Rays add two top international prospects

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When we checked in a few hours ago, eight of Baseball America’s top 20 international prospects had signed. Now it’s up to 14 of the 18 eligible to do so. Left-hander Luis Gohara (July 31) and shortstop Sergio Alcantara (July 10) aren’t eligible to ink contracts until their 16th birthdays later this month.

The Rays added inked two of the six additions, and they’re Nos. 3 and 14 on the Baseball America list. No. 3 Jose Mujica is a right-handed pitcher, while No. 14 David Rodriguez is a catcher. Both were signed out of Venezuela.

The Yankees, already in possession of BA’s No. 2 prospect in catcher Luis Torrens, added No. 4, Venezuelan outfielder Alexander Palma. They also signed shortstop Yancarlos Baez, who didn’t make the list. In all, the three players got $2.75 million in bonuses, leaving the Yankees already up against the new $2.9 million cap.

The top player left on BA’s list is Venezuelan left-hander Jose Casillo, who is also rumored to be signing with the Rays.

One team that hasn’t been active so far is the Rangers. They’ve made big splashes in recent years, but they may be holding on to their cap room this year to sign Jairo Beras. As you may remember, the Rangers initially inked Beras for $4.5 million in March, only to have his status come under question because of his age. The Rangers say Beras is 17, which would have made him eligible to sign in March. Other teams thought he was 16 and wouldn’t be eligible to sign until today.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