July 3, 2013

International signing day: Twins spend $2 million on 16-year-old hitters

lewin diaz

In recent years the MLB draft has gotten significantly more attention as media members and fans have increased their focus on prospects, but the international signing period continues to lag far behind. My assumption is that the dearth of readily available information about 16-year-olds from foreign countries plays the biggest role in the lack of attention, because certainly in terms of the long-term impact on teams international signings are every bit as important as draft picks.

This year's international market opened yesterday and the Twins' biggest splash was spending $1.4 million on 16-year-old Lewin Diaz, a 6-foot-4 first baseman from the Dominican Republic. Ben Badler of Baseball America, whose coverage of foreign prospects is the most informed and thorough anywhere, ranked Diaz as the 15th-best international player available and wrote long before signing day that "the Twins appear to be higher on Diaz than any other team."

Badler writes that "his value is all in his bat" and his "big, lumbering body ... could end up along the lines of David Ortiz physically." Having an Ortiz build doesn't mean having an Ortiz bat, but Badler reports that Diaz has "good bat speed and flashes some of the best raw power in Latin America during batting practice." However, he also notes that Diaz "doesn't bring the same loft power against live pitching" and "will have to make adjustments for his power to play in games."

Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com ranked Diaz as the 10th-best international prospect, writing that "scouts love the big left-handed hitter's stroke at the plate and his body reminds many scouts of Ryan Howard." When a baby-faced 16-year-old is compared physically to Ortiz and Howard he's going to be a massive adult some day, so not surprisingly Diaz has sub par speed and projects as a first baseman. In other words, the Twins are betting on him developing huge power.

DPLBaseball.com has video of Diaz doing outfield drills and taking batting practice:

Along with spending big on Diaz the Twins also dropped $550,000 on another 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic, third baseman Roni Tapia. He didn't crack the top-30 list on Baseball America or MLB.com, but Badler correctly pegged the Twins' interest in the 6-foot-3, 175-pound Tapia and calls him "an average runner who generates easy power from the right side" while also noting that "defense is a challenge for Tapia, so a position change is likely."

DPLBaseball.com has video of Tapia fielding grounders at third base and taking batting practice:

When it comes to drafting position players the Twins have long targeted athleticism and speed at the expense of power potential, but their recent approach to international signings has been much different. Four years ago they made a record-breaking $3.15 million bet on a 16-year-old slugger from the Dominican Republic named Miguel Sano and now they've committed another $2 million to a pair of 16-year-old Dominicans with bat-driven upside in Diaz and Tapia.

Sano was considered one of the best 16-year-old international prospects ever and it's taken him four years just to reach Double-A, so it'll be a while before any kind of judgment can be passed on the Diaz and Tapia signings. In the meantime, though, it's nice to see the Twins straying from their overall comfort zone in an effort to add some much-needed power to an organization that has lacked it for a couple decades now.


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8 Comments »

  1. Is it sad that I like the Twins prospects better then the major leaguers?

    Comment by chris — July 2, 2013 @ 10:43 pm

  2. The Twins had 2nd or 3rd most money in their pool compared to other MLB teams right? So after ending up with the 10-15th guy and another that isn’t in the top 30, I wonder if the Twins are significantly higher on these two than most teams or if the strategy was to split $2 million and grab two pretty good guys while other teams targeted one top signing. Does anyone know what other teams with lots of money did? Target one top guy or spread money over 2 or 3 players?

    Comment by Kavan — July 3, 2013 @ 8:15 am

  3. What happens to left over money in our bonus pool? We had $3.9 million to spend I think, right? I’d be pretty disappointed if we left $2mil on the table…
    Here’s a link to BA’s page where you can get an idea of what other teams are doing. The Cubs and Rangers have been very busy. BA also indicates that 4 of the top 5 guys are still unsigned, so maybe we’ll get someone else.

    Comment by JeffNH — July 3, 2013 @ 9:39 am

  4. I want to know if the MLB draft will ever look like the international prospect draft. Seems more open market and fair for both players and teams. Give the worst team from the previous season an $X million bonus pool and cut it down from there. Then open the draft up to all eligible HS and college guys without any slots or picking order. Want to burn your whole stake on a single guy? Go ahead – try and sign him. Want to stock up on cheap college arms? No problem. This also gives players a bit more leverage to potentially avoid what they may feel is not a good fit for them organization-wise. They can opt to take a little less money to get in a farm system they think might be a good match. This system might also curb outrageous amounts of money being spent on signing bonuses for top prospects – which I’m sure the owners would like.

    Comment by YoLaTengoTwins — July 3, 2013 @ 10:58 am

  5. I think you should look at what the top IFA sign for and what the top drafted guys for. The money is not even close. Granted, IFA are younger most of the time. What they need to do is dump the IFA and just have all players drafted.

    Comment by unsub — July 3, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

  6. Man, that is one…long…loopy…lazy…laggy…hitchy…swing.

    Ortiz? No, David Ortiz’s swing looked like Dave Parker’s from the old Pirates. This kid’s swing looks more like Chris Parmelee after downing a roofie. No wonder he doesn’t bring his mediocre power to ball games. His swing takes five seconds from the first lazy waggle to the final lazy follow through. With a swing like that, he couldn’t bat .100 in the majors if pitchers told him what they were about to throw.

    Prediction: Diaz never makes it to AA.

    Comment by jimbo92107 — July 3, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

  7. I’d be fine with merging the two. I just think it would make it a hell of a lot more interesting if the players were free to negotiate their way on to or not on to particular teams and each team simply had a pot of money based on last year’s performance. No other rules, no over slot money rules, no draft order, etc. I think we’d see the real savvy (or lack there of) of major league front offices show up in such an open system. It’d make for interesting strategizing, i.e., dumping a ton of money into one player vs spreading it around in 250k increments and every iteration between those extremes. Although this could backfire for the Twins… How many young players want to be subjected to their “way” which for the past 3 seasons has included absolute abysmal practices regarding injuries?

    Comment by YoLaTengoTwins — July 3, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

  8. Hey AG. there is a Nick Blackburn sighting……get this with the GCL rookie league for the Twins. Nice Blacky. Give up 7 hits and 2 runs to high schoolers. Wow you need to hang it up.

    Comment by mmd — July 3, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

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