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The International Market: 1995-2001


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#1 philly sox fan


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Posted 05 August 2008 - 11:21 PM

A couple years ago I did a long three part series about the Sox history in the international market. One of the conclusions from that series is that despite a lot of bad publicity the Sox international efforts under Dan Duquette were relatively productive. Hanley Ramirez’s current status as one of the great young players in the game makes that conclusion a whole lot less outlandish now, but the idea that just a few successful players – in this case Ramirez, Tomo Ohko, and Anibal Sanchez (mostly Ramirez) - would qualify the Sox seven years in the international market is perhaps hard to accept.

The international market obviously differs from the draft in a number of significant ways. The primary difference is due to the large gap in terms of the numbers of players produced by the two methods. Each draft produces about 150 major leaguers. From that group of 150 players there may be 10-20 players who you’d consider “good” and another couple dozen who would be recognizable as “useful”. Since there aren’t organized international signing records it’s hard to make a direct comparison, but given the 70/30 split between drafted and international players you might assume roughly 45 international players per year at least make the majors, but only 3-6 are “good” and another handful or so “useful”. With thirty teams chasing so few international players even successful teams are going to have a spotty, hit or miss year to year track record. Additionally, a single great player is going to stand out even more because it’s just about impossible sign a broad, deep array of international players.

Although there is some team to team variability in terms of the overall financial commitment to the draft, every team participates and every team signs ~25 players every year. The team to team variability in the international market is much, much greater. There aren’t strong international signing records to compare, but it is evident from things like academy sizes, number of teams in the DSL and VSL, reported signing bonuses, etc that some organizations have made the international markets significant priorities and some organizations have treated them like after thoughts. Simply based on participation in the draft, just about every team just about every year will graduate some players to the majors and any team can get lucky such that one of their ~25 signed players unexpectedly blossoms into a star. In the international markets, it’s far more likely that a team with marginal commitment can go years without ever signing a notable player.

With that background in mind I tried to rank each of the 30 major league organizations by their international productivity during the years of Duquette’s Red Sox tenure, 1995-2001. Nearly all of the Sox productivity is locked into three players, Ramirez, Ohko and Sanchez (if he can come back from injury) so I looked for the three best international players signed by each organization in this period. As you’ll see in a bit most organizations did not sign three notable players in this seven year period. The players, especially the ones signed in the latter part of this period, are still very young and have not necessarily established how good they really are so I did not bother looking up exact WARP (or whatever metric) totals for a quantitative ranking. These are all very subjective. The main point isn’t so much in the specific relative rankings, but the overall groupings.

In my opinion, there are ten organizations that stand out for having signed a single star level player. There are another eight organizations I grouped together as “solid to good”. I originally tried to split them apart, but the distinction wasn’t very meaningful, certainly not in comparison to the distinction between these teams and the ones who had signed a star. The next group I labeled “Something” because they had at least signed something of note. The last group of five teams I simply labeled “Nothing”.

I should note that I only wanted to consider international amateur players. That’s generally an easy distinction because this period mostly predates the influx of Japanese professional players. I included (and astericked) Alfonso Soriano, Livan Hernandez and Danys Baez. Soriano did play professionally in the Japanese minor leagues, but I included all three here because they signed relatively young and weren’t really established. Orlando Hernandez and Rolondo Arrojo also signed with MLB teams in this period, but I did not count them because they were over 30 and were clearly signed with the intention of being immediate MLB contributors.

Let’s look at each group of teams.

Table
Rank Team Star
1 NYY Alfonso Soriano* Chien Ming Wang Robinson Cano Dioner Navarro
Melky Cabrera Juan Rivera Wily Mo Pena
2 Florida Miguel Cabrera Livan Hernandez*
3 Houston Johan Santana Felipe Paulino
4 Cleveland Victor Martinez Fausto Carmona Jhonny Peralta Danys Baez*
5 Boston Hanley Ramirez Tomo Ohka Anibal Sanchez
6 Cubs Carlos Zambrano Felix Pie Carlos Marmol Juan Cruz
7 Anaheim Francisco Rodriguez Ervin Santana Alberto Callaspo
8 Mets Jose Reyes Jae Wong Seo Yusmeiro Petit
9 Atlanta Rafael Furcal Wilson Betemit Andy Marte
10 San Francisco Francisco Liriano


It does pain me to say it, but the Yankees were fantastic in this period signing a star and contrary to what I said earlier a deep group of players a couple of whom are near star level. In fact all of these players with the exception of Juan Rivera were signed between 1998 and 2001. That’s just a fantastic burst of talent for the sparse international markets. And it’s painful to acknowledge, because it was so easy to make fun of the Yankees bumbling largess at the time. This is also the era when they signed Andy Morales and Adrian Hernandez for 4M each for no apparent reason. The decision to give a raw teenage Wily Mo Pena a major league contract was colossally stupid. Hell, I even remember goofing on Wang when he was suffering shoulder problems in the minors – at least the Sox weren’t the only team throwing away money on Asian pitchers.

