Now that Strasburg-mania is cooling down, the next top amateur player will find out his destination over the next month. 16-year-old shortstop Miguel Angel Sano has been profiled heavily over the past few months. At 6’3” Sano is expected to move to a corner as he ages. His bat appears to be special and has drawn some comparisons to former shortstops like Gary Sheffield.
Most of Sano’s value comes from his age and projected bat. Defensively he has a strong arm, but the athleticism required to stick at shortstop is probably going to be lost with a few more inches, assuming he isn’t physically maxed out. Some of the previous top bonus babies include Wily Mo Pena and Joel Guzman. Neither became a star, but both helped their signing franchise in some fashion or another. Pena recorded a positive WAR during his time in Cincinnati and was later traded for Bronson Arroyo. Guzman has been a massive bust, but was essentially dealt straight up for Julio Lugo, who later became two first round draft picks.
Lack of superstardom hasn’t stopped teams from investing big money bonuses to foreign prospects. Just last year the Athletics signed Michael Ynoa for a record breaking 4.25 million dollars and the Reds signed outfielder Yorman Rodriguez for a positional player record, one Sano should break. Kiley McDaniel has listed the Pirates as the frontrunners, with teams like the Rays and Orioles also interested in the youngster. McDaniel also implies that the Pirates pick at number four, who we now know by the name of Tony Sanchez, could be selected with cost in mind. Sanchez certainly fits that bill.
Is Sano worth the investment? The victor of the Sano sweepstakes is probably going to pay between 3 and 4 million for his services. Of course you run the risk of Sano burning out on baseball before ever taking a major league swing, but don’t you run that same risk for just about any amateur talent? I’ve taken the last three years worth of top five picks and their signing bonuses and created a created, illustrating how Sano’s costs may stack up to those of the top amateur talents:
Coincidentally, the cheapest pick has been selection four; the same pick the Pirates held Tuesday night and seemingly held true to the recent trend. The most expensive pick, outside of the first, has been number five thanks to Matt Wieters and Buster Posey. The average across the board is 4.28 million, which would set another international signing record.
Teams must answer whether Sano would be a top five selection in his first eligible draft, if the answer is yes; they should put forth the money. If the answer is no, they need to evaluate where he would fall. Remember, this is 4.28 million in closed negotiations; Sano is on the open market, in theory that would inflate his price.
Sano won’t be hitting homeruns off Tropicana Field’s outer walls or on Sports Illustrated covers like Bryce Harper but expect to hear a lot more about him in the next four weeks.