Update: This story has been updated to reflect the signing of Yizreel Burnet on Monday, Jan. 18.
Friday marks a key date for the Red Sox’ efforts to build their future talent base, with the team signing a number of prospects from Latin America at the opening of the international amateur signing period.
The headliner of the players signed by the Sox is Miguel Bleis, a 16-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic who, according to multiple reports, received a $1.5 million signing bonus.
“He’s a super-toolsy, athletic center fielder,” said Red Sox assistant GM Eddie Romero. “This is just a really exciting, potential five-tool talent. … It was a consensus among our group that this guy was an exceptional talent.”
Bleis — who was followed by Red Sox area scout Jonathan Cruz — already displays excellent speed, grading as a plus runner in the team’s assessment, with the speed, instincts, and arm to stay in center. At 6 feet 3 inches and 175 pounds, he’s already strong, but he projects to add size and strength while already demonstrating what Romero characterized as the wrists and hands to generate “extreme bat life.”
“The ball makes a different sound off his bat,” said Romero. “He made it known from the start that he’s a Red Sox fan. He tried to emulate Mookie Betts. This is one we’re really excited to get.”
The $1.5 million bonus would be the highest given by the Red Sox to a position player from the Dominican since Rafael Devers signed for $1.5 million in July 2013.
The Sox also signed switch-hitting Dominican shortstop Luis Ravelo, a player with exceptional defensive actions and instincts at the most valued infield position — arguably the best defensive infield prospect the Sox have signed since adding Jose Iglesias in 2009.
“He’s one of the better defensive talents that we’ve scouted at shortstop,” said Romero. “He’s a fearless defender with a lot of confidence.”
Ravelo, 17, who was scouted by Manny Nanita, has a gap-to-gap approach but has been developing raw power thanks to strength gains over the last six to eight months.
“If the physical projection comes along and the bat and approach progress, we’ve got a really interesting up-the-middle player,” said Romero.
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reported that Ravelo signed for $525,000.
Catcher Enderso Lira, who is also 17, was the team’s most prominent signing out of Venezuela, someone with solid defensive actions and leadership traits along with presently average bat speed and raw power that could improve down the road.
“He has a strong, durable frame, somebody who profiles as an everyday catcher,” said Romero. “He’s got a chance to have impact defensively and offensively.”
Righthander Alvaro Mejias, 17, is also in the Red Sox signing class from Venezuela. He demonstrated athleticism and, at 6 feet 2 inches and 170 pounds, still has room to grow.
“He’s shown us a really powerful fastball/curveball combination right now with a change that we think will be at least average,” said Romero. “He’s somebody that we think is a starter in the future.”
Another righthander from Venezuela, Jedixson Paez, 16, is a strike-thrower with a repeatable delivery who possesses a three-pitch mix headlined by a particularly advanced feel for how to use his curveball. The Sox project him as a starter.
Lira and Paez were scouted by Angel Escobar, while Mejias was scouted by both Escobar and Cruz.
The team signed pitcher Yizreel Burnet, a powerful righthander out of Curacao. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Burnet — who turned 17 on Friday — already possesses what Romero called “big stuff … with huge upside,” likely as a power reliever with a low three-quarters arm slot that creates deception. He was signed by Curacao area scout Dennis Neuman.
The international amateur signing period typically opens on July 2, but the opening of the signing period for 2020-21 was delayed by MLB until January 15 in the face of the pandemic. The signing period — during which teams have a capped bonus pool set by MLB (the Red Sox can spend just more than $5.3 million) — will remain open until mid-December.
International amateurs typically start their professional careers at the team’s Dominican Academy. Those who travel a fast track such as Devers and Xander Bogaerts can reach the big leagues in as little as four years, but for those who do advance all the way to the big leagues, it’s not uncommon for a player to spend five to seven seasons in the minors.