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Royals ink Italian shortstop Gasparini for $1.3M

Sixteen-year-old ranked fourth among international prospects by

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have agreed to terms with 16-year-old shortstop Marten Gasparini, considered by some experts to be the most promising European prospect ever.

Gasparini, from Cervignano, Italy, reportedly will receive a signing bonus of $1.3 million -- highest ever for a European, eclipsing the previous mark of $750,000.

Gasparini, 16, is ranked as's No. 4 international prospect and the top European on's list of the 30 top international prospects.

Royals assistant general manager of international operations Rene Francisco was in Italy with Gasparini on Tuesday, the first day for international signings.

"We agreed on terms and we're with the family and having dinner here with the people that he'd played with here in northern Italy," Francisco said.

Gasparini, a switch-hitting shortstop, is listed at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds. Scheduled to play in international competition this month, he'll join the Royals' organization for the Instructional League in late September in Arizona.

The Royals also have signed outfielder Christhian Vasquez, a left-handed hitter from Venezuela for $750,000, according to a baseball source. Vasquez, 16, is a strong hitter with what is called a smooth, easy swing. An average runner and fielder, he profiles as a corner outfielder.

But the big catch was Gasparini.

"I'll make it very simple," Francisco said. "He's very athletic, he's very good for his age. The competition is a little bit different than in the States, but his ability for his age is very good. He comes from a wonderful, great family."

Francisco described Gasparini as a line-drive hitter, gap-to-gap, with occasional power and a top-class runner with above-average hands, arm and good range.

Gasparini played club baseball in Italy and in international competition for the country. He hasn't had a lot of experience against quality pitching and is far from a finished product, but scouts feel he could blossom in the right circumstance.

"He's always been in Italy," Francisco said. "The dad is Italian, the mom grew up in London and her roots are from Jamaica. His mom was a track star at a young age."

Gasparini grew up in Alture, a small town in northeast Italy, and speaks English as well as Italian.

"For last two years, he's been going to the Italian [Baseball] Academy which is four hours from where he lives and he just gets to come home on the weekends," Francisco said. "He's been going away for the last two years."

Francisco credited the academy director Bill Holmberg and hitting coach Marco Mazzieri as major factors in developing Gasparini's talents.

Holmberg once described Gasparini as reminding him most of Derek Jeter.

Francisco said that the Royals' Nick Leto, who does a considerable amount of scouting in Europe, was very instrumental in the agreement with Gasparini.

"He did all the groundwork on this kid," Francisco said.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for
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