Lofty signing bonuses given to top Draft picks and international signees often garner plenty of headlines and attention, and deservedly so.However, just because a prospect is handed a seven-figure bonus doesn't mean he's going to be a star. And just because a prospect isn't given a lucrative bonus, or selected
Lofty signing bonuses given to top Draft picks and international signees often garner plenty of headlines and attention, and deservedly so.
However, just because a prospect is handed a seven-figure bonus doesn't mean he's going to be a star. And just because a prospect isn't given a lucrative bonus, or selected in the top few rounds, doesn't preclude him from success either.
Those points may be obvious, and have been proven true countless times across all sports, and this year is no different. Look no further than the Top 100 Prospects list. While the average signing bonus among the players on the list was nearly $3 million, with 17 of $5 million or more (Luis Robert, who signed for $26 million, tops the list), seven players signed for $100,000 or less, including five players that received five-figure bonuses.
Sixto Sanchez is one of those players that didn't generate a ton of buzz right out of the gate -- he signed for just $35,000 in 2015 -- but ultimately proved to be the key piece for the Phillies in acquiring J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins in February.
Injuries limited Sanchez to eight starts and 46 2/3 innings in 2018, but a healthy '19 should remind everyone how electric he can be. The 20-year-old throws both a two- and four-seam fastball, a changeup and a curveball that could develop into a plus strikeout pitch. Yes, the original plan was for Sanchez to pitch atop the Phillies rotation, but the goal of a farm system is to improve the Major League club, and Philadelphia's $35,000 investment ultimately turned into Realmuto, an All-Star catcher.
Sanchez wasn't the cheapest prospect on the Top 100 Prospects list, but his return, for the Phillies, has already come to fruition.
Considering the players that get the big bucks often get most of the attention when they are signed and drafted, let's take some time to look at the other end of the spectrum. Here are the biggest steals on the Top 100 Prospects list.
Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP, Yankees (No. 66) -- $15,000
Loaisiga tops the list, and it'd be hard to find a better bargain in baseball, considering the Yankees didn't have to offer him a signing bonus. The right-hander signed with the Giants for $15,000 in 2012, but after missing two seasons with shoulder issues, he was released in '15. The Yankees picked him up in 2016, but he underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after. The injuries have been a constant in his career, but when healthy, Loaisiga has been an impressive prospect. After starting 2018 with Class A Advanced Tampa, Loaisiga quickly climbed the ladder and made his MLB debut on June 15, when he struck out six over five scoreless innings.
Josh James, RHP, Astros (No. 62) -- $15,000
The 34th round of the Draft doesn't typically produce a ton of top prospects, but that's where the Astros found James, a product of Western Oklahoma JC, in 2014. The 25-year-old got off to a slow start in his career, but after improving his conditioning and fixing his sleep apnea, James' performance took off. He struck out 171 in 114 1/3 innings with Triple-A Fresno last season, then was promoted to Houston, where he fanned 29 in 23 frames and earned himself a spot on the postseason roster.
Luis Urías, INF, Padres (No. 23) -- $25,000
While Urias' official signing bonus was $25,000, Mexican League teams, until recently, took up to 75 percent of a player's overall bonus, meaning the transaction cost the Padres $100,000. Urias, 21, hit .296/.398/.447 in 120 games with Triple-A El Paso last season before he was promoted to San Diego, where he appeared in only 12 games before a hamstring injury ended his season. Urias, who is among the best pure hitters on the Top 100 Prospects list, is currently penciled in as the Padres' Opening Day shortstop and is expected to be a big part of San Diego's future infield, along with Fernando Tatis Jr., who didn't make this list but could end up being quite a bargain as well after signing with the White Sox for $700,000 and then being acquired by the Padres in exchange for James Shields.
Adonis Medina, RHP, Phillies (No. 77) -- $70,000
Medina, 22, gives Phillies fans plenty to be excited about, but he has struggled with consistency at times. The right-hander struck out 123 batters in 111 1/3 innings last season, but also gave up 103 hits and 11 homers.
Danny Jansen, C, Blue Jays (No. 65) -- $100,000
The 475th pick of the 2013 Draft (16th round), Jansen took a bit of a winding road to the Majors as injuries cost him time in both 2014 and '16. However, Jansen broke out in 2017, and after getting off to a strong start in '18, he made his MLB debut. The 23-year-old, who hit .275 with a .779 OPS and three homers in 31 games for Toronto last season, is an offensive-minded catcher who has made significant strides defensively over the past two seasons.
Taylor Widener, RHP, D-backs (No. 83) -- $100,000
The Yankees selected Widener in the 12th round of the 2016 Draft and then traded him to the D-backs prior to the '18 season as part of a package for Brandon Drury. Widener's first season in the Arizona system went about as well as anyone could have hoped. While his record was 5-8, the right-hander held opponents to a .197 average and struck out 176 in 137 1/3 innings with Double-A Jackson. He also posted a 2.75 ERA and notched four double-digit-strikeout games.
Luis Patino, RHP, Padres (No. 48) -- $130,000
Patino just completed his first year of full-season ball and was shut down in late August to limit his workload. So although there isn't a huge sample size yet, the Padres have to be feeling good about signing him for just $130,000. The right-hander racked up 98 strikeouts and held opponents to a .220 batting average over 83 1/3 innings in the Class A Midwest League last season. Patino, who holds his velocity deep into starts, has three plus pitches (fastball, curveball, slider) and a changeup that will likely improve with experience.
Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers (No. 36) -- $140,000
Ruiz, a 55-grade defender, was signed because of his defensive ability, but his offensive development has helped him rise up the prospect rankings and turned him into the No. 3 catching prospect in baseball. The 20-year-old is a switch-hitter, but has been more productive from the left side early in his career. Ruiz hit .268/.328/.401 as a 19-year-old in Double-A last season, but what may be most impressive is the fact that he struck out only 33 times in 377 at-bats (101 games).
Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Twins (No. 68) -- $150,000
The Twins signed Graterol in 2014, and after tossing only 11 innings in '16 and missing all of '17 because of Tommy John surgery, the hard-throwing right-hander has ascended up prospect rankings. This past season was the 20-year-old's first at the full-season level, and he impressed, going 8-4 with a 2.74 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 102 innings split between Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Graterol has a 70-grade fastball and a 60-grade slider, with the potential to become a frontline starter in the future. If that's the case, the Twins will have certainly gotten the best out of a $150,000 investment.
William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.