Best international signing for all 30 teams

June 28th, 2019

On July 2, the 2019-20 international signing period will commence with all 30 teams hoping to add future impact talent to their organizations. Many young players will get seven-figure bonuses, especially those considered to be among the best the class has to offer. Others will be diamonds in the rough, prospects who will exceed current expectations and become Major League contributors.

Signing players at age 16 and developing them into the stars of tomorrow can take time and patience. But the payoff can be considerable and all teams, even those who are relatively new to the landscape, are exploring the international market for those future stars. And all have talent currently in their systems who initially entered pro ball as international free agent acquisitions.

Two of the top five on our Top 100 Prospects list -- current No. 1 prospect Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays and No. 5 Luis Robert from the Chicago White Sox -- received large bonuses to start their professional careers.

But as this look at the best international signee for each organization shows, a big signing bonus isn't the only way to finding and developing a promising prospect.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Eric Pardinho, RHP (TOR No. 4, MLB No. 99)
Pardinho had already put together an impressive amateur career in Brazil and was regarded by scouts as one of the premier international hurlers in his class before the Blue Jays inked him for $1.4 million in July 2017. He made the jump straight to the Rookie-level Appalachian League for his pro debut and excelled there at age 17, showing two plus pitches (fastball and curveball) to go along with a promising changeup and an overall advanced feel for pitching. And while his 2019 campaign was delayed by an elbow injury, Pardinho recently made a healthy return to the mound, firing four scoreless frames in his season debut in the Gulf Coast League.

Orioles: Yusniel Diaz, OF (BAL No. 4, MLB No. 90)
The Dodgers dropped $31 million to get Diaz in November 2015, signing him for $15.5 million while also paying the same amount to cover an incurred penalty tax. Less than three years later, he became the Orioles’ key return in the five-player package they acquired for Los Angeles in last summer’s Manny Machado trade. The 22-year-old has long shown good feel to hit along with a discerning eye at the plate, though it will be the development of his right-handed power that determines his ultimate impact potential in the big leagues.

Rays: Wander Franco, SS (TB No. 1, MLB No. 1)
After ranking as MLB Pipeline's No. 2 international prospect and signing with Tampa Bay for $3,825,000 at the outset of the 2017-18 period, Franco put himself on the map as a truly elite prospect last year in his pro debut by winning the Rookie-level Appalachian League MVP Award at age 17 after producing a .351/.418/.587 line with 11 homers, 85 hits and 57 RBIs in 61 games. The Rays sent the ultra-talented switch-hitter to Class A Bowling Green to open 2019, and he’s already earned a promotion up to the Florida State League after hitting .318/.390/.506 with 27 extra-base hits (6 HR), 14 steals and more walks (30) than strikeouts (20) over 62 games in the Midwest League. He’s the real deal.

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Red Sox: Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP (BOS No. 3)
A bargain $7,500 signing out of Venezuela in 2013, Hernandez has developed into Boston's best pitching prospect and has made his first two big league appearances this season. He's a left-hander who can reach the upper-90s with late life on his fastball and back it up with a power slider, though he still needs more polish.

Yankees: Estevan Florial, OF (NYY No. 1, MLB No. 47)
One of the top prospects on the 2014 international market, Florial got banned for one year after getting busted for assuming another identity, and he wound up signing for $200,000 in March 2015. The Dominican has some of the best tools in the Minors -- including well above-average raw power, speed and arm strength -- but must solve his swing-and-miss issues to reach his full potential.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Indians: George Valera, OF (CLE No. 5)
Born in New York, Valera moved to the Dominican Republic at age 13 and signed for $1.3 million as one of the best hitting prospects in the 2017 international class. A broken hamate bone in his right hand limited his pro debut to six games last year, though he's back displaying a sweet left-handed swing and impressive power potential this summer.

Royals: Seuly Matias, OF (KC No. 6)
Signed for $2.5 million in July 2015, Matias has shown tremendous raw power -- and a lot of swing and miss -- in his career to date, including a big home run in the Futures Game a year ago. Injuries have hampered his development, with a thumb issue last year and a broken hand caused by a hit by pitch this season.

Tigers: Franklin Perez, RHP (DET No. 3, MLB No. 62)
Perez signed with the Astros out of Venezuela for $1 million in July 2014 and emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in Houston’s system before they dealt him to the Tigers in the August 2017 Justin Verlander blockbuster. Since then, however, Perez has thrown just 27 innings while spending extensive time on the injured list, first for a lat strain and, more recently, recurring right shoulder problems. The good news is that Perez is still only 21 and has time on his side towards making a recovery and getting back on track.

