1) Best Value
Catchers rule this category for the AL North.
The Chicago Knights were the big value winners with their impressive duo of international catchers. The best value is C Domingo Romero, currently on Chicago’s AA roster. Romero signed for $380K and didn’t make a plate appearance in Season One, but has a career minor league batting average of .345 and helped his pitchers post a 4.30 ERA in games that he caught last season. Romero could end up in the majors as a backup when it’s all said and done.
The other Chicago catcher signing was Denny Dong, currently in High A. Denny signed for $240K and hit .285 in 110 games in High A last season. His career average of .304 makes him a candidate for promotion, possibly by midseason. However, with most of his appearances being at DH, he will have to develop behind the plate to have any chance at the majors.
Honorable mention goes to Milwaukee C Edgardo Johnson. Originally signed as a St. Louis Destroyer, the franchise’s volatility did not affect Johnson’s production. A career .305 hitter, Johnson signed for $280K and could have easily won this category if not for a late season stumble after being promoted to AA. Edgardo will likely produce in a full season at AA and could end up in a catcher platoon at the major league level.
2) Lowest Production Per Dollar
While investigating the AL North’s signings, it appeared that Minnesota’s Season 1 class was saved by signing Omar Chavez. The other players that were signed (pitchers Victor Dominguez, Orber Jacquez, Hideo Ramirez, & Al Tatis combined with RF Pedro Rodriguez) could all be considered busts for Minnesota. Only Jacquez (Boston High A) is currently under contract; only Rodriguez could be had as a free agent, as the other signings announced their retirements. Total cost to Minnesota for these players: $1.72 million.
Then I bumped into the first incarnation of the current Montreal Beaver Tails.
Originally the Pawtucket Fighting Amish, the Tails signed nine international prospects in Season 1. Their top four signings were pitchers Miguel Fernandez, Ramon Torres, and Santiago Calderon along with 2B RJ Belliard.
Both Fernandez and Torres received $1.6 million to sign with the Amish. Fernandez sits in AAA with a minor league career record of 24-30, a 6.74 ERA, and a 1.82 WHIP. Relief pitcher Torres is the rollercoaster of this group, currently in High A coming off of a season where he pitched 42 innings with a 3.80 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. Not bad, right? The year prior: 40 innings, 8.10 ERA, 2.08 WHIP. The year before that? 48 innings, 6.14 ERA, 1.47 WHIP. Not exactly a guy you can count on in AA, much less a future in the majors. Calderon is also unlikely to pay dividends after an inexplicable promotion from Rookie ball in Season One to AAA in Season Two. Calderon was shelled for two seasons before “producing” a 6-12 record, 4.75 ERA, and 1.66 WHIP in 121 innings last season.
Montreal may be able to salvage Belliard, who has spent 3 seasons in Rookie ball despite hitting well above .330 during that time frame. Last season, Belliard jumped up to High A and saw limited duty. If given regular playing time this season, he could return to form.
Total cost for Pawtucket’s top 4 signings: $5.12 million.
The lesson: Invest in International scouting.
3) Best Overall
The best overall signing appears to be Chicago’s Damaso Estrada, who received a $1.5 million signing bonus. Originally a shortstop, Estrada was moved to second base and appears to have found a home. His speed (193 SBs in 390 minor league games) along with his .344 average and .426 on-base percentage make him the future Knights leadoff hitter.
Honorable mentions go to:
- Minnesota RF Omar Chavez, currently in AAA and averaging .300+ in his minor league career
- Milwaukee’s Albie Servet, recently moved to 2B and coming off of a .283 / 28 HR / 119 RBI season in AA
***this post was authored by Chrispy ***