There’s a new No. 1 on MLB.com’s Top 30 International Prospects List.
Outfielder Yoelqui Céspedes, the younger half-brother of Mets outfielder Yoenis Céspedes, was officially declared a free agent Wednesday and can now sign with a Major League team.
But where the 22-year-old lands is still to be determined, and it could be months before he signs with a team under MLB’s international signing guidelines. Céspedes is also believed to be exploring the possibility of entering the Draft or playing in Japan.
Here’s what we know now: Céspedes, who is considered a five-tool player with above-average tools across the board, defected from the Cuban National Team in June while participating in the Can-Am League in New York and has been keeping a low profile while working out with Yoenis in the Bahamas, where the younger sibling established residency. Yoelqui was tentatively scheduled to hold showcases in Florida and Arizona later this month, but that’s been put on hold because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Major League Baseball has already cancelled the remainder of Spring Training games and delayed the start of the 2020 regular season. Additionally, all scouting has been prohibited by MLB.
The delay will give Céspedes plenty of time to weigh his options. It’s uncertain if he will sign during the current international signing period that ends June 15 or wait until the next international signing period for 2020-2021 that starts July 2. The Orioles have the most money to spend during the current period with an estimated $1.6 million in bonus pools remaining.
Last year, teams had an estimated $4.3 million to $6.4 million to spend on the international market and a similar range is expected for the 2020-2021 international bonus pools. It’s worth noting that most teams have committed their monies for prospects for the upcoming period, but more money is customarily added through trades to make room for additional prospects.
The younger Céspedes played for his country’s World Baseball Classic and Caribbean Series teams in 2017. He also played for Granma in Cuba’s Serie Nacional from 2015-17. The outfielder has added 15 pounds of muscle while improving his bat speed and power since he defected.