With the 2018 MLB Draft in the rearview mirror, Major League Baseball teams are widening their net in hopes of luring in even more top amateur talent. This time, their focus is global.The international free-agent signing period begins on Monday, and National League East clubs are searching for the next
With the 2018 MLB Draft in the rearview mirror, Major League Baseball teams are widening their net in hopes of luring in even more top amateur talent. This time, their focus is global.
The international free-agent signing period begins on Monday, and National League East clubs are searching for the next wave of players to emerge from outside the United States. Traditional baseball hotbeds like Venezuela and the Dominican Republic remain loaded with aspiring 16 and 17-year-olds ready to make the leap into professional baseball. But with baseball's popularity worldwide, talented players are surfacing across the globe, and teams are looking to uncover them throughout the Caribbean to Asia.
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MLB.com reviewed the top-rated homegrown international prospects in the division, and projects when they are expected to reach the big leagues.
OF Cristian Pache, Dominican Republic (signed 2015)
The Braves are stocked with international talent. Headlining the list is Ronald Acuna Jr., the 20-year-old sensation from Venezuela who is rated by MLB Pipeline as the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball. Acuna was called up to the big leagues in April, but he's been on the DL since late May with a left knee injury. On the horizon for Atlanta fans to be excited about is Pache, a 19-year-old outfielder with Class A Advanced Florida. Pache signed for $1.4 million in 2015, and he's already received acclaim as the best defensive outfielder in the system.
• Braves' top prospects
RHP Edward Cabrera, Dominican Republic (signed 2015)
Right-hander Sandy Alcantara, ranked as the Marlins' No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, is being promoted from Triple-A New Orleans, and he will make his Marlins debut on Friday against the Mets. The hard-throwing right-hander initially signed with the Cardinals, and was traded last December to Miami in the Marcell Ozuna trade. With Alcantara set to arrive in the big leagues, another hard-throwing right-hander to keep an eye on is Cabrera, who is at Class A Greensboro and could get called up to Class A Advanced Jupiter in the second half of the year. Cabrera, 20, signed for $100,000 in 2015, and his fastball consistently is in the 96-100 mph range. At 6-foot-4 and 175 pounds, the right-hander is ranked as the Marlins' No. 11 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
• Marlins' top prospects
SS Andres Gimenez, Venezuela (signed 2015)
Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Mets' top prospect, Gimenez, also is rated 71st on the Top 100 list. Signed for $1.2 million in 2015, Gimenez has an advanced approach, and has maintained a high on-base percentage. Currently at Class A Advanced Port St. Lucie, the 19-year-old has regularly posted strong numbers, and he's done so while being among the youngest on his team and in the league. A left-handed hitter, Gimenez works counts and draws walks. He projects to move up the system at shortstop, but that may not be where he winds up in the big leagues. The Mets have Amed Rosario at shortstop, and while the organization doesn't have to make any immediate decisions on Gimenez, he has the athleticism to slide over to second base.
• Mets' top prospects
OF Victor Robles, Dominican Republic (signed 2013)
The Nationals have two of the top prospects in the sport, and outfielder Juan Soto is already making an impact in the big leagues at age 19. Robles signed for $225,000 in 2013, and the now 21-year-old opened the season at Triple-A Syracuse. Considered a five-tool player, the right-handed hitting outfielder may have already been called up to the big leagues if not for an injury. He currently is on the DL in the Minors with a hyper-extended elbow he suffered in April. Once healthy, it will be a matter of getting back into game shape. From there, Robles could be in the big leagues sometime during the second half. He's the No. 6 overall prospect on the Top 100 list.
• Nationals' top prospects
OF Jhailyn Ortiz, Dominican Republic (signed 2015)
The Phillies made a major commitment to Ortiz, signing him for $4 million in 2015. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, the 19-year-old is currently playing mostly right field at Class A Lakewood. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the Phillies' No. 5 prospect. Ortiz started off slowly this season, striking out 20 times in his first 38 at-bats, but he is starting to heat up. He's hit five home runs in his first 49 games. He projects to have game-changing power, and he is still young. Along with Ortiz, the Phillies also signed right-hander Sixto Sanchez from the Dominican Republic in 2015. The 19-year-old is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Phillies' No. 1 prospect. But he's currently on the disabled list.
• Phillies' top prospects
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.