Texas Rangers' International Signings: "Getting Stupid with Talent"
Have you ever looked at your fantasy baseball and football drafts and wondered, "How cool would it be if I had two or maybe three of the first ten picks." A few years ago, pre-draft, I traded away five draft picks for two separate first round picks in fantasy football. When the randomizing came out I sat with the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th picks. Much easier to win a title when you have Adrian Peterson, Andre Johnson, and Tom Brady manning your guns.
On July 2nd the Texas Rangers basically pulled the same thing off, except they didn't have to give up anything except money, $13.5MM. This is the first day of international signings, and unlike the "First Year Player Draft," there is no order of selecting that has to be followed. Nope, instead you go after the guys you want and if you offer the best deal...BOOM, you got'em. And the Rangers wasted no time getting started.
Early on in the day Texas targeted, Baseball America's #10 prospect in Latin America, based on the bonus they are likey to receive. Nomar Mazara, a left-handed outfielder from the Dominican Republic signed the largest bonus ever with a reported $5MM. Obviously Texas viewed the 16-year-old, left-handed slugging corner outfielder, who stands a monstrous 6'5" a lot higher than #10. Mazara is a beast of a kid, and once he gets into a real workout routine and fills in that 6'5" frame this kid could be massive, with extraordinarily prodigious power potential.
Mazara was signed for his potential and his athleticism. Athleticism, remember that theme from Draft Day. After signing and being announced last week, the young Mazara took some batting practice with current Ranger's slugger Josh Hamilton. Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, A.J. Preller, Jim Sundberg, Scott Littlefield, Kip Fagg, Ron Washington, entire coaching staff, and Nolan Ryan all stood and watched BP. I know their faces didn't show it, but their hearts had to be smiling when watching this kids sweet swing and easy power.
Mazara has the same, very distinguishable, high leg-kick swing that former Rangers' slugger Juan Gonzalez displayed. And while watching him launch baseballs all over the park, there was a very strong resemblence between Mazara's swing, leg-kick, siz, and the kids sheer potential that looked like a young Juan Gonzalez taking batting practice. One scout in the Latin American area spoke on the power and told Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes, "Mazara is the best power-hitting prospect out of Latin America since Miguel Cabrera." Well, no need for me to analyze him any further.
And this is exactly why Mazara was signed. He was signed for that power. He was signed for that potential. He was signed for the adult manner in which he already carries himself. He was signed for that..ATHLETICISM! (Get used to that theme)
Back to July 2nd, after the Rangers made such a huge splash on the day and wrapped up one of the top talents in all of Latin America, they followed it up a couple hours later by signing, "the most athletic, top outfield, if not top positional player currently in Latin America." (SMILE) 16-year-old Dominican Ronald Guzman, another 6'5", 205-lb., left-left corner outfielder was signed to a reported $3.5MM signing bonus. Giving the Rangers organization the highest and second highest bonus given out in this year's international signing period.
Though not the having the power-potential of Mazara, Guzman is still a power-hitting, plus-contact, outfield teenager who scouts this year were split down the middle as to who was the top positional player, Guzman or Elier Hernandez (signed with Kansas City). Based on his size and pure athleticism, Guzman projects to be similar to that of Alex Rios or Ruben Sierra, with a little more power.
During the June draft the Rangers held picks #33 and #37, they selected LHP Kevin Matthews and OF Zach Cone, and many scoffed at these signings stating they were reaches, easy signings, and passed on some better potential yet more expensive talent. Once again, never judge a Daniels & Company decision too soon. Daniels had a plan, and it was a plan implemented much sooner than Draft Day. True, Matthews and Cone were easy signs, they both signed within a week and Texas was the first MLB team to sign all their first round picks. They both signed right at the slotted amount of money. So why did Texas not reach for a higher priced player (Josh Bell), like they did with Mark Teixeira, Justin Smoak, and even Matt Purke? Mazara and Guzman answers that question.
Last week Daniels spoke a little bit on the subject and he talked about how he loves the way the open market of international signings works. Unlike Draft Day, when you pick once and then wait 30 picks and watch all the guys you want go to your opponents, here you can get any guy you want. Daniels loves having the ability to get multiple top tier prospects. Daniels stated, "Some years we will be inactive, but others like this year we can commit to multiple top tier players...It's fair to say we planned to be active in the international amateur market this year, consistent with our goal of adding the best talent in all arenas. Our scouts have put in a lot of work to put us in a position to do just that, and ownership continues to support us."
Texas did just that, snatching two of the top ten prospects in all of Latin America, and you can even throw in the May signing of Leonys "Cohiba" Martin as a third (easily a top three talent out of the area this year). Mazara, Guzman, and Cohiba, three of the top five outfield prospects from Latin America...but why? Why add to such depth of a pool that currently contains Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Julio Borbon, Craig Gentry, Engel Beltre, Doug Deeds, Mike Bianucci, and Miguel Velasquez? Just as Daniels said before, the goal has never been to add simply the need, but to add prospects in all departments, to add the best talent, to add the best athletes. This same thing has been seen before, in 2009 it was very obvious the organization was committed to Elvis Andrus as the shortstop of the future, and all signs pointed to it being a great decision. Yet, in the international signing period Texas added two of the top three shortstop prospects in all of Latin America with 16-year-old Jurickson Profar and 17-year-old Luis Sardinas.
Before this season the Rangers top three signing bonus were: 1) Mark Teixeira, 2001 - $4.5MM, 2) Justin Smoak, 2008 - $3.5MM, 3) John Danks, 2003 - $2.1MM. In the past two months Texas has agreed to three of the five largest signing bonuses in franchise history - Mazara $5MM, Cohiba $5MM, and Guzman $3.5MM.
Now, what next to do with these young men of the future. Cohiba, this past weekend received his promotion from AA Frisco to AAA Round Rock. He played in 29 games in Frisco, reaching base in every game except his second game. He finished with a .339/.422/.567 hitting line, so he is definitely ready for the next step. Mazara and Guzman will both likely report to Arizona for a little while and get acquainted with the organization, then the decision must be made to play them in the Dominican Summer League, where most Ranger teenagers start off or see if they are already ready for professional baseball and put them in Rookie ball in Arizona. I don't know for sure what is going to happen, but after what I have read, I vote for Rookie ball.
I'll leave you with some of the tweets on that July 2nd from Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus, Parks is a pure minor league expert, who specializes in Latin American prospects. "Just spoke to a scout who said Ronald Guzman was the top positional talent available in Latin America, with plus hit/power potential...My previous observations aside: today is a great day for #Rangers fans. Your organization just acquired two top tier prospects with high offensive upside...And by upside, I mean a guy with gargantuan power potential (Mazara) and a guy with plus prokections on hit/power tools (Guzman)...For thos counting at home, the #Rangers have spent $8.5MM on just two prospects so far today. The system is getting stupid with talent."