The international youth baseball scene is a bit unsavory. Much of what goes on is behind a darkened curtain. Players signed will be, at the very best, in the pipeline for years before playing for MLB per diem. Nonetheless, it’s a method teams have for expanding their talent pool. Those that do better than average gain against the rest of the league. The sides that lag, lose ground. The Cubs appear poised to have a reasonably useful class again on the cycle that resumes on July 2.
Back around the time Theo Epstein took over with the Cubs, the league started to normalize international spending. Over about a three-step process, teams now have a specified pool to spend internationally. Each team can trade for more space, but the maximum amount of space is limited. MLB.com recently posted their top 30 international prospects, and for the second successive cycle, the Cubs are expected to sign three of the top thirty, including the sixth best in two-way catching threat Ronnier Quintro.
Practicing out of Bolivar, Dominican Republic, Quintero is a lefty-swinger with more perceived pop than on-base skills. A Venezuelan, he’s shifted his workouts to the safer climate of the Dominican. Here are some dated videos of Quintero.
Next on the list is (stop me if you’ve heard this before) Venezuela shortstop Kevin Made. Probably a bit more defense than offense, Made still ought to be able to hit fairly well up the pipeline. The video is far less with Made. Check the MLB site for what they have.
The third name linked with the Cubs is, surprise, a catcher from Miranda, Venezuela. Brayan Altuve is a bit glove over bat, but should be a bit of a threat offensively, as well. That the Cubs scouts continue to toil in Venezuela is a credit to the team’s willingness to overcome obstacles. To talk about these three, the best way is to talk about the main pieces from the current class, which lapses in about five weeks.
The key piece from the current cycle is right-handed pitcher Richard Machado. His main professional display has been in extended spring training as a 17-year-old. Extended spring is a mishmash of college veterans to preps, and international signings. All of the above. Arizona Phil at The Cub Reporter has noted a few times that Gallardo has pitched, and seems to feel he’s more like a college arm in terms of an advanced pitching feel.
The second piece from last time is left-handed pitcher Joel Machado, who hasn’t appeared nearly as as advanced as Gallardo. Outfielder Jose Lopez is poised for a season in the Dominican Summer League, after being a rated type in July.
The international field has a lengthy incubation period. Some will be useful. Others won’t develop as hoped. Some will be injured. Getting three of the top thirty and two of the top eleven is a credit to the scouts. The additional players will toil in the DSL for at least a season, getting used to the on-field and off-the-field aspects of being a professional baseball player. I plan to pay heed to both Cubs affiliates in the DSL, because they’re Cubs affiliates.
As to whether Quintero, Made, or Altuve will ever play full-season ball is to be determined by their progress, regardless if signed by the Cubs or someone else. The talent in the DSL is nowhere near as developed as stateside, and all Cubs signees will spend plenty of time in Boca Chica getting used to the Americanization process. None will be household names soon, but those from years ago will continue to advance through the system.
Come July second, numbers will become clearer. So will that the Orioles are likely to spend more care to the international scene than they have recently.
"I have seen more #Orioles scouts at international events over the last two months than I've seen in a decade."— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) May 10, 2019
Our guru @JesseSanchezMLB explains on the latest @MLBPipeline podcast:https://t.co/WlmuzMVWWg
The international angle of the game is still a bit shadowy, and might be even if a draft is installed, or incorporated into the June process. For now, what’s available is what’s available. Without spending too much time on the topic, the Cubs tend to look top half in the international spectrum, though where in the top half would be based on preference of depth or top-side.
The Cubs have about $5.4 million to spend (or trade) for the upcoming cycle. If $5.4 million were spent on a veteran free-agent, the hope would be for a win-above, or maybe two. Between the Cubs international class, I’d expect more value than that, either directly or indirectly. It won’t likely come anytime soon, though.