Friday, April 15, 2011

International Free Agent Update #1, Season 1

A look at some of the more notable IFA's signed so far this season. Thanks to the owners who participated!


Horacio Vincente - P - Philadelphia Phillies - $22M

At 18 years old Vincente is added into a Phillies minor league system already deep with pitching talent.  On the signing and past controversy surrounding the lefty pitching prospect Phillies owner jonboynky had this to say: "Like so many other teams, the Phillies Latin American operations are based in San Pedro de Macoris. With Vincente playing in neighboring Boca de Soco, we had our eye on this kid since he lead the Dominican to the Little League World Series title at the age of 10. Naturally, we were a bit concerned about his ethics during the age scandal when it was reveled that he was really 14 at this time. Nonetheless, the combination of his 4 seam fastball, along with his forkball and change up is very unique amongst teenagers. The Phillies felt that he was worth the risk in investing over $22M in this kid."

Vincente projects to have impeccable control and will likely mow down left handed hitters. The combination of his velocity and the ability to induce a ground ball should make him a go to guy if he ends up in the bullpen. His projected stamina puts him right on the line between a starting pitcher and a spot starter/long reliever role, so it wouldn't be surprising if he becomes an elite late inning guy. "While Vincente is currently being used in a starting role, it is quite likely that once he reaches the bigs he could end up at the premier set up man in the league," jonboynky confirmed. "We think we could get 150 innings a year out of the pen for him and he could really cut games down to 6 innings for the opposition."

"As it stands right now, Horacio is probably still four years away from making his ML debut," jonboynky asserted when pressed for Vincente's debut date.


Norberto Martin - C/DH - Arizona Diamondbacks - $15.1M

"He (Martin) automatically becomes the top hitting prospect in my minors," lomac gushed over his newest international free agent acquisition, catcher Norberto Martin. Not only does Martin immediately become the best position player in the Dbacks minor league system, but he may be the best catching prospect in the entire league. Not only does he project to hit for average, but lomac describes him as a future "on base machine". Don't sleep on his defensive skills, though, as Martin should be able to play the position adequately and has already shown that he may be an above average pitch caller behind the plate.

"I don't see him being on the big league club until sometime in S3 or the start of S4," admitted lomac. He then pointed out that the top talent already on the big league club will all still be under the age of 30 when Martin figures to be on the opening day roster. He also added that while Martin could be an everyday catcher, the idea of him DH'ing isn't out of the question. 


Yovani Mujica - P - Florida Marlins - $14.8M

 A product of Venezuela, 18 year old Yovani Mujica has "elite reliever" written all over him. "The one part of Mujica's repertoire we absolutely love is his velocity. His 4-seam FB and slider are going to be impossible to touch once his reaches his potential," noted rootgargle. Mujica doesn't have any glaring weaknesses and the number of innings he can pitch due to his durability may be the biggest question. He also has trouble getting the opposition to groundout, but this point may be moot because of his plus velocity.

Even with questions about his durability Mujica will provide a dynamic option for rootgargle, as he projects to have the stamina to fill any of the relief roles. "I can see Mujica coming into games as a LR option, possibly setting up our closer later on in games," said rootgargle.

Don't look for Mujica anytime soon, though, "I don't think you'll see him for quite a while. He needs to get experience against other minor league clubs. He's 18, which means he's still quite raw. However, we love his makeup. He'll do whatever it takes to get to where we want him to be."


Raul Roque - 2B - Charlotte Knights - $14.7M 

The first owner to openly criticize 22 year old second base prospect Raul Roque also happens to be the owner that signed him. If you ask tropicana he'll tell you that everything went according to plan. The result; the best dollar for dollar IFA signing this season. "He might be the best hitter in my organization RIGHT NOW," beamed tropicana. For a team that currently ranks near last in almost every major offensive category Roque may just be what's needed. At his current ratings Roque could make an impact on any team in the league. The scary thing is that he still has room to grow. At 22 years old how much he will improve has been a subject of debate. Some teams even passed on Roque because of injury concerns, but tropicana, calling the issues "relatively minor warts", made it clear he is not worried. 

As far as on the field play, and in particular what position Roque will be best at, tropicana stated he felt confident that the 22 year old could play second base for the Knights, "I would actually have no problem playing him at 2B if I could get some decent range growth." He then added, " I think 2B (defensively) is the most overrated defensive position in baseball, both real and in HBD."

On when Roque will be at a big league park near you, "It'll be hard to keep that out of the majors for long if we continue to be close to contention."


James Matsuzaka - COF/1B/DH - San Francisco - $17M

"His potential as a middle of the order hitter was clear from the first look," said kcden in his conference call announcing the signing of the 18 year old Japanese position prospect. Matsuzaka immediately becomes the best position prospect in the Giants system. He projects to be a solid middle of the order guy, capable of 25+ homeruns a year (although the number may drop given his future home park) while hitting for average.

His offensive potential isn't in question, though. "There is some disagreement in the organization over where he will end up in the field. Some of the scouts think he can hack it at 2B; but I think its clear he is a corner outfielder at heart," admitted kcden. What really hurts Matsuzaka from a fielding standpoint is a relatively weak arm and questionable accuracy, which may pigeonhole him to left field or first base. 

The fans in San Francisco will have to wait a few years to catch a glimpse of Matsuzaka, though, "We expect him to spend at least three years in the minors devoloping his skills and durability, but once he hits the bigs, we expect a big impact," stated kcden.


 Alex Feliz - 2B - Cincinnati Reds - $3.2M

A decently developed 19 year old second baseman prospect. His health and durability may cause him to lose about 20-30 games a season but he should still be able to make an impact at the big league level. Feliz is a bit of a free swinger but not only has the skills to get on base with some consistency but to make teams pay with his speed on the basepaths.

 Joseph Tanaka - P - Texas Rangers - $4.3M

At first glance this sum paid by willsauve may look to be a little high, but take a deeper look and you may find a nice value signing here. While Tanaka may not be as effective against righties as you'd like to see his velocity, coupled with the movement on his pitches, and his ability to induce ground balls will likely make up for it. Look for Tanaka to be a dependable setup man for the Rangers.

 Maicer Andujar - P - Chicago White Sox - $3.9M

Andujar likely has what it takes to be a part of Chicago's future ML plans as a long reliever or setup man. His projected control is probably his best asset, and while he won't blow his fastball passed most hitters, it features enough movement to challenge most ML hitters.

 Miguel Guerrero - P - San Diedo Padres - $2.4M

Guerrero will give jying98 a nice option as either a long reliever or back-end starter when he reaches the bigs. He already has shown the ability to get the ground-out, if his control can develop as projected he could be an effective starter.

 Rigo Jimenez - P - Anaheim Angels - $2.1M

In Jimenez rounders likely has a guy who can float between the ML and AAA levels when needed or serve full time as a secondary long relief option or spot starter at the ML level. His curveball and slider will need to greatly improve if he wants to find himself with a bigger role in the bigs.

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