The top prospect in Cuba is one step closer to fulfilling his big league dream.Outfielder Luis Robert, 19, was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball on Thursday, according to a source. He will be eligible to sign with a big league club on May 20.Widely considered the second-best
The top prospect in Cuba is one step closer to fulfilling his big league dream.
Outfielder Luis Robert, 19, was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball on Thursday, according to a source. He will be eligible to sign with a big league club on May 20.
Widely considered the second-best international prospect behind Japanese dual phenom Shohei Ohtani, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound outfielder is a five-tool player who scouts think can reach the big leagues quickly. Robert takes over the No. 1 spot on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 International Prospects list, which ranks the top players available during the current signing period.
Robert hit .393 with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases in Cuba's Serie Nacional, the island's top league, last season. The right-handed hitter, who profiles as a center fielder with plus power and speed, was described by one American League international scouting director as "the best player on the planet."
Where Robert lands is to be determined. This much is certain: The A's, Astros, Cardinals, White Sox, Padres and Reds are among the teams with strong interest in signing him. The teenage outfielder has more private workouts scheduled in the next few weeks and could have another showcase for all teams in May.
• International Amateur Free Agency & Bonus Pool Money
That Robert, who has established residency in Haiti, was cleared to sign before June 15 means several teams who exceeded their 2016-17 bonus pool remain in play to sign him. That includes the A's, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres and Reds. Those teams would have to sign Robert before the international signing period starts again on July 2, because once that date hits, they can no longer sign prospects for more than $300,000 per player. Robert is expected to command a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract.
On the flip side, the Angels, Blue Jays, Cubs, D-backs, Dodgers, Rays, Red Sox, Royals and Yankees are limited to signing a player for $300,000 or less during the current signing period, effectively putting those teams out of play for Robert, who is expected to sign before July 2.
Every MLB team will have a cap of at least $4.75 million to spend on international prospects starting July 2, as per the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, including teams that are in the penalty and limited to spending no more than $300,000 on any one player. Any team receiving a Competitive Balance Round A pick in the Draft will get $5.25 million in international bonus-pool money. Additionally, teams receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick will have $5.75 million to spend.
Once a Cuban player is declared a free agent, it's customary for Major League Baseball to allow a 30-day period for clubs to evaluate the player before he is officially eligible to sign.
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.