Yadier Alvarez, Starling Heredia highlight Dodgers’ July 2 signings

It’s finally here, and it’s happening. The Dodgers agreed to contracts with right-handed pitcher Yadier Alvarez, outfielder Starling Heredia, shortstop Ronny Brito and shortstop Onil Cruz (could be Oneal or Oneil) on the first day of the July 2 international signing period (and the day is far from over.

Alvarez, 19, has long been connected to the Dodgers — ever since he popped up during a Hector Olivera showcase. Here’s what I wrote about him on Tuesday.

“Alvarez has a legitimate mid-90s fastball (93-96 MPH, T98), a slider that flashes plus-potential and a changeup that is above-average. The biggest thing with Alvarez is his command. It’s hardly refined and will need some cleaning up in the pro ranks.

There were kids chosen in the MLB Draft almost a month ago who have similar profiles, so I wouldn’t be terribly concerned about his flaws.

He is 6’3, 175 pounds and has a lot of projectability. Maybe not when it comes to velocity, but he has the frame to add good weight and durability to remain a starting pitcher.

Overall, his delivery needs a little cleaning up. He kind of whips his arm toward the plate when he pitches. I’m not sure how much that can be altered, but everything else checks out. The only other thing I’d like to see is for him to incorporate his lower-half a little more. He has long legs and once he adds some weight, his lower-half could help in terms of his stamina and durability.”

The Dodgers really wanted Alvarez, and they got him with a $16 million bonus — the largest bonus ever given to an amateur international free agent. If he debuts this year (which he should), I could see him in the Arizona Rookie League. I’m kinda hoping he doesn’t start in the Dominican Summer League, but work visa issues might make that a necessity (to get some innings). He is the clear prize of the class (so far), and he could be on a fast track to Los Angeles (earliest ETA is 2017, and that’s being optimistic).

Heredia, 16, will sign a $2.6 million bonus, as the Dodgers were able to beat out the Cubs for his services. I wrote about him back in March.

“Heredia begins his stance with a wide base and his hands at shoulder level. He has a big leg kick that causes him to put his weight on his back leg. Surprisingly, he keeps his back leg pretty stiff/straight, unlike most hitters whose legs tend to bend/collapse a bit. He did make adjustments later in the video to bend his back leg a little more. He gets his front foot down quickly, opens his hips and brings the bat through the zone. Despite the high leg kick, he has a surprisingly short path to the ball, especially with his plus-bat speed. The ball jumps off his bat as he rolls his top hand over. The ball also sounds great coming off his bat. He displays plus-raw power that could translate to in-game power as he matures (remember, he’s just 16). The in-game video of him showed more of a line-drive approach, but the potential for power is definitely there. As McDaniel wrote, he definitely has a Manny Ramirez-esque finish to his swing. He also has some Hanley Ramirez and Jose Bautista in him. It’s not surprising to see him emulate three of the best Dominican-born hitters of the last 20 years.

He has a short, choppy running motion that definitely isn’t graceful, but he clocked in with some plus-times for scouts, so it’s hard to be too critical of it. I’d like to see him track fly balls down in center field, but there was no video of that. He’s better once he’s underway, which might preclude him from being a big base stealer, but should help him stick in center field. Of course, he could grow another 2-3 inches, add 25-40 pounds and move to a corner spot (maybe left field as his arm isn’t the strongest). It’s really hard to fully scout his potential without knowing if he’ll have a growth spurt, but he already has a MLB body. His body reminds me a little of Yasiel Puig‘s, but his swing is completely different.”

I was high on him then and I’m still high on him now. While Alvarez has the most talent and potential of the four reported signings today, Heredia might be my favorite. And he could end up being the best of this quartet. He’ll likely begin at the Dodgers’ complex in the Domincan Republic.

Brito, 16, is a defensive whiz, as Ben Badler of Baseball America ranked him as being the best defensive shortstop available on the international market. Believe it or not, shortstop is still a defense-first position.

Here’s what Kiley McDaniel wrote about Brito.

“One scout compared Brito to J.P. Crawford, but meant it as the amateur verion of Crawford, who lasted until the 16th pick in 2013 for a reason. Brito is also an above average to plus runner, fielder and thrower that can stick at shortstop comofortable and also has a bigger frame for the position that gives him a little more pop than usual. The question with Brito, and with Crawford as an amateur, is about his swing and how much offensive impact there will be. Obviously, Crawford has answered this question as well and as quickly as anyone could expect, but that’s the obvious best case scenario for this type of prospect.”

If you know me (which you probably don’t), you’ll know I was all-in on J.P. Crawford in the 2013 draft. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it to the Dodgers at No. 18 (he went to the Phillies). If Brito is anything close to Crawford, then the $2 million investment will have been well worth it. He’s 6’2, 170 pounds (like Lucius Fox, Jr., whom we’ll get to shortly), has athleticism and at least average speed. He also has a swing that produces line drives, but he’ll never be mistaken for a power hitter. His calling card will be his defense. He should begin in the DSL.

