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Mariners sign two top-50 international prospects at opening of 2024 signing period

Mariners add two shortstops out of the Dominican Republic among others

Dawel Joseph

The international free agent signing period opened today; for a refresher on how the IFA signing period works and all its rules—some of which are enforced more rigorously than others—click here for a handy explainer by Mike Axisa of CBS Sports.

Last year, the Mariners invested heavily into one of the top prospects in the class in SS Felnin Celesten, offering him a $4.7M bonus, the largest for an IFA in club history. The second-largest signing was RHP Jeter Martinez, the top prospect out of Mexico, who enjoyed an All-Star season in the DSL in his first taste of pro ball.

This year, working with a bonus pool of just over $6.5M, the Mariners invested about half of that in 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Dawel Joseph, from La Romana. Joseph was highly ranked by both MLB Pipeline (#7) and Baseball America (#4, although that ranking is by expected bonus size). As with most top prospects, Joseph has been connected to the Mariners for several years, initially earning high grades for what looked like top-of-the-scale speed. As he’s grown into his 6’2” frame and added muscle, he’s started to project more towards the power end of the power-speed threat. Here’s a look at Joseph back in 2020 showing off his speed; it’s tough to find current video of Joseph, because once players commit to a team they stop doing showcases for other teams, but in this short Facebook video of him bashing a homer off some unlucky soul on a field in the DR you can see how his swing is now geared for power and he’s gotten bigger and stronger. Teenagers! They do grow fast. He’s not a stone-cold lock to stick at shortstop, so far grading out about average defensively, but he has the athleticism to easily transition to a different spot on the field if necessary. Joseph’s favorite player is Fernando Tatís Jr. and he aspires to play the game in a similar way, with adrenaline and joy. Mariners Director of International Amateur Scouting Frankie Thon Jr. describes Joseph as having a “quiet confidence and ever-present smile.”

The Mariners also inked another top-50 shortstop out of the DR in Leandro Romero, 17. With long levers at six feet tall already and a steeply uphill swing plane, there’s a possibility of some big time swing-and-miss, but also some really exciting power potential. Similarly, those long levers can work against him at shortstop, where he needs to smooth out some mechanics in both footwork and throwing in order to provide consistent play at the position. There is a lot of risk in this profile, but it’s also one that could potentially yield some top-tier production at a premium position given his vast array of tools.

The Mariners also made a handful of other signings, and other, more modest deals will be reported as time goes on and the dust from this IFA class settles. The rest of the class from the Dominican Republic, with a brief description for each from Thon Jr., includes:

  • C Manuel Baez, 18 - described as a solid defensive catcher.
  • SS Deuri Castillo, 19 - described as a lefty-swinger with a compact swing, plus speed, and defensive versatility.
  • RHP Anderson Jimenez, 16 - standing 5’11” currently with plus athleticism, above-average arm speed, a deceptive release point, and a hard-spinning breaking ball. While scouting info on this group of players is harder to come by, Jimenez does have some video on Instagram from his academy which shows an easy, repeatable motion; per his trainers, he’s a strike-thrower with an advanced command of the zone.
  • SS Zeus Nuñez, 17 - a righty hitter with projectable raw power, standing at six foot tall already, with soft hands and the ability to play all over the diamond.
  • LHP Eliezer Orbe, 18 - projects as a reliever with a whiff-getting curveball.
  • RHP David Peña, 18 - stands six feet tall and has three pitches with a smooth and balanced delivery.

According to Baseball America, the Mariners also have deals in place with catcher Gabriel Guanchez and OF Manuel De Cesare, both from Venezuela, but those signings have not been made official by the club yet (it’s not uncommon for the signings to go country by country, with players from the DR often signing first). We’ll continue to update this list as we learn more names or information about these players.