Let me start by saying that there are always more top hitting prospects than pitching prospects on the international side for each signing class because the hitters develop tools sooner than the pitchers, who are almost always judged more on projection. It’s a lot easier to come up with a hidden gem on the pitching side than it is on the hitting side. That’s not my opinion, that’s what the scouts have said numerous times over the years. I’ll also point out that putting together a list of the top prospects at 16 years old when most of them haven’t been in front of scouts at showcases for over a year in some cases, it basically an impossible task. We see how much high school rankings change for the draft between April and June of their senior year and those players are two years older and never hidden from scouts.
Now that I have the caveats out of the way, I’ll repeat what you see in the title of this article. The Lack of Pitching Prospects in the Upcoming International Signing Class is Shocking.
That statement comes from a look at the top prospect lists from the January 15th signing period, which were posted by MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. Those lists are basically Jesse Sanchez (Pipeline) and Ben Badler, and they are the best in the game, mostly because they have connections with almost every team and every major trainer. Sanchez/Pipeline put together a top 50 list based on current prospect status, while Badler/Baseball America put together their top 50 list based on expected bonus numbers. The two lists combined have right around 60 different players (may have been 61-62, I lost track late in the list and didn’t want to start over). Of those players, there are plenty of outfielders, plenty of shortstops (most end up elsewhere), but there are exactly two pitchers. That’s right, approximately 3.3% of the list is pitchers.
If you asked me ahead of time to guess how many pitchers would be on the list, my educated guess based on experience would be around 15-20, with 20 being high-end for a strong pitching class, but certainly no fewer than ten. I checked the lists about three times each before I believed what I saw the first time. That’s a shockingly low amount.
The good news here for Pittsburgh Pirates fans is that the Pirates are favorites to sign two of the top hitters in the class (ranked tenth and 11th), Tony Blanco Jr. and Yordany De Los Santos, which is a nice get for them in a year where the international budgets have a hard cap and no trade possibilities to acquire more bonus pool space. Those two players are going to take up a nice size chunk of their bonus pool space ($6,262,600), but there are a handful of very interesting names that you will also hear about on Saturday, and that group includes pitching talent. You can also guarantee that the Pirates will max out their budget, with most of it being spent on the first day (we won’t hear all of the bonus amounts), though there could be a slight delay due to travel restrictions for a few names just like last year.
We will have a live thread with updates throughout the day, as I’m sure we will hear bonus amounts released before the signings are actually official. Teams bring players into their Dominican academy ahead of time for a press conference type setting to sign contracts and they are done one at a time, so even though they might not be official until after noon in most cases, it will be safe for people like Jesse Sanchez to post bonus amounts once the signing period begins on Saturday morning. So expect “agreed to bonus amounts” to be posted before any official announcements are made later in the day.