Simple answer is: Yes. Differs from my previous positon on this subject you say? Well, somewhat. I think you have to play in both areas: the Rule 4 draft and the Latin area with the occasional (once every 3 years or so) rest-of-world top signing. I mean, not $4 million signings like the A's did a couple of years ago but in that $1-1.5 million range, maybe one a year, plus 2 guys in that $500,000-800,000 range plus all your normal low cost signings.
Here is my thinking: YES it is costly, more costly than if these guys were in the draft. The reason is, obviously, competition. It is an open market and there is no limit on what a prospect can command except for common sense by the teams writing the checks. Still, though, consider this. By my best googling only 19 teams have signed players during the current international signing period for bonuses of over $200,000. That means that 11 teams have decided not to play this pricy game.
This doesn't happen in the draft. Thirty teams evenly divide the draft-eligible talent. You get one out of every 30 players in rounds 4 through 50 and, if you are like the Indians this year with no extra picks, one out of 60 of the top 60 picks and somewhere a little north of one out of 30 for rounds 2 and 3.
So, yes, you can in theory pay less if you draft guys who sign for slot but you get less. Consider this:
So far 37 players have signed for greater than $200,000 during the Latin American signing period that started July 2nd. In the draft the 37th slot gets you 4 deep into the supplemental 1st round.
Not to say that the 37 Latin signings are all the equivalent of their draft slot counterparts but you get the idea.
So, you get the pick of the Latin guys if you choose, like the Indians did, to play this summer as they signed 3 guys for over $200,000. They got 3 of the top 37 guys PAID. Now, as far as talent, who knows. However, considering they got ONE of the top 67 players drafted in 2011, Latin America doesn't seem like a bad place to play.
Oh, BTW, Mr. Mirabelli, there appears to still be a number of top Latin prospects left to be signed as 9 of Baseball America's top 40 still appear to be available, although some have been linked to teams.
But why Latin America? Aren't the odds of making it to the majors much longer for a 16-year old from a depressed foreign envinronment who is most likely not even comfortable in the US than for a seasoned college player or a HSer who has been to umpteen showcases and probably plays baseball and gets great coaching year-round?
Truly, I don't know the answer to that. You can hypothesize that the Latin player is more driven and, while MAYBE not getting great coaching has focused on baseball a lot longer than the average American kid. You can say he is more driven to succeed given the alternative of working hard for a year for what he makes in 2 months playing in the US, even in the low minors. You can even say, if you believe such things, that baseball is in his blood; that is, that for some reason he is genetically more pre-disposed to be successful in baseball than the average American kid. While this last point smells a lot like ethnic profiling to me and so I recoil from it, there are people who do believe it.
Are any or all of these true? Who knows.
But what I do know is this: If you don't play you don't gain.
Let's take a look at Baseball America's mid-season top 50 prospects. Here are the rankings, names, positions, teams, signing bonuses and year signed for each of the 8 guys who appeared in the top 25 of those rankings:
4. Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves, $850,000 in 2007
6. Martin Perez, LHP, Rangers, $580,000 in 2007
8. Jesus Montero, C, Yankees, $1.65 million in 2006
12. Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers, $1.55 million in 2009
13. Manny Banuelos, LHP, Yankees, $800,000 in 2008
16. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Braves, $800,000 in 2007
18. Carlos Martinez, RHP, Cardinals, $1.5 million in 2010
25. Leonys Martin, OF, Rangers, $15.5 million in 2009
So, if you pay, you get good prospects. Hmmm!
Now, let's take this one step further. Let's look at the top international bonuses of all-time (not counting Cubans and rest-of-world guys) through 2009 and see how those guys have fared.
Michael Ynoa, 2008, Oakland, $4.25 million
Miguel Sano, 2009, Twins, $3.15 million
Gary Sanchez, 2009, Yankees, $3 million
Rafael Rodriguez, 2008, Giants, $2.55 million
Yorman Rodriguez, 2008, Reds, $2.5 million
Wily Mo Pena, 1999, Yankees, $2.44 million
Joel Guzman, 2001, Dodgers, $2.25 million
Angel Villalona, 2006, Giants, $2.1 million
Juan Duran, 2008, Reds, $2 million
Adys Portillo, 2008, Padres, $2 millin
Jose Vincio, 2009, Red Sox, $1.95 million
Miguel Cabrera, 1999, Marlins, $1.8 million
Jesus Montero, 2006, Yankees, $1.65 million
Jackson Melian, 1996, Yankees, $1.6 million
Jurickson Profar, 2009, Rangers, $1.55 million
Ricardo Aramboles, 1998, Yankees, $1.52 million
Luis Sardinas, 2009, Rangers, $1.5 million
Michael Almanzar, 2007, Red Sox, $1.5 million
Esmailyn Gonzalex, 2006, Nationals, $1.4 million
Fernando Martinez, 2005, Mets, $1.4 million
Willy Aybar, 2000, Dodgers, $1.4 million
Carlos Truifenl, 2006, Mariners, $1.3 million
Luis Domoromo, 2008, Padres, $1.25 million
Juan Urbina, 2009, Mets, $1.25 million
Chelser Cuthbert, 2009, Royals, $1.1 million
Julio Morban, 2008, Mariners, $1.1 million
Kelvin De Leon, 2007, Yankees, $1.1 million
Alvaro Aristy, 2008, Padres, $1 million
Jharmidy De Jesus, 2007, Mariners, $1 million
There are a lot of good prospects there, some costing no more than what whe paid for Sean Smith and Nick Pesco, if you remember the two of them. Some clunkers but, if you throw out the Yankees and a few picks that didn't work out, it seems like a lot of the high priced Latin guys DO work out.