And as I mentioned, this doesn’t even count El Duque who was an immediate and direct contributor to multiple championships.

Florida gambled big money on Cabrera and Hernandez and came up with a Hall of Fame track young slugger and a quality starter who directly contributed to championships.

Houston dominated Venezuela in the first half of the 1990s, but Johan Santana, who signed in 1995, was their last great signing. Paulino, a pretty drastic step down, has kicked around for a few years as grade B prospect.

Cleveland was an underrated international power in the 1990s. Most of the credit for their long run as a playoff team was given to their drafted position players and John Hart’s decision to sign so many to long term, cost controlled deals. But they were also very successful internationally starting with Bartolo Colon, who was signed in 1993 and is not listed here, and on thru Martinez, Carmona and Peralta. One good to great international player every 3 years or so is easily enough to make an organization one of the most productive in baseball.

I put the Duquette Red Sox at 5th in baseball mostly based on Ramirez’s emergence as a pre-FA superstar. Ohka contributed several years as a solid #3/4 starter. Sanchez’s arm injury makes him a wild card at this point, but a superstar and a single solid contributor definitely at least gets a team into the top ten.

Zambrano has been a durable top of the rotation starter for the Cubs. For whatever reasons, the Cubs have also had a number of very highly ranked international prospects (and I didn’t even include Angel Guzman here) that struggled to transition to the majors and meet the hype. If Pie realizes his potential the Cubs will jump a couple spots.

The Angels did well with a pair of expensive pitchers. Rodriguez only pitches ~70 IP per year, but he’s been very good and did directly contribute to a championship. Santana is one of those later signs (in this case 2000) whose perceived value has bounced up and down like a yo-yo the last couple of years. If he can maintain his current “up” status he makes an excellent second best international player.

Jose Reyes’ perceived value has also bounced a bit. At this point he may be underrated a bit (or at least taking too much unfair criticism). Seo and Petit are examples of well regarded international prospects that didn’t pan out.

The Braves had been arguably the best team in baseball in the late 1980s to mid-1990s (Javy Lopez, Vinny Castilla, Andruw Jones to Rafael Furcal in 1996), but really fell off internationally after that as represented by the high profile busts, Betemit and Marte.

The Brian Sabean Giants certainly are not what one would ever think as amongst the best in baseball at any component of scouting and player development, but the Giants did sign one excellent player in this period.

I think the key take home message from this group is the difficulty these teams had finding a second good player. The name of the game in amateur scouting is finding stars and these ten teams were the only ones that did that. In theory, you’d like to look at this kind of top ten over a pretty substantial seven year period and conclude that these were organizations that demonstrated a real skill in signing and developing international players. And yet, most teams really only found that one very good player. The Yankees, Marlins (with an expensive Cuban defector), Indians and Angels were the only teams that could find a star and another pretty good player. The Duquette Sox with either Ohka or Sanchez playing second fiddle to Ramirez aren’t that bad in this regard. If one single player can make or break a seven year stretch of international scouting how comfortable can we ever really be that these teams are here because of skill or luck? Not very comfortable, in my opinion.

Here is the next group of teams with average to solid production in this period.

Table
Rank Team Solid to Good
11 Arizona Byun-Huyn Kim Vicente Padilla Erubiel Durazo
12 San Diego Oliver Perez Rodrigo Lopez
13 Colorado Juan Uribe Ubaldo Jimenez Manny Corpas
14 Texas Edinson Volquez
15 Baltimore Daniel Cabrera
16 Philadelphia Carlos Silva Carlos Ruiz Robinson Tejada
17 Seattle Jose Lopez Rafael Soriano Chris Snelling
18 Pittsburgh Jose Castillo Francisco Cordova Ricardo Rincon


The Diamondbacks didn’t quite get a star – or even a real consistent contributor over a several year span – but each of these three players at least made brief and significant contributions in the majors. This is about as good as a team can do internationally without a star.

I may be rating the Padres Mexican duo a bit too highly. The good Perez is a good pitcher and Lopez was a useful complementary player for a bit. I vaguely recall that the Padres push into Mexico in the late 1990s was largely a Larry Luchino fueled marketing directive as much as anything else. The Padres were very productive in Puerto Rico in the early 1980s and then have this little 1990s blip of Mexican productivity and that’s essentially been it in terms of international talent. I probably should double check this, but I’m pretty sure it is true that in the entire history of the organization the Padres have never produced a notable player from the Dominican or Venezuela. This past year the Padres made a strong move to address that deficiency with a very expensive new academy in the Dominican and very significant spending on July 2.

