Ben Badler, at Baseball America, recently took a look at the Yankees international signings this season.
Here’s what he had to say…
New York Yankees
Six-figure signings: SS Gian Carlos Arias, Dominican Republic, 16; OF Ramon Flores, Venezuela, 16; 3B Jackson Valera, Venezuela, 16; OF Yeicok Calderon, Dominican Republic, 16; SS Anderson Felix, Dominican Republic, 16; CF Ericson Leonora, Venezuela, 16;
Top Bonus: Arias, $950,000
Summary: This year was a turbulent one for the Yankees international scouting department. After losing out on the Michel Inoa sweepstakes, the Yankees fired Latin American scouting director Carlos Rios and Dominican scouting director Ramon Valdivia amid allegations of bonus skimming. Rios was held in high regard by some in the industry for his scouting acumen, having signed Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera, as well as promising Venezuelan catching prospect Jesus Montero.
Despite losing out on Inoa, the Yankees invested $3.975 million on six July 2 prospects from Latin America. Arias received the highest bonus, but scouts seemed more impressed with Flores. Though Flores received less money than fellow Venezuelans Yorman Rodriguez (Reds) and Luis Domoromo (Padres), one scout called Flores the best hitter he saw in Venezuela this year. Flores has a short, compact swing and good feel for the game, including good instincts on the basepaths.
With first-round pick Gerrit Cole opting to attend UCLA instead of signing with the Yankees, New York spent more money on Arias than on any other amateur player in 2008. Arias is a stocky 5-foot-11, and his thick lower half and below-average speed have scouts projecting a move to third base or possibly second. His hands work well and his arm is plus, and he has some ability with the bat. Calderon is a corner outfielder with good power from the left side and below-average speed.
Leonora is an athletic outfielder with a good body at around 5-foot-10 and runs the 60-yard dash in 6.7 seconds. His swing gets choppy at times, but professional instruction could iron that out, as he generally handles the bat well with good bat speed. He profiles as a center fielder, though his arm strength and accuracy are below-average.
Kelvin Duran, a lefthanded-hitting outfielder from the Dominican Republic, signed with the Yankees in April for $300,000 at 17, and power-hitting Dominican first baseman Reymond Nunez got $300,000 in November. Nunez, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound righthanded batter, hit .230/.294/.301 in 256 DSL at-bats with 19 walks and 73 strikeouts at age 17.
So, keep the names of Gian Carlos Arias and Ramon Flores on your radar. Reportedly, they each got bonuses close to $1 million this summer – which is not small when it comes to an international signing. But, keep in mind, it may take 4 or 5 years before these guys are even close to sniffing the big leagues…assuming that they don’t bomb before then…