The MLB’s international signing period begins each July 2nd, and this year’s period brought some significant changes in how the Padres approached the bidding. Unlike years past, the Padres are limited to a maximum of $300,000 per player signed, because they went more than a little over their limit last year. Also unlike years past, all teams in the league are subject to a spending limit of $4.75-5.75 million (depending on whether they got a competitive balance pick in the draft), and there are no allowances for going over that limit. This new “hard cap” was instituted last December as part of the renewed MLB Collective Bargaining agreement, the negotiations of which featured Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler front and center. Gone are the days of $70million+ signing sprees, which is what the Padres spent over the last year including their overage taxes. To say that the Padres’ timing of last year’s signing spree was convenient would be a huge understatement. AJ Preller, Chris Kemp, and Ron Fowler scored a major coup on the rest of the league.
What these new rules mean for the Padres is that they can’t go for the big name prospects this year. Instead, they need to focus on lesser known, younger prospects that are a lot tougher to project. The cap of $300k means that they can’t bid against the teams without international restrictions, so the more active markets like the Dominican Republic and the still-coveted Cuban players are off the board. Instead, international scouting director Chris Kemp has focused their attentions in other countries like Venezuela, where few teams have active facilities and scouts are tougher to spot. It’s worth noting that nine of the players on the Padres’ 40-man roster are from this “Land of Grace.” Mexico also provides a loophole to the $300k bonus that @Padresjagoff pointed out back in May, and it appears that the Padres have used that to their benefit at least once so far, going over the max for Manuel Partida. With the extensive scouting that the Padres did over the two years that led up to last year’s bonanza, the area scouts may have had a leg up on some of the lesser known kids that would be ready this year. The Union-Tribune spoke with Chris Kemp a couple of days ago, and he had some glowing insight into some of the players he had helped to sign.
What this means to fans is that very little is publicly known about most of the players that the Padres will sign this year, which will make this year’s class a little tougher to follow until they make their professional debuts. Ben Badler of BaseballAmerica ran down some of the players that the Padres signed in his NL West preview ($$). Here’s the most recent list I’ve found, thanks to BaseballAmerica.com’s international signing tracker:
- Manuel Partida, lhp, Mexico, $350,000
- Frank Lopez, rhp, Venezuela
- Yeison Santana, ss, Dominican Republic, $300,000
- Luis Paez, ss, Dominican Republic, $300,000
- Cristian Heredia, of, Dominican Republic, $300,000
- Angel Solarte, of, Venezuela
- Emmanuelle Guerra, ss, Venezuela
- Matias Polanco, c, Venezuela
- Edgar Martinez, rhp, Cuba, $300,000
- Jared Dale, ss, Australia, $300,000
- Yerri Landines, ss, Venezuela
- Laurbert Arias, rhp, Venezuela
- Jesus Cisneros, rhp, Venezuela
- Mauricio Rodriguez, rhp, Venezuela
- Carlos Guarate, rhp, Venezuela
- Jesus Gonzalez, lhp, Venezuela
- Brandon Valenzuela, c, Mexico
- Omar Cruz, lhp, Mexico
- Julio de la Cruz, ss/of, Dominican Republic
- Junior Perez, of, Dominican Republic, $300,000
- Alan Mundo, rhp, Mexico
- Alfredo Castaneda, rhp, Mexico
- Nick Rios, lhp, Venezuela
- Sergio Carrizosa, rhp, Mexico
- Miguel Rondon, rhp, Venezuela
- Anderson Arias, c/ss, Dominican Republic
- Adrian Leo, rhp, Mexico
- Vlad Echevaria, ss/cf, Dominican Republic
Players of note:
- Manuel Partida, LHP, Mexico - A 16-year-old, 6’2” lefty with a fastball that touches the lower 90’s, only $87.5k of Partida’s $350k signing bonus counts toward the Padres’ pool because of the afforementioned Mexican loophole. He’s shown fastball command, a promising changeup, and two developing breaking pitches.
- Angel Solarte, OF, Venezuela - Nobody’s indicated any relation to fan favorite Yangervis Solarte, but that would be a great family connection. The name and the nation of origin are the only link as of right now. All I can discern from a google search is that the kid can dominate at the plate against his peers and that he’s an outfielder. Chris Kemp says he’s a “loud tools” kind of athlete with speed for days, and those are exactly the kinds of kids that this front office seems to covet.
- Edgar Martinez, RHP, Cuba - the name is the fun part here. This isn’t the best designated hitter of all time coming back as a pitcher, it’s a kid who dominated the 15U World Championships a couple of years ago with a nice mix of fastball command and some promising breaking stuff.
- Jarryd Dale, ss, Australia - The son of former minor leaguer Phil Dale, Jarryd (or Jared as the BA list calls him) is a 6’1”, 180lb kid who will turn 17 in September and has some Cal Ripken, Jr. in his eyes. With the pedigree of a former pro ballplayer, the frame of a major leaguer, and the athleticism that scouts think could keep him at shortstop in the long term, Dale could be a player to watch in the coming years. His brother Ryan is a first baseman in the Kansas City Royals organization, and cousin Jon Kennedy is a pitcher in the Atlanta Braves organization. He was the youngest player
The signing period runs until next July, so there’s plenty of time to spend the rest of the Padres’ $5.75million pool. Most of the kids they sign this year will be the age of high school underclassmen, so it will be a few years before they start to make any impact even in the low minors. That makes this class a tough follow, but there are plenty of promising kids in this group that could be making their impact in the years to come.