Armed with their largest available spending budget since 2015, the Cubs plan to be aggressive on July 2 when the new class of amateur international prospects is available to sign.
Think of this international free agency like college recruiting; even though there’s a deadline until which signings cannot technically happen, most of the recruiting and decisions are completed long before that date. As such, the Cubs likely have a good idea to whom the large chunk of their $5.4 million budget will go.
Previously, Michael wrote up Baseball America’s first two posts on the free agency class, which connected the Cubs with top catching prospect Ronnier Quintero and lengthy and toolsy shortstop Kevin Made. On Wednesday, MLB Pipeline released their top 30 prospects in the International Free Agent class, confirming the Cubs connection to those two players while adding a third name: Venezuelan catcher Brayan Altuve.
The #Cubs are considered the favorites to sign 3 of the players on our brand-new Top 30 International Prospects list — Ronnier Quintero, Kevin Made & Brayan Altuve: https://t.co/yYZ7Flg8NY pic.twitter.com/MwPekJHqlk
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 8, 2019
Keep in mind that these players likely won’t play a professional game in 2019, will probably play in the Dominican Summer League in 2020, and then make their stateside debut in short-season ball in 2021. These guys across the board will have mid-2020’s ETAs at best. My head is still spinning from the 2003 birth year!
The last time the Cubs spent significantly on catching was the infamous 2015 class, in which Miguel Amaya ($1 million) and Henderson Perez ($1.25 million) were just two of the eight seven-figure bonuses doled out by the Cubs. It’s been a slow go for Perez so far, while Amaya has made himself one of the top prospects in the organization. This is how international free agency goes: buy a bunch of tickets, and hope to hit the lottery with one of them.
Quintero is the obvious best bet here, Pipeline’s #6 prospect, and in the video below you can see why. Quintero has plus-to-better bat speed on the left side, and with a muscular frame (for a 15-year-old), it’s not hard to see the plus power projection that Jesse Sanchez references. I think even if he were to move off catcher down the road, there would be enough hope in his bat’s potential to be a big prospect at a corner spot.
Neither Kevin Made or Brayan Altuve have video up, but Sanchez’s write ups give us a good idea of the player they are. Made, a tall, skinny athlete with solid actions at shortstop and a line drive stroke, checks in at #11 in the rankings:
At the plate, Made uses a slight upstroke swing lots of bat speed to generate flashes of average power. He’s been able to hit home runs consistently and has made a habit of getting multiple hits in games. He doesn’t strike out often.
Altuve sounds rather raw, but draws a comp to Willson Contreras. He checks in at #30 in the rankings. The Cubs have had good success in Venezuela overall, and clearly trust their scouting infrastructure there immensely. It will be interesting how they develop him defensively:
He’ll eventually have to harness some of his aggressiveness and athleticism, but what makes him so fun to watch is how well he moves behind the plate. That said, he flashes above-average arm strength, good range and overall adequate defensive actions. Like most catchers his age, he’s still working on his receiving skills and calling games.
You can bet we’ll hear two or three more names in the coming months, as the Cubs will also find some pitching to allocate this money. Cuba and Mexico are not accounted for in these rankings (the only player from either country is #7 Yiddi Cappe, a Cuban SS, who is not yet projected to a specific team), and the Cubs are certain to be players in those locales, as well. Overall this sounds like a good foundation of a class for the Cubs.