Comparing the Top MLB International Prospects Doug Gray January 13, 2016 23 Comments Things may seem like they are getting a little bit repetitive with all of the discussion of new Cincinnati Reds signee, shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez (listed on Baseball Reference as Aldredo Rodriguez). He’s going to be discussed again today, but in the broader scope of things. We will also be talking a little bit about another international signing by the Reds, outfielder Crisitan Olivo, who was signed for $1,000,000 over the summer. MLBPipeline.com is the official Major League Baseball rankings/prospect site. It’s not always the most up-to-date rankings site around, and their rankings can get awfully confusing at times. What is interesting though is that they tend to place prospects immediately upon a trade or a new signing. They even keep a Top 30 international prospects list, that includes anyone that has been eligible to sign, whether they are signed or not, in the current signing period. Using their rankings, and their individual tools grades, I charted out the Top 15 international prospects according to their rankings, and included Reds Cristian Olivo who ranked 26th. The chart includes their age, the team they signed with, their signing bonus and their OFP. OFP stands for overall future potential. It’s an overall grade for the future potential, based on the tools of a player where you add up the numbers for each tool (20-80), then divide by the number of categories (this changes in pitchers based on how many pitches they throw – for position players it’s always divided by five, as they only have five tools). Scouts are given the discretion to adjust that OFP number slightly based on other things that they saw from a player. It’s not a perfect system, as some tools are certainly more valuable than others and thus should carry more weight (hitting is more valuable than the throwing for nearly every position on the field, as an example). But, generally speaking, it gives you a good idea of the overall future potential of a given prospect, where 50 is considered to be an average, everyday caliber Major Leaguer. With that all in mind, here’s how the MLB Pipeline Top 15+1 International Prospects broke down: Rank Age Player Team Bonus OFP 1 19 Yadier Alvaez Dodgers $16,000,000 58.75 2 20 Vladimir Gutierrez Unsigned N/A 57.5 3 19 Yusniel Diaz Dodgers $15,500,000 61 4 21 Alfredo Rodriguez Reds $6,000,000 50 5 20 Eddy Julio Martinez Cubs $3,000,000 62 6 18 Lucius Fox Giants $6,000,000 54 7 16 Vladimir Guerrero Jr Blue Jays $3,900,000 49 8 16 Lazaro Armenteros Unsigned N/A 60 9 16 Starling Heredia Dodgers $2,600,000 55 10 17 Jhalyn Ortiz Phillies $4,000,000 51 11 16 Gilberto Celestino Astros $2,250,000 50 12 17 Wander Javier Twins $4,000,000 54 13 17 Seuly Matias Royals $2,250,000 53 14 17 Christian Pache Braves $1,400,000 52 15 17 Alvaro Seijas Cardinals $762,500 55 26 16 Cristian Olivo Reds $1,000,000 50 What immediately jumps out here is that all six of the top guys are at least 18-years-old. That’s not terribly surprising given that they are more advanced and thus a little bit easier to project. Another thing that jumps out is that the Dodgers are flexing their “we’ve got more money than everyone else and laugh at you chumps” muscle, spending over $33M before any penalties are levied (which would include another $33M paid to MLB). The Reds landed two of the listed players. The #4 overall prospect being Alfredo Rodriguez and the #26 prospect being Cristian Olivo. Both players have the same OFP of 50, an everyday Major League of average quality. So why did they sign for such different amounts and why are they ranked so far apart? Let’s dive a little deeper and compare the two, according to what MLB Pipeline is suggesting: Player Hit Power Run Arm Field Alfredo Rodriguez 40 40 60 50 60 Cristian Olivo 40 50 60 50 50 Similar hit, speed and arm grades. Olivo gets the edge in power and Rodriguez grabs the edge in fielding. Of course, what’s missing here is the current grades of these tools. Cristian Olivo jsut turned 17-years-old, while Alfredo Rodriguez just turned 22. The grades for Rodriguez are a bit safer to actually happen than those for Olivo. And that’s one of the reasons that his signing bonus, and ranking, are quite a bit higher despite the two projecting as similarly valued players. There’s just less risk involved, at least according to the reports (and history). What’s also worth noting about the MLB Pipeline scouting report, is that it