Colorado received some attention last fall for the important contributions of Latin pitchers Jimenez, Corpas and Franklin Morales (signed in 2002). Jimenez has been good this year as well, though Corpas and Moralez have struggled. I probably should put Jimenez above Uribe but to date Uribe has been their most productive international player.

In the first iteration of this I had Texas towards the bottom of the next group because I thought Volquez was well on his way to being a washout. He might yet be a star.

Cabrera is another young pitcher that is hard to rank. The Orioles are another organization that hasn’t done very much internationally and Cabrera is the only notable player in this period.

The Phillies signed one average starter, Carlos Silva. He’s been horrific as a major league free agent, but quite valuable as an amateur international free agent. Carlos Ruiz looked better last year as a potential decent starting catcher.

The Seattle trio has all been disappointing. Nevertheless, that’s at least average production in comparison the industry as a whole.

The Pirates trio is a step down and maybe belongs in the next group.

Table
Rank Team Something
19 Minnesota Juan Rincon
20 Detroit Fernando Rodney
21 Tampa Bay Jorge Cantu
22 Toronto Cesar Izturis Gustavo Chacin
23 Oakland Angel Berroa Miguel Olivo Esteban German
24 Los Angeles Hong-Chih Kuo Joel Guzman
25 Kansas City Runelvyz Hernandez Ambiorix Burgos


These teams either signed one player that was decent for a few years in a smaller role (ie setup relievers Rincon and Rodney) or at least multiple recognizable names. They literally produced “something” internationally. It just wasn’t much.

And tied for 26th place there are five organizations – Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Montreal Expos and St Louis Cardinals – who generated absolutely nothing from the international markets in this seven year period.

There are some teams that are lousy drafting, but you’d never see this kind of extreme lack of productivity in the draft where several teams are shut out over a substantial time period and more than a third of all teams barely generated any players of note.

Of course, this period ends seven years ago and things have changed. Over the last few years a number of teams have made significant new investments in Latin America in terms of new complexes and/or increased signing budgets. It’s interesting to start at the bottom and see how many organizations have at least generated some publicity for greater international investments. In the “nothing” group the Reds have moved aggressively. The Reds started to boost activity a few years ago under Dan O’Brien and this year signed Juan Duran for 2M and were willing to outbid the A’s for Michel Inoa. The White Sox and Expos/Nationals have both signed some expensive players recently although both have come under the bonus skimming cloud as well. The Brewers made a splash a few years ago with a big bonus to Rolando Pascual, but he seems to have been a bust and they haven’t been active in the real high end market since. The Cardinals under Jeff Luhnow have signed a few six figures bonuses over the last couple of years and I believe recently completed a new academy in the Dominican.

In the “something” group Oakland dramatically increased their presence in the Dominican and blew past the old bonus record in order to sign Inoa. Tampa recently opened a complex in the Dominican. The Royals increased activity last year and signed a half dozen players to six figure bonuses. The Jays signed a couple players to mid six figure bonuses in the last couple of years.

There definitely seems to have been some acknowledgement from these lower ranked teams that they had fallen far behind in a significant area and they’ve started investing money to catch up.

#2 philly sox fan


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Posted 05 August 2008 - 11:25 PM

A quick subjective rank of international players signed between 1995-2001

This is just off the top of my head and without looking at WARP or anything like that. Many of these players are very early in their careers so there’s no point getting too worked up about any player placement, but I just wanted to get a general sense of how much talent was produced in this seven year period.

Table
Rank Team Player Position Year Country Bonus
1 Hou Johan Santana SP 1995 Venezuela 10,000
2 Fla Miguel Cabrera 3B/1B 1999 Venezuela 1,900,000
3 Bos Hanley Ramirez SS 2000 Dominican 22,000
4 Chi-NL Carlos Zambrano SP 1997 Venezuela
5 NYM Jose Reyes SS 1999 Dominican 10,000
6 Cle Victor Martinez C 1996 Venezuela ~10,000
7 NYY Alfonso Soriano* 2B/LF 1998 Dominican 3,100,000
8 Ana Francisco Rodriguez RP 1998 Venezuela 900,000
9 Atl Rafael Furcal SS 1996 Dominican
10 SF Francisco Liriano SP 2000 Dominican 900,000


Those are the ten star players from the first section. Santana stands out as the most accomplished player although he was also signed right at the beginning of this period so he’d had longer to establish himself. I have Ramirez as the 3rd best player signed in this period just behind Cabrera. Both are actually relatively similar players in that they have been extremely productive hitters very early in their careers, but gave back a lot of their value with lousy defense. Ramirez seems to have improved this year and as a result he could conceivably move past Cabrera. There were a lot of negative things to be said about the Sox international efforts under Duquette. Signing one of the top three players in baseball over this period is a pretty nice counterweight.

