Baseball America is rolling out a new feature this year: a Top 100 ranking of the 2019 international signing class. Just as a reminder, this is the group of prospects who signed at the “J2” (July 2nd) deadline in 2019; it doesn’t include anyone who signed after, who are considered part of next year’s class even if they’re already at their respective academies. For the Mariners, this group of excluded players includes speedy Cuban OF Victor Labrada, signed this November, and Top-10 2020 3B prospect Starling Aguilar, who hasn’t signed but has been heavily linked to the Mariners (he already has friends at the M’s DSL Academy and is pictured wearing Mariners gear often). It does include RHP Kristian Cardozo, snapped up after the Dodgers failed to sign him. You can read the whole list, with updated scouting reports for every player and video for several, at BA (subscription required and recommended).
In 2019, rather than go after a blue-chip talent as they had in previous years with Julio Rodriguez and Noelvi Marte (and as they apparently will in 2020 with Aguilar), the Mariners spread their money around more, which is reflected in BA’s rankings. The Mariners place five players on the Top-100 list, more than any other team in the AL West, and tied with the Diamondbacks, Giants, Brewers, Pirates, and Nationals for the second-most players on the list (the always-active Padres lead everyone with eight players on the list). The Yankees and Dodgers each only have one on the list, but they’re the 1-2 names respectively, power/speed threat OF Jasson Dominguez and Venezuelan OF Luis Rodriguez.
In the AL West, Texas, Oakland, and Anaheim all placed players in the top 10: advanced Venezuelan SS Maximo Acosto ranks #4 for the Rangers, and the A’s have #5, fast-tracked SS Robert Puason, on whom the A’s spent $5.1M, tied with what the Yankees spent on Dominguez. The Rangers also have BA’s #6 prospect from this group, massive power hitter Bayron Lara, who got the bulk of the Rangers’ IFA pool. The Angels round out the top 10 with #9, plus-sized SS Arol Vera. The Astros make their first appearance on the list at #21, with offense-first SS Dauri Lorenzo.
As with most classes, there is a dropoff after the “first round” of 20 or so names, with the margins between players getting significantly slimmer after that. Players signed during the J2 period have a couple months of professional baseball under their belts, if that; the Mariners don’t even send their J2 signings out to compete, preferring to use those two months to acclimate players to the system and the routines of the Academy, establish baselines for their skills, drill fundamentals, and get them started in the classroom. So even though the Mariners occupy the less-fashionable addresses on this list (including the actual last spot, #100), that gap isn’t necessarily as wide as a typical Top 100 list consisting of players who have been scouted and reported on extensively, with much more experience playing against higher competition. So, grains of salt, etc.
OF George Feliz is the first to crack the list for Seattle, coming in at #63; the Mariners gave the power-hitting centerfielder a bonus of just under a million. Scouts are excited about the power potential once Feliz grows into his frame a little more; he’s a sleeper favorite of Joe’s.
Following Feliz at #75 is RHP Jose Corniell, who earned a special mention from Dipoto at last year’s Mariners Town Hall as one to watch for the future; the Mariners like his size (6’3”/185), his sinking fastball (93 mph already at sixteen years old, with more potentially to come), and the development he’s already shown with his secondary pitches. After that, three more Mariners skate in on the very back end of the list, with SS Andres Mesa at #91, RHP Pedro Lemos da Costa, who got the largest bonus of any Brazilian player this period, right behind him at #93, and the swooped-up RHP Kristian Cardozo nabbing the final spot on the list.
You can read the latest in-depth scouting reports of these players in the article at BA.
These players represent the furthest glimmer on the horizon, and fortunes ebb and flow quickly in the low minors, but all should be playing for the Mariners’ DSL team come this spring. Consider this a preview of some names to look out for in future Midshipmen’s Logs.