The Boston Red Sox added a shortstop in the international market
The international signing period opened on Saturday and the Boston Red Sox were among the busiest teams using this market to stock their farm system.
Highlighting the list of international signings is shortstop Freili Encarnacion. The 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic has agreed to a $1.2 million deal, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez.
MLB.com ranked Encarnacion at No. 19 on their list of the Top 50 international prospects. His bat has plus power with the ability to hit home runs high and deep. He’s shown a disciplined approach at the plate and a good feel for the strike zone, which suggests he won’t be nearly as strikeout prone as many young power hitters. Encarnacion is able to drive the ball to all fields, which should help him hit for both average and power.
Encarnacion has good hands in the field which should allow him to handle shortstop as long as he doesn’t outgrow the position. Putting more weight on his frame as he gets older could potentially limit his range, but his strong throwing arm would make him a fit at third base if a switch becomes necessary.
The Red Sox also signed another promising Dominican shortstop, Fraymi de Leon, for $1.1 million. He is ranked No. 50 on MLB.com’s list. De Leon is a line-drive hitter with gap power and decent speed who should be solid in the field.
The other noteworthy signing by the Red Sox is Venezuelan catcher Johanfran Garcia, who agreed to a deal in the $650,000 range. He’s ranked No. 34 on the international prospect list. Garcia is known mostly for his bat with the ability to drive the ball to all fields with “sneaky” power. He’s making progress behind the plate but the 17-year-old has a lot of work to do in order to make it as a big league catcher. His offensive potential might be enough to get him to the majors one day but he might end up as a designated hitter if he doesn’t improve his blocking and receiving skills.
The Red Sox have a signing pool of $5,179,700, more than half of which was spent on these three prospects. They have added a few more prospects who fell outside of the Top 50 and will continue to explore the market through the end of the international signing period on December 15.
Limits on how much teams can spend during this international signing period serve as a reminder as to why the Red Sox have shown some financial restraint in recent years. Many of the top free-agents declined qualifying offers, which means another team would be charged a penalty for signing them. In addition to losing a draft pick, those teams would lose $500,000 from their international signing pool. Teams that go over the luxury tax threshold are penalized $1 million from that bonus pool.
Being active in the international market could help the Red Sox land the next Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers. Forfeiting some of their bonus pool money to spend more on the current major league roster reduces those chances. Boston may not have been able to afford three of the top-50 international prospects if they had been charged with those penalties. If they did still pay up for that trio, they wouldn’t have much left to spend on other international prospects.
These prospects are still teenagers who are years away from contributing at the major league level. However, the Red Sox have had success uncovering gems in this market and Chaim Bloom has a strong track record going back to his days with the Tampa Bay Rays. The international market is an often overlooked resource for building a stronger farm system and it’s encouraging to see the Red Sox sign a few of this year’s most coveted options.