Before Juan Soto and Gleyber Torres became rookie phenoms, they were international free agents. Soto signed with the Nationals in 2015, while Torres signed with the Cubs in 2013. Today was the beginning of the 2018 International Signing Period, where teenagers sign with teams as they pursue their dream to make it to the big leagues. These teenagers are considered the best international players around, and many of them end up making it to the MLB. Here are the five players from the 2018 International Signing Period most likely to become stars at the MLB Level.
#5 Kevin Alcantara, New York Yankees
Kevin Alcantara is a 15-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic who is 6’5” and 175 pounds. He signed with the Yankees for a bonus of $1M, and is ranked as the #10 international prospect according to MLB.Com. With his 6’5” frame, he has plenty of raw power that should be tapped into as he gets older. He also has 70 grade speed, which gives him the potential to steal 30 bases and hit 30 homers. Playing with the short porch in Yankee Stadium will be ideal for him, as he will rely on his power to succeed offensively. This is because he has a lot of holes in his swing, which gives him a future average hit tool at best. However if he can refine his hit tool, he has five tool potential and gives the Yankees another high upside guy in their farm system.
#4 Osiel Rodriguez, New York Yankees
You’ve got to give credit to the Yankees, they did a great job in this signing period. Osiel Rodriguez is a 16-year-old Cuban pitcher who signed for a bonus of just over $1M. Despite being still a teenager, Rodriguez already throws five pitches effectively (Fastball, Splitter, Slider, Curve, Changeup) and could be a quick mover through the minors. His fastball reaches 96 MPH, and generates a lot of swings and misses. His best pitch though is his slider, which has devastating movement. His control is solid, but should become above average as he continues to improve. Some are worried by his unorthodox delivery, but it adds a lot of deception and he is able to repeat it effectively.
#3 Diego Cartaya, Los Angeles Dodgers
Diego Cartaya is a 16-year-old catcher from Venezuela. He was ranked the #1 player in the 2018 International Class by MLB.Com. His hit tool and his fielding are both elite, and he projects to be a consistent .300 hitter and a gold glove caliber catcher at the next level. He has advanced plate discipline for his age, which means that the adjustment to the professional level shouldn’t be too much for him. He’s also advanced as a receiver behind the plate, and also possesses a plus arm. He doesn’t have much power, but could develop into someone who hits 15-18 homers a year, which is fine for a catcher. Nevertheless, Cartaya has the potential to be an excellent two-way catcher in the MLB, and reminds me a lot of Yadier Molina.
#2 Richard Gallardo, Chicago Cubs
The top pitcher in this class, Gallardo has the makeup of an ace. He has an excellent three pitch mix and has plus command. His fastball will most likely sit around 94 MPH, while his breaking ball has sharp movement. His best pitch is his changeup though, which looks exactly like his fastball coming out of hands and has great movement. Another excellent trait that Gallardo has is that he is fearless and isn’t afraid to go after anyone. These are all things you want out of an ace, and Gallardo’s potential as a high strikeout, low walk pitcher gives him the potential to become one. This is a big move for the Cubs, who have a weak farm system and have no clear future ace on their roster. Gallardo reminds me a lot of Jacob deGrom, and he could be another quick mover through the minors.
#1 Marco Luciano, San Francisco Giants
All due respect to everyone in this 2018 International Class, but Marco Luciano is by far the best prospect in this class. He has five tool potential, and doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. His best trait is his power, which shows up in games. He is able to slug it to all fields, has tremendous bat speed, and has the potential to hit over 40 home runs a season. He also has an elite hit tool that gives him the potential to hit over .300, as he makes consistent hard contact. If he was a liability in the field, he’d still be an extremely valuable player. However, he is far from a liability and actually has the potential to be a very versatile player defensively. His athleticism and plus arm work in the outfield, preferably in the corners. He currently plays short and has the potential to stick there, but may outgrow the position and move to third. His power and arm strength would play at third tremendously. It’s a good problem to have, as Luciano fits the profile in so many positions that it offers the Giants an extreme amount of flexibility when building the team of the future. Luciano is the one and only player in this class that has the potential to win an MVP one day, and is the clear-cut the #1 prospect in this class. He has the chance to become the face of the Giants and completely change the franchise for the better.
Rankings and Featured Image from MLB.Com