Today might be one of the most significant days for the future of the Yankees franchise… but we likely won’t know if that is true for another 7-10 years.
July 2 marks the start of the international free agent signing period. Beginning today and through June 15, 2015, amateur players from outside the U.S. and Canada are eligible to sign contracts with a major-league club. Players must be at least 16 years old or turn 16 by September 1 in order to sign a contract.
Under the current collective bargaining agreement, teams have an international spending budget that is based on the reverse order of the previous season’s standings. Teams can exceed their spending pool but incur penalties if they do so.
The Yankees have been assigned $2,193,100 to spend on international bonuses this year, but according to multiple reports, are expected to far exceed that number.
Most sources indicate the Yankees are willing to spend roughly $15 million in the international free agent market, which would result in $10-15 million in tax penalties and the inability to sign any players for more than $300,000 over the next two signing periods.
Because the Yankees did not have a draft pick this year until No. 55 overall, these extra expenses are justified to bolster a Yankees farm system that is currently lacking in top-tier prospects. With a highly-regarded international pool of players available and an international draft at least two years away, the Yankees have decided to go all-in this year to get the best talent.
The Yankees have had a lot of success scouting the international free agent market in the past. Most recently, catcher Gary Sanchez (Dominican Republic) entered the season as the team’s top prospect and right-hander Luis Severino (Dominican Republic) has emerged as arguably the best pitching prospect in the organization in 2014.
According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, the Yankees have been tied to four of the top 10 international prospects on Baseball America’s list, and might sign another 10 or 12 guys from the Top 30.
Here’s a look at those four top-10 players, courtesy of Baseball America scouting reports (subscription required):
No. 2 Juan De Leon (OF), Dominican Republic
An aggressive, high-energy player with an all-fields approach at the plate, De Leon is considered the top hitter available. He has an athletic body with the potential for plus power, though his exceptional bat speed is now his best hitting tool. With an above-average arm, he could end up as a center fielder, but likely projects to be a strong defensive right fielder.
No. 6 Nelson Gomez (3B), Dominican Republic
A very strong (6’2”, 220 lbs) player with good bat speed, Gomez has shown outstanding raw power for his age. Gomez can really square up on the ball and hit for power to all fields. Although his bat is clearly ahead of his defense, he does have an above-average arm. However, his lack of athleticism means he’ll likely move across the diamond to first base.
No. 7 Wilkerman Garcia (SS), Venezuela
A Venezuelan switch-hitter, Garcia has drawn praise for his ability to hit for average and his efficient, compact swing. His is mostly a gap hitter now, with the potential for modest power as he matures. Garcia is very fluid as a defender with good footwork and hands along with a plus arm, and could easily shift to second or third base in the future.
No. 9 Dermis Garcia (SS), Dominican Republic
Garcia is a big-bodied shortstop (6’2”, 182 lbs) with huge raw power and is expected to command the most bonus money on the market. His bat speed is elite and he has an easy swing with natural loft, but scouts question his pitch recognition and plate discipline. On defense, he has a plus arm and good hands. But depending on how big he gets, he’ll likely move to third base in the future.