It was back to big dollar signings for the San Francisco Giants in this year’s international free agent class as the top three signings — shortstop Ryan Reckley from the Bahamas, catcher Juan Perez from Venezuela, and infielder Dennys Riera from Venezuela — took up $4 million of the Giants $5.179,700 total international signing pool. The large outlay on the top of the class harkens back to the 2018 class, when Giants spent $4.4 million on top signs Marco Luciano ($2.6m), Jairo Pomares ($1.1m) and Luis Matos ($700k). All three of those players have since established themselves as among the very best prospects in the Giants’ system.
In the two years since then, the Giants have spread money around more evenly among larger classes with Aeverson Arteaga signing the biggest deal ($1m) since then. Arteaga also had a strong debut, leaping up into the upper echelons of the Giants’ prospect lists in his first year of action. The talent coming in through the international scouting department over the last few years has been a primary driver in the resurgence of the Giants’ system and is expected to begin pouring major league talent forth in the coming years.
The international signing pool is hard capped since the last CBA and teams are unable to go over it. Consequently, the overall class for the Giants this year is smaller, with only $1.8 million total left to spend players after the top three. The total signing class for the Giants should total 11 players. Teams can still sign players for bonuses of less than $10,000 without those counting against the signing pool. Those <$10k players are typically used to fill out Dominican rosters, though you never know what surprises can be in store with young, growing bodies.
Shortstop, Bahamas, $2.1 m
The vast majority of international free agents, of course, come out of either the Dominican Republic or Venezuela. But the Giants top signing this year is out of the Bahamas. Though the Bahamas are the closest island nation to the US (lying between the coasts of Florida and Cuba), they haven’t traditionally been much of a hotbed of baseball talent. That’s been changing recently, with Marlins exciting young star Jazz Chisholm leading the way, along with a few strong prospects like the D’backs’ Kristian Robinson. The Giants, of course, spent more than $6 million signing Bahamaian Lucius Fox back in 2014, the largest international signing in club history (and the largest for any non-Cuban player at the time).
According to Giants International Scouting Director Joe Salermo, whom I spoke with this morning, the Giants love Reckley’s athleticism and makeup. They see him as a plus player on both sides of the ball with plus plus speed playing well in every part of his game. They like his actions and play making abilities at shortstop, where he shows excellent footwork, a strong arm, and playmaker instincts. They also believe that he can develop a plus bat from both sides of the plate. He shows a line drive swing with gap power from both sides, with perhaps more impact ability from the right hand side. Ultimately, he could play as a classic top of the order type hitter who can spray the ball around the field and run. The Giants also love his attitude and work ethic and believe he will be driven to get the most out of his ability.
There’s a natural tendency to compare Reckley with Fox. In addition to sharing a homeland, both are switch hitting shortstops whose games revolve around their speed. They also both, of course, enticed the Giants to spend millions of dollars bringing them into the fold. The two cases are quite different, however. Fox grew up in Florida, going to high school at American Heritage high. As his draft approached at the end of his senior year, Fox moved back to the Bahamas, where he had been born, and petitioned the commissioner’s office to reclassify as an international free agent, in a highly successful bid to earn more money in the signing process. Considered a 2nd round talent, he likely would have signed in the $1.5-2 million dollar range through the draft, rather than the $6 million he ended up getting as an international free agent (which gives some insight on the degree to which the draft format constrains bonuses for players). Because he was reclassifying, however, Fox was significantly older than most international free agents, and his wealth of U.S. playing experience was likely a major factor in his bonus — he was closer to the player he would ultimately be than most of the 16 year olds who sign are. However, even then there were concerns about his swing and questions among scouts on how well he would hit, which has since been the issue that has held back his development.
Reckley, who turned 17 in September, is about a year and half younger than Fox was when he signed. At 5’10”, he’s also slightly smaller — which may well be related to point #1. He also shows more impact ability on the ball at this age than Fox did at 18. Particularly from the right-hand side, there may be more pop there than you’d expect from a speed-based player.
If everything comes together for Reckley, he should be a player who impacts the game on both sides of the ball, while hitting at the top of the lineup. He’ll play most of his first season at age 17, likely starting his career in Arizona this summer.
If you’re wondering where Reckley might slot into my Top 50, well…. fortunately I didn’t need to make that decision because he wasn’t officially a part of the organization when I made my list! That’s sort of a weaselly answer though, I realize, so I’ll say he’d slot in very close to where I have Arteaga — of course, you’ll need to wait a few weeks to see exactly where that is!