Twins: Brusdar Graterol, OF (MIN No. 3, MLB No. 50)
Minnesota signed Graterol for $150,000 back in 2014 and he missed 2016 following Tommy John surgery. He’s risen up the ranks since with a devastating fastball-slider combination and was dominating in his first taste of Double-A when he was shut down in late May with a shoulder impingement.

White Sox: Luis Robert, OF (CWS No. 1, MLB No. 5)
Famously signed for $26 million and a matching amount as a penalty tax in May 2017, right before international signing rules changed dramatically, Robert battled injuries for much of his first two pro seasons. The Cuban defector showed an electrifying combination of bat speed and foot speed in the Arizona Fall League last offseason, and he has continued to do so as one of the top performers in the Minor Leagues in 2019.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

A’s: Lazaro Armanteros, OF (OAK No. 4)
Armanteros’ raw tools were so impressive, the A’s were willing to go over their signing threshold and incur a penalty by giving him $3 million in July 2016. He’s shown glimpses of his power-speed combination, but his approach at the plate and strikeout rate have kept him from being consistent.

Angels: LAA: Jose Suarez, LHP (LAA No. 4)
The Angels gave Suarez $300,000 in July 2014 because of his advanced pitchability and solid stuff. After scuffling early, he’s moved steadily up the ladder, missing a ton of bats and not walking many along the way, making his big league debut this season at age 21.

Astros: Yordan Alvarez, OF (HOU No. 3, MLB No. 11)
The first player ever to amass seven homers and 16 RBI in his first 12 big league games, Alvarez defected from Cuba and signed with the Dodgers for $2 million in June 2016. Traded to the Astros for Josh Fields before he made his pro debut, he blossomed into one of the game's better offensive prospects before taking his game to a new level in 2019.

Mariners: Julio Rodriguez, OF (SEA No. 6)
Since signing for $1.75 million in July 2017, Rodriguez has shown tremendous tools and an advanced approach. He’s become a physical beast and forced his way to full-season ball for his United States debut this year. After missing almost two months with a hand fracture, he’s gone back to tearing up the South Atlantic League.

Rangers: Anderson Tejeda, SS (TEX No. 2)
Signed for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, Tejeda has more power than most shortstops. He ranked second in the high Class A Carolina League in total bases (205) and fifth in homers (19) at age 20 last year, though he hasn't fared as well in his return to Down East this season.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Cristian Pache, OF (ATL No. 1, MLB No. 14)
The No. 14 prospect on the 2015 Top 30 International prospects list, Pache signed with the Braves in July of that year for $1.75 million and immediately showed off close to top-of-the-scale defense, arm and speed. The impact with the bat started to come slowly, but is really showing up now as a 20-year-old in Double-A.

Marlins: Sixto Sanchez, RHP (MIA No. 1, MLB No. 22)
Sanchez had a low profile when the Phillies signed him for $35,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, but these days he earns some Pedro Martinez comparisons as a smaller right-hander with electric stuff (mid-90s fastball that reaches triple digits, wipeout breaking ball, advanced changeup). The Marlins targeted him as the key prospect they wanted from Philadelphia when they traded J.T. Realmuto in February.

Mets: Ronny Mauricio, SS (NYM No. 2, MLB No. 82)
The Mets signed Mauricio for $2.1 million out of the Dominican Republic in July 2017 and sent him straight to the United States last year for his pro debut. The then-17-year-old didn’t disappoint, performing well in the Gulf Coast League before moving up to the Appalachian League. The highly projectable switch-hitter has continued to impress in 2019, hitting for average while flashing some power potential in the Class A South Atlantic League, despite being three and a half years younger than the average age for players in the league.

Nationals: Luis Garcia, INF (WAS No. 2, MLB No. 61)
The Nationals made a haul on up-the-middle talents during the 2016-17 international period, signing a trio of promising 16-year-old shortstops in Garcia, Yasel Antuna and Jose Sanchez. Garcia, who received a $1.3 million bonus, has emerged as the best of the group. He was a standout during his full-season debut across two levels at age 18 last year and represented the Nats in the Futures Game, where he was the event’s youngest player. The Nationals have continued to challenge their young infielder in 2019, assigning him to Double-A to begin the season, and the fact that Garcia has held his own at the level at age 19 speaks volumes about his overall potential.

