The Yankees have shown in recent years that they aren’t going to shy away from the top of the international amateur free agent market despite the limitations of their bonus pool allotment. As a big-market team, the league ensures the Yankees are among the ballclubs that have the least amount of money to spend every year in acquiring amateur players not eligible for the domestic draft, and this year, the Yankees have $5,284,000 to work with. Most of that money will be going to Cuban-born outfielder Brando Mayea (often referred to by his full name, Brandon).
On Sunday morning, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reported that the team’s deal for Mayea will be $4.4 million. Reports had mentioned that he would receive as much as 80 percent of the Yankees’ bonus pool as their marquee international free agent signing on January 15th, and the sourced final figure is, in fact, a tad higher (83.2 percent).
This is the third time in the last four years the Yankees committed the majority of their bonus pool to one player, after they signed Jasson Domínguez for north of $5 million on July 2, 2019 and Roderick Arias for $4 million on January 15, 2022. In between, the pandemic gave the league a chance to move the annual opening of the signing period from July to January, and the Yankees were also penalized $1 million of their bonus pool for signing Gerrit Cole. That led to them spreading out their bonuses to more players in the signing period between Domínguez and Arias.
In 2023, the Yankees will take another big swing in an attempt to get a premium player into their system, and Mayea has been a high-profile prospect on the international radar for a few years now. The right-handed hitter was chosen second among Baseball America’s 2023 international free agents, and MLB.com had him No. 9. Additionally, FanGraphs ranked Mayea as the No. 8 international prospect in the world, and that list includes professional players from Japan and South Korea.
Born in Cuba, Mayea trains in the Dominican Republic at the Jaime Ramos Baseball Academy. He’s already 17 and will turn 18 in September, so he is a touch older than the players who sign at 16 when they are first eligible. Mayea could have signed later in 2022, but he would have needed to settle for a smaller bonus because of the money teams around the league had already earmarked for other players in the class. Instead, he waited until 2023 to honor his agreement with the Yankees and maximize his payday.
Although the only way to watch Mayea play up to now has been through his Instagram posts and a few swings on YouTube, the scouting reports have been promising. Not possessing the eye-popping physical tools of Domínguez, Mayea is a twitchy athlete at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds and probably does not have a growth spurt on the way. Already recognized for his power, especially to the pull side, it’s pure hitting ability that makes him a top prospect.
In their leaderboard notes, FanGraphs says that Mayea “simply has great feel for contact and swings with rotational verve, and the combination is enough to punish the baseball.” Ben Badler of Baseball America says that Mayea “has a simple, efficient swing from the right side and a mature approach, using the whole field with good plate coverage” and that he makes “frequent hard contact.” The signing source Sanchez of MLB.com has heard scouts mention Mayea’s “uncommon bat speed and power.” An advanced hitter who is already getting to his power at 17 years old is going to be popular on the market, and it is clear why the Yankees would be interested.
Mayea is an exciting prospect with the bat, but that’s not all you get with him. It also looks like he can play center field as a professional. Badler touts him as “a well-above average runner” who has a plus throwing arm, and Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs said Mayea’s speed, defensive instincts, and build are reasons to be optimistic about him staying in center as he matures.
The athleticism of Mayea, his advanced approach as a hitter, his defensive prowess at a premium position, and perhaps his age being a year older than the typical international signing would all point to his starting assignment being in the Florida Complex League this summer, but it is more likely he will begin his career playing in the Dominican Summer League. Scouting reports are one thing, but playing in games is what establishes a player and we haven’t seen him do that yet. There is obviously no reason to rush him, but the hope is that Mayea will live up to his billing and become one of the Yankees’ better prospects in the years to come.
Other signings of note
After the Mayea contract, the Yankees had about $884,000 to work with for any remaining signings. None are likely to be highly-ranked prospects, but as 2022 All-Star William Contreras proved, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for them to turn into something special someday. (Atlanta originally signed the younger Contreras for $10,000 in 2015.)
Any other players signed by the Yankees will be listed below (all per Baseball America):
- From the Dominican Republic: shortstops Gabriel Terrera & Jeison Coca, outfielders Gabriel Lara & Richard Meran, and right-handed pitchers Jose Rosario & Jerson Alejandro
- From Nicaragua: right-handed pitchers Joshua Quezada & Joshawn Lampson
- Panama right-hander Emanuel Vargas