As an aside, the great guys who run the fantastic Cespedes Family BBQ twitter account were down in the Bahamas recently for a beachside baseball event and caught up with Chisholm to talk about the state of baseball in the nation today. This is a great read!
C, Venezuela, $1.2m
Catchers from Venezuela are always one of the most popular phylums of any year’s international signing period. Every year dozens of catchers from the South American nation join the ranks of professional baseball. The Giants are no exception to this trend, having plucked catchers like Victor Coronil and Rayner Santana from Venezuela in recent years, not to mention two of their most successful international signings of this century, Pablo Sandoval and Hector Sanchez, in previous years.
This year the Giants took a deep plunge into the Venezuelan catcher waters, making Juan Perez their second highest signing of the class. The Giants see Perez as a plus defender with a 70 arm. According to Salermo, “Perez reminds us of [Adrian] Sugastey in terms of his makeup and the way he controls the game.” The Giants see leadership traits in Perez and an arm that stop a running game in its tracks. Perez doesn’t match Sugastey’s pure hitting skills, but the Giants do believe he’ll have more power than Sugastey, with the potential to grow into average or above average potential. This is a pretty classic catcher profile then: strong arm, good leader, power over hit with the bat.
It will be interesting to see where the Giants choose to start Perez’ career. Typically, million dollar signings come stateside to open their career, but Perez might not quite be ready for that challenge offensively, and with the loss of the 2020 season, they have something of a backlog of catchers ready to advance from the Dominican Summer League to the Arizona, in particular Onil Perez, a $200,000 signing in the 2019 class. There’s a decent likelihood, however, that we’ll see both Perezes (Perezii?) in the ACL this summer.
SS, Venezuela, $700,000
The third member at the top of the Giants’ class is another Venezuelan, though one with a very different profile. The Giants are big fans of Rierra’s offensive potential, seeing him as a potentially above average hitter with average power. Though they’ll let him play shortstop to begin his career, in the long run they believe he’ll grow into an offensive-minded 2b. He shows a strong feel for barreling up balls and making consistent hard contact.
While Riera is getting the smallest of the three bonuses today, it’s worth remembering that the same was true of Luis Matos three and a half years ago! So don’t sleep on Riera’s ability to excite you with his offensive skills just because Reckley’s signing for three times the bonus today! Like Matos, Riera is probably more likely to open his career in the Dominican Summer League than the other two.
And the Rest
With just $1.18 million to spend after the top three, the overall class will be fairly small this year. The rest of the players who have announced signings include:
OF Moises De La Rosa - Dominican Republic
OF Erick Arosemena - Panama
C Alessandro Duran - Venezuela
RHP Defrain Iriarte - Venezuela
RHP Mauricio Estrella - Dominican Republic
RHP Alfonso Perez - Dominican Republic
RHP Carlos Gomez - Colombia
SS Audie Jiminez - Venezuela
With Arosemena’s signing, the Giants now make it three years in a row that they’ve dipped into the Panamanian well, as Sugastey and Mauricio Pierre have been top signings from the previous two years. Clearly, the Giants are making an effort to spread beyond the normal Dominican-Venezuelan pools of talent.
There are two things to note about the move of the international signing period from its traditional July 2nd date to January 15. The first is that the change in signing dates doesn’t impact when the players start their playing careers. All of these players will, if healthy, open their careers this summer, just as they would have had they signed in July. It’s likely that all of this last group of players will begin in the Dominican Summer League.
What does change with the new signing date, however, is the players’ protected development clock. Because the rules that determine eligibility for the Rule 5 draft are connected to that draft’s December date, moving the official signing date to January gives players one additional year of development before they are eligible for the Rule 5. Silly, isn’t it? But true! This group of players will not need to be added to the 40-man roster until November of 2026 — plenty of time for Reckley, Perez, and all of their classmates to show their worth!
Just as a bit of housekeeping — today’s post will take the place of Monday’s normal post time. So, I guess Happy MLK Day! So I’ll be back on Wednesday with the next Top 50 profile for my subscribers. In the meantime, I should have an early podcast out this week with International Scouting Director Joe Salermo to talk more about all of the players the Giants inked today and the talent that has been flowing through his department the last few years, so look forward to that!
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17 years old! How is it legal for a 17 year old to enter into a binding contract?
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