Blue Jays, Yankees sign top international prospects

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July 2 is signing day for 16-year-old internationals, and the Blue Jays and Yankees have added two of the best, according to Baseball America.

Already having signed today are eight members of Baseball America’s top 20 international prospects. The Blue Jays inked No. 1 and No. 9, signing Franklin Barrero and Luis Castro out of Venezuela.

Barreto and Castro are both shortstops at the moment, though most think Barreto will end up elsewhere. Baseball America compares Barreto to “Rafael Furcal with less defense to a Shane Victorino type in center field.”

The Yankees signed BA’s No. 2 prospect, catcher Luis Torrens out of Venezuela. According to BA, he just became a catcher in February after converting from the infield. The Yankees already possess one of the game’s top catching prospects in Gary Sanchez, who was a $3 million signing out of the Dominican Republic three years ago.

The Giants, Mets, Twins, Red Sox and Phillies have also landed prospects on BA’s top 20 today. With the new CBA holding down bonuses (teams only have $2.9 million to spend on international players), the highest reported figure for a signing so far is shortstop Amed Rosario to the Mets for $1.75 million.

Imagining Theo Epstein in politics

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“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Or: “When Theo Epstein won World Series championships with the two most championship-starved franchises in baseball history, he got bored, and decided to run for the Senate or something.”

That latter bit is the premise of a Politico piece speculating that the Cubs president could go into politics one day. The story features an interview with former Obama chief strategist David Axlerod, who thinks Theo has what it takes. Mostly what he has is fame, popularity, good looks and money. No idea what his positions on issue are, but that other stuff goes a long way in politics these days.

Bonus: given what we just elected last fall, a guy who once had a little temper tantrum and dressed up in a gorilla suit is just as viable a candidate as anyone.

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.