More than 900 prospects have signed during the international signing period that started last July 2 and there are thousands who have registered to become eligible when the 2019-20 period starts this July 2.
In addition to prospects from traditional baseball hot spots like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela, Panama and the Bahamas, the 5,000 prospects registered to sign are from places across the globe like Belarus, China, France, Israel, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.
Here is a look at which teams are pursuing the top players, the rules that govern the process and who has the most money to spend on eligible international free agents.
Who are the top prospects?
1) Jasson Dominguez, OF, Dominican Republic - Dominguez is strong and athletic and has a mature body for his age. He could be the first position player in the class to make it to the big leagues because he has all of the tools scouts love to see in emerging young prospects and he's able to use them in games. The Yankees have been linked to Dominguez.
2) Robert Puason, SS, Dominican Republic - Puason has been on the radar for international scouts for several years, and it's easy to see why. The shortstop is lean, wiry and projectable with a durable frame. His tools are undeniable, and his combination of speed and athleticism makes him a special prospect. The Athletics have shown strong interest in Puason.
3) Bayron Lora, OF, Dominican Republic - The word "big" is most often used when scouts describe Lora. He's a big kid with big power and big potential. At 6-foot-3 and almost 200 pounds, Lora is tall, strong and what evaluators like to see in corner outfielders. At the plate, he has lots of raw power and excellent bat speed. The Rangers are considered a strong contender to sign Lora.
4) Luis Rodriguez, OF, Venezuela - Rodriguez is the best overall player from Venezuela in the class of 2019. He's a pure hitter and natural athlete with solid baseball instincts across the board. He is also known for his physically projectable body and easy actions on defense and at the plate.
5) Erick Pena, OF, Dominican Republic - An athletic outfielder, Pena reminds evaluators of a young Carlos Beltran. He can run enough to make the organization that signs him think about keeping him in center field as he makes his way through the Minor Leagues. His bat and power are his best tools at the moment, but the other parts of his game are not far behind. The Royals, who drafted Beltran in 1995, have shown strong interest in Pena.
No. 7 is Yiddi Cappe, who will be eligible to sign July 2 and is the only player from Cuba on the 2019-2020 list. But it’s worth noting that Cuban infielders Roberto Campos, 15, who is expected to sign with the Tigers, and Michel Treina, 18, who is expected to sign with the Reds, narrowly missed the cut for players eligible to sign in July. Fellow Cubans Yeinier Cano and Yolbert Sanchez, currently on the 2018 Top 30 International Prospects list, are already eligible to sign.
The White Sox are expected to sign the younger brother of Padres phenom Fernando Tatis Jr., infielder Elijah Tatis.
The 2019 Top 30 International Prospects list includes 17 players from the Dominican Republic, 11 from Venezuela, one from Cuba and one from Panama. The positions break down like this: 13 infielders, nine outfielders, six pitchers and two catchers. Athletes that play in the middle of the field – either at shortstop or center field – are the most coveted prospects on the international market, and this year’s class follows the same trend.
International signing rules, spending
There are specific guidelines for signing prospects like Dominguez. An international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team between July 2 and June 15 of the next year. He must turn 16 before he signs and be 17 before the September 1 of the following year; in practical terms, that means players born between September 1, 2002 and August 31, 2003 will become eligible to sign in the upcoming signing period opening on July 2, 2019. Players have to be registered with Major League Baseball in advance in order to be eligible to sign.
Clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round B of the Rule 4 Draft receive a pool of $6,481,200 for spending on international prospects, while clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round A of the Rule 4 Draft receive $5,939,800.
The D-backs, Orioles, Indians, Rockies, Royals, Pirates, Padres and Cardinals have the most money to spend on the international market from their bonus pool with $6,481,200, followed by the Reds, Marlins, Brewers, Twins, A’s and Rays, who have $5,939,800 each.
The Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox, Tigers, Astros, Angels, Mets, Yankees, Giants, Mariners, Rangers and Blue Jays have bonus pools of $5,398,300 each, while the Dodgers and Phillies, who each lost $500,000 for signing free agents A.J. Pollock and Bryce Harper, respectively, have a bonus pools of $4,821,400.
The Nationals have $4,321,400 to spend after signing free agent Patrick Corbin and exceeding the luxury tax last season. The Braves, who are being penalized for violating international signing guidelines, have a base signing bonus pool of zero.
Teams are allowed to trade as much of their international pool money as they would like, but can only acquire 60 percent of a team's initial pool amount. Additionally, signing bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count toward a club's bonus pool, and foreign professional players who are at least 25 years of age and have played in a foreign league for at least six seasons are also exempt.
Starting July 2, teams will no longer be limited to signing prospects for $300,000 or less each, which was the penalty for exceeding their bonus pool under the previous system.
In terms of spending, the Yankees, A’s, Giants, Rangers, Royals, Pirates, Padres, Marlins, Rockies, Twins and Cubs are expected to be aggressive in the upcoming signing period. The Angels, Brewers, Indians, Blue Jays and Rockies are also expected to be very active.