Now appearing on The Board are what I consider to be the top of the 2020 International Free Agents. I’ll continue to flesh out the list throughout the spring as I have time to address the many 40 and 35+ FV prospects I’ve got notes on (for this market it’s sometimes difficult to source seemingly simple things, like dates of birth), but for now this is what I think the top of the class looks like.
It’s tough to cover this market with precisely the right tone. Teams still make multi-million dollar verbal agreements with players who often are as young as 14 years old, which has long been a problem, but it’s behavior the current structure gives them incentive to execute. Clubs work hard to extract marginal value from every avenue of talent acquisition, and this is especially true when their spending has a hard cap, as it does internationally — a fairly recent rule, the impacts of which can be seen comparing Boston’s total expenditure for Yoán Moncada and the Angels’ total outlay for Shohei Ohtani.
Teams trust their scouts and cross their fingers that the player will grow into a $3-5 million talent in the time between when the deal is agreed upon and when the kid actually signs. A prospect and his trainer will value the security of having a $2 million deal in hand early considering it’s life-changing money for many of these kids and their families. While there’s at least a mutual benefit to early deals, it is still odd that 14-year-olds (and, candidly, it’d be weird if they were 16, too) are making long-term professional decisions.
But they do get to decide. There isn’t a clear solution for early deals that doesn’t involve a draft, but a draft would mean that players would no longer get to pick their employer and therefore have even less leverage in bonus negotiations. Additionally, the bust rate for players this young is too high for MLB to cry “competitive balance” without pretense.
The 2020 Class
This group doesn’t seem to have the top-end talent that most classes do, at least based on my notes. Elite 2021 and 2022 talents have already been identified, and a few of them are clearly a cut above the top of the 2020 group — shortstops Rodrick Arias (‘21) and Felnin Celesten (‘22) and outfielder Cristian Vaquero (‘21) — but this class will certainly have quality players.
I’ve included Korean shortstop Kim Ha-Seong on The Board even though he’s poised to be subject to the posting system next offseason and not the July 2 market. He’s worth knowing about as some of my sources thought he deserved a 50 FV, as they think he’s a big league starting shortstop as soon as he signs.
Further updates will be announced on the @FG_Prospects Twitter account, unless a large, sweeping one occurs that necessitates a new post here.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.