Friday, Jan. 15, is an important date on MLB's offseason calendar It is the openning of the 2021 international free-agent signing period. The signing period typical runs July 2nd to June 25th each year, but Major League Baseball pushed it back because of the coronavirus pandemic. (They're also laying the ground work for an international draft by setting the signing period neatly in one calendar year.)
This year's international signing period will end on Dec. 15, 2021. The MLB draft covers players born in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. All others fall into international free agency. MLB teams spent Friday officially agreeing to terms with countless teenagers from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela, Panama, and other Latin American countries. Roughly 30 percent of MLB players were originally signed as international free agents the last few years, including superstars like Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis Jr.
Following MLB.com's list of this year's top 30 international prospects, we're highlighting where the top 10 players signed:
1. Yoelkis Cespedes - White Sox
Yoelkis Cespedes, Yoenis' younger half-brother, is the No. 1 prospect this year. At 23-years-old, Cespedes signed with the White Sox for $2.05 million. The outfielder hailing from Cuba is considered a potential five-tool player in the big leagues. Most notably, Cespedes participated in the 2017 World Baseball Classic for Cuba, going 4 for 16 with a double and six strikeouts in five games.
MLB.com notes Yoelkis has revamped his swing in recent years and "now looks almost exactly like his older brother in the batter's box," and that he's gained "more power and explosive bat speed" as he's matured physically.
2. Oscar Colas - TBD
Colas, who turned 22 in September, has yet to agree to terms with a team. He's a left-hander who can play all three outfield positions from Cuba.
3. Wilman Diaz - Dodgers
The Dodgers picked up Wilman Diaz, a shortstop from Venezuela. Here's a quick scouting note from MLB.com: "Diaz shows a plus hit tool with excellent bat speed and a knack for recognizing pitches" and "shows plus arm potential and plus actions at shortstop."
4. Carlos Colmenarez - Rays
Colmenarez, a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop, reached a deal with the Rays for $3 million. Here's a quick scouting note from MLB.com: "He exhibits good bat speed and the ability to drive the ball to all fields in games" and "has the makings of an above-average defender."
5. Armando Cruz - Nationals
Cruz signed with the Nationals for $3.95 million. Here's a quick scouting note from MLB.com on the 16-year-old Dominican shortstop: "He's known as a plus defender with an extraordinary combination of footwork and hands" and "has shown good bat speed and a slight upstroke with his swing."
6. Cristian Hernandez - Cubs
The Cubs reached an agreement on a $3 million deal with Hernandez. The 17-year-old Dominican Republic native is considered to be a five-tool shortstop.
7. Pedro Leon - Astros
Cuban outfielder Pedro Leon signed with the Astros for $4 million. Leon, 22, played played two seasons in Cuba's Serie Nacional, where he hit .359/.420/.678 with 21 home runs and a 1.098 OPS in 65 games.
"Pedro Leon projects to be an everyday center fielder and rapid mover to the big leagues," Astros Senior Scouting Advisor Charlie Gonzalez said in a statement Friday. "Pedro has a compact build, tremendous strength and is an extreme quick-twitch athlete. He possesses five plus baseball tools on the 20-80 scouting scale, including an 80-grade arm with throws between 96 and 100 miles per hour."
8. Jesus Galiz - Dodgers
The Dodgers picked up 17-year-old Galiz, who had previously been linked to the Yankees via MLB.com. The catcher, according to a scouting note from MLB.com, "has quick feet, a strong arm and is known for his high baseball IQ" and "features a compact swing and has shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields."
9. Rickardo Perez - Phillies
The Phillies agreed to a $1.2 million deal with Perez, a 17-year-old Venezuelan catcher. According to MLB.com, Perez boasts impressive footwork, "consistent hard contact" and "shows average arm strength and accuracy now [but] both tools are projected to be plus as he matures."
10. Yiddi Cappe - Marlins
The Marlins agreed to terms with 18-year-old Cappe, the 10th-best available international prospect during this signing period. The shortstop has drawn comparisons to a "young Carlos Correa or Derek Jeter," according to MLB's Pipeline scouting report.
"I consider myself an aggressive player," Cappe told MLB.com Friday. "I think I have a good bat, I can hit [to both] sides [of the field] and mostly with good defense and very aggressive running the bases. As we Cubans say, we play 'hot baseball.'"
In his scouting report, Cappe "makes hard contact to all fields and has an advanced understanding of the strike zone" and "shows good footwork and solid hands with plus arm potential."