Now that the MLB Draft is complete, the next event that will fill out farm systems is the international free agent class able to sign on July 2nd. This is considered to be a strong class with a bunch of top talent available. A part of why a bunch of teams plan to blow past their bonus pools.
For the sake of these rankings I chose to ignore the guys that aren’t true amateur players bound by the bonus pool. So Yulieski Gourriel, a Cuban veteran and potential immediate star isn’t mentioned. As are other Cuban players awaiting their clearance to sign. Japanese ace Shohei Otani is another example of players that are well known international commodities that aren’t eligible. The players on this list all come from the MLB.com Top 30 international list and I’ve included video of the top guys.
Note that Freudis Nova would have made my list, but after recently testing positive for steroids he was dropped off the later portion of the list.
1.Kevin Maitan, SS
Kevin Maitan is the consensus top prospect of the July 2 crop. He’s a kid compared to the Miguel’s, Sano and Cabrera, because of his advanced feel for hitting and power potential. That’s led to some talk that he’s a generational talent, though others think he’s more of just a good player in a great class. Some have even said he’s not the best player in this class as they believe his early maturity could mean there isn’t a ton of projection left.
Either way Maitan is a special player. He’s big, but could potentially stay at shortstop as a pro. If he does have to move, he would still be projected as a solid third baseman defensively, unlike Sano, because of his athleticism and big arm. Offensively he’s a switch hitting Venezuelan who projects to hit for both average and power- MLB.com slaps 60 grades(20/80 scale) on both his hit and power tools.
There is no reason that he can’t develop into the prototypical #3/4 hitter in the middle of a lineup. He is my top bat available this summer including everyone in the draft, though being only 16 and not being able to play until 2017 makes him further away than a Mickey Moniak, Kyle Lewis, or Corey Ray. It’s no secret that Maitan is expected to sign with the Braves. I don’t care how old he is, I would pick him up immediately. Here’s some video courtesy of Baseball America’s YouTube channel.
2.Lazaro Armenteros, OF
Also known to some by his nickname, Lazarito, Armenteros has seen an odd few months. He was cleared to sign prior to the start of the season and was thought to be close to signing, but decided not to. This led to his agent receiving death threats and dropping him as a client.
The Cuban outfielder is still a big time prospect despite the off-field concerns around him. He projects to be a guy with an excellent power/speed combination, getting a 60 grade from MLB.com on his power and a 65 on his speed. He’s got some stuff to work out with his swing, but for a 17 year old he’s extremely impressive. The Padres are a team that has been heavily linked to him, but that’s not a sure thing. Lazarito is another guy worth grabbing quickly. Here’s video of Lazarito’s showcase.
3.Luis Almanzar, SS
One of those guys gaining on Maitan is Dominican shortstop Luis Almanzar. Almanzar is a potential five tool guy with an impressive bat that seems even more likely to stay at shortstop. He’s probably got a little less bat than Maitan and a little less speed than Lazarito, but you get the idea of what kind of impact guy he can be.
Almanzar is projected to sign with the Padres and become one of the highest upside players in their system immediately. Almanzar is the third guy in this class that I would personally pick up as soon as possible. Luis Almanzar scouting video from Tony Perez below.
4.Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP
Vladimir Gutierrez is a Cuban righty who had success in Cuba, though pitching more out of the pen. He’s got good stuff with a pair of pitches already grading out at 60+, but he’s already 20 years old.
He’s a guy that has the tools to start, but according to MLB.com he’s also a guy that teams are looking at as a reliever since he could be a back end of the bullpen guy. They also say many teams see him as a better prospect to Yadiel Alvarez, who got a $16M bonus from the Dodgers. Gutierrez is still being linked to multiple teams. He’s worth grabbing in a deeper league. Baseball America’s showcase video of Gutierrez is below.
5.Luis Garcia, SS
The interesting thing about Dominican shortstop Luis Garcia is that his trainer is actually his father. So Garcia really grew up with the game. The likely future National signee is a true shortstop with a potential five tool game. Every one of his tools grades out as at least a 50 on MLB.com.
Garcia’s tools aren’t as flashy as the hitters above him, but he’s a well rounded kid that appears to have a higher floor than the average 16 year old international signee. He’s someone worth grabbing in the deepest of leagues.
6.Randy Arozarena, OF/2B
Randy Arozarena is a 21 year old switch hitting Cuban outfielder/second baseman, so he’s older than typical July 2 kids. Still he’s got a solid bat and good speed. According to MLB.com he could hit .260-.270 with 10-15 homers and up to 30 steals.
His bat is ahead of his glove, which is why he doesn’t have a defensive home yet. He’s also not a guy with a public agreement with a team. Still he’s going to move faster than a typical international prospect since he’s older and more experienced, and he could be a nice asset in fantasy because of his power/speed combo. Once he signs he’s worth owning in bigger leagues.
7.Victor Garcia, OF
Victor Garcia could have the most power of anyone in the class, with his raw power grading at 70 according to MLB.com. It’s not often that you see 70 grade raw power grades slapped on 16 year old kids, so he’s clearly special in that area.
The Venezuelan linked to the Cardinals is going to need to work on the finer points of his hitting to get the most out of his raw power, and he’s never going to be a threat to steal bases, but he’s got the raw power grade that could one day make him a regular on the league leaders in home runs. He’s worth grabbing in deeper leagues.
8.Yasel Antuna, SS
Another talented Dominican shortstop, Antuna is also a five tool guy with a well rounded skill set. He’s a switch hitter with with good speed and projects to have above average hit and power tools while looking like a solid defensive shortstop.
Antuna is a future National, and seems to know what he’s doing at the plate from the reports on him. He’s got some real upside and if there was a little more information on him I might have moved him up the rankings. Still he’s got a chance to be a fantasy asset and is worth grabbing in a deep league.
9.Gabriel Arias, SS
The final shortstop on the list is Venezuelan Gabriel Arias, another kid likely to sign with the Padres. Arias is a kid that could move to third as he keeps filling out, but he looks to be a solid defender capable of hitting for both average and power.
Arias is an asset, but one of the guys I would draft only in the deepest of leagues right now.
10.Abrahan Gutierrez, C
Venezuelan catcher Abrahan Gutierrez was compared to Mike Piazza by former Fangraphs analyst Kiley McDaniel last year. McDaniel left FanGraphs to join the Braves front office and the Braves are rumored to be signing Gutierrez this summer.
Gutierrez has seen his stock drop a bit since last year as he hasn’t made the necessary steps forward that everyone expects, but the tools are still there and the Braves are going to be paying him a large bonus. He’s worth a look in deeper leagues.