With international signing day about a week behind us, I thought it would be a good time to take another look at the players that the Yankees have signed and also reflect on the success that international players have had while donning pinstripes.
Last week the Yankees were able to sign four out of the top 50 international prospects, according to Baseball America. The most notable of the group was Venezuelan center fielder Everson Pereira. Pereira is ranked the #4 international prospect and is regularly praised for his speed and athleticism, he is projected to be a top notch defender with a chance to be an impact bat. The other signings include Roberto Chirinos (#20), Anthony Garcia (#28), and Ronny Rojas (#11) is expected to sign once he turns 16 in August. Our own Jason Cohen took a closer look at all of the recent signings; you can read that here.
The fact that most international prospects sign at the age of 16 makes it very easy for fans to forget about them, since their developmental timeline is longer than that of a college or high school player taken in the draft. However, the Yankees have a rich history of successful international signings and fans should be very excited to follow these new players as they embark on their respective journeys to the Bronx.
We are now starting to see these long term investments come to fruition with the emergence of players like Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino, both of whom were just named to their first All-Star Game. Other international prospects are on their way as well. Domingo Acevedo is an extremely exciting pitching prospect who started the year in High-A Tampa and at one point this season he earned a call-up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Estevan Florial is another name fans should get familiar with. Signed out of Haiti in 2015, Florial is putting up big numbers for Low-A Charleston and is praised by his teammates for his defense in the outfield.
One international prospect that Yankees fans should be familiar with by now is Jorge Mateo. Mateo has put up video game numbers since being promoted to Double-A Trenton. Matt Provenzano recently highlighted Mateo’s recent success here.
The tone of this season has been new and exciting but let’s not forget that the inclusion of international players have been an ingredient in the Yankees’ recipe for success for quite some time now. Everyone likes to compare this new wave of talent to the “Core Four” driven dynasty of the 90’s and they may turn out to be more similar than most people realize.
Half of the Core Four spent their amateur careers in Latin America. The legendary Mariano Rivera was signed out of Panama and Jorge Posada played in Puerto Rico, the only difference is that Posada chose to play at an American community college and entered the league via the draft. Even outside the core four the success stories continue.
The often overshadowed Bernie Williams was signed out of Puerto Rico in 1985, before either Posada or Rivera were in the organization. Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, famously remembered for his unique wind-up, was signed out of Cuba and instantly became a fan-favorite. Alfonso Soriano, a product of the talent machine known as the Dominican Republic, was actually signed out of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan after taking the Hideo Nomo route and retiring in order to sign with a major league team.
While the signing process is much different with players from Japan, we cannot forget about the players the Yankees have brought over via the pacific pipeline. Sure, Japan brought us quite possibly the biggest international bust in history in the form of Kei Igawa, but it also brought us current ace Masahiro Tanaka, who seems to be figuring it out again, and the 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui.
Known by most as “Godzilla,” Matsui successfully entrenched himself in Yankees lore with his powerful left-handed swing that seemed to be molded for Yankee Stadium. Godzilla was also know for his incredible durability, playing in his first 518 with the Yankees after playing in 1,250 consecutive games in Japan. His 518 game streak is the longest ever to start a major league career. Matsui’s career came to a fitting end in 2013 when he signed a one-day contract to retire as a Yankee.
Another member of the 2009 World Series team that was acquired internationally was Robinson Cano. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2001, Cano went on to have arguably the best career of any Yankee signed out of the DR. During his nine seasons in the Bronx, Cano slashed a line of .305/.354/.497 with 295 home runs. He was named to five All-Star teams, won two Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers and was in the top five of MVP voting three times. Cano’s tenure with the Yankees came to an end when he signed a 10 yr/$240 million deal with Seattle Mariners following the 2013 season.
The bottom line is that the Yankees have reaped great success from the international market in the past and it is clear that they will continue to do so. Players from all corners of the earth will continue to get opportunities to bring more championships to the Bronx. The only language the Yankees speak is winning and the only color they see is
green gold. I for one am incredibly excited to see this new group continue to mesh and prosper on the road to 28.