The international free agent signing period began today, and the San Francisco Giants were able to lock up their top target.
While the fresh crop international free agents are not eligible to sign until July 2 each year, deals are often worked out well in advance. That was the case with the San Francisco Giants and left-handed pitching prospect Esmerlin Vinicio.
The two sides made things official on Tuesday:
Vinicio is 16-year-old pitching prospect out of the Dominican Republic.
Just to make everyone feel old, Finding Nemo was the top grossing film in 2003, which is the year when Vinicio was born. Feels like just yesterday that movie was released.
The Giants have $5.4 million at their disposal to sign international free agents this year so that $800,000 investment represented a solid chunk of their bonus pool.
What are they getting in Vinicio?
The 6’0″ southpaw is known for his consistent mechanics and sound command, which are especially impressive traits given his age:
His repertoire consists of a fastball, curveball, and changeup. The fastball sits in the low-90’s, while his curveball has the potential to be an effective pitch. The changeup remains a work in progress, as is the case with many young pitchers.
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com had this to stay about Vinicio’s ultimate ceiling: “Overall, Vinicio has all the ingredients to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter at the big league level if he continues to grow and develop at a normal pace.”
Vinicio is still several years away from realizing this potential, but there is a lot to like from the Dominican Republic native.
The Giants have not had much luck identifying and developing international free agents over the past several decades. However, they are beginning to build an intriguing core from that market, including the likes of Marco Luciano, Alexander Canario, Jairo Pomares, Luis Toribio, and Luis Matos. Vinicio now joins that group.
While he’s the clear headliner, Vinicio is not the only addition the San Francisco Giants are making to their farm system:
Position players are generally labeled as catchers, shortstops or outfielders on the international market, so don’t read too much into the fact that they signed five shortstops. Many of those players will wind up playing elsewhere as pros.
Will anyone from that group emerge as an impact prospect?
Time will tell.