Rockies agree to terms with pair of top international prospects

January 16th, 2024

DENVER -- The Rockies liked what happened the last time they signed a teenaged switch-hitting shortstop from Latin America. They’re hoping to repeat that success after reaching an agreement with during Monday’s opening of the 2024 international signing period.

Andujar, 16, from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, is the No. 17 international prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, Andujar has growth potential, and has demonstrated for scouts a gap-to-gap power swing and the makings of an impact baserunner. The Rockies also reached an agreement with the No. 35 international prospect, 17-year-old right-handed pitcher .

Andujar signed for a bonus of $1.7 million and Pujols signed for $600,000. The club also has signed infielder Roldy Brito out of the Dominican Republic for $420,000.

Andujar’s tools are reminiscent of Ezequiel Tovar, who held the starting shortstop job as during his solid 2023 rookie season. Tovar, a Venezuelan who moved to the Dominican Republic to go to an academy run by agent Roberto Vahlis during the scouting process, was a switch-hitting shortstop when the Rockies signed him for $800,000 in 2016 -- much like Andujar.

Rolando Fernandez, the Rockies’ longtime vice president of international scouting and player development, said the process for signing Andujar was similar to that of Tovar. The Rockies have tracked Andujar, out of Chal Baseball Academy, for about three years and feel as confident as possible in their projection of his athletic ability.

The Rockies are counting on Tovar, just 22, becoming a force in the middle of their infield for years to come. But that has little to do with Andujar and other prospects signed as teenagers. The Rockies see Andujar’s current attributes, both physical -- a disciplined approach, a strong arm and sure hands on defense -- and intangible -- awareness and a keen internal clock. More importantly, they project him growing into an athlete who will find a way to have an impact.

“Fernando Tatis Jr. was 6-foot when he signed, and Juan Soto was 6-foot tall and about 190, so these guys get bigger and stronger,” Fernandez said. “You’re not always right, but we are banking on the body projection and body strength during his development. Tovar was 5-foot-8 when I first saw him, but he was about 14.

“I like athletes, and usually, they are shortstops. Or if they’re outfielders, they’re center fielders. We sign players as a group [scout Frank Roa was the primary contact with Andujar]. With Andujar, we have a history with him, we know he can play the game, and there is upside -- since the trajectory to the big leagues is a long way.”

Pujols, who is out of the DDLA Sports program and was scouted by Manuel Cabrera, is listed at 6-foot-3 and 155 pounds. The 88-92 mph fastball is expected to gain steam as his body matures. Fernandez is especially drawn to his secondary pitches, which include a curveball with downward action.

“At that age, a lot of kids have a curve that is more of a slurve [side-to-side action like a slider, but with less velocity] rather than a ‘downer,’” Fernandez said. “He’s got good finish -- bite to the curveball. He’s got a good changeup, and he uses all pitches.

“He’s very knowledgeable about the game. Guys make an error, he can slow it down and stay the course on the mound.”

The Rockies are one of six teams in Signing Bonus Pool B for 2024, resulting in a $7,114,800 signing allotment.

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, 2006, and Aug. 31, 2007, will be eligible in the current signing period. Players have to be registered with Major League Baseball in advance in order to be eligible to sign.