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  • The Minnesota Twins Recent History in International Free Agency


    Jamie Cameron

    Like last year, a delayed period of international free agency begins on January 15th. What is the history and pedigree of the Twins in making these signing periods count?

    Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson - USA Today Sports

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    The international free agent signing period will get underway on January 15th. After being delayed by the pandemic, the current crop of IFAs can sign with MLB teams provided they turn 17 before September 1st, 2022. This week at Twins Daily, Cody Christie and I will look at the Twins history in International Free Agency, dating back to 2009. What were the Twins' biggest swings and misses? Where did they acquire or miss out on value? Later in the week, we’ll provide offensive and defensive profiles for three prospects likely to sign with the Twins.

    Note: The current MLB lockout WILL NOT impact international free agent signing as this period has been delayed since last summer.

    2009 - The 99th Percentile Outcome Year
    In 2009, the Twins had a defining year in international free agency. They signed:

    The majority of international free agents don’t make it to the majors, let alone have multi-year MLB careers, let alone get extended by the teams that signed them. To have signed three players which fit that description in one signing cycle is a remarkable outcome. It’s not melodramatic to suggest that the IFA period in 2009 changed the trajectory of the Twins franchise.

    In 2021, Sano, Kepler, and Polanco formed core pieces in the Twins lineup. Kepler and Polanco, in particular, are signed to owner-friendly long-term deals. Last season, the three combined for 6.2 fWAR, just south of $50 million in value. Not bad for a $4.6 million investment.

    2013 - 2017 - Twins Find Value, Miss on Big Names
    In 2013, the Twins signed a diminutive Venezuelan infielder to a $40,000 signing bonus. For an international free agent, this money is an afterthought, a lottery ticket. Throughout six MiLB seasons, he managed a .310 AVG, and .385 OBP. He already had a nickname when he came into the Twins system, ‘La Regadera’ (the sprinkler) due to his ability to spray the ball all over the field. His name? Luis Arraez. Arraez is a great reminder that international free agency is a lottery. Often the biggest name prospects underachieve, and players signed to middling or small bonuses can become superstars.

    In 2014 the Twins signed Huascar Ynoa for an $800,000 bonus. He was later traded to Atlanta for Jaime Garcia. Ynoa put up 1.4 fWAR in just 17 starts for the Braves in 2021, managing a 27% K%. Another significant free-agent signing in 2014 was from the Diamondbacks organization. Jhoan Duran, a lanky, hard-throwing RHP, signed for just $65,000. He’s now the #5 overall prospect in the Twins organization.

    In 2015 the Twins went bigger, signing Wander Javier, the #8 overall prospect, to a $4 million bonus. Javier’s career has been largely derailed by injuries. He struck out 34% of the time and managed just a 86 wRC+ at A+ Cedar Rapids in 2021.  

    Gilberto Celestino was also signed by the Astros in 2015. The #7 prospect came to the Twins by way of the Ryan Pressly trade. Lastly, of note, two prospects further down the MLB Pipeline rankings in 2015? Juan Soto (#22) and Fernando Tatis Jr (#27). 

    2018 - Current - Too Early to Tell
    It’s difficult to draw conclusions from 2018 onwards as prospects have had limited time in the minors, particularly when considering a lost 2020 season. In 2018, Misael Urbina was signed to a $2.75 million bonus. The Venezuelan OF struggled at A ball last season, but with time on his side at just 19 years old, is an extremely promising prospect and ranked #12 overall in the Twins system.

    Emmanuel Rodriguez was the big get in 2019. He was signed to a $2.5 million bonus. The left-handed OF is currently the Twins #20 overall prospect, after being ranked #8 in his international free agent class. Rodriguez’s professional career began in earnest in 2021, where he managed a 124 wRC+ and slugged 10 HR in just 37 games. Rodriguez is one to keep an eye on in 2022.

    Finally, in 2020, the Twins signed Danny De Andrade, another diminutive infield prospect, who currently sits at #24 in the Twins system. Ranked as the #16 IFA in his class, De Andrade projects as a strong hitter for both average and solid power and has the defensive chops to remain at shortstop. De Andrade managed a .340 OBP in his first season with the DSL Twins.