The players are evenly split between Dominicans and Venezuelans. That’s a testament to a really good group of elite Venezuelans, but mostly because of a bit of a down cycle in the Dominican, which we’ll get to in a little more detail in a bit.

The really interesting column, however, is the bonus information. Half of the bonuses that I have are 900k or more and the other half is 22k or less. That’s pretty incredible and another major difference between the international markets and the draft. There are very late draft picks that become stars, but generally there is a progression such that 2M players are better than 1M players who are better than 750k, 500k, 250k, etc. You would never make a list of top draft players and find an equal mix of extremely cheap and extremely expensive players. This extreme bipolar production and the complete absence of mid-range six figure bonus players is (was?) one of the hallmarks of the international market.

Now, will it continue? With the increasing amount of money and other resources spent signing (and just as importantly developing) these players I would assume that we’ll start to see more of a gradual progression and the mid ranges will fill in with some good players. But given the tremendous difficulty in projecting these 16 and 17 year old kids, I would bet that will always see some of these very, very cheap players who blossom into stars.

The real cheap players, obviously, don’t generate any attention when they sign so we have no idea who the they are until one breaks out a few years later and someone gets around to writing a background piece that mentions his low signing bonus. The most recent latin player to fit that archetype is Johnny Cueto. This spring after he made the Reds and got off to a very hot start Baseball America had a story on him and mentioned that he signed for $3,500 in 2004. The story didn’t really go into why his bonus was so low. Was he a hidden gem from a remote, under scouted area? Did he suddenly add 5+ mph to his pedestrian fastball? Who knows, but at least as recently as four years ago there was one very good prospect who was signed for next to nothing. It’s very likely that four years from now we’ll hear about the 2008 version of Cueto.

Table
Rank Team Player Position Year Country Bonus
11 NYY Chien Ming Wang SP 2000 Taiwan 1,500,000
12 Fla Livan Hernandez* SP 1996 Cuba 2,500,000
13 NYY Robinson Cano 2B 2001 Dominican
14 Tex Edinson Volquez SP 2001 Dominican
15 Cle Fausto Carmona SP 2000 Dominican ~10,000
16 Ana Ervin Santana SP 2000 Dominican 700,000
17 Cle Jhonny Peralta SS 1999 Dominican 18,000
18 AZ Vicente Padilla SP 1998 Nicaragua
19 AZ Byun-Huyn Kim RP 1999 Korea 2,000,000
20 NYY Dioner Navarro C 2000 Venezuela


The pitchers in the middle, most of whom signed in 2000 and 2001, have been very up and down so it’s not clear how good these players will end up, but this is a pretty solid group. The overall quality is really starting to fall off at the end though. For a seven year period these players, on average, represent the top 3 player per year.

There’s some real variety in terms of countries. However, the greater depth of Dominican players in comparison to Venezuelans is evident. Again, we see the extreme bonus dichotomy with a couple players signed for just five figures mixed in with seven and high six figure signings. It’s also important to note that while Santana’s 700k bonus would be considered a second tier high six figure bonus today, it’s the third highest bonus for a Latin American player signed in 2000 (as far as my records go).

Table
Rank Team Player Position Year Country Bonus
21 Col Ubaldo Jimenez SP 2001 Dominican 35,000
22 Bal Daniel Cabrera SP 1999 Dominican
23 Phl Carlos Silva SP 1996 Venezuela
24 SD Oliver Perez SP 1999 Mexico
25 AZ Erubiel Durazo 1B/DH 1998 Mexico
26 Pitt Francisco Cordova SP 1996 Mexico
27 Chi-NL Felix Pie CF 2001 Dominican
28 Sea Jose Lopez 2B 2000 Venezuela
29 Col Juan Uribe SS 1997 Dominican
30 NYY Juan Rivera OF 1996 Venezuela


Jimenez, another example of a very inexpensive signing, is having a strong year and may deserve a much higher ranking. I probably have Jose Lopez under rated as well. These are mostly solid contributors.

I cut off the next group at 49 players just for a convenient number divisible by the seven year period. Not every year produced exactly seven payers, but in theory these 49 players represent the best seven players per year from the international markets.

