The Royals may have found their next Carlos Beltran.
The club completed a deal with Erick Pena, No. 5 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 International Prospects list, a prospect who reminds many evaluators of a young Beltran, who was drafted by the Royals in 1995. Pena signed for $3.8 million, according to sources.
Additionally, the Royals signed 16-year-old Roger Leyton, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound right-handed hitting outfielder, who was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and has been attending Colegio Leonardo Sepulveda. He has been playing this year for Boer in his native Nicaragua.
The club confirmed both signings on Wednesday, though financial details were not revealed.
The Royals are expected to add shortstop Jorge Morales of Venezuela along with outfielder Jairo Mendez and catcher Aldrin Lucas of the Dominican Republic, according to sources.
Pena is an athletic outfielder who can hit and play defense. The offense-oriented outfielder can run enough to keep him in center field as he progresses, but there is a chance he ends up in right field. At the moment, hit and power are Pena’s best tools, but the other parts of his game are not far behind. The left-handed hitter has a sound approach at the plate with a slight uppercut swing and hard contact to all fields. He projects to have plus power and does not have a lot of swing and miss, already showing strength and quickness through the strike zone, with the ball jumping off his bat.
“I would hesitate to put comparisons to someone like Carlos Beltran -- we’re talking about someone who probably is going to the Hall of Fame,” Royals assistant general manager of international operations Rene Francisco said by phone. “But we’re very excited to have [Pena]. We have been following him for three years now, and he is a very skilled and athletic player.
“He is very smart and from a great family. He speaks fluent English, and just a very bright young man who plays the game with intelligence.”
Pena projects to be an average runner with a solid arm. He has a high baseball IQ and good instincts. Some think he could be the face of an organization.
Francisco also is high on Leyton, another outfielder with a high skill set.
“He’s more of a true center fielder,” Francisco said. “He has very easy power. And defensively, very gifted. It’s probably unfair to throw names out there, but someone like Andruw Jones comes to mind when you’re talking comparisons.”
According to the rules established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round B of the Rule 4 Draft -- like the Royals -- have the most money to spend on international prospects, with a pool of $6,481,200. Clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round A of the Rule 4 Draft receive the second most at $5,939,800.
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.
Under the previous system, teams were penalized for exceeding their bonus pools with consequences that ranged from taxes on their spending to the maximum penalty, which was being prohibited from signing any prospect for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods. That’s no longer the case and there are no longer penalties. Teams can only spend their allotted bonus pools and the monies acquired via trade.