At long last, Rafael DePaula gets his visa

Update (6:16pm): Here’s is Ben Badler’s report. He says recent reports still have DePaula running his fastball up into the high-90s. The physical should be a non-issue — he’s been working out at the team’s Dominican complex for the last 14 months or so — and I assume the Yankees will hold him back in Extended Spring Training for a bit before bumping him to Low-A Charleston. DePaula figures to be on a faster track than most international free agent pitchers.

2:33pm: Via Ben-Nicholson Smith, Dominican right-hander Rafael DePaula has finally landed a visa. The soon-to-be 21-year-old was having trouble getting to States because of a suspension stemming from age and identity fraud several years ago. The Yankees agreed to sign him for $500k back in November 2010, though the deal was contingent on him securing a visa. With that taken care of, now all he has to do is pass his physical. DePaula is a significant prospect, arguably top ten in the system, but he lost a big chunk of development time this last year or so. Here’s some video.

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Video & Musings: Rafael DePaula

The Yankees agreed to sign Rafael DePaula for $500k back in November 2010, but the 20-year-old right-hander is still waiting for his visa to be approved so he can come to the U.S. and finalize his contract. He was one of the top arms on the international market back in the day, but was suspended for a year after lying about his age and his identity. Apparently the government doesn’t like to let people into the country after they do that.

As we wait for DePaula to secure a visa, the always resourceful Andy in Sunny Daytona dug up some quality (and recent!) video of the 6-foot-3 right-hander throwing a bullpen at what appears to be the Yankees’ complex in the Dominican Republic. The video above is all fastballs, a pitch that can touch 97 mph according to reports from back when he agreed to his contract. The video below is primarily low-effort breaking balls from in front of the mound. It’s pretty slurvy, looking like a slider one pitch then a curveball the next. It’s still February though, he’s just getting back into the swing of things like everyone else .

DePaula will turn 21 in March according his official documents, so while he’s still very young, he’s also lost a lot of development time over the last few years between the suspension and visa-related hiatus. He’s not allowed to participate in any games because he’s not officially under contract, so he’s just been working out at the team’s complex for the time being. That’s all well and good, but he’s got to get into games and face actual hitters to make real progress in his development. For now, the Yankees and DePaula can’t do anything but continue to wait.

Mailbag: Ibanez, Montero, Closer, Martin

Just five questions this week, and the answers aren’t even that long. So yeah, pretty straight-forward mailbag. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything, including mailbag questions.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Dan asks: Let’s say Raul Ibanez gives the Yankees a good reason to release him, thus giving Russell Branyan, Bill Hall, etc. a shot of making the team. What would the Yankees have to pay Ibanez?

Assuming it’s a guaranteed big league contract, which is probably is, the Yankees would have to pay Ibanez the full $1.1M no matter when they cut him. If it’s not a guaranteed deal, they could release him by March 19th and only pay him 30 days termination pay (~$191,860), or 45 days termination pay (~$287,790) if they release him between March 20th and Opening Day. If it’s non-guaranteed and they released him after Opening Day, they’re on the hook for the full $1.1M. Like I said, chances are it is a guaranteed contract (Eric Chavez‘s is) and they owe him everything regardless.

Arnold asks: Why do I get the feeling that the Yanks never intended to keep Jesus Montero? Supposedly, they were concerned about keeping the DH slot open for the senior citizens, but now that Montero’s gone, they sign every octogenarian in sight (see Ibanez) to clog up the DH slot. Will the youngsters ever get a chance in this organization?

I can understand why you feel that way, but I don’t necessarily agree with it. I do think the Yankees have been overly cautious promoting youngsters to the big leagues over the last two or three years after being overly aggressive in the past, almost like they’re overcompensation by going from one extreme to the other. It’s not like they gave Montero away though, the only time his name popped up in (legitimate) trade rumors was when there was a bonafide ace (Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee) or a young hurler with that kind of upside (Michael Pineda) on the table.

