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Revisiting the 2017 International Signing Period


Mass Haas
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Revisiting the 2017 International Signing Period

 

Posting this partially in relation to the Brewers not adding any prospects from the system to the 40-man roster this month.

 

The 16-and-17-year-olds signed in the 2017 July signing period (normally those signed right on July 2nd but also those signed through the following spring, as we'll see) would have been eligible to be protected this month regarding Rule 5.

 

Now let's say right away the lost 2020 season impacted not just the Brewers, but all organizations. Surely across baseball a minimal number of 2017 international signees were added this fall due to the lost development career path year (well, there was this Wander Franco young man).

 

That being said, this is the reason MLB Pipeline Brewers #13 prospect OF Carlos Rodriguez, coming off his age 20 season with High-A Wisconsin, was on the consideration list. Rodriguez is still mildly interesting, but a severe lack of pop is going to cap his ceiling significantly. Rodriguez was the 2nd highest bonus baby of that Brewers class -- $1,355,000.

 

(Having that bonus in his pocket - yes, taxes, I'm aware - while living in Appleton among so many non-bonus teammates always strikes me as such an interesting clubhouse dynamic, but that's a topic for another day).

 

***

 

So who was the Crew's top dollar signing on July 2nd, 2017? Brewer system diehards will recognize the name, but we've barely given him a second thought, and for good reason. As it turns out, OF Larry Ernesto - recently-turned 21 years old and now a corner OF, and not necessarily with a strong arm, has posted a .216/.276/.329 line (.606 OPS) in three seasons in the DSL/Maryvale combined. In 2021, Ernesto struck out in 31 of 80 AB's (.543 OPS).

 

Ernesto was signed for $1,700,000, just a massive miss.

 

***

 

In April 2018, just before the members of this class were about to debut, Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote a detailed review of the top names within Milwaukee's 2017 international signing class. Do please take a moment to read it now, including his then-comments on Larry Ernesto.

 

The 3rd player Badler lists, OF Jeicor Cristian was released prior to the 2021 season and never made it stateside.

 

The 4th player, catcher Andres Melendez, was traded to Cleveland for utilityman Mark Mathias. The Guardians are no doubt thrilled -- Melendez just had a wonderful age 20 Low-A season, throwing out nearly 50% of basestealers (23-of-47!) while posting a sweet .247/.367/.431 line (.798 OPS). Not on their Pipeline Top 30 quite yet, but on his way.

 

The 5th player, OF Francis Casado missed all of 2019, and was released in May 2020 having only played in twelve 2018 games.

 

The 6th player, INF Daniel Castillo, saw brief time with the Carolina Mudcats in 2021, but has a career .589 OPS in 446 AB's.

 

The 7th player discussed, Jesus Chirinos, is no longer a catcher and has been solely focused on first base for two seasons now (2019, 2021). The OK news here is a decent 2021 in Maryvale for the RH bat - .282/.409/.389 (.798 OPS, 131 AB's, but 31% K-rate).

 

Finally from Badler's piece, he discusses the $800,000 bonus assigned to 1B Ernesto Martinez, who just had an entertainingly productive 2021 season with Carolina. Here's an interesting tidbit on Martinez' unique late-signing-period acquisition. In order to come up with the international bonus pool money necessary, Milwaukee dealt RH reliever Damien Magnifico to Baltimore for the pool cap space. So in effect, that deal was Magnifico for Martinez straight up.

 

***

 

We can't call the 2017 signing period a total bust for the Crew (yet, anyway).

 

Here's what remains from the fringes:

 

RH reliever Cristian Sierra spent all of 2021 with High-A Wisconsin. He turns 24 April 1st, and walked 41 in 60.2 IP this summer (1.43 WHIP). But worth the minimal $10,000 bonus he signed for.

 

OF Alwinson Valdez ($80,000 bonus) turns 21 in April, but posted only a .632 OPS (35 K's in 83 AB's) at Maryvale this past summer.

 

***

 

So please tell us there's one bright light to dream on --

 

Here we go, middle infielder Alberis Ferrer, who signed for $60,000 and turns 21 in December, led all Maryvale players (both squads) with a .951 OPS in 2021.