Cruz 16, is a fella I don’t know much about. For context, he got $200,000 more than outfielder Romer Cuadrado, who was the Dodgers’ biggest international amateur signing last year. He’s a

Here’s some video of him.

He has natural ability at shortstop and is able to throw from different angles. He seems similar to Brito in that regard. His swing needs a ton of work, though. That isn’t uncommon for a teenager coming from the Caribbean. His stance is busy with some wasted motion and his swing gets pretty long. There’s a bat wiggle, toe top, top-half moving a lot — it’s messy. He’ll be best with a short, compact swing that will (hopefully) produce line drives. He might be able to add some good weight, but don’t expect him to hit a ton of home runs. He doesn’t have as much foot speed as one might expect from his frame.

Aside from the speed and messy swing, that’s a similar opinion to that of Fox, who had been connected to the Dodgers — until last night. The Giants swooped in and nabbed him for $6 million. We may never know exactly what happened, but it probably isn’t as simple as the Giants paid more. The Dodgers were at $5.5 million and then $6 million as recently as yesterday, but Fox’s preferences must have changed. It’s entirely possible he liked the Giants’ pitch better than the Dodgers’. It happens. It sucks to lose him, but it isn’t the end of the world. And the Dodgers were never tightly tied to him as they were with a guy like Alvarez. One thing’s for sure: The Giants have money and might use it on the market.

Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez is one of the top prospects available (and has been comped to the good Andruw Jones), and the Dodgers are interested. But so are the Cubs. Also, Martinez’s decision won’t come today.

The Dodgers yoinked Heredia away from the Cubs. Let’s just hope the Cubs don’t return the favor with Martinez. Martinez is expected to get a $10-plus million bonus.

Even if the Dodgers don’t sign Martinez, the signing period is off to a fantastic start, and it’s just the first day! There are still 349 days left in the 2015-16 international signing period, and there are some guys no one really knows about (not even yours truly) who will become available at a later date.

But, there are some known commodities who either are available and unsigned or should become available sometime in the next 11-plus months:

RHP Vladimir Gutierrez (19, Cuba)
RHP Norge Ruiz (21, Cuba)
RHP Yasiel Sierra (23, Cuba)
3B Luis Yander La O (THAT NAME, 23, Cuba)

There are others, and McDaniel said on the most recent episode of the FanGraphs podcast that there are 7-8 guys awaiting MLB approval, and he figures the Dodgers could sign at least half of them. This doesn’t even account for the Olivera/Yoan Moncada types who could pop up later in the year.

Speaking of Moncada, the Dodgers passed on signing him (despite offering him $35 million to wait until today to sign), and they have proven they aren’t going to sit back and not be active on the market.

Rules

The international signing period, known as the July 2 period, is the time when teams can sign international prospects not subject to the MLB Draft. Like the draft, there are signing restrictions. There are bonus allotments teams cannot exceed without penalties.

The period runs from July 2 through June 15. The Dodgers have $2,020,300 to spend on bonuses for international prospects without any penalties. As you can plainly see, they’re way past that. They might be able to trade some of their slot amounts to teams that don’t want to incur financial penalties, because what’s a couple million bucks less on their final spending amount. As of now, they’ve committed $21.55 million to the four guys who have reportedly agreed to deals.

They can acquire more slot money in trades, but they won’t. If they were to, they could not acquire more than 50 percent of their original bonus allotment, or $1,010,150.

Here’s how it works, via the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Overage (percentage) Penalty (taxed amount)
0-4.99 75 percent tax
5-9.99 75 percent tax
One bonus of more than $500,000
10-14.99 100 percent tax
No bonuses more than $500,000
15-plus 100 percent tax
No bonuses more than $300,000

Next year, the Dodgers will not be able to sign any prospect for more than $300,000. The international scouting department will have to put in a lot of work if the Dodgers wish to land any guys with name recognition for the next period. They won’t be able to land Venezuelan uber prospect Kevin Maitan, but it isn’t impossible to land a Top 20 prospect.

Player Bonus
Yadier Alvarez $16,000,000
Starling Heredia $2,600,000
Ronny Brito $2,000,000
Onil Cruz $950,000
Total $21,550,000

Oh, and signing French teenager Melissa Mayeux would be quite fun.

And she gets it.

https://twitter.com/megrowler/status/616637063027294208/photo/1

The July 2 signing period is off to a great start. Expect a lot more deals in the next 349 days — some big, some small. If the Dodgers miss out on some of the bigger name guys (like Fox and potentially Martinez), just remember: There’s always another prospect out there waiting to be discovered.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.