This year’s international signing period started on July 2 when major league teams compete to give millions of dollars to 16-year-old kids from Latin America. Even though the Cubs are still in the “penalty box” for going over their bonus pool in 2015, they managed to sign two top 50 international prospects out of Mexico.
In case you need a reminder, the Cubs went way over their designated “bonus pool” in 2015, signing six top international prospects to big bonuses. Since that time, they’ve been limited to paying out bonuses of $300,000 to players, which keeps them from signing most of the top international players. Sure, you can get some good prospects for that amount of money in the Dominican Republic, but all the best players are going to sign for a lot more than that.
However, there is a loophole in these rules when it comes to Mexican players and the Cubs are exploiting it. When a major league team signs a player out of the Mexican League, the team that owned his rights keeps 75% of the bonus money. But the current collective bargaining agreement only counts the amount of money that actually went to the player against their bonus pool. So the Cubs can sign Mexican League players for up to $1.2 million and they’ve reportedly landed two of them already.
Shortstop Luis Verdugo is the top eligible position player in Mexico this year. Verdugo was ranked as the 47th best prospect by Baseball America and the 30th best by MLB Pipeline. Verdugo is a good contact hitter that has recently given up switch-hitting and now bats only from the right side. Many observers (and I assume the Cubs are among them) believe that as he grows into his 6’2” frame, he’ll develop more power. He’s considered a strong defender, even though his speed is a bit below-average. If he has to move off of shortstop as he ages, he has the arm to play third base. MLB Pipeline also quotes scouts who praise his makeup and maturity, which we know the Cubs are emphasizing lately, especially in their amateur signings.
We do have some video of Verdugo:
The other top Mexican player signed by the Cubs is 6’1” right-handed pitcher Florencio Serrano, who was ranked as the 29th-best prospect this year by Baseball America. Serrano actually played baseball in Texas as a high-school freshman, but his family moved back to Mexico and he signed with Tijuana. That move meant that Serrano had to wait an extra year before signing an international contract, so Serrano is actually 17 rather than 16 like most top international prospects. (He was born February 23, 2000. Yes, it’s finally happened. There are professional baseball players born in the aughts.)
Serrano has a fastball in the 88-92 range and most scouts think that he’ll be able to add to that as he matures. He already touches 94 mph on occasion. His best pitch, however, is his curveball which projects out to be a plus pitch.
As you’d probably expect from someone who went to high school in Texas, Serrano is bilingual and speaks fluent English, which gives him a leg up on a lot of international prospects.
Here’s an interview with Serrano, conducted after his freshman season in high school.
The Cubs also signed SS Fabian Pertuz out of Colombia for the maximum $300,000. I don’t have much information on Pertuz except that he attended the baseball academy in Colombia operated by former major leaguer Orlando Cabrera and that he played for Colombia’s National Under-15 team.
Also listed as having signed with the Cubs for an undisclosed amount is Dominican outfielder Alexander Ovalles.
The top player in this international class is SS Wander Franco, who signed with the Rays for $3.825 million. RHP Eric Pardinho, considered to be the top pitcher in this class and the prospect to ever come out of Brazil, signed with the Blue Jays.
The Cubs have had some success in recent years signing out of Mexico. picking up pitcher Jose Albertos and shortstop Isaac Paredes. Here’s hoping that Verdugo and Serrano (and everyone else the Cubs sign) also have bright futures ahead of them