Building an organization can takes upwards of five years and begins on the amateur front, drafting and signing players that will be developed by your staff and learn to play baseball based on the metrics, development patterns, and focus of the organization. Friday will kick off the start of many five-year plans as the international market for 2020/21 will be officially underway.
The international market is not an exact science, as scouts will look at players in their early teens, ranging from thirteen to fourteen years of age, and map out what they will be when they reach their early and mid-20’s. For every Juan Soto and Luis Castillo, there are hundreds every year who do not develop into anything more than organization players, even those highly ranked by analysts. Most international signings will come with a mass variance that only professional baseball can separate.
The final transactions of Billy Eppler’s tenure with the Angels will come on Friday, January 15th, as the last crop of his international focus will be eligible to officially sign professional contracts with the Angels.
The common belief among those with formal knowledge of Eppler’s focus for acquiring amateur talent comes with an emphasis on athleticism and up-the-middle talent. However, you cannot look past the physicality that comes along with the athleticism. Whether it be on the international market with Trent Deveaux, D’Shawn Knowles, Alexander Ramirez, and Arol Vera, or on the domestic front with Jordyn Adams, Kyren Paris, Jeremiah Jackson, and Jack Kochanowicz; all come with praise of athleticism and physicality.
Physicality seems to remain the drawing power of this year’s international crop the Angels will be acquiring on Friday.
EDITOR’S NOTE: When looking at rankings and analysis on international prospects, your main focus should be on those who have direct insight to the players coming from Latin America. Ben Badler of Baseball America, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs, and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN have spent years building connections within the Latin American countries, the agents who reside there, and their amateur academies. Most of the following evaluation reports have come from either scouts within the organization or reports from the aforementioned publications and analyst.
At the top comes one of the higher ranked international prospects for the class in Dominican shortstop, Denzer Guzman. With advanced physical development, Guzman is a physical specimen standing at six-foot-two and 180 pounds. Most of his praise will come from the batter’s box where he shows a patient approach, rarely chasing and waiting out his pitch to barrel up-the-middle. Guzman has a sound line-drive swing that he utilizes to drive the ball to the gaps with his above-average barrel control. Most of his power is raw at the moment, but with his physical advancement, average power is expected in the future as he has worked to add some loft to his swing. Lacking the quick-twitch athleticism you see from most shortstops; most expect Guzman to move to third base where his arm plays well or stay up-the-middle at second. Guzman is expected to sign for $2 million based on reports from the Dominican Republic.
Also expected to sign with the Angels on Friday is Darlin Francia, a tall and lean Dominican right-handed pitcher. Francia is athletic with a smooth delivery, who competes mostly off his fastball, but shows some feel for a breaking ball with some shape.
Eivert Betancourt is a Venezuelan catcher who bats from the left-side. Defensively, Betancourt is a quiet receiver who will show 2.0-2.1 raw pop times. Offensive, he shows bat-to-ball skills but limited power.
Little public information is known about Venezuelan left-handed pitcher, Luis Viloria, who will also be signing with the Angels.
The rest of the allotted money the Angels have at their disposal for the international market seems to have changed hands. Willy Fañas, a switch-hitting Dominican outfielder, and Keiderson Pavon, were among the priority signings for the Angels at the original June 2 kick-off to the international market (i.e., Jesse Sanchez and Ben Badler Day), but following the move from Billy Eppler to Perry Minasian, the two will not be signing with the Angels.
Fañas does not possess the offensive upside of Guzman but does have around average offensive tools and has the potential to stick at a premium defensive position. Pavon, who is listed at five-foot-six, has been given the nickname, “Altuvito,” or “Little Altuve” based on his size, bat-to-ball skills, and high-energy play in the infield, but no one has realistic expectancies he will have any kind of impact similar to Jose Altuve.
NOTE: Notes on Darlin Francia, Eivor Betancourt, Luis Viloria, Willy Fañas, and Keiderson Pavon all comes via reports from Ben Badler (Baseball America).
Based on pure speculation and past record of the Angels desire to acquire and develop two-way players, there are no reports indicating the Angels could move their bonus towards Oscar Colás, now known as the “Cuban [Shohei] Ohtani.”
Colás, a 22-year-old Cuban, is a two-way player who has a small track record of success in two of the world’s best professional leagues — The Cuban National Series and Nippon Professional Baseball League. Though he can throw in the mid 90’s on the mound and could be a two-pitch power reliever, most of the attention for Colás comes from his offensive upside where he has plus raw power that most believe will be easy to tap into for in-game power, and a high, hard-contact line-drive swing. Defensively, Colás has some versatility, but is expected to play a corner outfield position where his plus arm plays best.
Colás was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball in late December and will hold a showcase in January that is expected to be scouted heavily by all 30 clubs.