While the 2018 MLB Draft is in the rearview mirror, another important way for Major League clubs to procure top amateur talent is coming up with the annual international signing period beginning on Monday.All five clubs in the American League Central have benefited from players who originally signed as international
While the 2018 MLB Draft is in the rearview mirror, another important way for Major League clubs to procure top amateur talent is coming up with the annual international signing period beginning on Monday.
All five clubs in the American League Central have benefited from players who originally signed as international free agents, and they all have plenty more international talent on the way.
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Here's a look at the top international prospect for each team in the AL Central:
Top international prospect: C Francisco Mejia (July 2, 2012)
How's he doing: The 22-year-old Mejia -- signed out of Bani, Dominican Republic, for a $100,000 bonus six years ago -- has hit .265 with six homers, 15 doubles, 34 RBIs and a .721 OPS through 63 games for Triple-A Columbus this season. The switch-hitter has bounced between catching and the outfield in an attempt to increase his versatility and potentially expedite his path to the Majors.
Mejia got off to a slow start this season, but has caught fire in June. Through 20 games this month, he was hitting at a .420 clip with a 1.076 OPS. According to MLB Pipeline, Mejia is not only the No. 1 prospect in the Indians' system, but the No.1 catching prospect in baseball.
ETA: Mejia spent 11 games with the Indians down the stretch in 2017 and was added to the Major League roster once already this year (without appearing in a game). If there were a setback to Major League catchers Yan Gomes or Roberto Perez, Mejia could be the next man up.
Top international prospect: OF Seuly Matias (July 2, 2015)
How's he doing: After hitting seven home runs last season for Rookie-level Burlington, Matias, 19, has clubbed 24 home runs through 60 games this season -- he leads all Minor Leaguers -- for Class A Lexington. He's striking out too much (89 times in 240 plate appearances) but the power has been breathtaking. Matias, the Royals' No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, presumably will get promoted to Class A Advanced Wilmington this summer.
ETA: 2021.Matias has the tools to be a star, but he has to work to refine them, especially his contact rate.
Top international prospect: SS Alvaro Gonzalez (July 2, 2017)
How's he doing: The Tigers signed the Venezuelan shortstop for a $1 million bonus during last year's international signing period and put him in the Dominican Summer League this month. He entered Tuesday batting .279 (17-for-61) with four triples and four stolen bases, a reflection of his bat and speed. With 11 errors in his first 16 games at shortstop, he still has work to do defensively. The 17-year-old ranks 27th among Tigers prospects.
ETA: Gonzalez is still a long way away. MLB Pipeline lists his potential arrival in Detroit in 2022, but with the Tigers having some depth in middle-infield prospects, they could take longer than that and let him fill out his game.
Top international prospect: RHP Brusdar Graterol (Aug. 29, 2014)
How's he doing: Graterol, who signed for just $150,000 out of Venezuela, is off to a strong start with Class A Cedar Rapids, posting a 2.18 ERA with 51 strikeouts and nine walks in 41 1/3 innings. He has a big arm -- reaching as high as 101 mph with his fastball in recent starts -- and also possesses a curveball, slider and a developing changeup. He had Tommy John surgery, which forced him to miss the 2016 season, but he's come back strong since then, including good control, with only 22 walks issued in 81 1/3 innings since the operation.
ETA: Graterol, who is ranked as the club's No. 6 prospect by MLB Pipeline, isn't expected to reach the Majors until 2021, as he still needs to move through the system and improve his command. The 19-year-old, though, has the stuff and the build to remain a starter and is one of the more exciting starting pitching prospects the Twins have had in recent years.
Top international prospect: OF Luis Robert (May 27, 2017)
How's he doing: The 2018 season was slowed down for Robert due to a sprained ligament suffered in his left thumb on March 9 that kept him out of official action until a debut with Class A Kannapolis on June 5. The No. 25 prospect overall per MLB Pipeline and No. 3 for the White Sox has some residual wrist soreness from his thumb being immobilized for so long, but the 20-year-old already is flashing signs of five-tool talent after a promotion to Class A Advanced Winston-Salem.
ETA: Those who watched Robert during his first big league camp already saw Major League talent in the making. But with the injury setback this season, 2020 would seem to be the safest guess for a Robert debut with the White Sox. He potentially could join Cuban countrymen Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu in the lineup.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.