 

It was a not-too-tiny sample size of 117 AB's, .308/.379/.573 - 15 of his 36 hits for extra-bases (five doubles, four triples, six home runs). Ferrer stole nine bases in twelve attempts. There was a 31.6 K%, but clearly there is plenty to work with here.

 

Zebulon, Carolina get ready to welcome Alberis Ferrer to your Mudcat middle infield mix in April.

 

And Brewers fans, Ferrer unfortunately may end up being the best hope (along with Ernesto Martinez) of what now appears to be a nearly-lost 2017 signing period (can the team re-acquire catcher Andres Melendez, please?)

 

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Between Rodriguez, Martinez, Chirinos, and Ferrer, I won't go so far as to say a lost draft class.

 

Martinez shot up to #1 on my top 25 after the Hummel trade because he's coming across as an Eric Thames bat who could (at least briefly) hold down CF, while being a primary 1B. Chirinos's bat has had me intrigued for a while.

 

Rodriguez is still a high prospect for a reason - OBP skills, speed, and I presume, excellent defense. His biggest value will be he keeps the Crew from signing a JBJ.

 

If Ferrer is for real... this is a class that Brewers fans will love. But if all they get is a home-grown version of the Thames/Aguilar platoon of 2017-2018 and a bench OF, then this isn't a lost draft class.

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Martinez shot up to #1 on my top 25 after the Hummel trade because he's coming across as an Eric Thames bat who could (at least briefly) hold down CF, while being a primary 1B. Chirinos's bat has had me intrigued for a while.

 

If our number one prospect has Eric Thames upside (who's career best season was 1.3 WAR) this system is in serious trouble.

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Martinez shot up to #1 on my top 25 after the Hummel trade because he's coming across as an Eric Thames bat who could (at least briefly) hold down CF, while being a primary 1B. Chirinos's bat has had me intrigued for a while.

 

If our number one prospect has Eric Thames upside (who's career best season was 1.3 WAR) this system is in serious trouble.

 

Well, to be honest, I left out a couple of things:

1. Martinez also developed his ability to steal bases. Thames never could do that very well.

2. Martinez also can hold down CF.

 

He added those this year. I think he's going to be a very huge asset.

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Martinez shot up to #1 on my top 25 after the Hummel trade because he's coming across as an Eric Thames bat who could (at least briefly) hold down CF, while being a primary 1B. Chirinos's bat has had me intrigued for a while.

 

If our number one prospect has Eric Thames upside (who's career best season was 1.3 WAR) this system is in serious trouble.

 

Well, to be honest, I left out a couple of things:

1. Martinez also developed his ability to steal bases. Thames never could do that very well.

2. Martinez also can hold down CF.

 

He added those this year. I think he's going to be a very huge asset.

 

Thames had a 40 steal season in the KBO. I don't see how Ernesto stealing 30 in the Carolina League (or whatever its called now) gives him any kind of notable edge over Thames in that regard.

 

Martinez played 518 innings at 1B & 26 innings in CF last year. That looks like more of an emergency option than someone who can hold the position down to me. If the development staff thought he was viable in CF they probably would have played him there for more than 5% of his innings.

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Thames had a 40 steal season in the KBO. I don't see how Ernesto stealing 30 in the Carolina League (or whatever its called now) gives him any kind of notable edge over Thames in that regard.

 

Martinez played 518 innings at 1B & 26 innings in CF last year. That looks like more of an emergency option than someone who can hold the position down to me. If the development staff thought he was viable in CF they probably would have played him there for more than 5% of his innings.

 

If a player has EVER played the position in the minors, they are a viable MLB option there in Clandy's mind. Heck, even if they once played there in college, and jokingly talked about one day playing there again, ala Ryan Braun at SS, they are a viable option. These thoughts are simply not based in baseball reality.

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Revisiting the 2017 International Signing Period

 

.....

 

The 4th player, catcher Andres Melendez, was traded to Cleveland for utilityman Mark Mathias. The Guardians are no doubt thrilled -- Melendez just had a wonderful age 20 Low-A season, throwing out 33% of basestealers (23-of-70) while posting a sweet .247/.367/.431 line (.798 OPS). Not on their Pipeline Top 30 quite yet, but on his way.

