Back in February, we learned that the Milwaukee Brewers were planning on being an active player during the upcoming international free agent signing period. With 11 teams restricted from doling out bonuses in excess of $300K (Kansas City, St. Louis, San Diego, Cincinnati, Oakland, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco, and Washington) on top of the new hard caps in place beginning this coming summer, David Stearns and company should have no trouble making competitive offers for some of the top available talent.
Our post in February noted that Milwaukee had been specifically linked to two players - outfielders Larry Ernesto and Carlos Rodriguez - who are expected to receive bonuses somewhere in the vicinity of seven figures. Over the weekend, MLB Pipeline released their top 30 international prospect list, confirming that Milwaukee is expected to sign both Ernesto and Rodriguez as well as shedding some additional light on what each player brings to the table:
(14) OF Larry Ernesto
Age: 16 || Dominican Republic || B/T: S/R || 6’2” || 175 lbs
Hit: 60 || Power: 55 || Run: 55 || Arm: 50 || Field: 55
Ernesto is a toolsy player with an athletic projectable body and tons of fans in the international scouting community.
On defense, Ernesto has the speed and instincts to play center field, but like most prospects his age, he will have to work on improving his routes and angles to fly balls. The belief is that he has the potential to become a plus-plus defender, and there's hope that he will develop more arm strength once his body matures and he receives daily instruction in a team's academy when he signs.
On offense, the switch-hitting Ernesto has a good approach at the plate and likes to drive the ball into the gaps. He has a chance to hit for average and power from both sides of the plate as he develops physically, but is considered a better left-handed hitter at the moment. Known as a speedy runner, the hope is that Ernesto will be able to use his raw speed on the bases and eventually become a basestealer.
(28) OF Carlos Rodriguez
Age: 16 || Venezuela || B/T: L/L || 5’10” || 150 lbs
Hit: 55 || Power: 30 || Run: 60 || Arm: 50 || Field: 60
The athletic Rodriguez is small compared some of the other prospects in this year's class, but his tools have big potential.
The center fielder has a chance to be a plus hitter, a plus runner and a plus center fielder. He has been compared to a young Ender Inciarte and a teenage Gerardo Parra with better tools at the same age. He projects to have an average arm.
At the plate, Rodriguez has a nice and easy swing with good bat speed. He can drive the ball to all fields with hard contact and has shown enough pop to make some believe he will develop future power potential. He is expected to hit for average.
Evaluators like that Rodriguez is polished for his age and has track record of success in games, a history that includes participation in national and international tournaments for Venezuela.
Three additional players listed within Pipeline’s top 30 - OF Raimfer Salinas (6), C Antonio Cabello (8), and SS Osleivis Basabe (24) - have not yet been linked to specific teams. It’s therefore quite possible that Milwaukee could swoop in and add one or more of those players to the fold, as well.
Here’s a refresher on how the new J2 signing period rules work under the current CBA, according to Baseball America:
- Most teams get a bonus pool of $4.75 mil that they can use to sign international prospects. Some teams classified as “small market” or “small revenue” can receive pools of either $5.25 mil or $5.75 mil.
- Teams can make trades to acquire up to 75% of their bonus pool allotment. So, if a team has a bonus pool of $4.75 mil, they can add an additional $3.56 mil by trading with other teams to make their total pool amount roughly $8.31 mil. A team can deal away 100% of its bonus pool, if it is so inclined.
- Bonuses of $10,000 or less are exempt from bonus pool totals. Players that are 25 or older and have played six or more years in a foreign baseball league are also exempt from bonus pool restrictions.
The Brewers were assigned a bonus pool of roughly $4.1 mil during the signing period that began last year and used it to recruit a plurality of young prospects, most notably Pablo Abreu, Jean Carlos Carmona, and Antonio Pinero. It’s also worth noting that Milwaukee added another $885K to their pool when they dealt Damien Magnifico to Baltimore in April, so they may not be done signing players during the current period that ends next month.
For the upcoming signing period, the Brewers will have a pool of $5.25 mil to work with (potentially up to $9.18 mil with trades). The international signing period begins each year on July 2nd, with clubs able to sign players all the way through the June 15th of the following year.