Wednesday, July 9, 2014

2014 Astros Shadow Team International Signings

I have thought a lot about this lately. While researching these players, a few guys really stood out to me early on. Juan De Leon stood out to me right away, as did Ricky Aracena, Pedro Gonzalez and Gilbert Lara. Then you start to think about budget. I really liked arms like Christopher Acosta, Huascar Ynoa and Franklin Perez. Then budget is just stupid to think about because so many of these guys are seven figure guys and some of them have gotten 2+ million. Even with 5+ million to spend on my Shadow team, I won't get all the players I want.

I see a lot of potential in like Gilberto Lara, Miguel Flames, Hyo Joon Park, Juan De Leon, Bryan Emery and smaller ticket guys like Felix Osorio and Elwin Tejada. These could be future major leaguers and potentially future stars. Although there is a ton of risk involved, young talent is the cheapest and most efficient way to build a long term contender.

In a world where Joey Votto is still owed well over $200 million dollars as a 30 year old first baseman who is hitting .255/.390/.409 and Joe Mauer is a 31 year old first baseman owed just under $100 million while hitting .271/.342/.353, it makes you question monetary spending.

With the current penalties that are applied to overspending, it isn't just a slap on the wrist. It is real money. With a dollar for dollar penalty on anything over the spending cap, Gilbert Lara's $3.1 million dollar bonus would cost $6.2 million out of pocket. You are talking about a guy who's ETA is around 2020 and considering money isn't free, you have to add on a cost to it. At a 15% interest rate on the money spent, he would need to return about 16 million dollars of value in his six controllable year. While we don't know what the cost of a Win Above Replacement will be in 2020, using 2014 values, that only equates to a couple wins. While it is likely he would greatly exceed that value if he reaches his ceiling, you are talking about a high risk investment where you could get zero return.

In my opinion, if the cash is available to invest in amateur talent acquisition, you should do it. MLB talent is hard to acquire, look at what the A's just had to give up to get Jeff Samarzija. While Addison Russell isn't a lock to be a future star, he is one of the top 10 prospects in baseball and Billy McKinney can rake. While he is likely a future LF with an average bat, that is still very valuable. Russell was a 2.625 million dollar investment as an #11 overall pick and McKinney signed for $1.8 million as the #24 overall pick. Money does not always equal talent but you have to spend the money and have the ability to spend it, which MLB severly restricts.

That is why I agree with what the Yankees are doing this year. That is why I overspent prior to the CBA setting limits on draft spending and my feeling is I should this year on international players as well. The problem is, there are penalties and I don't know who I'd be passing on in the 2015 and 2016 groups. 

Then again talent is talent and the faster that you get a player into your system, the faster the return. While it is likely the Astros will get $12-13 million dollars worth of allotments over the next three years, it would take more than that to acquire comparable talent now due to fines. In my opinion, Juan De Leon is a player that a team could use as the centerpiece of an international crop. Signing one of them would really limit the ability to spread out the risk though.

My thought is to sign this group:
P Huascar Ynoa Minnesota Twins $800,000
P Franklin Perez Houston Astros $1,000,000
P Wander Cabrera Chicago Cubs $250,000
C Lenin Rodriguez Philadelphia Phillies $300,000
1B Bryan Pena San Francisco Giants $425,000
2B Ricky Aracena Kansas City Royals $850,000
SS Yonny Hernandez Texas Rangers $200,000
SS Elwin Tejeda Boston Red Sox $300,000
SS Jesus Navarro Toronto Blue Jays $200,000
SS Jose Rivero San Francisco Giants $250,000
OF Yondry Contreras Pittsburgh Pirates $400,000
I always use international signings to fill the middle of the diamond. I need to load up on that. I won't get an impact talent that I would want here though and that doesn't work for me. THese totals would come up $50,000 short of my limit. I'd be willing to go 4.99% over to sway a few of these guys away from their existing teams but not more than that.

Considering the Astros will get anouther large allotment next season, I can't see blowing the budget this year due to the penalties. As the team improves, I could see doing it and if Gilbert Lara or Juan De Leon become big time prospects and turn into stars, I'll kick myself but it's too much risk for me in this scenario.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

An Introduction to the 2014 International Class

Here are my opinions on the top prospects in the 2014 International class based on the sparse video that is available. There are some assumptions here but we are talking about 16 year olds.