 

.....

 

And Brewers fans, Ferrer unfortunately may end up being the best hope (along with Ernesto Martinez) of what now appears to be a nearly-lost 2017 signing period (can the team re-acquire catcher Andres Melendez, please?)

 

From the CLE perspective I could see Melendez being a sweetener to get a deal completed with some team. It all comes down to what the rest of the trade is to fill various needs and who else is involved.

 

Melendez is at best 3rd on the CLE minor league depth chart at catcher behind Bryan Lavastida (just added to 40 man roster, like starts next season in AAA) and Bo Naylor (former 1st round pick, either repeats AA or splits time in AAA with Lavastida).

 

Melendez is good and necessary depth but TBH I doubt he gets a chance in CLE. Considering he is R5 this year it will be interesting if he gets added to the minor league protection list or taken by some club during the minor league portion of the draft if not on the list.

 

******************

 

As for the overall topic of the thread, it appears CLE hit a couple of homeruns with its 2017 international signing class which is a welcome change.

 

CLE recently added 10 players from its 2021 minor league teams rosters including 4 from the 2017 Int'l signing group. The 4 Int'l adds were: George Valera ($1.3M), Brayan Rocchio ($0.125M), Jose Tena ($0.4M), & Jhonkensey Noel ($0.1M).

 

There were a couple of other players in the mix for consideration to be added before the 2021 season was played (Aaron Bracho, Alexfri Planez). Bracho (signed for $1,500,000) had a very disappointing 2021 season & was a headliner for the signing class with George Valera. Planez signed for $400,000.

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Thames had a 40 steal season in the KBO. I don't see how Ernesto stealing 30 in the Carolina League (or whatever its called now) gives him any kind of notable edge over Thames in that regard.

 

Martinez played 518 innings at 1B & 26 innings in CF last year. That looks like more of an emergency option than someone who can hold the position down to me. If the development staff thought he was viable in CF they probably would have played him there for more than 5% of his innings.

 

Martinez had no shown the ability to steal before - he had 11 total steals in 22 attempts over the previous three minor-league campaigns (2017-2019). Then, in 2021, he goes to 30-for-34 in steals? He went from a 50% success rate to an 88.2% success rate. That points to a developed skill in my mind.

 

Similarly, whether he was in center out of short-term desperation or not, I think it would make sense to give Martinez more time in the outfield, especially the corner OF spots, given that in that small sample, he didn't embarrass himself in center.

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Martinez had no shown the ability to steal before - he had 11 total steals in 22 attempts over the previous three minor-league campaigns (2017-2019). Then, in 2021, he goes to 30-for-34 in steals? He went from a 50% success rate to an 88.2% success rate. That points to a developed skill in my mind.

 

New rule in 2021:

 

"Low-A hurlers are allowed only two pickoff attempts per plate appearance. These were done specifically to increase the potential for stolen bases, leading to more exciting movement around the diamond. Since pitchers aren't allowed to throw over a third time or else risk a balk on an unsuccessful pickoff, Low-A runners can get an extraordinary jump the moment the hurler moves."

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All of the stuff regarding steals and playing other positions are kind of secondary, though, right? If Martinez can consistently make contact against higher level pitching with that swing, he pretty much has too much physical projection to not be a big leaguer. The problem is, with him, that is a big if.
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All of the stuff regarding steals and playing other positions are kind of secondary, though, right? If Martinez can consistently make contact against higher level pitching with that swing, he pretty much has too much physical projection to not be a big leaguer. The problem is, with him, that is a big if.

 

I like the walk rate, and his number of piched per plate appearance has been a hair under 3.9.

 

He also had a .274 BA, about 20 points higher than his career average. Lots of reasons to feel positive about him.

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  • 3 weeks later...
The 4th player, catcher Andres Melendez, was traded to Cleveland for utilityman Mark Mathias. The Guardians are no doubt thrilled -- Melendez just had a wonderful age 20 Low-A season, throwing out 33% of basestealers (23-of-70) while posting a sweet .247/.367/.431 line (.798 OPS). Not on their Pipeline Top 30 quite yet, but on his way.

 

Sadly, Melendez passed away Thursday.

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