Table
Rank Team Player Position Year Country Bonus
31 NYY Melky Cabrera CF 2001 Dominican 175,000
32 SD Rodrigo Lopez SP 1995 Mexico
33 Bos Tomo Ohka SP 1998 Japan
34 Sea Rafael Soriano RP 1996 Dominican
35 Minn Juan Rincon RP 1996 Venezuela
36 Cle Danys Baez* RP 1999 Cuba 14,500,000
37 TB Jorge Cantu 3B/1B 1998 Mexico
38 Chi-NL Carlos Marmol RP 1999 Dominican
39 Tor Cesar Izturis SS 1996 Venezuela
40 Chi-NL Juan Cruz RP 1997 Dominican
41 LA Hong-Chih Kuo RP 1999 Taiwan 1,250,000
42 Oak Miguel Olivo C 1996 Dominican
43 Phl Carlos Ruiz C 1998 Panama 8,000
44 Det Fernando Rodney RP 1997 Dominican
45 Pitt Jose Castillo 2B 1997 Venezuela
46 Col Manny Corpas RP 1999 Panama 30,000
47 Pitt Ricardo Rincon RP 1997 Mexico
48 NYY Wily Mo Pena OF 1999 Dominican 2,440,000
49 Bos Anibal Sanchez SP 2001 Venezuela


The rankings are admittedly random here. Some players are too young to have established themselves as regulars over a several year period, but a lot have and just did not. These are mostly useful complementary parts and suggests that at least for this time period the quality of individual international players dropped off somewhere in the 5-7 range.

#3 philly sox fan


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Posted 05 August 2008 - 11:26 PM

It’s not all that difficult to re-sort players by year so let’s actually do that in one big table. Remember these aren’t all the players that signed in a given year – that number is probably in the 40-50 range – but the players not listed didn’t amount to all that much.

Table
Rank Team Player Position Year Country Bonus
1 Hou Johan Santana SP 1995 Venezuela 10,000
32 SD Rodrigo Lopez SP 1995 Mexico
6 Cle Victor Martinez C 1996 Venezuela ~10,000
9 Atl Rafael Furcal SS 1996 Dominican
12 Fla Livan Hernandez* SP 1996 Cuba 2,500,000
23 Phl Carlos Silva SP 1996 Venezuela
26 Pitt Francisco Cordova SP 1996 Mexico
30 NYY Juan Rivera OF 1996 Venezuela
34 Sea Rafael Soriano RP 1996 Dominican
35 Minn Juan Rincon RP 1996 Venezuela
39 Tor Cesar Izturis SS 1996 Venezuela
42 Oak Miguel Olivo C 1996 Dominican
4 Chi-NL Carlos Zambrano SP 1997 Venezuela
29 Col Juan Uribe SS 1997 Dominican
40 Chi-NL Juan Cruz RP 1997 Dominican
44 Det Fernando Rodney RP 1997 Dominican
45 Pitt Jose Castillo 2B 1997 Venezuela
47 Pitt Ricardo Rincon RP 1997 Mexico
7 NYY Alfonso Soriano* 2B/LF 1998 Dominican 3,100,000
8 Ana Francisco Rodriguez RP 1998 Venezuela 900,000
18 AZ Vicente Padilla SP 1998 Nicaragua
25 AZ Erubiel Durazo 1B/DH 1998 Mexico
33 Bos Tomo Ohka SP 1998 Japan
37 TB Jorge Cantu 3B/1B 1998 Mexico
43 Phl Carlos Ruiz C 1998 Panama 8,000
2 Fla Miguel Cabrera 3B/1B 1999 Venezuela 1,900,000
5 NYM Jose Reyes SS 1999 Dominican 10,000
17 Cle Jhonny Peralta SS 1999 Dominican 18,000
19 AZ Byun-Huyn Kim RP 1999 Korea 2,000,000
22 Bal Daniel Cabrera SP 1999 Dominican
24 SD Oliver Perez SP 1999 Mexico
36 Cle Danys Baez* RP 1999 Cuba 14,500,000
38 Chi-NL Carlos Marmol RP 1999 Dominican
41 LA Hong-Chih Kuo RP 1999 Taiwan 1,250,000
46 Col Manny Corpas RP 1999 Panama 30,000
48 NYY Wily Mo Pena OF 1999 Dominican 2,440,000
3 Bos Hanley Ramirez SS 2000 Dominican 22,000
10 SF Francisco Liriano SP 2000 Dominican 900,000
11 NYY Chien Ming Wang SP 2000 Taiwan 1,500,000
15 Cle Fausto Carmona SP 2000 Dominican ~10,000
16 Ana Ervin Santana SP 2000 Dominican 700,000
20 NYY Dioner Navarro C 2000 Venezuela
28 Sea Jose Lopez 2B 2000 Venezuela
13 NYY Robinson Cano 2B 2001 Dominican
14 Tex Edinson Volquez SP 2001 Dominican
21 Col Ubaldo Jimenez SP 2001 Dominican 35,000
27 Chi-NL Felix Pie CF 2001 Dominican
31 NYY Melky Cabrera CF 2001 Dominican 175,000
49 Bos Anibal Sanchez SP 2001 Venezuela


1995- Just two notable players overall, one great and one decent.

1996 – Two players I noted as stars. The only one I have bonus information for signed very cheaply. Ten total players including a couple solid, average players behind the stars and the rest complementary players of varying quality.

