The international signing period in Major League Baseball officially began today. While MLB has pushed for an International Draft in recent years, the MLB Players Association has rejected that notion, and the format that has been used for decades will remain in place through at least 2026.
Outside of the MLB Draft, which now takes place every year around the All-Star break, the best way for major league teams to add young talent to their organization is through international free agency.
Over the years, the Cincinnati Reds have added such players as Vladimir Gutierrez, Elly De La Cruz and Jose Barrero. More recently, some of the Reds' top prospects like Ricardo Cabrera, Sheng-En Lin, and Alfredo Duno have been signed during the international signing period.
Reds sign Adolofo Sanchez and Naibel Mariano as international free agency period begins
The Reds entered international free agency with about $6.5 million to spend and invested a good portion of their allotment into two of the top prospects available. Both Adolfo Sanchez ($2.7 million) and Naibel Mariano ($1.65 million) have agreed to terms with the Reds.
Sanchez is a 17-year-old prospect from the Dominican Republic. MLB Pipeline describes the 6-foot-2, 175-pound outfielder as one of the best hitters in this year's class. Sanchez, who's a left-handed hitter, is said to have gap-to-gap power.
Sanchez has an above-average arm, but lacks the top-end speed to remain in center field over the long haul. With so little top outfield talent in Cincinnati's farm system, adding one of the best young outfielders from this year's international free agent class is quite the get for the Reds.
The Reds really like tall shortstop prospects, don't they? De La Cruz stands 6-foot-5, and the recently signed Mariano is 6-foot-3. At only 160-pounds, there's plenty of room in that frame for the 17-year-old to fill out and reach his potential as one of the fast-rising international prospects in this year's class.
Being on the bigger side, many scouts assume that Mariano will likely move off shortstop and eventually find a home at the hot corner. But that big frame allows the Dominican native to become a power-hitting infielder from the right side.
After years of missing out, the Reds have invested heavily in scouting the international scene. Finding players like De La Cruz will only increase the likelihood that Cincinnati will continue to scour the international market. The team still has high hopes for players like Ariel Almonte, Malvin Valdez, and aforementioned Alfredo Duno.