2015 Draft & International Free Agent Links: Rankings, Scouting Reports

At the moment, the Yankees currently hold the 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft. They could still move up a few slots if the Marlins, Padres, Rays, Braves, and/or Brewers sign one of the nine unsigned qualified free agents, one of whom is David Robertson. All of the details are at our 2015 Draft Order page. Of course, the Yankees could also forfeit that 17th overall pick if they sign a qualified free agents. Here are some links about next year’s draft and international free agent class.

  • Both Baseball America and Keith Law/Chris Crawford wrote up their lists of the top 30 prospects for the 2015 draft. Both links are subscriber-only, unfortunately. LHP Brady Aiken, who didn’t sign with the Astros as the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, tops the ESPN list while Florida HS SS Brendan Rogers is atop the Baseball America list. Aiken is second. He’s heading to a junior college and will be draft-eligible again in 2015.
  • Draft to the Show put together a series of (free!) rankings and mini-scouting reports for the top prospects for the 2015 draft: top 15 high school pitchers, top 15 high school hitters, top 15 college pitchers, and top 15 college hitters. Seems like the strength of this draft is quick-moving college arms, which is a shame because it seems like you could pull any schmuck from the stands and get a 3.50 ERA these days.
  • Kiley McDaniel wrote up scouting reports for several of the top international prospects for the 2015-16 signing period. Because the Yankees exceeded their 2014-15 bonus pool, they won’t be able to sign a player for more than $300,000 in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods. So I guess you can get to know the Yankees can’t sign as amateurs but will try to sign as free agents in ten years.

Badler: Yankees sign Colombian outfielder Bryan Emery

3:41pm: Emery received a $500,000 signing bonus, according to Jesse Sanchez. So with the tax it’s a total cost of $1M to the Yankees. They’ve now spent approximately $28.5M total on international players during the 2014-15 signing period (that we know of).

12:37pm: According to Ben Badler, the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Colombian outfielder Bryan Emery. Emery is the latest addition to the team’s massive international spending spree that includes at least 22 players and over $26M in bonuses and penalties. Kiley McDaniel says Emery received a six-figure bonus — it will be taxed at 100% because the club is over their spending pool — after asking for seven figures a few months ago.

Baseball America and MLB.com ranked Emery as the 23rd and 29th best international prospect this summer, respectively. He’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 195 lbs., and was a switch-hitter who recently abandoned hitting right-handed according to Badler. “He’s strong and generates easy, explosive power … a simplified hitting approach and a cleaner setup (has helped) him stay more direct to the ball,” wrote Badler.

MLB.com’s free scouting report provides 20-80 scouting grades and some more information:

Scouting Grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60

One of the top outfielders in this year’s class, Emery can play center field, but he could end up in right field because of his overall skill set.

Scouts like Emery’s athletic body and how he covers ground in the outfield. He’s also impressed evaluators with his throwing arm, which is projected to be above average in the future.

Emery has international experience on his resume and is not afraid of playing in the spotlight. Scouts have been impressed with his mature demeanor and positive attitude. From Colombia, Emery trains in Nigua, Dominican Republic, with Ivan Noboa.

The Yankees signed ten of the top 30 international prospects this summer according to both Baseball America and MLB.com. Because they exceeded their spending pool, they will not be able to sign a player for more than $300,000 during both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods. The Yankees put all their eggs in the 2014-15 basket.

Nineteen-year-old Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada is the (latest) prize of the international market and will reportedly command a signing bonus of $30M to $40M. If he is unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control before next June 15th, the Yankees will be able to offer him any amount and it will count towards the current signing period. After that date, they’ll only be able to offer him $300,000. Moncada would be one hell of a cherry on top of what is already a spectacular international haul.

Prospect Profile: Jordan Foley

(Robert Pimpsner)
(Robert Pimpsner)

Jordan Foley | RHP

Background
Foley was born and raised in The Colony, a suburb of Dallas, and he played baseball at The Colony High School. (The name of the city is literally The Colony.) He was not very highly regarded out of his school — Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Foley as the 112th best prospect in Texas for the 2011 draft — and opted to follow through on his commitment to Central Michigan after the Yankees made him their 26th round pick (809th overall).

