I listened to the always excellent The Kept FaithThe Kept Faith podcast this week featuring David Jay from Madfriars. Jay led an in-dept discussion of where the Padres minor league system is at currently, and fielded questions regarding the upcoming draft and international signing period. There was one nugget that I found particularly interesting. The prevailing wisdom is that AJ Preller is a whiz at all things international, especially in Latin America. There are tales of him disappearing into the jungle weeks at a time, being fully fluent in Spanish, and bringing back ample talent for the Texas Rangers during his tenure there. With the apparent emphasis this season on making a huge splash in the international market, I was surprised to hear Jay note that AJ Preller (and Logan White) have both had very lackluster records when it comes to Dominican signings. They have success in secondary Latin America countries, but not the Dominican. The Dominican Republic is arguably the most important of Latin American markets, and is one that most teams have invested the most in the form of facilities, scouting and coaching. This shocked me as it went against the prevailing wisdom. So I decided to take a look at the signings AJ oversaw for Texas, what country he sourced for the player, and how they’ve performed since.
Preller took over the Director of International Scouting position for the Rangers in 2004, which he continued holding until 2009. Here are his notable international signings during that period:
This class was repeatedly reported to be a “statement” class when it was signed. In retrospect, given the non-existent contributions from these three bonus babies, it appears that they overspent. But it’s a crapshoot to start with.
Fabio Castillo – P – Dominican Republic – $400,000.00 – Advanced to AAA, currently on Baltimore’s AA team
Cristian Santana – LF/C – Dominican Republic – $325,000.00 – Never advanced past A
Johan Yan – P/3B – Dominican Republic – $400,000.00 – Never advanced past AAA, now in Mexican League
Wilfredo Boscan – P – Venezuela – Unknown bonus – Never advanced past AAA, now in Pirates organization
Leonel De Los Santos – C/P – Venezuela – Unknown bonus – Never advanced past Low-A, now out of baseball
Wilmer Font – P – Venezuela – Unknown bonus – Pitched 3.1 Major League innings in 2012/2013, appears to be out of baseball
Kennil Gomez – P – Dominican Republic – Unknown bonus – Never advanced past AAA, now out of baseball
Geuris Grullon – P – Dominican Republic – Unknown bonus – Never advanced past High-A, now out of baseball
Manny Solis – 3B – Dominican Republic – $525,000.00 – Never advanced past low-A
Martin Perez – P – Venezuela – $580,000.00 – Called up to the big leagues in 2012, has been in the rotation since then while battling injuries. Has accumulated 2.4 WAR over five seasons.
Wilson Suero – SS – Dominican Republic – $558,000.00 – I found no record of Suero actually playing baseball after the signing.
There were no notable signings by the Rangers this season. It should be noted that the Padres had 3 of the top 10 biggest bonuses paid out to Adys Portillo, Luis Domoromo, and Alvaro Aristy. None of the 2008 top 10 MLB bonuses paid out ever saw any substantial time in the Majors (Ramon Flores had 66 ABs over 2 years and Yorman Rodriguez had 29 ABs)
Jurickson Profar – SS – Curacao – $1,550,000.00 – Has battled injuries, but has tasted the Majors while peaking as one of baseball’s top prospects
Luis Sardinas – SS – Venezuela – $1,500,000.00 – Called up to the majors in 2014, spent time with the Rangers, Brewers and Mariners, accumulating -1.1 WAR.
AJ Preller was promoted to Director of Player Personnel for this signing period. It is assumed he was still involved in international scouting, but he didn’t have direct management of signing periods beyond 2009. His understudy, Mike Daly, took over his Director of International Scouting position.
Jorge Alfaro – C – Colombia – $1,300,000.00 – Has not advanced past AA, now in Phillies organization.
Alberto Triunfel – SS – Dominican Republic – $300,000.00 – Has not advanced past AA
Fernando Vivili – C – Dominican Republic – $300,000.00 – Never advanced past Low-A, out of baseball
Smerling Lantigua – SS – Dominican Republic – “Reported six figure bonus” – Never advanced past A, out of baseball
Frank Lopez – P – Venezuela – “Reported six figure bonus” – Has not advanced past AA
Luis Marte – SS – Dominican Republic – “Reported six figure bonus” – Can not find a record of him playing baseball
Nick Urbanus – SS – Netherlands – $175,000.00 – Has not advanced past A
Elio Castillo – SS – Venezuela – “Reported six figure bonus” – Has not advanced past Rookie Ball
Leonys Martin – OF – Cuba – $15,500,000.00/5 years – Advanced Cuban player made it to big leagues in 2011, has accumulated 9.3 WAR in six seasons, now on the Mariners.