With some players, it is easy to see the talent immediately. I wish I had run times on some of these guys to have a bit more information on whether they can play up the middle or have to move to a corner but I will have to just make judgement calls based off of body style and actions. I did not do an overall rating but I have them in the order I like them by position.
Pitchers
Christopher Acosta, R/R, 6'3", 170, D.R.
Acosta is long and lean. He has a nice loose arm and a clean delivery. His breaking ball has some bite too it and he looks like he should gain a few ticks on his fastball. I'd be surprised if he isn't a 7 figure guy. He seems like a safe pick with high upside and I think he will be generally regarded as the best arm in this class until these guys start making an impact stateside in 2015-2016.
Huascar Ynoa, R/R, 6'2", 190, D.R.
Huascar is Michael's younger brother but isn't quite the prospect the elder Ynoa was or is but he may need 4-5 years to figure it out as well. He is very raw but the stuff may project to be the most dominant in this class, it just lacks consistency and command. If I had to bet on one arm to be a future ace, I would bet on Ynoa but I would need big odds because he could be a guy who never repeats enough to make it work. On the other hand, an ace is worth 100 million+, he'll get 1 million+. 100:1 odds, I can handle that.
Anderson Espinoza, R/R, 5'10", 150, Venezuela
With MLB.com dropping a Pedro Martinez comp on him, expectations are high. The fact he has a simple delivery, can spin a breaking ball and shows a good change, he should get 7 figures. I do not see the next Pedro in him. Martinez was an extraordinary arm with a unique physique who could do things with the baseball that few if anyone has ever done before. That means Espinoza would have to possess everything Pedro did and then some to get to that point and to just name one thing, Espinoza doesn't have the hands that Pedro did. Aim lower on his ceiling but he could still be very good.
Carlos Herrera, R/R, 6'3", 150, D.R.
Herrera is another tall, skinny pitcher with a live arm. His fastball is light compared to what some are said to possess but there is more in there. There is some effort to his delivery, so he will likely be labeled a reliever early on but I love the breaking ball and am impressed by the movement on his pitches.
Juan Meza, R/R, 6', 170, Venezuela
Meza has a nice, smooth delivery and repeats well. He looks like a good athelte and his fastball is in the mid to upper 80's like most of the top arms. His changeup looks excellent but I didn't see a good breaking ball. From his arm slot, a good breaking ball would be difficult. He may end up working on a slider but he's 16 and has a live arm. I bet he's a 7 figure guy as well.
Franklin Perez, R/R, 6', 180, Venezuela
Perez has a strong muscular frame and has good physical maturity already. He has a solid low 90's fastball with the potential to be a guy who can pop 95 in the future if he continues to improve. He is new to the mound and was mostly a 3B until recently. He has shown a breaking ball but it is rudimentary. He gets excellent downhill momentum in his pitches and uses his body well.
Tomas Alastre, R/R, 6'3", 169, Venezuela
Tall and lean, Alastre has a lot of work to do to fill out his big frame. He has a good fastball and can spin a breaking ball as well. His delivery looks awkward and mechanical to me but the arm strength is there.

Catchers
Miguel Flames, R/R, 6'1", 210, Venezuela
Has a strong sweeping swing. He has a lot of potential with the bat. He is slow and built like a catcher after being a 3B in the recent past.. He's the best catcher on the int'l market and could be strong at the plate and defensively.
Lenin Rodriguez, R/R, 5'10", 176, Venezuela
Not a great athelte and is a little stiff but he has the type of bat that could turn into a superstar. It is smooth and repeatable and stays in the zone a long time. Considering he is short and stocky, he will need to watch his weight to stick at catcher. Since he is short, 1B isn't a good option so he'd be a DH type so the bat has to be really good.
Ricardo Rodriguez, R/R, 5'10", 180, Venezuela
Rodriguez has good footwork and catch and throw skills. He looks to be one of the better defenders in the class. I'm not a fan of the bat but he should hit for some power. He may be a defense first catcher or a backup if he makes it to the big leagues.
Brandon Benavente, R/R, 5'10", 190, Venezuela
Solid footwork. Fluid actions behind the dish. He should be able to stick behind the dish but his body will need to be watched as well. He has a solid, simple swing but he won't be a great hitter. He will struggle with off speed pitch and pitches on the outside half.
Jhandro Alfaro, R/R, 5'8", 200, Colombia

Solid defensively, Alfaro is Jorge's younger brother. He is smaller and doesn't have the loud tools but has a solid swing from both sides of the plate. He is a good defender and should be able to stick behind the dish.



Third Base
Gilbert Lara, R/R, 6'3", 203, D.R.
Lara has some of the loudest power in this class. He has incredible torque in his swing. He will likely be listed as a SS when he signs but there is no chance he stays there. 3B may even be a stretch for him but the bat will play. His aggresive swing may cause some swing and miss issues but the power should play and he will be one of the highest payed players in this class.