As a freshman with the Chippewas, Foley had an ugly 8.20 ERA with more walks (34) than strikeouts (25) in 37.1 innings spread across six starts and seven relief appearances. He moved into the rotation full-time as a sophomore and was much better, pitching to a 3.08 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 44 walks in 15 starts and 90.2 innings. After the season, Foley had a 3.00 ERA with 34 strikeouts and ten walks in 27 innings for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the Cape Cod League.

Foley had another strong season as a junior this spring, throwing 97.2 innings across 15 starts with a 3.69 ERA. He struck out 81 and cut his walk total down to 28. Baseball America (no subs. req’d) ranked Foley as the 128th best prospect in the 2014 draft class while Keith Law (subs. req’d) did not rank him among his top 100 draft prospects. The Yankees selected Foley again, this time in the fifth round with the 152nd overall pick. He signed quickly for a straight slot $317,500 bonus.

Pro Debut
After a quick tune-up appearance with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Yankees, Foley was bumped up to Short Season Staten Island, where he had a 4.46 ERA (3.15 FIP) in 34.1 innings. He made five starts and six relief appearances as pair of the team’s tandem-starter system. Foley allowed just one homer and posted an excellent strikeout rate (9.70 K/9 and 24.8 K%) with a workable walk rate (3.67 BB/9 and 9.4 BB%).

Scouting Report
The first thing everyone seems to talk about with Foley his unconventional follow through. His leg kick and everything else is fairly standard, but he has a big head whack after releasing the ball and it’s not the prettiest thing you’ll ever see on the mound. Check it out:

Foley struggles to repeat that delivery and it’s why his command is spotty at best and many project him as a reliever down the road. You don’t see many starters with a delivery like that throwing 100+ pitches every fifth day. Despite the delivery, Foley hasn’t had any injury problems since getting to Central Michigan.

Foley has a classic pitcher’s frame at 6-foot-4 and 215 lbs., and he sits in the 90-94 range while touching 96-97 as a starter with his four-seam fastball. He hit 96-97 more regularly when working out of the bullpen this past summer. Foley is one of the rare pitchers who comes to pro ball with a splitter — he uses the mid-80s offering as a changeup to combat left-handers. A promising low-80s slider rounds out his repertoire.

2015 Outlook
Because he’s not as refined as many college pitchers, I expect Foley to open next season in the Low-A Charleston rotation, and he just might stay there all year and focus on repeating his delivery and improving his location. If he does that, he can move up to High-A Tampa in 2016 and get on the fast track. I would be very surprised if Foley opened 2015 with Tampa unless he’s moved into the bullpen full-time, and it’s way too early in his career to do that.

My Take
I like Foley and was pleasantly surprised the Yankees were able to get him in the fifth round. He was considered more of a third rounder heading into the draft. That delivery is kinda scary and I’m not sure he’ll be able to start long-term without some serious cleanup, but he has a nice power repertoire — I dig the splitter, it’s a devastating pitch when thrown properly — that misses bats and the control issues are a little easier to stomach in short one-inning relief outings. I think Foley has a chance to be an impact high-strikeout reliever down the line.

DotF: Greg Bird named Arizona Fall League MVP

1B Greg Bird was named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League earlier this week. He hit with .313/.391/.556 (156 wRC+) and led the league in homers (six, tied), finished second in RBI (21), total bases (55), and wRC+, third in SLG, sixth in AVG, seventh in OPS (.947), eighth in walks (13), and 12th in OBP. They’ve been handing out the AzFL MVP since 2002 and Bird is the second Yankees prospect to win it, joining Eric Duncan in 2005. Here are the rest of the week’s minor league notes:

  • OF Tyler Austin suffered a bone bruise in his left knee after an outfield collision last week, reports Josh Norris. “He has been diagnosed with a bone bruise. There is no damage to his meniscus or any ligament issues. He will rest for the next 2-3 weeks,” said assistant GM Billy Eppler to Chad Jennings.
  • Jonathan Mayo polled scouts and players about the best tools in the AzFL. OF Aaron Judge was voted as having the best outfield arm — “One scout said it’s a true 70 arm,” wrote Mayo — while Judge and Bird drew votes for best power and best hitter, respectively.
  • Ken Davidoff wrote profiles about both Judge and Bird. “I’m still on the fence with his bat,” said one scout about Judge. “Plus-plus power, but has some good at-bats here and then will chase off-speed. That worries me – at higher levels, that is what he will see.”
  • Baseball America compiled a list of all minor leaguers suspended in 2014. Yankees farmhands RHP Andy Beresford and 1B Bo Thompson were hit with 50-game suspensions after testing positive for a banned substance in August.
  • The Yankees have re-signed UTIL Ali Castillo after he became a minor league free agent, according to Matt Eddy. Also, OF Antoan Richardson elected free agency after being outrighted off the 40-man roster last week.
  • Both OF Zoilo Almonte and LHP Francisco Rondon have signed the Braves after becoming minor league free agents, says Eddy. Almonte managed to get a big league contract. Good for him.

[Read more…]

Sherman: Yankees not interested in Japanese free agent shortstop Takashi Toritani

Toritani at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Toritani at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

The Yankees do not have interest in free agent Japanese shortstop Takashi Toritani, according to Joel Sherman. Toritani is a true free agent who does not have to be posted, and he’s made it clear he wants to come over to MLB. He is a Scott Boras client.

Toritani, 33, is a table-setter at the plate and he’s most notable for his durability, having played every inning of every game at shortstop for the Hanshin Tigers since the start of the 2005 season. Here are his career stats:

Year Age AgeDif Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2004 23 -6.9 Hanshin 101 261 28 59 13 0 3 17 2 2 21 66 .251 .320 .345 .665
2005 24 -6.1 Hanshin 146 645 82 159 27 1 9 52 5 5 53 115 .278 .343 .376 .719
2006 25 -4.6 Hanshin 146 609 65 157 28 2 15 58 5 3 60 111 .289 .362 .431 .793
2007 26 -4.2 Hanshin 144 642 67 154 19 4 10 43 7 4 63 106 .273 .350 .373 .724
2008 27 -3.0 Hanshin 144 605 66 147 17 6 13 80 4 7 68 85 .281 .365 .411 .776
2009 28 -1.6 Hanshin 144 617 84 155 31 2 20 75 7 7 65 83 .288 .368 .465 .832
2010 29 -0.5 Hanshin 144 651 98 173 31 6 19 104 13 3 66 93 .301 .373 .475 .848
2011 30 0.3 Hanshin 144 590 71 150 28 7 5 51 16 3 78 72 .300 .395 .414 .809
2012 31 1.1 Hanshin 144 624 62 135 22 6 8 59 15 4 94 91 .262 .373 .375 .748
2013 32 2.4 Hanshin 144 643 74 150 30 4 10 65 15 7 104 65 .282 .402 .410 .812
2014 33 Hanshin 155 644 96 172 28 2 8 73 10 6 87 80 .313 .406 .415 .820
11 Seasons 1556 6531 793 1611 274 40 120 677 99 51 759 967 .285 .372 .412 .783
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/15/2014.

Daniel Brim recently put together a great in-depth look at Toritani that I recommend checking out. He is billed as a strong defensive shortstop who draws a lot of walks and plays the small ball game well. Brim ran some numbers and came away with Marco Scutaro as a comparison for what he did in Japan, for what it’s worth.

The history of Asian infielders in MLB is pretty terrible — some feel the game is simply too quick here and it’s too big of an adjustment — though that doesn’t guarantee Toritani will be a flop. He’s not particularly young and shouldn’t cost much to acquire. Hiroyuki Nakajima and Tsuyoshi Nishioka were star infielders in Japan who recently signed two and three-year contracts worth approximately $3M annually with the Athletics and Twins, respectively. Both flopped and spent the majority of their contracts in Triple-A.

The Yankees need to replace Derek Jeter at shortstop this offseason — Brian Cashman called it the team’s top priority at the GM Meetings last week — but they don’t have interest in Toritani and appear to be focused on known quantities. That’s more than fine with me. Cashman called the shortstop market “limited” the other day though there is still a lot of offseason left. I’m hopeful some surprise trade candidates hit the market in a few weeks and the Yankees are able to snag a young shortstop who can anchor the position for several years.

Update: Yoan Moncada declared free agent by MLB

(Jesse Sanchez)
(Jesse Sanchez)

Update (12:23pm): Moncada has been declared a free agent by MLB, according to Jesse Sanchez. He must still be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control before he can sign, however. No word on when that may happen. The important thing is that it appears Moncada will be cleared to sign well before June 15th and count towards the 2014-15 international signing period, putting the Yankees in great position to sign him, as explained below.

10:00am: Highly touted Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada held a showcase event for scouts in Guatemala on Wednesday, and the Yankees had a “significant” presence of at least four scouts in attendance, according to Ben Badler and Jonathan Mayo. Every club was there but apparently some were are serious than others. Badler says Moncada took several rounds of batting practice and fielded balls at different positions. “After a long day and a lot of swings so scouts could see him from both sides of the plate, he did seem to wear down,” added Badler.

Moncada still has to be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and declared a free agent by MLB before he is eligible to sign, which could still be months away. Because he is only 19 and has limited experience in the Cuban leagues, Moncada will be subject to the international spending restrictions. The Yankees exceeded their 2014-15 spending pool and will not be able to sign a player for more than $300k during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, but if Moncada is declared a free agent by June 15th, he would count towards the 2014-15 signing period and the Yankees would be able to sign him for any amount. Here are some more notes:

  • “Moncada had a great workout, showing his five-tool potential. He is in great shape. Unfortunately, he was not able to hit off live game pitching. We will need to see him off of live pitching to command the top dollars they are looking for,” said one scout to Mayo. On the 20-80 scouting scale, Moncada received 60s for his hit, power, and arm tools, a 70 for speed, and 50 for fielding. That’s five average or better tools.
  • Moncada is expected to receive a bonus in the $30M to $40M range, according to Jeff Passan. Badler notes Moncada can only sign a minor league contract. Every team would exceed their spending pool with a bonus that size, so when you add in the 100% tax, it’s really a $60M to $80M total investment.
  • In another piece, Badler says the Yankees have an advantage over other clubs because they’ve already exceeded their pool and are subject to bonus restrictions in the future. Other clubs have verbal agreements in place for the 2015-16 signing period worth seven figures, but if they sign Moncada, they would have to renege on those deals because they wouldn’t be allowed to hand out bonuses of more than $300k. Make sense?
  • And finally, Kiley McDaniel has some more information on the showcase and Moncada’s background. Apparently the Cuban government gave him a visa and a passport and allowed him to leave the island, so there’s no crazy defection story. Also, Moncada’s agent is just some random public accountant from Florida, not one of the usual suspects. Make sure you check it out.

Moncada will hold more showcase events in the coming weeks and months — teams want to see him face live pitching — and I’m sure the Yankees will continue to have a “significant” presence at these events. The 100% tax is tough to swallow, but every team is facing that. The playing field in level in that regard. The Yankees are at an advantage because this is a simply bidding war — whoever is willing to spend the most will win, and the Bombers have more money than everyone.

Obviously Moncada presents a very special case, both in terms of his talent and signing situation. This isn’t someone like, say, Rusney Castillo or Yasmany Tomas, a toolsy player who is expected to be more of a solid regular than anything. Moncada is incredibly young and everyone agrees he has star potential. If you’re going to step out of your comfort zone and spend huge money on a Cuban player — something the Yankees have been very hesitant to do since Jose Contreras flopped — this is the type of player you do it for. Everything is lined up for the Yankees to spend big for Moncada and land a potential star. If they’re not going to do it now, then when?

Teixeira’s injuries, eventually expiring contract create clear path for Greg Bird

No. 20? That's messed up dude. (Presswire)
No. 20? That’s messed up dude. (Presswire)

Three years ago, the Yankee caught some grief for selecting Florida high school third baseman Dante Bichette Jr. with their top pick in the draft, the 51st overall selection. There were concerns about his swing and ability to hit pro pitching (not to mention his defense), and those concerns still exist today. Bichette is a career .255/.337/.373 (106 wRC+) hitter in nearly 1,800 minor league plate appearances, which is fine but not anything that will turn people in believers.