seems a little more favorable on the power output of Alfredo Rodriguez than reports from other places. We are working with very limited reports in total, but it is interesting to see one that gives a little more hope to things than the ones we had seen prior to this one coming out. Of course, simply seeing a 40 for hitting and a 40 for power may not exactly tell you much without knowing what that means exactly. Here’s a general scouting scale for what each grade on the 20-80 scale means (note that this is general – some teams will have a slightly different scale, but it’s probably very close to this one): Grade Average Home Runs 80 .320 40+ 75 .310 35-40 70 .300 30-35 65 .290 27-30 60 .280 23-27 55 .270 19-22 50 .260 15-18 45 .250 12-15 40 .240 8-12 35 .230 5-8 30 .220 0-5 In regards to the two Reds prospects list here, the projections don’t exactly suggest a good average for either guy, sitting in that .240 range (though, these can and probably will change some once we get longer looks at both – though it’s more likely to change for Olivo because of his age and the complete lack of any time against professional pitching). Rodriguez projects for 8-12 home runs, which for a shortstop isn’t all that bad. Olivo falls into the 15-18 range, though it is worth noting that some others believe he’s go 60 potential power. The one thing missing here, and it’s a lot tougher to put a grade on, is the players on-base skills. Zack Cozart, for example, is a .240 hitter with 8-12 home run power. But he’s not anything close to an on-base percentage player. Jimmy Rollins over the last three years has also been a .240 hitter with 8-12 home run power, but he’s walked nearly twice as often and provided significantly more offensive value because of it (though still a below-average offensive player). Going back up to the overall rankings, if MLB Pipeline happens to be correct in these rankings, it suggests that the Reds paid for some certainty that comes with the signing of an older player in Rodriguez (it’s weird calling someone who just turned 22 “old”, but by comparison – he’s old). His OFP doesn’t stack up to a lot of the guys ranked in the Top 10, but he’s probably a little bit safer than those guys as well. 23 Responses Brad Konerman January 13, 2016 Lot of questions. Wonder why Dodgers wouldnt pony up extra 3-5M/yr for Greinke but can spend 33M+ in International signings? Doug Gray January 13, 2016 My first thought was “return on investment”, but then I just laughed out loud about how much money they have. It’s certainly a good question. Obviously, if one of these big signings they made turns into a star, they are going to get a HUGE ROI, while Greinke isn’t likely to outperform his deal at all. Still…. rhayex January 13, 2016 Looking at these rankings, it makes even less sense now than it did at the time as to why the Reds didn’t sign Martinez. They were supposedly offering more than the Cubs at the time, but pulled out for some reason. Doug Gray January 13, 2016 Do you have a link for the part where they were offering more than the Cubs? I never saw that. I had seen that they were clearly interested, but after the workout, pulled back some (as did a few other teams). rhayex January 13, 2016 I don’t have a link, but I remember seeing either a tweet or a reddit post that the Reds were offering as much as 5 million for him, and then backed out. Not the most reputable of sources, but I’ll see if I can find it. Krozley January 13, 2016 Ben Badler has a new article on BA where he gives his take on the Rodriguez signing. The interesting points, however, are other targets he suggests for the Reds. Jorge Ona is one of them and he trains with Rodriguez. He described Ona as a 1st round talent. He should be a prime target once he’s declared eligible. Doug Gray January 13, 2016 Better hope it happens before June or he’s not a Reds target. The Duke January 13, 2016 The word seems to be he should be ruled eligible sometime in the next month or so. Doug Gray January 13, 2016 Here’s the link for anyone wanting to check it out…. it’s not exactly a good read if you want to get excited about the signing though – http://www.baseballamerica.com/international/reds-pay-costly-price-alfredo-rodriguez/ victor vollhardt January 13, 2016 Let me ask a couple of questions about the financial ramifications of this signing. #1 the way I understand it the Reds could still make more signings this period with no limits on the amount paid other than the penalty tax.