An early look at the 2024 MLB International Free Agency period
By Nick Prasad2 months ago
With free agent rumours and trade speculation flying around Major League Baseball, the importance of another major selection period has been hidden in the shadows.
The Juan Soto extravaganza and the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes are silencing all else in baseball. This week is probably the spiciest time of the market. In just a month from now, the international signing period begins for the MLB.
Ohtani was a product of Japan, an international-born player who came overseas to sign in the winter of 2017, and Soto, a native of the Dominican Republic, was a product of the international signing period, where Washington inked him in 2015.
The 2024 International signing period begins on January 15 and ends on December 15. This time frame is inching closer and the Blue Jays scouting department will have their hands full in evaluating such talent prior to making their selections.
The Blue Jays have done a phenomenal job in the international free agent market, making some massive selections that translate into top-tier major league talent. In 2023 Toronto signed top international outfield prospect Emmanuel Bonilla, who ranked seventh of the top 50 international prospects, and they also added four other depth prospects to the organization.
Some of Toronto’s top 30 prospects such as Manuel Beltre, Yosver Zulueta, Leo Jiminez, and Orelevis Martinez are all products of the international signing periods. With the Blue Jays nose deep into the free agent market and trade talks, some of these top prospects may be in the mix for dealings to acquire major league talent. Therefore, this period is essential to replenish the pool holding possible future franchise players.
Where does priority stand in this year’s selections? Pitching and catching. If they don’t sign Ohtani, the Blue Jays might be dealing top prospects in return for talent to fill holes in 2024. Toronto doesn’t have a deep farm system, and the hope is that they won’t need to trade a name like Ricky Tiedemann or Orelvis Martinez. The Blue Jays also do not have a catcher listed on the top 30 prospect list, the thought of this revives the reminder that Gabriel Moreno was dealt in a similar situation around this time last year.
The top catcher in this year’s international free agency is Yovanny Rodriguez from Venezuela.
“Rodriguez has a chance to become the best player in this class, and it’s easy to see why. An advanced catching prospect with some pop and skills, Rodriguez has the potential to be a star on both sides of the ball. Behind the dish, he shows an advanced defensive approach and scouts rave about his upside. He is composed with an advanced and calculated, almost chess-like mindset for calling games.Specifically, his framing and footwork are advanced for his age and he shows plus arm-strength potential and great hands. Offensively, Rodriguez sprays the ball to all fields with lots of hard contact and loft. He shows good bat-to-ball skills with present power and room to add more as he matures. He already displays lots of strength, and more is on the way.”
The Blue Jays must also consider a huge projectable bat that can survive as a corner infielder. Why? In a case where Vladimir Guerrero Jr is not extended and can walk, the birds must consider a development piece to replace him in the future. Righty slugger Paulino Santana looks like the top bat available for teams looking for a game-changer.
“Known as a natural hitter with plus-power potential, the right-handed-hitting Santana has a strong feel for the strike zone. Evaluators are impressed by his ability to recall pitches and adjust, as he shines brightest during in-game action. His 6-foot-2 frame produces fast-twitch reactions that have many believing he could consistently hit for both average and extra bases as he matures.”
The name that the Blue Jays have been linked to is shortstop Kennew Blanco, one of the youngest players in the class.
“Blanco displays a loose stroke at the dish that enables him to spray the ball to all fields. His upper and lower half sync up extremely well, and when combined with his toe-tap gather, he’s in a sound position to consistently do damage. His combination of impressive bat speed and good swing decisions leaves open the possibility that there is even more power to unlock down the road as he gains more experience.”
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