Nelson Gomez, R/R, 6'2", 219, D.R.
Gomez is almost a bat only prospect. His thick legs and stiff hands don't look like they will let him stay at 3B in the long run. I would expect that he's a 1B/LF type as he moves up the pro ranks. He doesn't square the ball as often as I would expect from a corner bat type. He has big power and will get big money but I wouldn't put too much in on him.
Dermis Garcia, R/R, 6'2", 182, D.R.
Garcia has a long swing that has a bit of a slow trigger at times. I think he will struggle a lot with good pitching without changes to his swing. There is a lot of raw power there but he sells out a lot for power. He will be listed as a shortstop but he's a 3B and should be a solid defender there. If he can put it all together, he could be an elite talent.
Gabriel Corporan, R/R, 6'5", 200, D.R.
Good power potential from a physically mature build. Too much of a pull approach now. Stocky body could be a concern down the line but he has a solid line drive swing and should hit for average power.
Kenny Hernandez, L/R, 6', 160, Venezuela
Simple clean swing. Gets good extension through the ball. Defensively, he may be a 3B but could have to shift to 1B or the OF. I'm not sure how fast he is so I'm not sure if he could handle a corner OF spot. If he's a 1B, he will really have to hit and at this point he's a gap to gap guy. He could be an impressive average hitting prospect with solid power along the lines in a few years or be completely disregarded if he doesn't hit and has to be relegated to 1B.

Shortstops
Pedro Gonzalez, R/R, 6'4", 160, D.R.
There is almost no chance that Gonzalez stays in the infield without ending up at 1B. His long, lean frame that looks more like 6'6" than 6'4" already is kind of scary. He is all projection. He has a bit of a long swing but he has a lot of bat control and quick, strong wrists that guide the bat through the zone. It would not surprise me to see him as a 6'6", 240 LB first baseman in the majors with an average bat and above average power but then again he could keep growing and loose coordination very easily. He is very hard to pin down because of the physicallity.
Ricky Aracena, S/R, 5'8", 155, D.R.
Smooth and direct with his swing. His swing from the left side seems a bit more natural but both are excellent. Short and quick to the ball, he often hits it out front and hits it hard. He is small but he has good range, solid footwork and enough arm for SS.
Hyo-Jun Park, L/R, 6'2", 165, South Korea
The easy comp here is Hak Ju Lee but I don't think that works. From the video, it looks like Park has a lot more power and hits the ball with much more authority. His defensive actions look ok and he may be more well suited at 3B if he has the arm for it. He has somewhat awkward movements and long legs that make me think he won't play well up the middle. Very interesting bat to go with good athleticism though.
Wilkerman Garcia, L/R, 5'11", 168, Venezuela
Garcia has the build of a 2B and will likely move off SS to 2B in the future. He has great barrel awareness and contact ability. His easy swing is a great asset and I think he will be the kind of guy to hit for a high average and rack up doubles while knocking a few over the fence just because he squares it up well enough. He has a controlled approach which is much different than many of the international talents. It's kind of cool to see him stay within himself.
Adrian Rondon, R/R, 6'1", 175, D.R.
Rondon has a pure contact approach with minimal power. He has quick wrists but his swing looks like it can get long. He has good hand eye coordination and should be able to improve enough to have a usable bat. The defensive skills are excellent and he should be a solid defensive short stop. Some say he is the best prospect in the class and maybe with more viewings I would get it but from the videos I have seen, I can't say that.
Amado Nunez, R/R, 6'2", 178, D.R.
Nunez is a long, lean athelte that has a simple, fluid swing. Currently he doesn't have big power but as he grows and fills out, he should add power. He may have to slide over to 3B as he gains weight but he should add power as he does to become an average to above average power hitter as well. His contact ability is impressive.
Arquimedes Gamboa, S/R, 5'11", 158, Venezuela
I haven't seen video of him but he's said to be able to stick up the middle and have a solid bat.
Elwin Tejeda
Will move to 3B in the future but could have the bat to make that work. Simple swing with good contact ability. Uses his wrists well. I really like the polish here.
Miguel Angel Sierra, R/R, 6', 160, Venezuela
Good defender but may have to move to 2B if the arm isn't strong enough. Good footwork. He's a defense first guy as the bat is just a contact oriented approach. He looks like a gamer whose play will exceed his tools.
Diego Castillo, R/R, 5'10", 150, Venezuela
Looks smooth defensively but doesn't look to have a lot of foot speed. He may have to slide over to 2B but he has very good infield actions. His bat is below average but he makes good contact.
Christopher Torres, S/R, 6', 170, D.R.
Torres looks to have very good defensive actions and should be able to stick up the middle but I don't believe in the bat at all.

