big-league piece they need, and STILL have Montero in the bigs with Kyle and Sanchez in the pipeline.

      The much more likely scenario is that half these guys don’t pan out/become backup catchers, and all this is doing is giving the Yanks a great shot at not having to buy an overpriced free-agent catcher from 2012 – 2020.

      • Tampa Yankee

        Don’t forget about Cervelli also. Its is widely believed that Jesus won’t stay at C and even if Sanchez doesn’t, he sounds athletic enough with good pop to possibly fill in an corner OF spot leaving still Romine, Murphy, Higashioka and Cervelli. I’m good with that.

        • whozat

          Cervelli is a backup catcher, which is a good thing to have depth-wise, but I don’t think anyone should be worried about someone younger coming up and taking his spot.

          • Tampa Yankee

            I agree with you completely. I should have been more clear, I was talking about the depth the Yanks have and Cervelli certainly adds to that.

        • Ed

          Cervelli’s peak will just be a backup catcher, so he’s not someone to think about too much long term. Likewise with Pliterre (no idea how to spell his name). They’re useful guys to have, but, the other guys mentioned are all much better bats and candidates to be starting catchers.

          • Tampa Yankee

            I agree with this also. I’m just saying that can provide to be a Jose Molina type back up and the others become legit starting catcher players, its a good thing to have. The Yanks can then use some as trade chips. Plus, like I stated above, if some have to be moved off the position then there are still several starting catcher and back-up quality players. That is all I meant.

            • Tampa Yankee

              *I’m just saying that if Cervelli can…

          • JP

            “Cervelli’s peak will just be a backup catcher, so he’s not someone to think about too much long term.

            You’re basing that judgement on his total minor league record I assume, right?

            While I guess it’s correct that his minor league record doesn’t project to being a full time MLB player, hasn’t he done pretty well at the MLB level? In the brief time we’ve seen him, he certainly looks like a major leaguer.

            Maybe I’m just too much of a fan of his. How much better was Dioner Navarro, as a minor league catcher?

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              Maybe I’m just too much of a fan of his. How much better was Dioner Navarro, as a minor league catcher?

              http://www.google.com

            • jsbrendog
              • Chip

                Classic

  • Jamal G.

    … but some of them aren’t sold on him hitting in games.

    To be fair, there have been reports that Gary Sanchez’s agent has not allowed him to hit and/or throw in-game.

    • pat

      Exactly, why bother tiring the kid out in workouts for teams that everybody knows don’t have a chance to sign him. The Yanks have probably been on this kid for a few years now I’ll take their expertise over assorted anonymous scouts.

    • Chip

      I absolutely love how they look at 16 year old kids and say, he might be able to play. The success to bust ratio down there must be just tiny

      • whozat

        Which is why it’s nuts that people get so agitated about getting/not getting the biggest names in this market. The Salcedo case is a great example…some fans were livid that the Yanks didn’t get this kid, and now NO ONE is interested in him.

    • A.D.

      Ahh the hype machine that is Latin American baseball.

  • Chip

    The fact that the Melvin Croussett joke has now been spread to the lead Latin America guy at BA makes me happy. You are the man Mike

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      What “joke”?

      • Chip

        Sorry, I meant “ministry” or “faith” or “unending love”

    • Salty Buggah

      Joke?!?!! You mean, Melvin’s awesomeness and blessings have been to the lead Latin America guy at BA.

      • ArodMVP217 Retire 51

        Bradler is obligated to take a peek at MELVIN’s stats now, no?

        • Salty Buggah

          Yes, if he wants to obtain peace and happiness

  • yanke1313

    Mike great work as always.

  • the artist formerly known as (sic)

    “I have never spoken to a scout about Croussett, so I couldn’t tell you.”

    The intrigue heightens…

    • radnom

      No scout has ever seen him pitch and lived to tell the tale.

    • http://farm1.static.flickr.com/153/413671602_daded72a81_m.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      I wonder if BA’s powers-that-be are aware of their international free agent guru’s shocking negligence.

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Croussett pitches with such ethereal beauty, that a man comes away with the feeling that they have witnessed a miracle. It has been described as a “..heart, mind and soul cleasnser”.

      Badler, everytime you see a child smile, you see Croussett. Everytime you see a sun set behind the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Ocean you see Croussett.

      Deep down, every scout knows Melvin, he is the Dominican Republic’s National Treasure. One day, and I hope it comes soon, Melvin will bless the rest of the World with his boundless gifts. Until then, his legend will grow and grow and grow….Viva RAB.

  • JackISBACK

    I wish we went after Sano more so than Sanchez just because its a position of need. Now I understand he could move from SS, but we’re really thin at the SS position, so it would’ve atleast been worth a shot.

    Good work, great to hear about Sanchez. If we could somehow pull off Sano, I’d be thrilled.

    • Jamal G.

      1. You have no idea how hard any team went after Miguel Sano, let alone the Yankees.

      2. Sano has not signed with anyone as of yet, nor has there been rumors of an agreement between he and any organization.

      3. There is no “could” in the situation, everyone agrees Miguel Sano will have to move from the short-stop position.

    • ArodMVP217 Retire 51

      Jorge will need some replacing long before Jeter

      • whozat

        This point is both arguable and irrelevant to this discussion. They may very well need replacing at the same time.

