Friday, July 3, 2015

Scouting the International Signees

July 2 marks the beginning of a new international signing period for young baseball players who do not live in the United States, Puerto Rico or Canada and who have turned 16 years old after a certain date.  This year's talent pool was pumped up by several Cuban players older than 16 and by an 18 year old who had attended HS in the U.S., but moved back to the Bahamas to gain eligibility for international signing.

In the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, limits were placed on spending for international players, but the penalties for exceeding those limits were not severe enough to keep up with the tremendous influx of revenue that most MLB teams now have.  A new strategy has emerged for international spending, started by the Yankees a couple of years ago.  Sign as many international player for as much as you have to and just accept the penalties:  1.  A 100% financial penalty for any money spent above the pool limit.  2.  Spending for the next two cycles limited to $300 K per player.  As more teams used this strategy, it became impossible to ever sign a top talent if your team adhered to the spending limits every cycle.  What a mess!  Another caveat to this mess is that most agreements between players and teams occur long before the signings are announced on July 2.  That left teams like the Giants who were on the fence, out of the running for most of the players in the pool who were going to command bonuses of more than $1 M.

That HS player who moved back to the Bahamas?  That would be Lucious Fox, a switch-hitting SS with plus-plus speed.  The Giants saw a chance to sign him away from the Dodgers who seemed to be the team that had a bead on him.  Yesterday, the Giant landed him for $6 M which is approximately $4 M over their bonus pool limit.  When penalties are added in, they will spend approximately $10 M on his bonus and will be limited to players they can sign for $300 K or less for the next 2 seasons, unless the rules change again, which seems like it's about a 50/50 bet.  Even if an international draft is instituted next season, it seems likely that teams who blew past their bonus pools will still be penalized by loss of draft picks.  Personally, I am going to trust that the Giants did their homework on the bonus rules and penalties and did not rush into this position only as a reaction to what the Dodgers and other teams were doing.  Instead, I'll focus on what Fox brings to the organization.

Lucious Fox, like I said earlier, is 18 years old.  He's a switch-hitting HS SS with plus-plus speed.  One scouting report said he might have the best tools in the entire international pool this year.  Scouting reports from early in the draft cycle which placed him in the #30-50 range of prospects may be misleading in that he has grown considerably since those reports were filed.  A year ago, Fox was listed at 6'1", 160 lbs.  Since then he has grown 1" and bulked up by 15 lbs.  Recent video, available over at Fangraphs July 2 Sortable Board, compiled by Kiley McDaniel, shows him to be well muscled across the upper chest and shoulders.  His 60 time is listed as 6.5 or under which is at least 70 speed.  At the plate, he has a relatively simple swing.  I try to concentrate on the front foot and hands.  He takes a 4-6" slide step forward with the front foot. No big leg kick.  There is slight pre-pitch bat waggle, but he keeps his hands very close to hitting position so there is no big load or hand movement as the pitch is being delivered.  The swing is quick with a level to minimally uppercut path to the ball.  Kiley McDaniel seems to think his arm has gotten better with the added strength and thinks he has a chance to stick at SS.  If not, he can almost certainly move to 2B and has the speed to play CF, so he is a legitimate up-the-middle talent.

I am not convinced that he is a rare enough talent to stake 3 years of international signings on, but he is a significant addition to the Giants growing stable of "tools" players which include Johneshwy Fargas, Gustavo Cabrera, Kelvin Beltre, Jalen Miller, Mikey Edie and now Fox.  I think international signing rules prevent him from playing in games this season, unless there are exceptions for players older than 16 years old.

The Giants, as expected, also signed a 16 year old Venezuelan catcher named Ricardo Genoves for 550 K.  He reportedly is already skilled at receiving high velocity pitching.  Beyond that, I have nothing more on him except he seems to have a projectable frame at 6'1", 180 lbs which is consistent with pictures I've seen, unlike Pablo Sandoval who was listed at 5'11", 180 lbs but was obviously way heavier from the get-go.

1 comment:

  1. I guess this will leave the Giants out of the Kevin Maitan Sweepstakes next July 2, unless an international draft is put in place before then. I'm sure that might have been on their mind in going after Fox this year. Maitan is thought to be a generational talent on the level of Miggy Cabrera, but there would likely be a furious bidding war over him, and he might command a record setting contract. The Giants did well to sign Fox, who has the talent to be a fine player in his own right. Bravo to the Giants on this move.