2006 International Bonus Babies: Were They Worth It?
Someone recently asked me if I thought that doling out huge sums of money to international bonus babies was a good idea, particularly the very raw Latin American kids. Using this handy list compiled by Matt Garrioch, I decided to take a look at the issue, beginning with 2006. That was seven years ago, so we should at least have a feel for how these players are doing.
I don't have bonus information for some of these guys and we're probably missing a few people, but the big names are here at least. I'm going to let you draw your own conclusions. Keep in mind this is just one year, but we will be looking at other signing classes soon.
Angel Villalona, 1B, Giants, Dominican Republic, $2,100,000: Top power-hitting prospect for awhile although his strike zone judgment was horrific. Arrested for murder in the Dominican Republic in the fall of 2009 and missed '10 and '11 until charges were dropped. Played in Dominican Summer League last year and will be back in the US in '13.
Jesus Montero, C, Yankees, Venezuela, $1,650,000: Starting regularly in the majors at age 23, hitting .260/.298/.386 with 15 homers with the Mariners. I think he'll get better.
Esmailyn Gonzalez, SS, Nationals, Dominican Republic, $1,400,000: Ooops. Huge identity fraud case. He was really Carlos Lugo, and he was really 20 years old when he signed, not 16. Last seen playing in Low-A at age 26.
Carlos Triunfel, SS, Mariners, Dominican Republic, $1,300,000: Hasn't hit as well as expected, but he's reached Triple-A and the majors and could have a career as a bench contributor.
Balbino Fuenmayor, 3B, Blue Jays, Venezuela, $750,000. Struggled with plate discipline and defense, failed to hit in Low-A, last seen in the Northwest League where he slugged .471 in 2012 but with 82 strikeouts in 67 games.
Francisco Pena, C, Mets, Dominican Republic, $750,000: Good glove but can't hit, batted 198/.299/.325 last year in Double-A.
Engel Beltre, OF, Red Sox, Dominican Republic, $600,000: Tools galore, but an enormously frustrating player. Hit .261/.307/.420 with 26 walks, 118 strikeouts last year in Double-A.
Mario Martinez, SS, Mariners, Venezuela, $600,000: Now a third baseman, hit .283/.308/.486 with 21 homers last year in High-A. However, that was in High Desert, and his plate discipline is horrible (13 walks, 97 strikeouts). Hit poorly in the Midwest League in '10 and '11.
Oscar Tejeda, 2B, Red Sox, Dominican Republic, $525,000: Hit .253/.293/.380 in Double-A last year in the Pirates system. Future is as a utility guy.
Randall Delgado, RHP, Braves, Panama, $500,000: 4.37 ERA with 76/42 K/BB in 93 innings in the major leagues last year.
Jairo Heredia, RHP, Yankees, Dominican Republic, $350,000: Injury casualty, didn't pitch last year although he's been fairly effective in the low minors including 3.29 ERA with 68/16 K/BB in 68 innings in High-A in ‘11.
Jose Pirela, SS, Yankees, Venezuela, $300,000: Hit .293/.356/.448 in Double-A last year, although his career before that was considered quite disappointing. Utility guy if he makes it.
Freddy Galvis, INF, Phillies, Venezuela, $90,000. Stands out for his glove, hit .226/.254/.363 in 58 games in the majors in 2012.
Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs, Dominican Republic: $50,000: Career .297/.336/.425 hitter in the majors, two-time All Star shortstop. Quite a bargain for $50,000 I'd say.
Sebastian Valle, C, Phillies, Mexico, $30,000: Hits for power (17 homers last year) but still making his way. Has reached Triple-A at least, but held back by poor plate discipline.
OTHERS: I don't have bonus information for these guys, but I will add it if I get it. They weren't huge names when signed.
Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Blue Jays, Venezuela: 4.52 ERA in 251 major league innings, 119/62 K/BB, 280 hits. Hey, he's in the majors at least.
Simon Castro, RHP, Padres, Dominican Republic: Very good arm, top prospect for awhile but scuffled some in '11 and '12. Still has a chance to be good, now in the White Sox system.
Maikel Cleto, RHP, Mets, Dominican Republic: One of the loudest fastballs around but still trying to figure out how to use it, now in the Cardinals system.
Wilmer Font, RHP, Rangers, Venezuela: Another great arm working to overcome injury and command issues. I think he appears in the majors this year and I still like his chances.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Phillies, Venezuela: Decent last year in upper minors, .291/.329/.404 in Double-A/Triple-A. Should appear in the majors this year.
Juan Nicasio, RHP, Rockies, Dominican Republic: 4.65 ERA with 112/40 K/BB in 130 major league innings, 145 hits. Can improve.
Francisco Peguero, OF, Giants, Dominican Republic: Outstanding tools but lack of plate discipline holds his production back, hit .272/.297/.394 in Triple-A last year.
Salvador Perez, C, Royals, Venezuela: Has hit .311/.339/.471 in 115 major league games. Was not a top prospect when signed.
Wilin Rosario, C, Rockies, Dominican Republic: Has hit .262/.301/.522 with 31 homers in 133 major league games.
As I mentioned above, this is just one season and I wouldn't draw broad conclusions on this alone. However, I do find it interesting that of the four players from this group who have established themselves as major league regulars (Montero, Castro, Perez, Rosario), only Montero was a big bonus guy.