Detroit Tigers International Signing Preview

Dominican Republic's players celebrate with the championship trophy after defeating Venezuela during the Caribbean Series baseball tournament championship game at the Hiram Bithorn stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico on February 7, 2020. (Photo by Ricardo ARDUENGO / AFP) (Photo by RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images)
Dominican Republic's players celebrate with the championship trophy after defeating Venezuela during the Caribbean Series baseball tournament championship game at the Hiram Bithorn stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico on February 7, 2020. (Photo by Ricardo ARDUENGO / AFP) (Photo by RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images) /

The international signing period doesn’t officially begin until January 15th, but a new report from Baseball America gives us a better idea of who the Detroit Tigers are going to sign.

Like seemingly everything else in the world, this year’s international signing period was thrown into chaos by Covid-19. Typically the period opens on July 2nd, but it was moved back six months to accommodate owners who were worried about spending money.

For those unfamiliar with the international signing market, it is, along with the amateur draft, one of the two primary ways for teams to acquire young prospects. It’s still very much the Wild West, rife with bribes, deceit, and steroid abuse, and swarming with predatory adults. Teams often agree to deals with players as young as 12, though they can’t officially sign until 16.

Major League Baseball has tried to address this, first by setting hard caps on international spending, then by forming a partnership with some buscones (trainers) in the hopes of promoting more compliance.

But international signing is still a shady business, which is part of the reason MLB Pipeline was able to tell us two of the players the Detroit Tigers are likely to sign back in April — the agreements had likely been in place for 2 years.

Ben Badler’s new piece at Baseball America ($) adds three more expected international signings for the Detroit Tigers, so let’s take a look at each player.

Detroit Tigers International Signings 

Cristian Santana – Shortstop – 6’, 165 –  Dominican Republic

Ranked the 13th best international prospect in this class by MLB Pipeline, Cristian Santana is the cousin of Tigers infield prospect Wenceel Perez, and he earns praise for his athleticism and an advanced approach at the plate. Sites project his bonus to be close to $3 million, which would be a record for the Tigers. Pipeline, which tends to get a bit overheated with their international scouting reports, says this:

"Santana has five-tool potential with a chance to have plus tools across the board. He shows above-average bat speed and good balance in the box. He has an advanced approach for a prospect his age and impressive pitch recognition with a knack for hitting breaking balls. He also shows some raw power now and it has a chance to develop into a plus tool in the future."

You can judge for yourself with this video from Badler’s Instagram, or this video from his trainer El Niche, though both are from 2018.

Abel Bastidas – Shortstop – 6’2, 175 –  Venezuela

Information is a bit harder to come by for switch-hitting shortstop Abel Bastidas, though that isn’t terribly uncommon for an international signing from Venezuela. We’re once again left to read MLB Pipeline’s extremely positive summary:

"Bastidas has a chance to be a plus, plus defender and can probably hold his own in the lower levels of the Minors leagues right now. He’s smooth, some say like a young Omar Vizquel, with soft hands, quick feet and plus arm potential and extreme accuracy. He’s already 6-foot-2, and is expected to stay at shortstop as he matures, and his body continues to develop because of his overall skillset."

To be clear, the player some compare to Omar Vizquel (or Carlos Guillen) is ranked 26th on MLB Pipeline’s list of 2020 international prospects. We can get a few glimpses of what looks like an athletic, projectible frame thanks to the Instagram account of his trainers, former big leaguers César and Maicer Izturis.

Rainer Castillo – Right-handed Pitcher – 6’4, 185 – Dominican Republic

As we mentioned, the first two names on this list have been known for a while, but Rainer Castillo (or Rayner Castillo, it’s not terribly clear) is new. Rogelio just wrote about the Detroit Tigers’ lack of success with pitchers on the international signing market, and Badler makes note ($) of that in his summary:

"The Tigers have rarely spent much money on amateur pitching prospects in the Dominican Republic, so it’s even more notable that they’re expected to sign Rainer Castillo, who looks to be in line for a bonus north of $500,000. He’s a 6-foot-4 righthander who has reached the low-90s with the physical projection to throw significantly harder."

That certainly sounds promising. There is a good amount of information about Rayner Castillo online, including a Perfect Game profile and some Facebook videos from international competitions.

@rapsododiamondsports @castillo.rayner

Posted by DDLAsportmarketing . on Saturday, May 30, 2020

We choose to assume the 6’4 Dominican pitcher Badler refers to as Rainer Castillo is the same player as the 6’4 Dominican pitcher named Rayner Castillo, but there’s a chance we’re wrong.

Carlos Pelegrín – Outfielder – 6’3, ??? – Cuba

The Detroit Tigers don’t have a long international signing history with Cuba. They did sign infielder Leonardo Laffita in 2016, and in 2018 they inked outfielder Lazaro Benitez, but that’s about it. Pelegrín, now 20, is from the same Pinar del Rio province as Benitez, and he has some experience in international competition. Our friend Google Translate can tell us a bit more about him:

"With a height of 1.91 meters, great speed and power in the arm, Pelegrín Martínez works as a center fielder, a position in which he claims to feel comfortable."

Well, that’s something. We also have some pretty fuzzy video of him looking fairly athletic:

Yimmy Diaz – Shortstop – 5’10, 155 – Venezuela

Like Bastidas, Yimmy Diaz is a switch-hitting shortstop from Venezuala. He doesn’t have the physical projection of his countryman, but he has been seen a bit more. noted Diaz “tripled with an exit velocity of 95.9 mph” at the 2019 Trainer Partnership Program Showcase. Badler said Diaz “drew attention from scouts” at the showcase, and in the video below you can a player with good defensive skills and a promising swing: