- 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.
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.
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:
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 (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?
On Tuesday, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reported the Kia Tigers of KBO are going to post ace lefty Hyeon-Jong Yang. That was odd to me. Usually, when it comes to news about Korean players being posted or ML teams expressing desire in one, Korean media has the first official report. I had read an article or two about Yang being scouted by both major league and NPB scouts, but there didn’t seem to be any strong interest from any teams from either league. Another odd thing about the Daily News report is Yang being evaluated as a possible No. 3 starter in the majors — that’s quite high even for a lot of the Korean fans. But because his name has started to bounce around around the major league writers and fans, I decided to write up Yang.
Unlike Hyun-Jin Ryu or Kwang-Hyun Kim, Yang does not have much of a superstar pedigree in KBO, but he’s shown flashes of brilliance. The lefty broke out in 2009, his age 21 season, by going 12-5, 3.15 ERA while punching out 139 in 148.2 IP. He had an okay 2010 by putting up 4.25 ERA and winning 16 games. However, allowing 98 walks in 169.1 IP was worrying and that amplified the season after. In 2011, Yang lost his command (69 walks and 74 strikeouts in 106.1 IP with a 6.18 ERA) and spent a chunk of the season in minors. Things weren’t too better in 2012 — he went 1-2, 5.05 ERA in 41 IP while recording more walks (31) than strikeouts (26). By the end that season, he was known as the “forgotten ace” of the Tigers who once showed brilliance but was ruined by command problems. However, Yang came back big in 2013. Given another chance to stick at rotation after the spring training, the lefty posted a 3.10 ERA in 104.2 IP while posting a much-improved 3.70 BB/9 and striking people out (8.17 K/9).
Yang had a bit of a mixed 2014, but mostly positive. He put up a 4.25 ERA in 171.1 IP — hardly a sexy figure from a pitcher that is being rumored to advance from KBO to MLB. But, as I’ve said in the Kwang-Hyun Kim post, the Korean Baseball Organization experienced an extraordinarily offense-friendly season like never before. As a matter of fact, according to peripherals, he was the best Korean-born starter in KBO in the season, leading in FIP (4.19), WAR (5.24) and K/9 (8.67). (Best starter in KBO altogether? Either Rick VandenHurk or Andy Van Hekken.)
According to Feinsand’s article, a scout that has seen Yang said the lefty “sits between 92-95 mph” with his fastball. Well, from what I’ve seen in multiple games, it’s more like high-80’s-to-low-90’s. Here’s a video of him pitching from an April 2014 start. In the video, he’s around mid-140 kmph (approx. 87 mph) with his fastball while generating swing-and-misses with his slider. His slider has been praised as a plus pitch by the Korean media but it remains to be seen how it would translate in the majors, or even in NPB. While his array of stuff has worked well in Korea at striking out hitters, a pitcher that sits 88-92 mph with stuff that has not been particularly praised by ML scouts a la Yu Darvish or Masahiro Tanaka is not exactly the sexiest target.
Here’s a Korean article from Oct. 21 about Yang being scouted by ML and NPB teams. In his last start of the season, scouts from Red Sox, Cubs, Rangers and the Yomiuri Giants of NPB attended the Kia Champions Field in Kwangju to watch him. According to a ML scout quoted in the article, around “three to five” teams from MLB and Japan have been monitoring the lefty throughout the season. No word on a strong interest from any ML team, but it does show that there is some interest. It will also be up to the Kia Tigers to see if they want to lose their No. 1 starter. The team had lost out their previous ace, RHP Suk-Min Yoon, to the Baltimore Orioles before the 2014 season. After finishing with a dreadful 54-74 record (8th out of the 9-team league), will the team want to lose their best pitcher? According to the article, the team will let him go if they receive the compensation they are willing to accept (a.k.a not a small posting fee).
Even though he has pitched better and more consistently in the previous two seasons, Yang’s command remains a weak spot. In 2014, he posted a 4.04 BB/9 — the same clip that A.J. Burnett had this year. Unlike Ryu, Hyeon-Jong Yang was never known as a control savant in KBO — as I’ve mentioned before, his career was almost ruined by command problems. I see Kwang-Hyun Kim as a pitcher who’s comparable to Yang since both lefties with fastball around low-90’s with less-than-ideal command. Of course I am not saying that they are the same pitcher, but I am skeptical of both of their chances of being successful as starters in ML as much as Ryu has been. The scout referenced in Feinsand’s article must have seen something he liked that lead him to believe his skillset would translate well in the majors. Otherwise, based on Yang’s history and attributes, it’s hard to think why he would be a potential “No. 2-3 starter” in ML right away.
For 2015, I expect Yang to pitch similar to his 2013 and 2014 level, which may not be good enough to survive in the bigs. As of this writing, there still isn’t an official team statement from the Tigers about posting the lefty to majors. We might see one soon — I doubt Feinsand pulled the information out of nowhere. Yang’s team, like Kwang-Hyun Kim’s team, failed to qualify for postseason baseball in Korea (which is still going on by the way — they just finished the Game 2 of Korean Series) and they can post him anytime that they wish to. It’s unclear if the pitching-needy Yankees have interest.