Tuesday is July 2nd, which means it is the start of the 2013-14 international signing period. To get you prepared, Ben Badler of Baseball America has released his top 30 prospects, along with scouting reports for subscribers. The scouting reports include input on where each player could end up.
The Pirates aren’t linked to any player in the top 30. When Badler released his top 10 prospects earlier in the year, the Pirates weren’t mentioned on the list. That’s not a big surprise, as the Pirates usually aren’t in on the top international free agents. However, they’re usually linked to someone in the top 30, and usually that someone is a Harold Ramirez/Elvis Escobar/Michael De La Cruz type outfielder who the Pirates like more than most teams.
Is it a problem that the Pirates aren’t linked to a top 30 prospect? Absolutely not. The rankings are an industry consensus, but at this point I think we can say that Rene Gayo and his team of scouts have earned the leeway to break away from the industry rankings and go with their own guys. If you look at their history, that’s what they do best.
Here is the list of the projected top 25 international bonuses from 2009. One guy you won’t see on there is Alen Hanson, who only signed for $150,000. Now there are some top prospects on that list, but Hanson is also a top prospect and wasn’t on the radar like these guys.
Then there’s Gregory Polanco, who signed for $75,000 in the 2008-09 period. Polanco didn’t sign until April of 2009, and signed at the age of 17, so clearly he wasn’t a highly coveted player. Starling Marte was in a similar situation. He signed for $85,000 in the 2006-07 signing period.
Even when the Pirates spend a little bit more, they tend to do it on guys who aren’t rated as high in the pre-season rankings. One example is Dilson Herrera, who received $220,000 and is doing well in West Virginia this year.
It’s not like the Pirates never spend big money on prospects. Harold Ramirez received $1.05 M and Elvis Escobar received $570,000 in 2011. Julio De La Cruz and Michael De La Cruz each received $700,000 last year. Then there was Luis Heredia, who received $3 M. It’s possible that the Pirates could end up signing one of the top 30 guys, as they’ve obviously taken that approach in the past. However, that approach isn’t a necessity, since they’ve also had success finding international players for much less money than the top 30 prospects in Badler’s list will receive.