Tampa Bay's Willy Adames and Washington's Juan Soto are the latest in a long line of young international prospects to make their mark in the big leagues.There's also Ozzie Albies and teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. in Atlanta. Add Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres to a list that includes Ronald Guzman and
Tampa Bay's Willy Adames and Washington's Juan Soto are the latest in a long line of young international prospects to make their mark in the big leagues.
There's also Ozzie Albies and teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. in Atlanta. Add Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres to a list that includes Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara, who both signed with Texas as teenagers in 2011.
More could be on the way, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays) and Eloy Jimenez (White Sox) both dominating in the Minor Leagues this year and making a case for a big league promotion.
• How the Braves landed Acuna when everyone else missed
These players all signed under the international signing guidelines. Here are the Top 5 ways teams secure top international talent:
:: 2018 International Signing Period ::
Face time and FaceTime matter
The signing bonus is a big factor, but the relationship between an area scout -- an evaluator who covers a specific region of a country -- and a prospect's family is also valuable. It's part of an area scout's job to build the kind of trust that can lead to deals when the signing period starts on July 2. The best scouts lay the groundwork years in advance. Some area scouts use their fame and accomplishments to appeal to families. Many use social media platforms and messaging apps to communicate with prospects throughout the process. Some former players serve as area scouts and hope to gain an edge by offering coaching tips and guidance to the young players.
The relationship between a club's international director and a prospect's agent, often referred to as a trainer or "buscon," is an important part of the signing process. It's a director's job to negotiate the signing bonus and, although the executive might not have the same influence on the family as an area scout, he makes the final decision. A successful international director is efficient, aggressive and not afraid to commit to a signing a player. The decision to sign a player is often based on a prospect's history, input from the scouting staff and a workout supervised by the international director.
Some parents of international prospects want their teenage sons -- most of whom are leaving home for the first time -- to have access to adequate housing, English classes and a high-school-equivalency curriculum at a team's academy. Families concerned with their son's development off the field pay close attention to all of the programs an academy offers. Teams understand their facility plays a role in a family's decision to sign with a team.
History of success
A team's reputation for developing players can also help secure a top prospect. A teenage pitcher might choose to sign with a team known for developing pitchers. Similarly, an outfield prospect could choose to sign with a team that will not only develop his skills but also provide what appears to be a quick path through the Minor Leagues to the Majors. Less than three years ago, Soto trained at the Nationals' academy in the Dominican Republic. The teens at the same facility watched him hit his first big league home run and were left inspired.
Big market teams like the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Red Sox, and Yankees have strong fan bases in Latin America and across the Caribbean -- so those teams can be attractive to prospects. It's also common for a prospect to sign with a team he grew up rooting for. Back in 2013, for instance, Jimenez turned down larger offers from the Astros and Rangers to sign with the Cubs because he liked the team's colors and his favorite player was Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa. It makes branding a priority for teams focused on acquiring international talent now and in the future.
Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.