#2 As to the next signing period they have the pool money ,but are limited on the “ceiling” paid each signee–Could they include some of this money in trades with other teams either to sweeten the deal or add still more prospects? Doug Gray January 13, 2016 All of those things are correct, Victor. The Reds will be able to spend whatever they want on prospects this signing period (ends June 15th). They will be limited over the next two periods, but can trade the slot values. Fish January 13, 2016 “While Rodriguez is not the type of player worth going over your bonus pool to sign, the expectation at that time was that the Reds were going to push well beyond their pool to sign him anyway.” I think that about sums this up. Terrible move. I can’t for the life of me understand giving up two years of bonus pool money for a guy who profiles as a utility infielder. Doug Gray January 13, 2016 Well, let’s be fair here – IF, and it’s certainly a big IF, the MLB Pipeline scouting report is accurate, that’s a starting shortstop profile. Not a star by any means, but absolutely a starter. Brad Konerman January 13, 2016 I am by no means a baseball scout. I work in a different sport. When in AZ for Spring Training, I spent a day with a friend who works for the Angels. He asked me to watch a player, didnt say who it was, and ask me to evaluate him. My response: “He is terrible. No projection. No feel. Non-prospect.” That player: Roberto Baldoquin, their high priced international signing. Doug Gray January 13, 2016 That’s the thing about seeing a guy just one time. Sometimes the tools simply aren’t apparent. I mean, you can usually see bat speed, but that’s usually the only thing a position guy is going to show every day when it comes to the tools. You can try to get an idea of some other things, but they don’t always present themselves. A good example is Billy Hamilton. When he was playing shortstop, it seemed that most reports talked about his arm being average at best. When you only saw him once or twice, yeah, you probably only saw average arm strength because he dropped his arm angle and slung the ball a lot more than he should. But if you watched him play often you saw him with a well above-average to plus arm when he kept his mechanics. Scouting isn’t an easy gig. The best scouts in the world miss very often. As a side note: OOOOF on the first season for Baldoquin. Goodness. sultan of swaff January 13, 2016 Good article Doug. Nice to see things put into perspective. Almost seems like the takeaway on international players is the same as crafting a budget for a major league team—–get ’em young or you’ll end up overpaying for older players. The Duke January 13, 2016 If we can sign at least one of Gutierrez, Ona, or Lazarito, then I’ll be content with the next two years of penalties and signing 10-15 $300k guys each year. DaveCT January 13, 2016 I am interested to look at this a couple of years from now, when we may have an infield of Votto/Peraza/Rodriguez/Suarez/Mes. With Blandino, Jagielo, Sparks also in the picture, It seems like we could have some plus defense and that the cumulative offense will need either Peraza or Rodriguez to step up, Suarez to stay where he’s at or improve, and the veterans to do their thing. A sum of the parts, perhaps? HavaKlu January 14, 2016 I thought the Reds already had their 21 year old SS of the future in Luis Gonzalez. Doug Gray January 14, 2016 Rule #1: You can never have enough pitching. Rule #2: You can never have enough guys to play shortstop. Gonzalez is pretty far from being ready for the big leagues, if he ever gets there. The defense though, it’s got a chance to be pretty stinking good. The bat has a ton of work to do though. RedsFaninPitt January 14, 2016 Based on what you have read about Rodriguez and what you know about Gonzalez, who is the better hitter right now? And, where do you see Rodriguez spending most of his time this season? Doug Gray January 14, 2016 I’d probably say Rodriguez is, but I honestly don’t know. I’d expect him in Daytona or Pensacola. The Duke January 14, 2016 There is a nice 4 minute highlight video of AlfRod on YouTube. I think there might be a little more power in there if he can use his lower half more. It’s definitely almost all arms right now, but it is a nice swing plane and a little more bat speed than I expected. The defense looked very smooth at SS with a good arm as well. I think AlfRod starts in Pensacola while Daal repeats in Daytona, and in Dayton I expect Gonzalez, Trahan, and Mardirosian to divvy up time between SS, 2B, and DH.