1997 – Just one star in Zambrano and with Juan Uribe as arguably the second best player, it wasn’t a very good year. In theory, thirty teams were scouting for talent in what ended up as a one player class. That never happens in the draft.

1998 – A couple stars and both were expensive signings. Soriano’s detour through Japan makes him an oddball though. There were five other notable players – three solid, average (Durazo, Ohka, Padilla) and a couple useful (Cantu, Ruiz). I guess that would be an average year for this period. And in this case that means 23 organizations didn’t even sign someone as good as Carlos Ruiz.

1999 – Two elite players, one set a signing bonus record (Cabrera) and the other signed for five figures (Reyes). This was a pretty deep year with nine other notable players – four pretty good ones and five complementary reliever types.

2000 – Two young Dominican stars and again one signed for a lot (Liriano) and one for very little (Ramirez). I only have five more notable players, but all are pretty good (Wang, Carmona, Santana, Lopez). It may be that some more useful complementary types will yet emerge.

2001 – I didn’t label any of these very young players as stars, but Cano, Volquez and Jimenez are perhaps on track to be ones. Pie and Sanchez were very good prospects as well. If these players mostly signed at 16-18, then they’re 23-25 this year so obviously it’s very early to judge this class. It looks pretty good in the middle though perhaps a bit soft at the very top.

Interestingly, it does look like 1999-2001 may be more productive than 1995-1998. If that trend held up, then it may be that this baseline productivity is a little dated and low. We should perhaps expect more from the more recent classes. It’s difficult to prove quantitatively before players have a chance to really establish themselves, but I do think there are some anecdotal hints in various places that MLB as an industry has gotten better at scouting and developing young talent. If that’s true overall, then I’d expect that difference to manifest itself more dramatically in this inefficiently scouted market.

#4 philly sox fan


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Posted 05 August 2008 - 11:29 PM

The other interesting thing to note in this data is that there was a definite down cycle in Dominican talent in the late 1990s. It’s easier to see re-sorting the players by country so we’ll do that too.

Dominican Republic

Table
Rank Team Player Position Year Country Bonus
9 Atl Rafael Furcal SS 1996 Dominican
34 Sea Rafael Soriano RP 1996 Dominican
42 Oak Miguel Olivo C 1996 Dominican
29 Col Juan Uribe SS 1997 Dominican
40 Chi-NL Juan Cruz RP 1997 Dominican
44 Det Fernando Rodney RP 1997 Dominican
7 NYY Alfonso Soriano* 2B/LF 1998 Dominican 3,100,000
5 NYM Jose Reyes SS 1999 Dominican 10,000
17 Cle Jhonny Peralta SS 1999 Dominican 18,000
22 Bal Daniel Cabrera SP 1999 Dominican
38 Chi-NL Carlos Marmol RP 1999 Dominican
48 NYY Wily Mo Pena OF 1999 Dominican 2,440,000
3 Bos Hanley Ramirez SS 2000 Dominican 22,000
10 SF Francisco Liriano SP 2000 Dominican 900,000
15 Cle Fausto Carmona SP 2000 Dominican ~10,000
16 Ana Ervin Santana SP 2000 Dominican 700,000
13 NYY Robinson Cano 2B 2001 Dominican
14 Tex Edinson Volquez SP 2001 Dominican
21 Col Ubaldo Jimenez SP 2001 Dominican 35,000
27 Chi-NL Felix Pie CF 2001 Dominican
31 NYY Melky Cabrera CF 2001 Dominican 175,000


In terms of elite talent, the Dominican only produced Furcal and Reyes through the normal development process during the last four years of the 1990s. Even adding Soriano back into the mix the overall talent isn’t very impressive. Only Peralta and maybe Cabrera are high quality second tier players too.

I don’t know if there’s a need for any explanation other than resorting to simple variability and up and down cycles. The year to year talent production is based on so few players that it doesn’t take much more than one player who was supposed to be good, not panning out for whatever reason to create a real productivity dip.

One thing that I did point out in my history of the Sox in the international markets is that this late 1990s down cycle coincided exactly with the Sox major upswing in activity in the Dominican. The simplest explanation is that that is a coincidence and just bad luck. However, it is possible that the Sox actually contributed to this down cycle. The Sox scouts may have signed the right player (perhaps Tony Blanco), but failed to develop him.

The more I look at the Sox scouting efforts, both domestic and international, under Duquette the more convinced I am that the Sox scouting department was probably at least above average and arguably pretty good. I’ve long believed that the real culprit in the Sox poor minor league productivity in this period was terrible instruction on the player development side of things. It may very well be that that belief is an over reaction to the over hyped early Duquette prospects who (seemingly always) stalled in the high minors. But the ramifications of that theory internationally would be dramatic since just one or two very good players not panning out would be enough to cause a noticeable overall decline in productivity. What looks like a down cycle for talent could be due to some potentially good players ending up in organizations that simply did not do a good job developing talent.

