Mariners land pair of highly touted int’l prospects

January 18th, 2023

The Mariners found Julio Rodríguez on the international market and helped develop him into one of the game’s biggest stars. There are also high hopes for this year’s class of international prospects.

The club on Sunday announced that it signed seven international free agents, headlined by shortstop Felnin Celesten, the No. 2 prospect on the top 50 international list, for $4.7 million, according to sources. And on Tuesday, it announced an additional six signees, including right-hander Jeter Martinez, who ranks No. 42 and signed for $600,000, per sources.

The Mariners have a base signing pool of $6,366,900, and they’re expected to make more signings next week.

Here is a full list of the signings, ordered alphabetically:

Kelvin Alcantara, OF, Dominican Republic
Gustavo Beltran, INF, Venezuela
Delfry Carrasco, INF, Dominican Republic
Felnin Celesten, SS, Dominican Republic
Sebastian De Andrade, C, Venezuela
•  Alexander Garcia, INF, Venezuela
Jean Gutierrez, OF, Venezuela
Jeter Martinez, RHP, Mexico
Kendal Meza, RHP, Nicaragua
Ruddy Navarro, RHP, Dominican Republic
Kay Robles, OF, Dominican Republic
Jose Romero, RHP, Venezuela
Dylan Wilson, RHP, Curaçao

“As always, the first day of the international signing period is a joyous occasion that acts as a yearly reminder of why we, as scouts, love what we do,” Mariners director of international scouting Frankie Thon Jr. said. “To witness the moment that these young players, from diverse countries and backgrounds, achieve their dreams while taking that first step towards their ultimate professional goal. It’s something that we as a staff will surely never take for granted.”

Celesten might have the highest ceiling of any international shortstop prospect in a decade, a list that also includes Marco Luciano, Wander Franco and Robert Puason.

Celesten already shows big tools across the board and has a chance to be a five-tool player if he continues to develop at a normal pace. The switch-hitter has improved in every facet of this game as he has matured physically in the past year, and he has a chance to have plus speed, arm and raw power as a result. He also plays solid defense that will keep him at shortstop as he makes his way through the Minor Leagues.

From the left side, Celesten, who trains with JD Ozuna, shows doubles power and consistently hits line drives. From the right side of the plate, he displays tons of bat speed with a big loft. There’s a flair to his game.

"Getting to know Felnin as a person has been just as rewarding as getting to evaluate him as a player,” Thon Jr. said. “The flair, confidence, and swagger that he displays between the lines, is complemented by a soft-spoken, polite, and thoughtful disposition off the field. Felnin certainly has all the ingredients to eventually grow into an impactful member of the Mariners organization, in every sense of the word.”

At 6-foot-3, Martinez has a very projectable body and tons of flexibility.

He projects to be a starter if he can maintain his consistency in the strike zone and improve on his secondary pitches. For now, his fastball hovers in the 89-91 mph range, and his velocity is expected to increase as he matures and adds strength. There is already some sink in his fastball, and he creates some deception with his arm angle. He also has a high arm slot.

There’s some fade to Martinez’s changeup and a sharp bite to his curveball, but both are works in progress. He already shows good command of the strike zone and has an idea of how to attack hitters. He has experience playing on the showcase circuit in the United States. Martinez trains with Showtime Top Velocity and is the top player from Mexico in this year’s class.

An international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team between Jan. 15 and Dec. 15. He must turn 16 before he signs and be 17 before Sept. 1 the following year -- in practical terms, that means players born between Sept. 1, 2005, and Aug. 31, 2006, will be eligible to sign in the upcoming signing period. Players have to be registered with Major League Baseball in advance in order to be eligible to sign.

Teams are allowed to trade international bonus pool money starting Jan. 15.

Here’s a breakdown of the rest of the signings, courtesy of Thon:

Alcantara, 17, is a 6-foot, left-handed hitting outfielder out of the Dominican Republic. He one of the best gap-to-gap hitters in the signing class, complemented by solid defensive skills.

• Beltran, 17, is a 5-foot-8 infielder with a strong frame. He is a plus-runner with a compact swing and plays primarily second base.

Carrasco, 18, is a 5-foot-9 infielder who has the versatility to play several positions within the infield. At the plate, the left-hander has an on-base-driven approach.

De Andrade, 16, is a 5-foot-9 catcher from Venezuela, who is praised for being one of the more aggressive hitters in the 2023 international class. He is well known for his solid defensive tools behind the plate.

• Garcia, 17, is a 5-foot-11 infielder who is a plus-athlete and can play multiple positions. He has raw strength and an aggressive approach at the plate, with good range on defense.

• Gutierrez, 17, is a 6-foot-1 outfielder with a physical frame. He is an above-average athlete with raw power and solid speed. He profiles as a power hitter at the plate, with solid arm strength.

• Martinez, 16, is a 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher. He has a smooth delivery with good direction and a solid repertoire across the board. He is an above-average strike thrower.

Meza, 17, is a 6-foot, right-handed pitcher out of Nicaragua. He is a power pitcher, already sitting in the mid-to-low-90s with his fastball, with a chance for high-end velocity in the future. He pitches with an up-tempo aggressive delivery, with a solid breaking ball serving as his best secondary pitch.

• Navarro, 16, is a 6-foot-1, right-handed pitcher out of the Dominican Republic. He’s a good athlete who currently relies on a solid fastball and changeup mix, while working on developing a slider.

• Robles, 18, a 6-foot-2 outfielder out of the Dominican Republic, is one of the bigger athletes in the 2023 international class. He is unique athlete with above average speed and surprising raw strength, projecting as a center fielder with tools for the position.

• Romero, 18, is a 6-foot-1 right-handed pitcher with an aggressive mentality on the mound. He has a solid breaking ball and his present velocity reaches the low 90s.

• Wilson, 17, is a 6-foot right-hander with a long and athletic build. He has plus mechanics and utilizes his body well. His standout weapon is his curveball, which has a chance to be an above-average pitch that induces swing-and-misses.