The Red Sox hope that Sunday marks a pivotal day in the shaping of their future.
Sunday opened the 2023 international amateur signing period, when players 16 and older can put their names on the dotted line to start their professional careers. The agreements will not become official until approved by MLB, a process that typically takes a few days.
The Red Sox are expected to reach agreements with roughly two dozen players from around the world on Sunday, with hopes that by 2027 or 2028, some may emerge as impact contributors in the big leagues.
The group is headlined by Yoelin Cespedes, a 17-year-old infielder out of the Dominican Republic. Cespedes, who was scouted by Manny Nanita (the same Sox scout who led the process that brought Rafael Devers into the organization 10 years ago), is a 5-foot-9-inch, 170-pound righthanded hitter with significant offensive upside. He’s impressed evaluators with an advanced approach and compact swing that has produced uncommon plate discipline and exit velocities among this amateur class.
While he Cespedes is expected to sign as a shortstop, it’s possible that his future will be at second or third. He is expected to receive a bonus of more than $1 million.
The Sox are also expected to agree to terms with Franklin Arias, a 17-year-old righthanded-hitting shortstop out of Venezuela. Arias — scouted by Alex Requena — is a 5-10, 160-pounder who shows the potential for five tools that are average or better. He’s a standout defensive shortstop who shows excellent rhythm and instincts in the field, suggesting a player who can stick at the position. He’s not the same type of impact hitter as Cespedes but has a mature approach and projects to add strength, creating the possibility of a solid hitter with average power potential. Arias is expected to agree to a bonus in the mid-six-figure range.
Another anticipated 17-year-old shortstop signee out of Venezuela, Yoiber Ruiz, is a defensive standout — a diminutive (5-7, 150 pounds) righthanded hitter with a high baseball IQ, the potential for plus defense at short with the ability to move to center field, and a contact-oriented line-drive approach that suggests a potential bottom-third-of-the-order hitter.
Adding to the list of middle-of-the-field players, the Sox are expected to sign Starlin Nuñez, a 17-year-old switch-hitter out of the Dominican Republic. At 5-11 and 155 pounds, Nuñez is a twitchy athlete who runs well and should have the ability to move around the field defensively. He projects to add size and strength, creating intrigue over how his up-the-middle approach might evolve. Juan Carlos Calderon scouted him for the Sox.
The team is also expected to add Kleyver Salazar, a physically impressive (6-2, 200 pounds) 16-year-old catcher out of Venezuela who is the brother of another Red Sox prospect, Johnfrank Salazar (who has recently added catching to his infield profile). Kleyver Salazar, scouted by Ramon Mora, recently moved from short to catcher, but shows natural feel and coordination behind the plate, plus significant righthanded power potential if he develops as a hitter.
Jesus Garcia is perhaps the most intriguing pitching prospect in the Sox’ anticipated signing class, a 17-year-old out of Venezuela who is 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds with room to add more. His size and arm action suggest a potential starter. As an amateur, he showed a high-80s to low-90s fastball that got swings and misses in the strike zone with a promising slider. If he can add a third pitch — most likely a changeup — he could develop in the rotation, but the fastball and slider would project well in the bullpen if his repertoire doesn’t expand.
The Red Sox have seen a number of international amateur signees emerge as impact players in recent years. Devers signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2013 and reached the big leagues four years later. While most of the attention will fall on players such as Cespedes who receive seven-figure bonuses, many top young Red Sox players, including righthander Brayan Bello and centerfielder/shortstop Ceddanne Rafaela, received five-figure bonuses but developed into standouts once in the system.
The Padres signed 16-year-old catcher Ethan Salas of Venezuela, to a $5.6 million bonus on the first day of the international signing period.
Salas is the consensus top overall prospect in this year’s class. The lefthanded hitter is the younger brother of Jose Salas, one of the Marlins’ top prospects.
According to scouting reports, Salas has raw power at the plate and strong defensive skills.
Also Sunday, the Nationals signed outfielder Elian Soto, the 17-year-old brother of Padres right fielder Juan Soto. The Nationals traded Juan Soto to the Padres in a blockbuster deal last August.
The Rangers signed outfielder Pablo Guerrero, the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and younger brother of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Blue Jays.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.