The MLB Pipeline crew took an early look at the upcoming International Free Agent class, ranking the top 50 prospects, and it sure seems like the Cubs are going to do well.
The new international signing period doesn’t open up until January 15, but the likely destinations of the top prospects are mostly already known.
Because of their market size, the hard-capped bonus pool with which the Cubs have to work in International Free Agency is always going to be among the smaller ones. For this class, it’s $5,284,000 for the Cubs (and Cardinals, for what that’s worth). Some of the teams ahead of the Cubs include the Pirates (about $5.8 million), Reds (about $6.4 million), and Brewers (about $6.4 million).
Still, even with one of the smaller pools, the Cubs are expected to sign THREE of the top 20 prospects in the class:
6. Derniche Valdez, SS, Dominican Republic
14. Ludwig Espinoza, SS, Venezuela
19. Angel Cepeda, SS, Dominican Republic
We had heard about Valdez and Espinoza before, as they had also ranked well at Baseball America (both inside the top 20). Cepeda did not make the top 20 at BA, but here are some of the notes at Pipeline:
The team that signs Cepeda will have a lot to think about when he shows up for the first day at the academy. He can play shortstop, second base and third. He’s also athletic enough to play center field. Wherever he ends up playing, he’s also very likely going to make an impact when he’s in the batter’s box.
Cepeda is very polished on both sides of the ball for a player his age and can flat out hit. He’s shown an above-average hit tool and has the potential to hit in the middle of a lineup. In addition to his game play in the Dominican Republic, he has experience with travel baseball and the showcase circuit in the United States.
His offensive prowess might be ahead of his defense at the moment, but his versatility and athleticism will keep him on the field. He has been praised for his makeup and baseball IQ.
No rankings are perfect, especially not when you’re talking about teenage prospects who haven’t yet played anything close to professional ball. So grains of salt aplenty are necessary. But if Pipeline is right about these rankings, then landing three of the top 20 prospects in a single IFA class is a heckuva great year. If every prospect were evenly distributed – AND if every organization had the same size bonus pool to work with – you would expect each organization to land about three prospects in the top 100(!). The Cubs are going to land three in the top 20.
Yup. Good class on paper.
Recall, this was all subject to getting tossed out if the players and the owners had come to an agreement on an International Draft. Since that did not happen, the Cubs will still be connected to these prospects come January.
That said, it’s always possible the sides could get back together to try to work out a plan for a draft, even before the next CBA is due in five years.
Also recall that there is a significant lawsuit pending in the Dominican Republic about these wink-wink verbal agreements, and if the court should hold that they are actually legally binding, it’s possible we will finally see some teams less willing to offer them when a player is just 13 or 14 years old.
So there’s a lot to keep in your head on this front, and a lot that could change in the coming years.