Happy International Signing Day to those who celebrate! July 2—or the opening of the “J2” period, when prospects who have turned 16 or are about to are allowed to officially sign with major-league teams—is celebrated as a major holiday in the baseball-crazed communities of the Dominican Republic, among other places. Unfortunately, COVID-19, that plan-wrecker, pushed this year’s signing all the way back until now, half a year later. This year, celebrations will be both later and muted because of the pandemic, but today is nonetheless a major milestone for players who will now have the opportunity to play professional baseball. While there are many, many flaws and concerns to be raised around the entire international free agency process, this is nonetheless a joyful day for many families and the teenagers who have been devoting their energies to making their pro ball dreams come true. Here are the next crop of Mariners signing in this period (who we know of); their Instagram handles are included so you can shoot them a follow and watch their journeys from the beginning.
Source: #Mariners agree to deals with INF Starlin Aguilar, OF Gabriel Gonzalez, LHP Juan Pinto, OF Luis Bolivar @MLBPipeline— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) January 15, 2021
3B Starlin Aguilar
Aguilar is the big fish in this signing class for the Mariners, reportedly corralling around $1.5M in a signing bonus, about what the Mariners spent on their last two big free-agency splashes in Julio Rodríguez and Noelvi Marte. Aguilar, nicknamed “Baby Devers” by his trainer, is a bat-first third baseman who can reportedly really hit, with a beautiful lefty swing and the ability to hit to all fields. Fellow Mariner prospect Jonatan Clase, who has trained on the same fields as Aguilar before the latter signed on with the Mariners, is excited to welcome Aguilar to the organization and reports that Aguilar is a high-character player who works diligently on his craft. Aguilar posts frequently on Instagram and you can find his account here.
OF Gabriel Gonzalez
The Mariners scout out of Venezuela as much as any organization, and that’s where they found “El Gonzo,” an aggressive hitter John is particularly high on. He’s currently listed at 6’ but looks to have a frame that will get bigger and stronger, although his righty swing already makes some loud noise. Gonzalez, like Aguilar, earned a mention on Jesse Sanchez’s “Best of the Rest” list for 2021 international prospects, although neither landed in the Top 30. Gonzalez has a fairly muted Instagram presence currently, but you can follow him here.
LHP Juan Pinto
Pinto, also from Venezuela, was the last of the players the Mariners have signed so far to earn a mention in Sánchez’s international round-up. Pinto, helpfully, has a robust Instagram presence, so you can follow him and see video of him throwing, like in this recent video where he’s hitting 88-90 (and if that doesn’t sound impressive, remember he is all of 16). He has a prototypical pitcher’s body at 6’3” that appears to be a solid 85% legs, and gets down the mound in a way that suggests more velocity to come after he’s had a pro training regimen and bulked up some. His second-best pitch, per Baseball America, is a tight curve that projects as an out pitch. A lefty with a power curve? Sign me right up. Also, I don’t know who does his graphics, but they are icy (that’s him in the cover photo of this story).
OF Luis Bolivar
Bolivar, also from Venezuela, projects to give Jonatan Clase some competition for the title of “best speed” in the organization, with some scouts putting an 80 on it, although at already six feet tall, he’s built differently than the shorter, powerful Clase. Bolivar has an above-average arm and projects as a true center fielder. The hit tool isn’t as developed as some of the other players in this class, but you can see how he swings for damage from the right side in the video above. “El Boli” is active on Instagram, and you can follow him here.
RHP Aneury Lora
Lora is going to be a really interesting one to look at side-by-side after a couple years of development because he’s currently listed at just 6’1”/145 with a pair of chopsticks for legs, but the frame (especially a pair of feet that look almost cartoonishly outsize to the rest of him) suggests the ability to add good muscle and he’s certainly not done growing. Per Baseball America he has a promising curve and changeup even as his fastball lacks much oomph currently and repeats his delivery well, although I see a lot of moving parts, as is to be expected with a young prospect who maybe hasn’t had some of the same intense training as his counterparts. He’s active on Instagram and you can follow him here.
The Mariners are also projected to sign two Venezuelan right-handed pitchers, Roiber Talavera and Gleiner Díaz. I couldn’t find either of them on Instagram (although if you know their handles, drop them in the comments), but Baseball America has a brief scouting report on each and some film of them pitching.
Note: OF Victor Labrada, a Cuban signee-to-be last year, has been with the club at their facility in the DR for the better part of this past year, but wasn’t able to sign in the normal J2 period due to the pandemic. He’ll finally ink his $350K deal with the club in this signing period.
Update: According to Baseball America’s tracker, the Mariners have also signed SS Bryant Mendez out of Venezuela. I haven’t been able to turn up anything on Mendez, but will keep an eye out.
Update, 2/5/21: The Mariners officially announced the signing of Bolivar, Díaz, González, Lora, Mendez, Pinto, and Talavera, as well as Ricardo Cova, an infielder from Venezuela. More on each and brief scouting blurbs from Frankie Thon Jr. are in the Mariners’ official release. This is a very Venezuelan-heavy class, with 7 of 8 of today’s announced signings hailing from Venezuela. Those eight add to Victor Labrada (Cuba), Starlin Aguilar (DR), and Juan Cruz, an OF from the Dominican Republic, whose signings were announced January 22nd.