Venezuela

Table
Rank Team Player Position Year Country Bonus
1 Hou Johan Santana SP 1995 Venezuela 10,000
6 Cle Victor Martinez C 1996 Venezuela ~10,000
23 Phl Carlos Silva SP 1996 Venezuela
30 NYY Juan Rivera OF 1996 Venezuela
35 Minn Juan Rincon RP 1996 Venezuela
39 Tor Cesar Izturis SS 1996 Venezuela
4 Chi-NL Carlos Zambrano SP 1997 Venezuela
45 Pitt Jose Castillo 2B 1997 Venezuela
8 Ana Francisco Rodriguez RP 1998 Venezuela 900,000
2 Fla Miguel Cabrera 3B/1B 1999 Venezuela 1,900,000
20 NYY Dioner Navarro C 2000 Venezuela
28 Sea Jose Lopez 2B 2000 Venezuela
49 Bos Anibal Sanchez SP 2001 Venezuela


There’s much less depth from Venezuela in this period. In the 1990s there was one very good player signed each year, but aside from 1996 very little in the way of secondary talent. That one elite player is missing from the 2000 and 2001 classes and as a result they look a little light. Just for the record, Felix Hernandez was signed in 2002 so the dip in elite talent didn’t last too long.

Here is the rest of the international market lumped together.

Table
Rank Team Player Position Year Country Bonus
32 SD Rodrigo Lopez SP 1995 Mexico
26 Pitt Francisco Cordova SP 1996 Mexico
47 Pitt Ricardo Rincon RP 1997 Mexico
25 AZ Erubiel Durazo 1B/DH 1998 Mexico
37 TB Jorge Cantu 3B/1B 1998 Mexico
24 SD Oliver Perez SP 1999 Mexico
12 Fla Livan Hernandez* SP 1996 Cuba 2,500,000
36 Cle Danys Baez* RP 1999 Cuba 14,500,000
18 AZ Vicente Padilla SP 1998 Nicaragua
43 Phl Carlos Ruiz C 1998 Panama 8,000
46 Col Manny Corpas RP 1999 Panama 30,000
41 LA Hong-Chih Kuo RP 1999 Taiwan 1,250,000
11 NYY Chien Ming Wang SP 2000 Taiwan 1,500,000
33 Bos Tomo Ohka SP 1998 Japan
19 AZ Byun-Huyn Kim RP 1999 Korea 2,000,000


There was a decent little run of second and their tier talent from Mexico in the 1990s.

Livan Hernandez was a major success story from Cuba. Baez and a few others who didn’t even merit a spot on this top 49 didn’t really pan out.

Vicente Padilla has had a successful career, but it’s not the case that his signing and subsequent success opened the door for a significant new stream of talent from Nicaragua.

It’s interesting that the Asian players, all of whom were pitchers, represent the same kind of bonus dichotomy – three signed for seven figures and the fourth supposedly some kind of “gift” to the Sox – seen amongst Latin players. Most Asian players signed during this period were older (often signing at age 21 similar to college juniors) and much more advanced and therefore at least in theory easier to scout. Duquette and the Sox were killed for spending too much money in Asia, but if you look at the Asian successes – mostly Wang and Kim in this period, but also Chan Ho Park from earlier – it was the very expensive signings that at least sometimes hit. The Sox loaded up on players in the 750k range. Instead of spreading around their money on second tier players they might have done better loading up on the most expensive players available.

For a long time I’ve been meaning to compare the relatively small number of Asian players signed in the 1990s to similarly expensive players from the draft. My guess is the success ratios will be comparable.

Finally getting back to the original question – how well did the Sox do internationally under Duquette? Relative to the competition, quite well. Probably less well taking into consideration money spent which was likely greater than the competition, but nevertheless Ramirez alone makes the whole effort a net positive.

Any time a single player has that kind of a dramatic effect – basically single handedly turning a failure into a success – there has to be room for the idea that luck was a major factor. One way to argue against luck is to demonstrate previous success so that Ramirez can be tied into a larger body of work. That would at least suggest the involvement of some reproducible skill. Duquette can do that. He was the GM of the Expos when they had an incredible year in 1993 signing both Vlad Guerrero and Orlando Cabrera. Guerrera is likely to be the best Dominican player signed in the 1990s and although it’s very early to say anything similar about the 2000s, but Ramirez is going to be the early leader in the clubhouse and he’s setting a pretty high bar.

So Duquette’s ten years as a GM will have produced Guerrero, Ramirez, Cabrera, Ohka and Sanchez from the international markets. That’s quite good. To what extent that track record would matter if he every got another GM job (doubtful at this point, although Ed Wade did) is impossible to say.

