Checking in on last year's top international signees

January 13th, 2023

Jan. 15 is almost here. While that means a new group of talented young prospects will enter the ranks, it also marks a full year since the 2022 class started their professional baseball journeys.

The 2023 international free agency period is the third to be moved to the middle of January since the onset of the pandemic. That change allows players to debut -- typically in the Dominican Summer League -- in the calendar year in which they sign. Previously, players who inked their first contracts on or around July 2 had to wait until the following summer to play in official games.

That gives us a full season of data from the 2022 class, which features some players already rocketing up their organizational rankings. There’s even one who has already broken into MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list.

Keeping in mind that statistics from Complex levels shouldn’t be viewed as the be-all and end-all, here’s how last year’s top five international prospects fared in their professional debuts:

No. 1: Roderick Arias, SS (Yankees No. 11)
The Yankees have pulled in a pair of crown jewels from recent IFA classes, including Jasson Domínguez, MLB’s No. 39 overall prospect, in the summer of 2019 and Arias in last year’s signing period for a reported $4 million bonus. Arias, 17, was limited to just 31 games after missing the first month of the season, and despite hitting a nice stride in the middle of his campaign, ultimately finished with a .194/.379/.370 line. That .749 OPS was nearly 20 points higher than Domínguez’s in his debut season before his breakout 2022, though the outfielder spent most of that first year as an 18-year-old in Single-A.

No. 2: Cristhian Vaquero, OF (Nationals No. 7)
Vaquero earned the nickname “the Phenomenon” even before Washington signed him to a reported $4.925 million deal, tops among all players subject to international bonus pool rules. At 17, he spent the entire 2022 season with the DSL Nationals, hitting .256/.379/.341 with just one home run, though it was a big one -- a walk-off two-run blast in July.

Vaquero’s raw talent, which includes the potential for above-average tools across the board, indicates a strong leap forward may be in store in 2023. On a recent MLB Pipeline podcast, Jim Callis predicted Vaquero could make a Jackson Chourio-esque leap into the Top 100 this season.

No. 3: Ricardo Cabrera, SS (Reds No. 27)
After signing for a reported $2.7 million bonus, Cabrera endured a bumpy first month in the DSL before finishing the year on an excellent note. The native of Venezuela hit just .120 (6-for-50) in June but righted the ship once the calendar flipped to July, slashing .314/.403/.461 over the final 29 games of the season. Cabrera was one of the more polished players in the 2022 international class, and he's among an impressive group of Cincinnati shortstop prospects.

No. 4: William Bergolla, SS (Phillies No. 14)
Bergolla hit the ground running after signing a reported $2.05 million deal with Philadelphia. It was just a 24-game sample, but the Venezuelan -- and son of the one-time big leaguer of the same name -- hit .380/.470/.423 with 11 walks and just three strikeouts. Bat-to-ball skills and defense highlight Bergolla’s tools, and he should get a chance to further hone them stateside for the Phillies this year.

No. 5: Oscar Colas, OF (White Sox No. 2/MLB No. 95)
It would have been wise to pick Colas as the first player from last year’s international class to crack MLB’s Top 100, given his age (23 last season) and professional experience in Japan and his native Cuba, but his immediate impact in the Chicago system exceeded expectations. Colas split the majority of his debut season between High-A and Double-A -- with a trip to the All-Star Futures Game near the midpoint -- and he even earned a cameo in Triple-A for the last seven games of the year. All told, he slashed .314/.371/.524 with 23 home runs in 117 games and is trending in the direction of a Major League callup this summer.

Looking for more names on the rise? Keep an eye on these four 2022 signees who made strides in their first professional season:

Jarlin Susana, RHP (Nationals No. 8/Int'l No. 31)
Susana was a member of the San Diego Padres organization for just under seven months before he was one of the six players dealt to Washington in the Juan Soto trade. Susana was the top-ranked pitcher of his international class and commanded a reported $1.7 million bonus, then quickly proved his worth in pro ball. At 18, he skipped the DSL, made his pro debut in the Arizona Complex League and ended the year with Single-A Fredericksburg, where his fastball reached 103 mph. Susana finished with a 2.40 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 45 innings between both levels.

​​Lazaro Montes, OF (Mariners No. 10/Int'l No. 8)
Montes is a physical left-handed-hitting outfielder who flexed his power last season with 10 home runs, becoming one of just seven players in the DSL to reach double digits. A native of Cuba, he signed for a reported $2.5 million bonus, the Mariners' highest international figure last year.

Michael Arroyo, INF (Mariners No. 11/Int'l No. 41)
Montes wasn’t the only big fish that Seattle reeled in last January, also inking Arroyo to a reported $1.375 million deal. The athletic shortstop similarly impressed in the DSL, hitting .314/.457/.484 with four home runs and four stolen bases in 49 games.

Jaison Chourio, OF (Guardians No. 21/Int'l No. 20)
Chourio’s DSL performance may have been better than that of his brother, who vaulted from a trendy sleeper entering 2022 to MLB’s No. 10 overall prospect at the end of the season. The younger Chourio isn’t expected to make quite that big of a jump, but his tools and .280/.446/.402 slash indicate he could quickly rise up the ranks in a deep Cleveland system.

Sixteen other players from last year's Top 50 currently rank within their organization's Top 30:

No. 6 Anthony Gutierrez, OF (Rangers No. 12)
No. 9 Ryan Reckley, SS (Giants No. 30)
No. 10 Diego Benitez, SS (Braves No. 15)
No. 13 Javier Osorio, SS (Tigers No. 30)
No. 14 Jonathan Mejia, SS (Cardinals No. 10)
No. 16 Simon Juan, OF (Mets No. 21)
No. 17 Yasser Mercedes, OF (Twins No. 18)
No. 22 Braylin Tavera, OF (Orioles No. 28)
No. 23 Johan Barrios, SS (Brewers No. 25)
No. 24 Yendry Rojas, SS (Padres No. 17)
No. 28 Erick Hernandez, OF (White Sox No. 24)
No. 29 Nelson Rada, OF (Angels No. 14)
No. 33 Luis Meza, C (Blue Jays No. 21)
No. 36 Abdias De La Cruz, SS (D-backs No. 26)
No. 38 Randy De Jesus, OF (Angels No. 16)

No. 48 Martin Gonzalez, SS (Mariners No. 19)

Digging even deeper, 14 other players were unranked on last year's International Top 50 list but now find themselves inside their team's Top 30 list:

Luis Lara, OF (Brewers No. 12)
Antony Peguero, OF (Marlins No. 17)
Willy Fañas, OF (Mets No. 17)
Jose Gerardo, OF (Marlins No. 18)
Cesar Prieto, 2B (Orioles No. 18)
Won-Bin Cho, OF (Cardinals No. 20)
Jose Rodriguez, OF (Twins No. 20)
Ryan Burrowes, SS (White Sox No. 20)
Douglas Glod, OF (Braves No. 21)
Ruben Santana, 3B (D-backs No. 21)
Luis Baez, OF (Astros No. 22)
Jesus Baez, SS/3B (Mets No. 24)
Loidel Chapelli, 2B (White Sox No. 26)
Enrique Segura, RHP (Phillies No. 28)