1) Best Value
The International market is ripe with players, but the top players will not come cheaply. Getting that diamond in the rough for as little as possible can bump a team into playoff contention a little faster.
Right now, the best value prize would probably go to Jacob Perez, who played the majority of last season in Atlanta’s AA affiliate. The CF hit over .300 and earned a cup of coffee with the AAA squad before the ultimate promotion to the majors. Jacob signed for a mere $1.1 million, surprising for a guy that hits righties well and has above average speed. He’s currently on Atlanta’s trade block.
In a year or two, this award could easily go to Austin’s Tony Alomar. Having also signed for $1.1 million, the lightning-quick 2B tore his way through A ball, putting up consecutive seasons with 25+ HRs and an average above .350. Last year saw him struggle a little in AA, hitting only .267 but notching his second consecutive season with 25 steals. It is anticipated that he will inherit the starting 2B job at the major league level with a solid season at AAA.
2) Lowest Production Per Dollar
The bad news is that the current Houston Texans franchise claims this honor. The good news is that the current owner had nothing to do with the signing.
The then-Charlotte Crusaders signed Willie Tavarez after offering a $2.5 million signing bonus. The 18-year old catcher happily signed the contract, then produced impressive offensive numbers (.366/.459/.667, 13 HR, 61 RBIs) in 183 A-ball at bats.
Apparently the franchise’s new owner did not have the same infatuation that Charlotte’s owner had for Tavarez. For some unknown reason, Tavarez only had 47 at bats in his second season despite being promoted to AA. (Odd fact: Tavarez appeared as a PITCHER in 66 games.) In his 3rd season, he found himself shuttled between AA and Rookie ball, often DHing instead of playing behind the plate. He continued to produce offensively, but apparently grew frustrated with only 400 at bats over 3 seasons.
The now-22 year old retired prior to last season and wonders what could have been if he had signed with a more stable franchise.
3) Best Overall
An argument can be made that Austin P Oswaldo Veras has the most potential of any International signing. The lefty signed for $3 million and is a 5 pitch starter with good velocity. After a few so-so seasons in the minors, Season 3 saw Veras start in AA and earn a promotion to AAA after 15 stars with a sub-3.00 ERA and a WHIP under 1.20. His first full season in AAA was promising, finishing 7-6 with a 3.61 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. It appears Veras will join the Austin major league rotation with a solid Season 5.
However, in terms of overall value, it is hard to argue with Atlanta SS prospect Ismael Medrano. The 22 year old Dominican signed for $2.4 million and responded with a .340 batting average in his first 3 seasons in the minors. Last year saw him start the season in AA before earning a promotion to AAA, hitting .300 with 15 HRs and 75 RBIs. All arrows point to Medrano being the Atlanta SS of the future.
If there was any question on why Atlanta is successful, a mere glance at their International signing success should remind owners the importance of a great GM.
***Chrispy is the author of this report.***