The international signing period’s shift from July to January still takes some getting used to on my end. It used to be very rare that players would sign in July and then play that same year. Now that players sign in January, unless there’s an injury that keeps them off of the field, they play in the same year that they sign. The 2024 signing period is coming up on us sooner than you may think – time flies when you get older.
The crew over at MLB Pipeline have updated their Top 50 prospects for the upcoming signing class. What’s interesting this year is that MLB Pipeline isn’t including the “(insert team here) are the favorites to land this player” with each write up.
That doesn’t mean we don’t know where some of these guys are likely to sign. And like the past few years, the Cincinnati Reds are the favorites to land one of the top players in the class. It began two years ago when the club landed Ricardo Cabrera and followed up this past year when they signed Alfredo Duno. The early returns from both of those players has been excellent. Cabrera hit .350/.469/.559 with 21 stolen bases in 39 games for the ACL Reds before hitting .316/.519/.316 in five games during a final week call up to Single-A Daytona as an 18-year-old. Duno spent his first year with the DSL reds and hit .303/.451/.493 with 38 walks and 41 strikeouts in 195 plate appearances.
In January the Reds are expected to sign outfielder Adolfo Sanchez. MLB Pipeline currently rates him as the 5th best prospect in the class with five average or better tools – including a 60-grade hit tool.
Several years ago Major League Baseball instituted a spending cap on international signings. Unlike the cap in the draft, teams can not go over their spending limits. There aren’t penalties if you do – you simply can’t do it. What teams can, and have done, though, is acquire additional bonus pool money. Teams are allowed to trade for/trade away some of their bonus pool money.
The Cincinnati Reds are in the second tiered group of teams with regards to their pool amount. Since they received a competitive balance round A pick in the draft this summer, they fall into the second tier and have $6,520,000 to spend. The slot money for this period can not be traded until the signing period begins, and it usually doesn’t happen until later on when a team is just looking to acquire a couple hundred thousand dollars in pool money to round out their signing group in the late spring or early summer.
Arizona Fall League Sleepers
Josh Norris took a look at 10 potential sleeper prospects that are heading to the Arizona Fall League. The article is behind a paywall, so you need to be a subscriber to read the entire piece. But the first player on the list is free to see, and that player just happens to be Reds relief prospect Zach Maxwell.
The 2022 6th round draft pick out of Georgia Tech split his season between Single-A Daytona and High-A Dayton. In his 34 games he posted a 4.11 ERA in 61.1 innings, walked 38 batters, and he struck out 96 of the 269 hitters that he faced.
The big right-hander (he’s listed at 6′ 6″ and 275 lbs) brings the heat, averaging over 98 MPH with his fastball and he topped out at 101 MPH this season. He will also throw a slider in the upper 80’s. Both pitches can be plus offerings.
What’s held him back, so to speak, has been his inconsistency with throwing strikes. While at Georgia Tech he walked 98 batters in 97.2 innings. As a junior his walk rate did improve, but he still walked 41 batters in 51.1 innings. This past season he took a step forward, walking 38 in his 61.1 innings. That’s still too high, but it did represent a big step in the right direction.
What the offseason coverage will look like
The minor league season is over. That means there aren’t games to cover every day…. well, sort of. There’s plenty of fall and winter league games that will be happening, but there could be days where only a few Reds prospects play and that means there will be days where there’s nothing from on-field play worth writing about.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be stuff posted almost daily, though. Weekends during the offseason are probably going to go quiet most of the time. With no real off days from about mid-February when spring training begins until the last day the big league club plays, I don’t get an “off day”. And really, I’m always kind of “on-call”. But I try to take the weekends off in the offseason when I can. Some days there will be stuff that needs to be written on a Saturday or Sunday, but usually it’s stuff that can wait.
Last night I was able to download the full play-by-play data for all of the Reds farm teams games this year. That’s always the first step in starting more in-depth prospect evaluation. For hitters it’s a resource that’s very valuable for me. It allows me to create spray charts and take deeper looks into how a guy goes about hitting.
It will probably be two Monday’s from now, but that is when I will probably begin the season review and scouting report series that will run until spring training. Usually I will do three of those per week, except for when I get to the Top 25 prospects, and that will be one per day during the week. The Top 25 list is something that I aim to publish the week of October 30th and each day will include five players. After the list is out I will transition into the Top 25 scouting reports and season review stuff before getting back to the 3-per-week schedule. Hopefully that will get about 60-70 reports throughout the offseason.
The State of the Farm articles shall return once again this winter. It will likely be a bit of time before those begin, but as it has been in the past, I’ll look at each position on the farm and break down the position, give it a grade, and discuss what that means in the short and long term for the big league club. Those will be a once-per-week thing a bit later in the offseason.
If there’s something you’d like to see covered – particularly a series type of thing that will provide multiple articles – I’m open to ideas. It’s a long offseason and having semi-regular stuff that I can fall back on is quite helpful.