Showcase attracts top international prospects

Sixty players from 7 countries put talents on display for scouts

February 21st, 2018

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- was here months before he was a Cub, and years before he joined the White Sox.

Young Red Sox infielder , Yankees infield prospect and A's infielder made their mark on these fields. Braves infielder and Mets infielder shined here, too.

Now in its seventh year, Major League Baseball's International Prospect Showcase for players eligible to sign when the international signing period begins July 2 has proven to be a launching pad for some of the game's brightest young stars, and a valuable platform for the scouts that want to see them in action.

(Marlins), (Indians), (Padres) and (Blue Jays) also participated in MLB's International Prospect Showcase.

"It's exciting to see and to be able to track the development of the players at an early age," said Joel Araujo, MLB's senior manager of international talent development. "We have seen guys at this event make it to the big leagues, and there's no reason to believe we won't have a group of big leaguers come out of this event as well."

Major League Baseball started the MLB Amateur Prospect League in 2011 with showcases in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. In early '12, MLB combined the two showcases to create the first international prospect event. Now, there are also tryouts in Brazil, Colombia, Curacao, Nicaragua, Panama and Mexico that feed into the annual event.

This year, 60 players representing those countries plus Cuba are participating in the two-day showcase that started Wednesday at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal.

"This is really the one event where all of these prospects can come together and showcase their talents for all of our clubs," said Kim Ng, senior vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball. "One of the most important things to the Commissioner is the globalization of the game, and we feel that this event -- because we are growing and the number of countries participating is increasing -- is truly representative of where the game is going in terms of getting that global talent in."

The showcase portion of the event began Wednesday morning with a timed 60-yard run, infield and outfield practice, along with batting practice and one game in front of more than 220 scouts. A doubleheader is scheduled for Thursday.

Among the top prospects to watch are outfielders Jose De La Cruz (Dominican Republic), Alvin Guzman (Dominican Republic) and Misael Urbina (Venezuela), along with infielders Marco Luciano (Dominican Republic), Noelvi Marte (Dominican Republic), Orelvis Martinez (Dominican Republic) and Junior Sanquintin (Dominican Republic). Diego Cartaya and Francisco Alvarez are highly regarded catchers from Venezuela, and Cuban right-handed pitchers Sandy Gaston and Osiel Rodriguez are considered among the top pitchers eligible to sign July 2.

The teens are a work in progress. The international market also continues to take shape.

The Blue Jays, Brewers, D-backs, Mariners, Phillies, Rangers, Red Sox, Rockies, Tigers, Twins, and Yankees are expected to be aggressive in the upcoming signing period. The Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Royals -- teams that will no longer be in the penalty for exceeding their past international bonus pool spending -- are also expected to be very active.

The A's, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres, Reds and White Sox are in the maximum penalty and cannot sign players for more than $300,000 during the upcoming period.

In terms of prospects, it's not unusual for international classes to feature an unusually high number of athletic shortstops and center fielders. And while this year's group includes prospects like Luciano, Marte and Martinez, some characterized the overall class as a collection of raw power at the plate and on the mound.

It's worth noting that Rodriguez, Gaston and Starlyn Castillo (Dominican Republic) are already throwing fastballs in the mid-90 mph range. There's also an argument to be made that the best all-around prospect is Cartaya, and he's a true catcher.

It's to be determined how Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez, who was cleared Wednesday to sign as soon as March 6, will impact the international market. He could sign during the current signing period or the next. For now, the Yankees, Marlins and Rangers are the front-runners to sign him.

"We are getting the top players internationally in this event, and it really has become the best of the best in the world in terms of players who sign under the international guidelines," Araujo said. "It's a place that clubs realize they have to attend, and it's a testament to the growth of the international market overall."