Ronald Guzman – OF – Dominican Republic – $3,000,000.00 – Has not advanced past AA, hung around an OPS of .750 in A ball last season, not showing as much power as expected, is now 22. Has moved to 2B and is not in the Rangers top 20 prospect list.
Rougned Odor – SS – Venezuela – $425,000.00 – Odor is one of the better signings. He has been in the big leagues since 2014 and has accumulated 2.1 WAR in that time.
Nomar Mazara – OF – Dominican Republic – $5,000,000.00 – Mazara is the best of the Dominican signees over AJ’s 8 year tenure in Texas, but he was also the most expensive signee so he wasn’t a diamond in the rough. Credit to AJ for closing the deal though. One of the brightest hitting prospects in the game, tasting the Majors this season.
Yohander Mendez – P – Venezuela – $1,500,000.00 – Has not advanced past High-A, has produced well at the A level in 2014 and 2015, looks like a future reliever maybe but a long way to go.
Pedro Payano – P – Dominican Republic – $650,000.00 – Has not advanced past A ball, Has shown great results in Rookie Ball and his first taste of A, being utilized as a reliever
Jairo Beras – OF – Dominican Republic – $4,500,000.00 – This was the contract that gave AJ the reputation for playing dirty in Latin America. Beras had been presented as being born 12/25/95 which would have made him eleigible to sign on 7/2/2012, but after the international bonus pools came out, Beras came out with a new birthday saying he was one year older and thus eligible to sign earlier. Beras has not advanced past High-A. He did show some power in A ball in 2015, but ended the year with an OPS of .773. He is currently the #9 rangers prospect but it has been noted he has trouble with the strike zone. This is his make or break year.
Juremi Profar – 3B – Curacao – $150,000.00 – Juremi is Jurickson’s brother. He is currently in High-A where he isn’t showing much in the way of offensive potential.
Jose Almonte – OF – Dominican Republic – $1,800,000.00 – Has not advanced past A ball, has been dreadful offensively.
Marcos Diplan – P – Dominican Republic – $1,300,000.00 – Has not advanced past A ball, has shown some success, not in consideration for top 20 prospects
Yeyson Yrizarri – SS – Dominican Republic – $1,350,000.00 – Has not advanced past A ball, nephew of former Padre Deivi Cruz, Yrizarri has shown an amazing arm in the infield, and has done well in the field, but hasn’t added much offensively.
Michael DeLeon – SS – Dominican Republic – $550,000.00 – Has not advanced past A ball, Deleon is a polished defender with good hands, but is looking like a ceiling of a utility infielder.
OK, so that’s a lot of data to digest. AJ Preller has shown a definite ability to get the most desired and expensive prospects to sign on the dotted line. He has shown some great victories, most notably Martin Perez, Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin, Luis Sardinas and Nomar Mazara. It should be noted that of that list, only Mazara is from the Dominican. As Jay stated on the Kept Faith, AJ’s track record of success in the Dominican is spotty. Just out of the featured players signed that I’ve listed (there are many more un-notable names that still signed 5 and 6 figure bonuses), AJ spent over $21,000,000 in bonuses over 9 years on Dominican players with only the potential of Nomar Mazara to show for it. My fear is that Uncle Ron doesn’t see immediate results of the international binge this season and cuts off the plan early. Luckily, rumors are that AJ is looking at more seasoned Cuban players that would have a more immediate impact, but Leonys Martin serves as a reminder that slam dunk Cubans aren’t always slam dunk. This list also is a good reminder that these players take a LONG time to develop, if they develop at all. The whole “2018 is the window” theory isn’t helped by any non-advanced Cubans.
It’s difficult to ascertain why AJ has struggled in the Dominican. It may just be the environment, it may be that money has infected the process with corruption, or it maybe a combination of many factors. But the track record shows that Padres fans shouldn’t be holding their breath for any kind of near term impact from 2016 Dominican signings.