It’s been a bit of time since Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr. were declared free agents by Major League Baseball. The Cuban-born brothers are legit prospects for teams to look at. The older brother, Victor Victor, is the top international prospect on the entire market. He’s a 22-year-old outfielder who has experience in the Cuban professional league. The younger Mesa brother is just 16-years-old, and he’s also an outfielder. At this time he’s not considered the same caliber of prospect as his older brother. The brothers, along with another quality prospect on the international market, Sandy Gaston, will hold a workout for all 30 teams on October 5th at Marlins Park in Miami. Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com was the first person I could track to reporting this.
The Cincinnati Reds are currently in the penalty box when it comes to spending internationally. They are currently limited to signing players for $300,000 or less on the amateur market. That won’t be lifted until July 2nd. But, that may not keep them out of the running here. Most teams have already spent their money in this class. The kind of money that Victor Victor Mesa in particular will be looking for probably isn’t available to anyone until July 2nd. It’s possible he’d be willing to sign for significantly less money than expect in order to get his career started now rather than in July. That does seem a little bit less likely, though.
The Reds seem ready to spend on the market again. Fangraphs had the organization rumored to be willing to pay shortstop Alexander Vargas $3M next summer if he was willing to wait and sign. Ultimately he wound up signing with the Yankees for $2.5M in early August. That would have been the largest bonus they had ever paid out to a teenager on the international market had it happened. They have some money to spend, and seem willing to spend it on the right guy if he’s there.
Victor Victor Mesa profiles as an above-average outfielder, and probably soon. In his last full season in Cuba he hit .354/.399/.539 with 7 home runs as a 20-year-old. He also stole 40 bases in 50 attempts in just 70 games played. In that season it was his power that jumped forward in a big way. Prior to that season he had managed to hit just three home runs in his previous 221 games in the league. His defense, however, is considered ahead of his bat – where there are a few concerns. The tools are there for him to hit, but could use some refinement.
Victor Mesa Jr. is still incredibly young, just 16-years-old. Understandably, he does not have professional experience to look at because of his age. He has, however, been playing with the Cuban National Team, giving scouts a chance to see him in game action. He’s a switch hitter with some tools to work with.
The Mesa brothers aren’t the only show to come and see in Miami, though. Right handed pitcher Sandy Gaston will also be showing his skills for teams. Just 16-years-old he’s already hitting 97 MPH with his fastball. That’s quite rare for his age, even today when seemingly everyone throws hard. At his age his secondary offerings are almost all projection rather than current pitches. There’s some question as to whether he’s a future starter or reliever among those who have seen him. Control and arm action seem to be the things that are brought up in scouting reports.
Could the Reds go after LHP Yusei Kikuchi?
Dick Williams met with the local beat writers yesterday to discuss a whole bevy of things. One of those things was that the Reds would be looking this offseason, and moving forward, deeper into adding talent out of Asia. This is an area where the organization has been lacking for their entire history. They are still the only team to never have a Japanese player on their roster. Cincinnati is, and has been alone with that designation among current franchises since 2015. It was only in the last few years that the organization even had a scout looking at Japan. In 2015 Walt Jocketty was quoted as saying the reason that they didn’t have a scout in Japan was that it was too costly.
It seems that things have changed since then. The Reds added Rob Fidler and Jamey Storvick to scout Taiwan, Korea, and Japan before the 2017 season. Last offseason the Reds tried to go after Shohei Ohtani despite not being able to offer the kind of signing bonus other teams could. But that was the first time, at least publicly, we saw the Reds trying to go after a Japanese player. They would say that he wasn’t the only one that they had interest in and they would continue looking at the market.
Looking at this upcoming offseason, the team has said they are interested in going after starting pitching. Immediately you think about Major League free agents. Then you think about potential trade targets. But there could be targets in Japan as well. Last offseason the Cardinals picked up Miles Mikolas for 2 years and $15.5M. That move has turned out to be outstanding for St. Louis. This season his ERA sits at 2.94 and he’s thrown 192.2 innings while walking almost no one (29 walks) and striking out 140. He’s probably benefiting from the larger ballpark in St. Louis, and his splits certainly suggest that, but even if we do factor that in, he’s already earned his entire contract and then some.
This offseason could see another player from Japan lack the hype of a Shohei Ohtani (and the hype was real here), but be a strong pick up. The biggest name that could be on the market is left handed pitcher Yusei Kikuchi. There’s a chance he won’t be available, as he would need to be posted by his current team. But indications are that is likely to happen. There’s a new set up between Major League Baseball and the NPB when it comes to posting fees. Depending on how much the player signs for. Depending on the total dollar amount, there’s a set percentage that gets paid.
When it comes to Yusei Kikuchi, he’s an interesting guy when it comes to free agency. He absolutely dominated in 2017. He posted a 1.97 ERA in 187.2 innings, walking just 49 batters and he struck out 217. This season he hasn’t been nearly as good for Seibu as he’s battled a shoulder issue. His ERA jumped up to 3.16 in 156.2 innings with 43 walks and 147 strikeouts. The low walk rate remained, but his strikeout rate dropped off significantly. His ERA is still second best in the Pacific League – so he’s performed well. Things just have gone backwards by comparison. At 92-94 MPH, and touching 96, his velocity will certainly play in the Major Leagues. He’s also got four pitches, though at times he’ll rely heavily on his fastball/slider combination.
The Reds would not be limited to $300,000 to sign a player like Yusei Kikuchi this offseason like they would the players talked about at the beginning of the article. If he is posted, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Reds make a run at him. He would fit the need of a starting pitcher, and perhaps his step back in 2018 would keep the cost in the right range for Cincinnati to take a chance.
With the showcase in Miami in less than two weeks, things get more interesting. Will those players wait until July 2nd to sign because teams will have more money available to spend? And if so, will the Reds be in on any of them? There are plenty of options out there, but the Reds seem like they will be willing to spend real money.