It’s not easy integrating young players into the ultra-competitive AL East though, especially with this ham-fisted “win the World Series or the season is a failure” mentality embedded in the fanbase. Growing pains and are tough to stomach when you’re trying to win the World Series.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Daniel asks: If this is indeed Mariano Rivera‘s last season, next season the Yankees have Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and now David Aardsma as well as various minor leaguers vying for the closer position. None of them are Rivera and no one ever will be, but as far as closer options go, the Yankees wont be in too bad a position will they?

No, I don’t think so. Not only do they have plenty of quality in-house closer candidates, but they also have the means to go out and get an established closer (Ryan Madson? Joakim Soria?) if they want (I’d rather see them exhaust the in-house options first). Replacing Rivera’s production will be hard but not impossible, at least in terms of save percentage and actually recording that 27th out for the wclosing out games for the win. No one will be as utterly dominant and flawless as Mo, of course.

The one thing no one will ever be able to replace is the sense of security Rivera provides. No matter how chaotic the situation or big the game, there is never a sense of unease when Mo’s on the mound. I can’t imagine anyone will ever make us feel that way again. I hope he doesn’t retire after the season, but if he does, the team is well-prepared to replace him. It just won’t be as pretty.

Alec asks: With recent news about Russell Martin’s extension talks and Yadier Molina’s talks of extension with the Cardinals, I hope neither signs so the options are open for the Yankees in 2013. I know you value Miguel Montero a bit better than Martin since he is a better hitter, but what do you think about Yadi? I prefer him over Martin, Montero, and Mike Napoli in the 2013 FA crew. Cash must think otherwise since he is trying to extend Martin. Your take?

I’d rank those four guys: Napoli (moderate gap) Montero (small gap) Molina (small gap) Martin. I do value catcher defense but I also don’t think it’s the most important thing in the world, so the two defense-first guys lag behind the big bats for me. Yadi would be an upgrade over Martin especially if he shows that last year’s offensive spike (.349 wOBA) is a real thing during his peak years, but the big question is money. I have a feeling Molina’s going to get huge bucks only because the Cardinals won’t want to lose him after losing Albert Pujols.

Martin’s not the best catcher in the league, but he’s better than the average catcher offensively and is a strong defender. The Yankees also value makeup, and Russ does come across as a tough dude. I’ve thrown out that three-year, $25-30M deal for Martin with these rumors in recent weeks, and that’s pretty much my limit. Joe Torre ran him into the ground earlier in his career and I worry that a big crash is coming in his early-30’s. Ideally, Martin would mentor Austin Romine for a few years then hand over the reigns. Molina’s a great catcher, but I think I’d rather have Martin at his price than Yadi at his, especially if the Cardinals get desperate.

Mike asks: Where would Rafael DePaula have ranked in your top 30 prospects if he had obtained his visa?

If he’d have gotten the visa this offseason, I probably would have had him in the 20-25 range somewhere, likely behind Nik Turley. If he’d gotten the visa last offseason and spent the entire 2011 season in the farm system throwing real innings, he probably would have ranked even higher barring injury, 11-15 possibly. The kid’s got a fantastic arm, but he’s losing a lot of precious development time.

Rafael DePaula Non-Update: Still No Visa

Via Ben Badler, soon-to-be 21-year-old right-hander Rafael DePaula is still in the Dominican Republic waiting for a visa, which would make his $500k contract with the Yankees become official. The two sides agreed to terms in November of 2010, but DePaula has been stuck in visa limbo because he’d previously lied about his age and identity. He spent last year working out at the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic, and I suspect he’ll do the same this summer if he doesn’t get a visa anytime soon. DePaula has a great arm and could still become one of the team’s better pitching prospects, but he’s lost a lot of development time with all these delays.

Yankees, Rafael DePaula still waiting on visa

One year ago today, the Yankees agreed to sign Dominican right-hander Rafael DePaula for $500k, pending a work visa. VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed to Ben Badler that DePaula still hasn’t been able to get the visa, so he remains stuck in limbo. He spent this past season working out at the team’s academy in the Dominican, but he is not allowed to participate in games since his contract is not yet official.