    What’s Next?
    International scouting, and free agency, is a complex, challenging lottery. For a mid-market organization like the Twins, it’s critical in adding organizational talent, and potentially, adding impact MLB level talent. Throughout the week, Cody and I will have offensive and defensive profiles of the three major prospects linked to Minnesota, starting tomorrow with the younger brother of an MLB superstar.

     

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    Looks like the Twins are set to get MLB's number 17 ranked player Yassar Mercedes, Number 35 Yilber Herrera and number 39 Bryan Acuna (yes that Acuna's brother).  So getting a few top guys this coming year. 

    Mercedes is interesting and hopefully grows into a center fielder. Herrera is compared to a young Polanco.  Neither one has a plus hit tool currently but these guys are so young the ratings likely don't mean that much anyway.  

    Acuna has a plus hit tool (surprise) and an average arm with run and power below average.  With some luck he could be an Arraez type player.

    Nothing overly great no 5 tools players and no tool ratings over 55.  Mercedes is the highest ranked and had the most potential. The write up says he has some of the best tools in the class and then they proceed to rank everything as average except speed so not sure what that means.

    And yes the Yankees appear to be the favorites for the top international prospect again this year.

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    I agree Doc Gast, I always get excited for this too.  This is where I always hope the Twins find the next Oliva, Carew or a Clemente or Marichal.  For me, the excitement is almost exclusively Latin ballplayers because the Twins have seldom ever tried and have really never had success with Asian ballplayers, but yes, I was VERY hopeful (unrealistically of course) that we would sign Ohtani.  :)  I also like that this is always "separate" from the regular MLB draft.  It's like it's own special little draft.  Players drafted in the International Draft are often so young, it's easy to lose track of them once their drafted.  I'll try to look up more on the guys that Dman provided as well.  Thanks Dman !!

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    16 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    I like the international draft - most often these players are really hungry for the opportunity and will really work to succeed.  Nice summary.  I look forward to more insights like this. 

    Thanks Mike for reading as always. We'll get into the weeds on the prospects starting today!

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    15 hours ago, roger said:

    Thanks, Jamie.

    will be exciting to see who the Twins sign later this week.  I am of the opinion that they should go more for quantity than the biggest names/dollars.  Get lots of guys in the $100k to $500k slot.

    Thanks for reading Roger! I agree, typically, in this context, more lottery tickets gives you a better chance of winning!

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    13 hours ago, Doctor Gast said:

    I always get excited over the international draft. There seems to be a lot of potential, I was surprised to hear that many don't make it to the majors. 

    Thanks for reading! We typically only hear about the top 20-35 prospects, but most time sign several more guys who are extremely difficult to get information on (Arraez back in 2013 would have been a good example of someone with very little fanfare). Definitely a huge opportunity to add talent!

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    22 minutes ago, TopGunn#22 said:

    I agree Doc Gast, I always get excited for this too.  This is where I always hope the Twins find the next Oliva, Carew or a Clemente or Marichal.  For me, the excitement is almost exclusively Latin ballplayers because the Twins have seldom ever tried and have really never had success with Asian ballplayers, but yes, I was VERY hopeful (unrealistically of course) that we would sign Ohtani.  :)  I also like that this is always "separate" from the regular MLB draft.  It's like it's own special little draft.  Players drafted in the International Draft are often so young, it's easy to lose track of them once their drafted.  I'll try to look up more on the guys that Dman provided as well.  Thanks Dman !!

    Thank you for reading! Typically players from Asia are posted, and therefore follow a different process as most who come over are established professionals. 

    I like the info and buzz but the system itself i find pretty problematic. It takes advantage of folks who generally, are much less financially viable the amateur prospects in the USA. A ton of these guys SHOULD be getting way bigger bonuses than they do imo.

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    Way too much talk in these comments about the 'International Draft.'  There isn't a draft, guys.  Rather it is a process in which teams identify and recruit players over several years, often beginning when they are 12-13-14 years old.

    Many of these players work with instructors who are very involved with their development and eventual signing by a big league club.  It is these relationships, scout and instructor, that often dictate where a kid signs.  So it is a lot more like colleges recruiting athletes to come play for them than the annual MLB or NFL drafts.

    Although I forget the name of it, there was an excellent movie (documentary) tied to the signing of Miguel Sano and one other kid.  The name was Pot or Port something, which may be the Spanish word for baseball.  Probably is still available on one of the streaming services.  

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