It's pretty clear at this point that the Yankees have a depleted farm system. With only one top prospect in just about every Top 100 list (Gary Sanchez), the state down on the farm has looked pretty bleak. The system obviously has been plagued by injuries and under-performing scouts' projections, so a good year could give it a shot of adrenaline. But what they're really missing is high-ceiling talent for the long-term future. That's where the international signing period comes in. They Yankees have netted a large number of their top prospects through international signing: Gary Sanchez, Manny Banuelos, Ivan Nova, Jesus Montero, Robinson Cano, and Mariano Rivera. Not all of them have worked out, but the seemingly minuscule amount a team has to pay for them pays off immensely. The Yankees paid just $45,000 for Robinson Cano and $3,000 for Mariano Rivera. Traditionally each team is assigned a "slot value", a designated amount of money they are allowed to use to sign international amateurs. But to replenish this aforementioned system, the Yankees are rumored to blow that out of the water; some believe that they will spend upwards of $20-30 million on prospects and the associated penalties in going over the slot limit. Some believe that this is because the team is afraid that there will one day be an international draft, but it could just be a concerted plan for the future. Signing a slew of talented 16 year old players would mean that when the old guard of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Robertson fade, an army of talented youngsters will fill the ranks between 2019 and 2021. I'll be taking a look at some top international prospects the Yankees are shooting for, and what they can possibly get out of them far into the future.
At six feet, two inches tall and 185 pounds at just 16 years old, Garcia is easily the top prospect in this international signing period. He's billed as a shortstop, and while some think he may eventually move to third base, many also believe he will remain at shortstop. Many scouts have also noted that his trainer is Moreno Tejada, a trainer who has helped develop both Miguel Sano and Robinson Cano. This kid seems like the real deal, which is confirmed by this report from Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com:
"Last January, Garcia's swing was upright, narrow and somewhat lazy while yesterday, he showed the best combination of hitting tools and balanced swing mechanics I've seen this week. Garcia is stronger now but also matured, growing into his 6'2/182 frame and leveraging those newfound abilities in a more efficient swing. Garcia launched a number of homers to his pull side yesterday, flashing plus raw power that was also the best I've seen this week... Garcia's arm strength and speed are both about average now, though many 16-year old prospects improve those tools from this young age with physical maturity... He is one of the players that is widely believed in the industry to have a deal in place and every source I talked to said Garcia has a verbal deal with the Yankees".
According to McDaniel's sources, Garcia is on his way to becoming a Yankee to the tune of $3 million. This signing would go a long way to injecting some high-ceiling talent into the system, especially someone like Garcia who could be an infielder of the future with above-average defense, great speed, and power. Here's a video of Garcia smashing a triple, and keep in mind that this is a boy of sixteen:
At six feet, three inches and 190 pounds, Gomez is also among the top international amateurs, most likely the second best middle infielder next to Garcia. He's also a shortstop, but his build looks more like a third baseman--he's incredibly top heavy and strong. That's not a bad thing at all, especially considering how well he could do at third as he features an incredible amount of raw power and arm strength. His swing has a little too much upper cut and can be a bit busy at times, but the maturity of that swing is better than many decent minor league players. If he develops on track, he could grade out to be an average to above-average defender and hit 30+ home runs a year. The Yankees also reportedly have a verbal deal with Gomez worth $2.8 million.
At a similar build to the previous top prospects--six feet, two inches and 185 pounds--De Leon is an outfielder with what looks like plus-power potential from a corner outfield position. In the following video, which is the only one I could find of him, DeLeon is playing right field and showcases his throwing ability. At the moment it's below average, but it will clearly be at least average to above-average when he develops. If everything goes his way, that could be a gun. There isn't any video on his range, which is unfortunate, but from I can glean it appears like power is what will be his main tool. His swing is incredibly compact and powerful, showing the ability to drive the ball to left and center. His ceiling definitely has to be 20-30 home runs per year. If he can learn to drive the ball to the opposite field, he could be deadly and hit for an incredibly high average. The Yankees clearly think he has the potential, as they have reportedly offered him $2 million.
Even though there are limited reports and videos on these young players, it's hard not to get excited about the long-term future of the farm system with young talent like this. Money speaks, and when a team invests $7.8 million in three 16 year-old players, it speaks volumes about their confidence. In Part II, I'll take a look at a few more prospects who have reportedly negotiated verbal deals.