Is this a greater % than the high-priced US guys? Well, that is the topic of a whole other analysis that I will get back to later. One the surface, though, it seems the answer might be yes.
So, while I talked the talk in the past of not wanting to overspend on Latin prospects I am walking the walk of seeing how spending more profusely in this area may be rediscovering the undiscovered country, so to speak.
BTW, here is an up-to-date look at the Latin guys who have signed this signing period. The guys without a team (at the bottom of the list) have not signed yet. Mr. Mirabelli, are you listening? Please see the unsigned guys in yellow for a shopping list.
|Ranking, Name, Position, Country||Team||Bonus|
|NR Iosif Bernal, OF, Panama||Atlanta||$230,000|
|16. Manuel Marcos, OF, Dominican Republic||Boston||$800,000|
|17. Raimel Flores, SS, Dominican Republic||Boston||$900,000|
|NR Dioscar Romero, RHP, Venezuela||Boston||$600,000|
|8. Marck Malave, C, Venezuela||Chicago Cubs||????|
|9. Luis Enrique Acosta, SS, Dominican Republic||Chicago Cubs||$1.1 million|
|30. Ricardo Marcano, 3B, Venezuela||Chicago Cubs||????|
|39. Jonathan Perez, RHP, Venezuela||Cincinnati||$825,000|
|14. Dorssys Paulino, SS, Dominican Republic||Cleveland||$1.1 million|
|29. Anthony Santander, OF, Venezuela||Cleveland||$385,000|
|NR Fancisco Miguel, OF, Dominican Republic||Cleveland||$200,000|
|27. Antonio Senzatela, RHP, Venezuela||Colorado||????|
|26. Adelin Santa, 3B, Dominican Republic||Detroit||$750,000|
|13. Luis Reynoso, SS, Dominican Republic||Houston||$700,000|
|40. Arturo Michelena, SS, Venezuela||Houston||$220,000|
|NR Harold Arauz, RHP, Panama||Houston||$300,000|
|1. Elier Hernandez, OF, Dominican Republic||Kansas City||$3.05 million|
|22. Miguel Gonzalez, RHP, Dominican Republic||Minnesota||$650,000|
|24. Jose Garcia, C, Venezuela||NY Mets||$800,000|
|20. Miguel Andujar, 3B, Dominican Republic||NY Yankees||$750,000|
|4. Roberto Osuna, RHP, Mexico||NY Yankees ??||????|
|15. Harold Ramirez, OF, Colombia||Pittsburgh||$1.1 million|
|23. Elvis Escobar, OF, Venezuela||Pittsburgh||$570,000|
|7. Jose Ruiz, C, Venezuela||San Diego||$1.1 million|
|11. Helsin Martinez, OF, Dominican Republic||Seattle||$2 million|
|3. Victor Sanchez, RHP, Venezuela||Seattle||$2 million plus|
|35. Jose Godoy, C, Venezuela||St. Louis||$200,000|
|NR Dewin Perez, :LHP, Colombia||St. Louis||$450,000|
|36. Eric Otanez, C, Dominican Republic||Tampa Bay||????|
|2. Ronald Guzman, OF, Dominican Republic||Texas||$3.5 million|
|10. Nomar Mazara, OF, Dominican Republic||Texas||$5.0 million|
|19. Yohander Mendez, LHP, Venezuea||Texas||$1.5 million|
|NR Eduard Pinto OF, Venezuela||Texas||$300,000|
|5. Wilmer Becerra, SS/OF, Venezuela||Toronto||????|
|6. Dawel Lugo, SS, Dominican Republic||Toronto||$1.3 million|
|21. Jesus Gonzalez, OF, Venezuela||Toronto||????|
|33. Manuel Cordova, RHP, Venezuela||Toronto||?????|
|12. Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Dominican Republic|
|18. Franmil Reyes, OF, Dominican Republic|
|25. Carlos Tocci, OF, Venezuela|
|28. Mauricio Silva, RHP, Venezuela|
|31. Manuel Gonzalez, RHP, Dominican Republic|
|32. Gialy Arias, RHP, Dominican Republic|
|34. Sanber Pimentel, OF/1B, Dominican Republic|
|37. Yairo Munoz, SS, Dominican Republic|
|38. Soid Marquez, RHP, Venezuela|