        These kids are SIXTEEN. Both Jorge and Jeter will need replacing before either of these dudes is big-league ready.

        • I Remember Celerino Sanchez

          “Both Jorge and Jeter will need replacing before either of these dudes is big-league ready.”

          Well, they both will need replacing before either of the kids can legally drink!

          • Jon

            How do u know how hard they r going after him or anyone?

  • Jose

    The July 2nd signings are always my favorite. I love the free-for-all nature when compared to the amateur draft.

    One bad part is there are always scouts who have seen some 16 year old kid who has the talent of Babe Ruth according to them. While amateur draft fans underrate the prospect level of many of the signings. There is some healthy medium that is the true ability of these players.

    Take everyone’s word with a grain of salt, but it is always possible that there is another kid out there who does have the potential to be as good as Hanley Ramirez or whomever.

  • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

    He’s never spoken to a scout about Croussett because scouts are left speechless after they see him pitch. Their tongues literally fall out of their mouths and their faces melt, Ark of the Covenant style.

    • ArodMVP217 Retire 51

      Ése es porqué nuestros exploradores(?) llevan las gafas del sol

  • Thomas

    I have never spoken to a scout about Croussett, so I couldn’t tell you.

    I asked a scout about Melvin. He said “Go to the Chuck Norris Facts and switch all the Chuck Norris to Melvin Croussett. And that’s all you need to know about Melvin Croussett.”

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Behind every successful man, there is a woman. Behind every dead man, there is Melvin Croussett.

      • Jack

        Melvin Croussett puts the laughter in manslaughter.

        • jsbrendog

          + a large number

    • http://www.theyankeeuniverse.com/ The Artist

      You know the ‘Most Interesting Man Alive’ from those Dos Equis beer commercials?

      He says Melvin Croussett taught him everything he knows.

      • http://www.theyankeeuniverse.com/ The Artist

        Stay thirsty my friends, stay thirsty.

  • Jake H

    Great stuff Mike. I do wonder if directors down there aren’t letting people know what is happening so that prices aren’t being driven up.

  • UWS

    I ask in all seriousness: does Melvin actually exist?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      http://www.baseball-reference......ouss001mel

      Also, Melvin Croussett does not play the lottery. It doesn’t have nearly enough balls.

    • Salty Buggah

      Yes, and he has had killer stats.

      http://www.google.com/search?r.....+croussett

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      I know it is hard to believe that such a perfect individual does indeed exist. But here he is:

      http://www.baseballamerica.com.....l_id=42880

      They don’t have a picture because his image is so perfect it broke the camera.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        The reason there is no official photograph of Melvin is that he is a shapeshifter and has many faces, and he hasn’t decided which one he likes the best.

        He also has many names. You may be more familiar with him as Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Joe Montana, Pele, Selita Ebanks, Megan Fox, Fannie Lou Hamer, John F. Kennedy, Issac Asimov, Sitting Bull, Queen Elizabeth I, Kublai Khan, Julius Caesar, Hammurabi, Abraham, and Aquaman.

        • Mattingly’s Love Child

          Wasn’t he Hannibal as well?

        • pat

          Umm google is your friend, tommie I found a picture of him no problem –

          http://tinyurl.com/l9atxh

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            I like this picture of Melvin better.

            http://joseaponte.files.wordpr.....ebanks.jpg

            • UWS

              I really should pay attention to the URL before I click on it at work. *sigh*

        • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

          Queen Elizabeth I

          IETCM

          I enjoyed this monarch.

          • pat

            in bed!

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      Looks like we were all over this answer, eh?

      • UWS

        Thank you kindly, y’all!

  • chris

    maybe by the time some of these 16 yr olds make the bigs, the yankees will be back in the playoffs. suck it a-rod

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      [ facepalm ]

    • pat

      hahaha +1

  • ColoYank

    Just barely visible through the dazzling and ever-blinding brilliance of Melvin Crousett’s statistics on the minor league site is the tiniest murmur, a hint of someone else trying, in his small way, to occupy the mound for the DSL Yankees 2. Who is Juan Heredia?

    http://web.minorleaguebaseball.....38;cid=635

  • http://www.theyankeeuniverse.com/ The Artist

    Melvin Croussett!

    THE BEST KEPT SECRET IN BASEBALL!!

  • Chambonea

    any news about Leonardo Fuentes. I saw this kid in Dominican, He is a five tools players. Question They do not pay attetion because He is from Colombia. He got potential to get big bonus as Pimentel, Mateo and others.

  • blee

    man.. Pujols type bat?.. .330 28HR 74rbi now.. 9sb too..

    that man is a machine…. i mean THE machine.. do not eliminate me Albert.

    • Bill

      That comparison so laughable because it was made by his agent. Basically his agent said I’m just going to compare this guy to Hanley Ramirez and Albert Pujols because they’re the best players in the game today. I mean no one is going to buy it coming from his agent, but why not feed the hype machine.

      Pujols is simply absurd. The guy is easily the best player in the game. I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see him pull off the Triple Crown this year as he already leads HR’s and RBI’s and is only 10 points behind Wright for batting average.

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  • chris

    Year Two-Thousand! Clap-Clap, ClapClapClap!

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