I want to touch on one last thing so let’s get back to Johnny Cueto singing for $3500 in 2004.

#5 philly sox fan


  • SoSH Member


  • 9747 posts

Posted 05 August 2008 - 11:32 PM

Cueto’s performance has fallen off quite a bit since his first couple of starts. His record is now 7-11 with 5.00 ERA (although a slightly better 4.89 FIP and much better 4.48 xFIP). And he’s still just 22. There’s a very wide range of performances that his career may take from top of the rotation starter to injury riddle flameout. We can’t say much except that he’s already been a bargain for $3500.

I thought it would be interesting to compare Cueto, a cheap 2004 international signing, to all of the drafted pitchers who received at least 1M. It turns out there were 23 pitchers who received at least 1M in the 2004 draft. If as a Sox fan you’re already feeling a sense of dread wash over you, then you already know that one is Mike Rozier at 1.575M.

MLB spent just under 42M on signing bonuses for those 23 pitchers. Three of them signed MLB contracts with even more guaranteed money that they mostly haven’t earned so that 42M is actually a little low. I recently read a report that MLB spent 50M on all international signings in 2007. I’ve also read that the international budget pool has basically doubled in the last few years, so it may be that every international player (probably about 800 in total) signed for something like 25-30M in 2004, or 10-15M less than just these 23 pitchers.

The table below lists those 23 millionaire draftees and Cueto ranked by their signing bonuses. I did a very quick color coding. Green players you would definitely take over Cueto. There are two. Blue players you would have to think about. There are five. And red players are players who have been clearly passed by Cueto. There are 16 of those. They signed for 25.4M or on average 1.5M/pitcher. That’s not quite 450x Cueto’s bonus.

Table
Rd Pick Team Name Pos School State Bonus
1 12 Ana Jered Weaver RHP C CA 4,000,000
1 4 TB Jeffrey Niemann RHP C TX 3,200,000
1 2 Det Justin Verlander RHP C VA 3,120,000
1 3 NYM Philip Humber RHP C TX 3,000,000
1 6 Cle Jeremy Sowers LHP C TN 2,475,000
1 7 Cinn Homer Bailey RHP HS TX 2,300,000
1 5 Mil Mark Rogers RHP HS ME 2,200,000
1 10 Tex Thomas Diamond RHP C LA 2,025,000
1 13 Mon William Bray LHP C VA 1,750,000
1 16 Tor David Purcey LHP C OK 1,600,000
1 17 LA Scott Elbert LHP HS MO 1,575,000
12 365 Bos Michael Rozier LHP HS GA 1,575,000
1 19 StL Christopher Lambert RHP C MA 1,525,000
1 22 Minn Glen Perkins LHP C MN 1,425,000
1 23 NYY Philip Hughes RHP HS CA 1,400,000
1 27 Fla Taylor Tankersley LHP C AL 1,300,000
2 66 Chi-NL Grant Johnson RHP C IN 1,260,000
1 29 KC Matthew Campbell LHP C SC 1,100,000
1 30 Tex Eric Hurley RHP HS FL 1,050,000
1s 32 Tor Zachary Jackson LHP C TX 1,017,500
1 25 Minn Kyle Waldrop RHP HS TN 1,000,000
1s 31 KC JP Howell LHP C TX 1,000,000
1s 33 LA Justin Orenduff RHP C VA 1,000,000
Cinn Johhny Cueto RHP DR 3,500


Verlander and Weaver have been good to great pitchers already and also should project better going forward.

The five blue pitchers are all very familiar names from prospect lists. Niemann’s value has dropped due to multiple injuries. Bailey competed directly against Cueto in the spring and Cueto easily beat him. Those two are easy. Perkins and Hurley don’t really have the stuff or ceiling that Ceuto has. I think most people would take Cueto there too. Hughes needs to stay healthy and actually pitch, but he was a much higher rated prospect than Cueto. I doubt many people would take Cueto there.

The red group of pitchers includes a number of clear cut busts. The Roziers if you will. (And note that the Sox spent 175k more on Rozier than the Yankees did on Hughes. Oops.) Some of the others still have chances to contribute though perhaps more as back of the rotation pitchers and/or relievers. If Cueto really flames out, then some of these pitchers will end up out producing him.

Overall, in a comparison of Cuto, the $3500 man, and the millionaire drafted pitchers I’d place Cueto no lower than fourth. And that’s why teams that haven’t been active in the international markets have been absolutely stupid.

#6 jmcc5400

  • 1790 posts

Posted 06 August 2008 - 01:09 PM

The decision to give a raw teenage Wily Mo Pena a major league contract was colossally stupid.


Perhaps, but it did lead to the acqisition of Drew Henson, something for which Vinny from the Bronx is eternally grateful.

- jmcc5400