Normally, MLB teams are allowed to begin signing international free-agent prospects in June of each year. However, as a favor to owners, commissioner Rob Manfred delayed the start of the 2020-21 signing period to January 15, 2021. With teams finally able to finalize signings, the SF Giants announced 34 signings from around Latin America. These moves cost the bulk of the team’s allocated spending budget, but enough space remains to make further additions down the line.
This year’s signings lack a huge headliner but include several intriguing prospects. Since teams are allotted a limited pool of cash to spend, teams deploy different strategies. Most prospects reach agreements with teams while they are just 14 or 15 years old. Aside from the obvious ethical questions about signing players that young to professional contracts, it’s challenging to project players so far away from their peaks from a pure scouting standpoint.
Historically, especially under Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans, the Giants consistently targetted the most costly prospects, like Angel Villalona, Rafael Rodriguez, Gustavo Cabrera, and Marco Luciano. However, that’s yet to happen under Zaidi. Instead, the Giants have spread money around, often handing out several six-figure bonuses with no single player receiving much more than $1 million. Roger Munter examined the trend over at There R Giants (subscription highly recommended), and it’s definitely worth tracking.
SF Giants 2020-21 IFA Signings
Angel Polo, C (Colombia)
Jediael Maduro, LF (Curacao)
Anderson Azor, RHP (Dominican Republic)
Saul Bautista, CF (Dominican Republic)
Jan Caraballo, RHP (Dominican Republic)
Pavel Duarte, LHP (Dominican Republic)
Ramon Peralta, SS (Dominican Republic)
Jose Perez, RHP (Dominican Republic)
Brandy Rosario, SS (Dominican Republic)
Carlos Rosario, LF (Dominican Republic)
Angel Sanchez, RHP (Dominican Republic)
Eliam Sandoval, LF (Dominican Republic)
Juanel Ureña, CF (Dominican Republic)
Ricardo Estrada, LHP (Mexico)
Mauricio Pierre, RF (Panama)
Randy Arrieta, CF (Venezuela)
Jose Astudillo, SS (Venezuela)
Jhosward Camacho, SS (Venezuela)
Gustavo Cardozo, SS (Venezuela)
Javier Castillo, C (Venezuela)
Samir Chires, RHP (Venezuela)
Daniel Espinoza, LHP (Venezuela)
Brayan Ferrer, C (Venezuela)
Diego Gonzalez, C (Venezuela)
Brian Guzman, LF (Venezuela)
Derwin Laya, 3B (Venezuela)
Gerelmi Maldonado, RHP (Venezuela)
Eduardo Montero, C (Venezuela)
Carlos Rangel, RHP (Venezuela)
Samuel Rodriguez, SS (Venezuela)
Jose Rojas, RHP (Venezuela)
Diego Velasquez, SS (Venezuela)
Fabio Villadiego, CF (Venezuela)
Diego Villegas, CF (Venezuela)
One source with the SF Giants described the class, “Advanced lefty bats and a legit shortstop with offensive upside are the highlights.”
Diego Velasquez is easily the highest-ranked prospect of the group. One of 19 players signed by the Giants out of Venezuela, Velasquez is a switch hitter with an advanced swing from the left side, above-average speed, and the potential to stick at shortstop. He’s already grown a bit since he was first connected to the Giants and has a lanky 6’1”-150lbs frame. Depending on how he progresses, if he has to move off of shortstop, he has the arm strength that should enable him to slide to third base or even right field.
Of the 11 signings from the Dominican Republic, shortstop Ramon Peralta currently has the most hype around his status. Unlike Velasquez, Peralta seems very unlikely to be viable at short down the line. However, of the class, he has the best power potential. A sturdy lower half sets the foundation for a strong right-handed swing that could generate plus power down the line. Defensively, a move to third base seems likely, but that’s far from a concern at this point.
Venezuelan Bryan Guzman might have the best offensive potential of the group, with the potential to develop above-average or better hit and power tools. However, it’s a pretty large red flag that he’s already listed as a left fielder. As previously mentioned, players are almost always listed at premium defensive positions at this age to give them a chance to prove themselves. For example, Pablo Sandoval was signed and developed as a catcher before moving to third base. Guzman may be slotted for a future at first base or as a designated hitter, which will require him to reach his ceiling as a hitter to be a big-league contributor.
While Velasquez, Peralta, and Guzman have received the most attention, prospect rankings are almost impossible at this point in development. Infielders Derwin Laya, Jose Astudillo, and Sam Rodriguez, alongside outfielders Carlos Rosario and Mauricio Pierre, are all expected to receive low six-figure signing bonuses and have various traits in their favor. Laya has an advanced swing, Astudillo looks strong defensively at shortstop, and Pierre has performed against elite competition with Panama’s youth team.
One source with the SF Giants described the class, “Advanced lefty bats and a legit shortstop with offensive upside are the highlights.” Still, highlights is the key word. The source emphasized they are “really excited about the class,” and that spans all the way to the lesser-known names. Obviously, right now, the team has the largest investment in players like Velasquez and Peralta, but that could change quickly.