Every year, starting on July 2nd, Major League Baseball teams go into a frenzy of signing amateur players from around the world. The signing period lasts until June of the next year. The rules have changed some over the years, but to be eligible a player must be 16-years-old by the end of the minor league baseball season of the current signing period year (for example to be eligible for the current signing period, a player would have had to have turned 16-years-old by the end of the first week of September 2015).
Teams currently have to abide by a bonus pool allotment of money or face harsh penalties (that include paying a 100% overage tax on players signed as well as the loss of the ability to sign players for more than $300,000 for the next two seasons). The Reds have currently spent all of their bonus pool money for the 2015 signing period. That money landed them 21 international signings according to the 2016 Media Guide.
Here is the list of the players, sorted by age:
Other than the fact that several of these players were born in 1999!, it’s noteworthy that only three players were signed from non-Dominican Republic or non-Venezuelan countries. In the previous signing period the biggest bonus was paid out to Jake Turnbull, an Australian catcher, so they aren’t ignoring other areas of the world – it’s just an oddity this past season. Another interesting thing that stands out is that the organization signed just seven pitchers in the crop this year, just 33% of the entire group of signees. One final oddity is that three of the players were born on May 5th.
While all of the signing bonuses aren’t made public, we do know who the top two signings are from this year. Outfielder Cristian Olivo signed for $1,000,000 and shortstop Miguel Hernandez signed for $650,000. Both players were ranked as Top 30 overall international prospects as the signing period began, according to former Fangraphs writer, and now Atlanta Braves Assistant Director of Baseball Operations Kiley McDaniel. Focusing on those two players in particular, I’m a bit higher on Olivo due to his power/speed potential. With an ability to potentially play center field and hit for some power, he stands out among the group right now. Miguel Hernandez has already added some size since signing, originally just 155 lbs. when he signed, he’s now listed at 170 and has gotten an inch taller as well.
It’s not always the highest dollar signings from a group that turn out to be the best players in the long run. Johnny Cueto signed for $35,000 and he turned out to be an ok big league pitcher. Of course, sometimes the big dollar guys do turn out to be the best – Miguel Cabrera got one of the largest bonuses ever handed out when he signed in 1999. The bonus given out to Cristian Olivo is the largest the Reds have handed out since 2008 for a teenager, which was the last time that the team signed a teenager for seven figures.