DePaula, 21 in March, had been suspended by MLB for a year after lying about his age and identity. His actual age and identity was confirmed by MLB’s verification process last summer, allowing him to sign. Unfortunately, the U.S. government doesn’t like the idea of letting people who lied about their identity into the country, especially after Sept. 11th. DePaula may never get a visa, but the Yankees also don’t have to pay him unless he does. The 6-foot-3 righty was said to be able to run his fastball up to 97 last year.

IFA News: Andujar, Marcos, DePaula, Paniagua

Teams can begin signing newly-eligible international free agents this Saturday, and Ben Badler of Baseball America brings us up to speed with who might be going where (subs. req’d). One of the Yankees’ top targets is Dominican third baseman Miguel Andujar, who is said to have “good bat speed, an advanced righthanded swing and has shown the ability to hit both fastballs and offspeed pitches.” They’ve also been connected to Dominican center fielder Manny Marcos, who you can read about here.

Badler also provides an update on Rafael DePaula, who signed with the Yankees for six-figures over the winter. DePaula had an interview with the U.S. Consolate last month and is awaiting a visa after being suspended for age and identity fraud. Juan Carlos Paniagua, who signed for $1.1M, is also awaiting a visa. Neither player’s contract will become official until they actually get the okay to come to the United States.

Link Dump: Org. Rankings, Int’l Money, Sanchez

Earlier today we pointed you in the direction of John Sickels’ interview with Mark Newman, but here’s a few more minor league links to pass along…

Goldstein’s Organizational Rankings

A few days after releasing his top 101 prospects list, Kevin Goldstein released his farm system rankings today, placing the Yankees fourth overall behind the Royals, Rays, and Braves. You don’t need a subscription to view the whole thing. Instead of posting a generic paragraph on each system, KG added a haiku, and I give him points for originality. His Yankees’ offering: “Slugger with no glove. The B’s need to prove themselves. Yankees or trade bait?” Pretty much everything you need to know right there.

International Free Agent Clearing House

Baseball America posted a trio of great charts regarding international free agency today, one looking at the top 30 signing bonuses from 2010, another with each team’s spending in 2010, and the last with the top 20 bonuses of all-time. None of them require a subscription. The Yankees gave Wilmer Romero and Christopher Tamarez $656,500 and $650,000, respectively, the 19th and 20th largest bonuses of the year. Rafael DePaula got just $500,000 (26th), and some kid named Eduardo Rivera got $475,000 (30th). The $5.27M they spent overall was the second most by any team, so everyone complaining that the team wasn’t spending enough internationally, just stop.

As for the all-time records, Gary Sanchez‘s $3M is the third largest ever, behind Michael Ynoa and Miguel Sano. Wily Mo Pena ($2.44MM) is the ninth largest of all time, and for a while was a record. I still can’t believe the Yankees gave Wify Mo a big league contract as a teenager.

KLaw on Sanchez

Jesus Montero is the cream of the Yankees’ position player prospect crop and rightfully so, but further down the later resides Sanchez, who has to potential to be every bit as good as Hey-Zeus. Keith Law looked at six prospects yesterday (Insider req’d), six guys with the potential to jump into the top ten prospects in all of baseball next year, and Sanchez was among them. “Sanchez can hit, and looks like he’ll hit for power,” said KLaw. “A full year behind the plate and another year of physical development will go a long way toward answering the question of his defensive future, but there aren’t many questions about his offensive potential.”

Law says he believes Sanchez can catch long-term, and at the very least he has a better chance to do so than Montero. It’s unfair to compare Sanchez to Montero but it’ll inevitably happen. If he’s 75% of Jesus, that would be amazing.

Yankees sign Nick Ebert

The Yankees have signed former South Carolina first baseman Nick Ebert as an undrafted free agent, reports Matt Eddy. The 23-year-old hit .302/.448/.638 with 30 homers in 440 plate appearances with the Game Cocks over the last two years, before which he was at a junior college. Baseball America ranked Ebert as the 36th best prospect in the state before last year’s draft, just saying that he was a solid college senior with some power. The right-handed hitter is probably nothing more than minor league depth, a guy that can mash Single-A pitching and help keep the pressure off the youngsters.