Outfielders
Juan De Leon, R/R, 6'1", 175, D.R.
De Leon has big time bat speed. He impacts the ball on every swing. He has solid OF actions that will allow him to be an asset wherever he plays in the OF. He has an extremely high ceiling and still looks like a fairly safe bet comparitively. I would expect he gets near the top of the bonus list this year.
Ronny Rafael, R/R, 6', 177, D.R.
Simple swing with fast hands. Muscular durable frame that looks the part of a top prospect. Good speed and solid arm from the OF. He has loud tools from his compact frame.
Antonio Arias, R/R, 6'2", 180, Venezuela
Arias has long limbs and a loose swing. I like the swing and atheticism. He doesn't have huge power but should hit his fair share of extra base hits. Without seeing him run, he looks like a center fielder based on his frame.
Brayan Hernandez, R/R, 6'1", 170, Venezuela
A great example of how difficult projecting these guys is. He has a great swing from the left side but needs about 25 lbs before his power will reach it's potential. I don't like the swing as much from the right side but it is still solid. Defensively, he looks to be a LF or CF if he has the foot speed.
Bryan Emery, S/R, 6'4", 195, Colombia
Really good athelte. Likely a RF but has the bat to make it work. Not a lot of power right now but the swing is great. He has a huge frame and is already pretty physically mature. He could have a really high ceiling.
Bryan Pena, L/?, , , D.R.
Huge power potential. Big uppercut from a strong, handsy swing. The swing doesn't lend itself to contact but all I've seen is BP, so it's hard to tell. The power alone is enough for six figures if not more. I would love to see more of this guy to give a better assessment.
Jonathan Amundaray, R/R, 6'2", 175, Venezuela
More of an athelte than a baseball player. He's an intriguing prospect to most but I don't see the hitting ability of a major leaguer. He looks like he's having a hard time even in BP.
Julio Martinez, R/R, 6'3", 183, D.R.
Good hitter. Keeps his hands inside the ball well. Really slow running. Not very good defensively in the OF. May end up at 1B so the pressure will be on the bat more.
Alexander Paredes, R/R, 6'2", 170, D.R.
Very good arm. Solid looking athlete. Squares the ball. Very pull oriented right now.
Juan Yepez, 3B, Venezuela
OF's A few other names: Daniel Brito, Eriberto Franco, Frailyn Serra, Juan Ventura, Kevin Vicuna, Wilmer Reyes, Israel Feliz
SS's Other Names: Esmerlin Gonzalez, Julio Suarez, Melvin Mendez, Rafioly Urena, Wander Cabrera, Yeremi Rosario
2014 International Bonus Pools
Astros$5,015,400
Marlins$4,622,400
White Sox$4,273,200
Cubs$3,962,700
Twins$3,686,600
Mariners$3,440,700
Phillies$3,221,800
Rockies$3,026,700
Blue Jays$2,852,900
Mets$2,697,800
Brewers$2,611,800
Padres$2,531,200
Giants$2,455,300
Angels$2,383,700
D'backs$2,316,600
Orioles$2,253,100
Yankees$2,193,100
Royals$2,136,800
Nationals$2,083,600
Reds$2,033,400
Rangers$2,015,500
Rays$1,998,100
Indians$1,980,700
Dodgers$1,963,800
Tigers$1,946,900
Pirates$1,930,400
Athletics$1,913,900
Braves$1,897,900
Red Sox$1,881,700
Cardinals$1,866,300
Bonus Estimates:
NameBonus Est.
Adrian Rondon$3,111,250
Gilbert Lara$3,206,075
Dermis Garcia$2,288,700
Juan De Leon$2,362,975
Nelson Gomez$2,362,975
Brayan Hernandez$1,792,900
Anderson Espinoza$1,586,900
Christopher Acosta$1,541,300
Juan Meza$1,026,600
Johathan Amundaray$957,900
Wilkerman Garcia$992,250
Pedro Gonzalez$893,800
Hyo-Jun Park$863,850
Arquimedes Gamboa$726,000
Kenny Hernandez$743,160
Antonio Arias$677,400
Bryan Pena$677,400
Ricky Aracena$701,700
Bryan Emery$713,850
Huascar Ynoa$713,850
Franklin Perez$610,750
Christopher Torres$569,850
Miguel Angel Sierra$546,550
Ronny Rafael$547,757
Miguel Flames$548,325
Diego Castillo$530,650
Lenin Rodriguez$515,300
Julio Martinez$515,300
Ricardo Rodriguez$518,700
Amado Nunez$508,600
Yeremi Rosario$495,400
Brandon Benavente$482,700
Jhoandro Alfaro$485,800