Bichette did not receive the largest bonus among New York’s draftees in 2011, however. They gave Colorado high school catcher Greg Bird a $1.1M bonus in the fifth round to buy him out of a commitment to Arkansas, and he has since zoomed by Bichette in the prospect rankings. That happened even though he moved out from behind the plate and over to the less glamorous first base, partially due to back problems and partially as a way to get him up the ladder quicker.

“We just agreed (first base) was going to be the best thing going forward. I think it was more about my tools than anything. It was basically, ‘Why spend time catching when we could progress forward faster playing first base?’” said Bird to David Laurila last week. “People ask that a lot – does (not catching) help me as a hitter? – and I think maybe it does, but I’m more of a cerebral hitter anyway. As far as, ‘Is he going to throw this or is he going to throw that,’ I was that way growing up, so I’ve kind of always had that mindset. I don’t really sit on pitches, but if you’re not thinking along with what’s going on, you’re not playing the game.”

Bird, who turned 22 yesterday, is a career .283/.407/.488 (141 wRC+) hitter in a bit more than 1,100 minor league plate appearances, and he’s currently hitting .318/.392/.568 (159 wRC+) in 23 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. (Bichette has a 65 wRC+ as his teammate.) That performance, as well as his massive dead center homer in the AzFL Fall Stars Game, has put Bird in the spotlight, especially with the big league Yankees in need of offense.

“I think he is a legit middle-of-the-order bat. He has lift and really drives the ball with big-time power,” said one scout to Joel Sherman. “If you go middle out on him, he will go the other way with power. He still had some problems with off-speed pitches, but you cannot throw a fastball by this guy. I see him in the majors hitting .260-to-.280 with 20-homer-plus power.”

The Yankees could obviously use a hitter like that, even at first base, where Mark Teixeira is signed for another two years. It’s not hard to connect the dots and see Bird’s timetable lines up pretty well with the expiration of Teixeira’s contract. Bird figures to open the 2015 season back at Double-A, and since he’ll be Rule 5 Draft eligible next winter, the Yankees could get a head start on things by adding him to the 40-man roster and calling him up in September.

With Teixeira getting more and more injury prone each year, Bird could be his up-and-down replacement in 2016 while getting regular at-bats in Triple-A. That doesn’t sound all that exciting, but the Yankees got 678 plate appearances from their first baseman this past season, and only 487 of them went to Teixeira (72%). There were 200 or so plate appearances for someone like Bird in 2014. It might be 300-400 in two years, when Teixeira is 36.

Most young players get their first extended big league opportunity thanks to an injury. That’s what happened with Melky Cabrera back in 2006, remember. He helped fill in for Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield. Brett Gardner got his first chance when Johnny Damon got hurt in 2008. Heck, Derek Jeter was the shortstop in 1996 because Tony Fernandez got hurt. That’s just how it works in baseball and especially with the Yankees, who are hesitant to hand starting jobs over to young players. Teixeira’s injuries work in Bird’s favor.

The 2015 season is going to be very important for Bird. He’s created some hype with his performance these last two years and especially in Arizona these last few weeks, but next year will be his first extended stint at Double-A, a level that is usually a separator between prospects and suspects. If he continues to hit there, being the long-term replacement for Teixeira will go from nice idea to real possibility. Huge free agent first base contracts are among the worst investments in the game (Teixeira, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, etc.) and it’s something New York may be able to avoid thanks to Bird in two years.

The Yankees have only had four regular first baseman dating back to 1984 and it’s both unrealistic and incredibly unfair to expect Bird to continue that run. For now, let’s just hope his success continues in 2015 and he puts himself in position to be a big league option in 2016. That alone would be a big help to the Yankees, who seem to an employ a “we’ll play anyone at first” approach to backing up Teixeira. Bird is not the team’s best prospect but he is one of their most important prospects because he has a clear path to MLB playing time, both in the short and long-term.