International amateur baseball is a confusing market to these not well acquainted with it. It used to be that the first day of the new signing period, when the top 16-year-olds around Latin America are first eligible to sign with MLB teams, was July 2. Due to the pandemic, it was moved back to Friday, so many of those players are now 17.
It’s tricky to try to rank the players who will sign in this period because of how the market works now. The short version is that the market changed in 2017 when hard caps were put on spending, so teams started cutting deals with players earlier and earlier to try to find value. It’s not uncommon for teams to strike some verbal deals with 13-year-olds who are the best in their class at the time. In those cases, rival teams don’t see these players for years before they sign their contracts, so you either have to believe everything the signing team tells you has been happening behind closed doors, hope rival teams got a short look at a top player when watching one of his training partners, or just throw your hands up and make as best a guess as you can.
I’m going to make as best a guess as I can, while acknowledging that this year is harder than any year since 2017, because we have the added wrinkle of even the signing team not seeing much of its signees since last spring. Due to this, many teams will wait a few weeks to sign players they have had verbal deals with for years, as they’re still doing due diligence, tests, physicals, paperwork, etc. with players in their empty academies before they’ll officially sign them. In most cases, this will take an extra few weeks, but that means you won’t see the normal flood of dozens and dozens of players sign today like you would in most past July 2s.
I’ll use the Future Value system I outlined last winter to grade these players, so you’ll have some idea where they’ll slot into a team’s prospect list, which will start coming out next month. These players are all projected with some certainty to these teams, but given the challenges of this year, it wouldn’t shock me like it would in other years if one or two of these players changed teams. Current age is in parentheses.
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