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Tribe investing big in international market

@JesseSanchezMLB
February 28, 2020

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Luis Durango walked into the front door of Indians' Spring Training complex on Friday morning, saw Paul Gillispie, the club’s vice president of international scouting, sitting in the lobby and immediately went in for the handshake. Their smiles were ear-to-ear as they exchanged pleasantries. “Buenos días. Cómo

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Luis Durango walked into the front door of Indians' Spring Training complex on Friday morning, saw Paul Gillispie, the club’s vice president of international scouting, sitting in the lobby and immediately went in for the handshake.

Their smiles were ear-to-ear as they exchanged pleasantries.

“Buenos días. Cómo estás? Todo bien?” Gillispie said.

“Muy bien,” the 16-year-old Durango answered.

Gillispie then fist-bumped the outfielder from Panama and they went their separate ways.

The pair would have chatted for much longer if Gillispie wasn’t in a meeting and the Minor Leaguer wasn’t on his way to the morning workout. As the international director, it’s not only Gillispie's job to scout and oversee the signing of international talent. It’s also his duty to make sure these prospects feel at home once they become part of the organization. The handshakes, hugs and back pats are a small, but important, part of the gig.

“After they are signed, we want these players to know that we are still here if they need anything,” Gillispie said. “Our player development people do an excellent job of ushering these players into our organization, and it’s nice to keep in contact. There is a bond created after years of scouting and getting to know their families. We always want to make time for them. They need to know we are excited about the future with them.”

One look at the club’s Major League roster and a review of the Indians' 2020 Top 30 Prospects list that was released Friday and it’s easy to see how important the international market is to the club. In all, 12 of the 30 players on the list are international signees, including No. 4 prospect George Valera, No. 6 prospect Brayan Rocchio and No. 7 prospect Aaron Bracho.

“When you think about the international market, it’s unbelievably important not only to us, but to Major League Baseball with 35% of players coming from the international market. That’s a lot,” Gillispie said. “We know it’s an area we really need to spend time on, and we’ve made a decision to invest in that area. Our big league roster is represented well internationally, and we felt like the international market is an area where we can really make an impact.”

The Indians have signed 42 international prospects for an estimated total of $5 million during the current international signing period that started July 2, 2019, and ends June 15. They have also averaged close to $6 million spent on international prospects during each of the two international signing periods. Overall, the Indians have averaged close to $3.5 million spent on international prospects during the last eight signing periods.

The club also invested in a new academy in the Dominican Republic, which officially opened in April 2019.

“Just like in the Draft, our focus is to just sign the best players and acquire as much talent as we can,” Gillispie said. “Our scouts do an incredible job of getting to know players and getting to know their makeups, families and where they come from. In terms of philosophy, it’s a quick-moving market and we just want to bring in the best players we can and build a history.”

The Indians expect to be busy once again when the international signing period begins July 2. The club is expected to have an estimated $6 million to spend on international prospects.

“Our approach for every class is the same,” Gillispie said. “The pool can be very different, but we are always looking to sign the best players, get as many of them as we can into our system, and develop them. When we get to know players and see them develop, that’s when we know our process has been very effective.”

Jesse Sanchez, who has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.