If you got all hopped up on international signing hype in July, only to come down when you realized that 16-year-old prospects have a long way to go before they actually arrive on your observational radar, I’ve got some good news: a number of those big-time international signings will be coming stateside this weekend.
That’s because the 2013 Instructional League kicks off on Sunday, and offers an opportunity for many of the organization’s youngest prospects (ones who aren’t playing in a fall or winter league) to continue playing/learning/developing after the regular minor league seasons have ended. The league is a bit unlike more traditional leagues, as it features situational simulations to allow players to work on various, specific things. And this year’s iteration of the league will feature Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres, Jefferson Mejia, and Jen-Ho Tseng – all of whom were top international signings by the Cubs this year.
Carrie Muskat reports the full roster of attendees:
Frandy De La Rosa
*Arizona Phil also has a preliminary instructional league roster for the Cubs over at TCR. He does not list Jimenez among the attendees, and later says that Jimenez is expected to make his debut at the Dominican Academy Instructs next month. Muskat’s report is more recent, so I’ll go with hers for now. But Jimenez working in the DR this Fall would make some sense, given the state-of-the-art facility there, and his residence there (as opposed to Torres, who hails from Venezuela).
A few interesting things to note from the preliminary roster: it looks like those catching conversions we’ve heard about will include Mark Malave (a 2011 bonus baby who was signed as a catcher, but who’d been converted to third base thereafter) and Ben Carhart (a later round 2012 pick out of college who was more of a utility guy). The Cubs’ top two international signings from last year (Juan Paniagua and Frandy De La Rosa) will be in attendance, as well as a number of picks from the last two drafts.
More interestingly, and mostly relatedly, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports that Jimenez and Torres are sufficiently advanced that they “should skip the DSL and head straight to the Rookie-level Arizona League next year.”
If true, that would be a very strong statement about the two top-ranked international prospects. Typically, even the best best international youngsters spend a season in the Dominican Summer League or the Venezuelan Summer League before making their way to the States for rookie ball. Jimenez turns 17 in November, Torres in December, meaning that they would play their entire rookie ball season as 17-year-olds next year.
Among the 2013 AZL Cubs, only pitcher Carlos Rodriguez saw time as a 17-year-old, but he turned 18 in July, and had previously pitched in the DSL. Indeed, only three international prospects on the AZL Cubs were as young as 18 this year (Rodriguez, pitcher Erick Leal, and 3B/C Mark Malave). In other words, Jimenez and Torres would be mighty young for rookie ball next year.
Badler adds that he expects Jimenez and Torres to slot into the Cubs’ organizational rankings in the 11 to 30 range, which suggests that they are the kind of special prospects who could make such a quick ascent (BA did rank them 1 and 2 on the international side this year, after all). I tend to follow Luke’s school of thought that it’s very hard to accurately rank a prospect who hasn’t played any competitive ball in the United States yet, but maybe these two will prove to be the exception.