Phillies: Adonis Medina, RHP (PHI No. 2, MLB No. 77)
Medina signed later in the 2013-14 signing period (May 2014) and got just $70,000 to do so. He’s tantalized with his raw stuff, though his performance hasn’t always measured up to that from a consistency standpoint, with three pitches that have the chance to be at least above-average at his disposal.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers: Eduardo Garcia, SS (MIL No. 19)
One of the youngest players in his class, Garcia signed with the Brewers for $1.1 million on July 10, 2018, on his 16th birthday. The Venezuela native has a good frame and exhibits lots of growth potential with impressive tools, including above-average defensive chops at shortstop and a right-handed bat that should enable him to hit for average and possibly even some power. He’s currently playing for the Brewers’ affiliate in the Dominican Summer League.

Cardinals: Elehuris Montero, 3B (STL No. 4)
Montero's $300,000 bonus in August 2014 was the largest that the Cardinals gave to a hitter during that international signing period and reflected the organization’s belief in his pure hitting ability. His offensive potential was on full display during his 2018 full-season debut, when he earning Class A Midwest League MVP honors after pacing the circuit in batting average (.322), slugging (.529) and OPS (.910), before finishing his age-19 campaign with Class A Advanced Palm Beach. The performance earned Montero a bump up to Double-A to open 2019, though so far it’s been a challenging season for him in the Texas League.

Cubs: Miguel Amaya, C (CHC No. 2, MLB No. 76)
The Cubs have challenged Amaya aggressively since landing him for $1.25 million out of Panama in 2015, and he has responded well, making the All-Star Futures Game as a 19-year-old last July. He's a quality receiver with solid arm strength and offensive upside to match.

Pirates: Oneil Cruz, SS (PIT No. 4, MLB No. 78)
From the time he was first scouted until now, Cruz has grown five inches and is now an anomaly as a 6-foot-6 shortstop. The Dodgers loved his tools enough to sign him for $950,000 in 2015 and the Pirates were thrilled to get him in the 2017 Tony Watson deal. A foot fracture slowed him this year, but he’s back to putting all of his offensive potential together.

Reds: Jose Israel Garcia, SS (CIN No. 8)
After signing for $5 million at the end of the 2016-17 signing period, he wasn’t able to make his pro debut until nearly a year later, in 2018. And he did so by making a jump into full-season ball. The bat has been a bit slower to develop, as he needs to continue to improve his approach, but he has more than enough defensive chops to stick at short.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs: Kristian Robinson, OF (ARI No. 5)
Signed out of the Bahamas for $2.5 million in July 2017, Robinson, with his projectable 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame, has huge power potential from the right side of the plate to go along with an advanced bat for his age (18). His ceiling is the highest among prospects in the D-backs’ system, and it could be argued that he has the highest ceiling among players below full-season ball. He’ll need time to develop, but the final product could be that of a star-caliber player in the big leagues.

Dodgers: Keibert Ruiz, C (LAD No. 1, MLB No. 28)
Ruiz's defensive prowess earned him a $140,000 bonus in 2014, and he since has blossomed into a catcher with the potential for four solid tools. A switch-hitter who excels at making contact and has some untapped raw power, the Venezuelan reached Double-A at age 19.

Giants: Marco Luciano, SS (SF No. 3)
The Giants haven't signed a homegrown international All-Star since Pablo Sandoval in 2003, but they hope that will change in the near future after giving Luciano a $2.6 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic last July. He's a quick-twitch athlete with exceptional bat speed, and he homered three times in his first six pro games this month.

Padres: Luis Urias, INF (SD No. 2, MLB No. 20)
The Padres purchased Urias’ contract from Mexico City for just $100,000 back in December 2013 in what has become an absolute steal of a deal for San Diego. After raking (and walking) his way up the Minor League ladder and garnering a slew of honors along the way -- he was the California League batting champion (.330) at age 19 in 2016 -- Urias reached the big leagues for the first time last year at age 21 and returned to the Majors in early 2019 before a demotion to Triple-A, where he’s erupted to hit 17 home runs, more than doubling his total from ’18.

Rockies: Yonathan Daza, OF (COL No. 14)
The Rockies have had to be patient in helping Daza develop, signing him back in 2010 and watching him spend three summers in the Domincan Summer League. It’s been a slow progression, he’s now 25, but he’s hit pretty much everywhere he’s gone (.317 career minor league average) and made his big league debut this year.