It used to be that most Latin players signing with a major league organization came primarily from the Dominican Republic. That fact may still be true for some teams, but not for the Cubs.In the past two years, the Cubs signed players from the Dominican Republic, just like the other teams, but the Cubs signed players in bunches from Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Curacao, and Mexico. In the 2015-2016, the Cubs signed 30 players, less than a third were from the Dominican (9). 25% were from Venezuela and 20% were from Mexico (6).
Mexico has produced pro players for a long time, just not for the Cubs. The Cubs have been mainly preoccupied with the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. And with good reason, too, because the Cubs had baseball academies in those countries. In addition, they had a team in each rookie summer league in those countries.
In the Theo Era, the Cubs have expanded their scouting parameters. Now Miguel Amaya, a young catcher from Panama, is now a Cub. Carlos Ocampo from Columbia is now a Cub. And there are many more. The Cubs have kept up their scouting efforts in the Dominican, but in Venezuela it is harder to scout because of the political turmoil.
However, it is Mexico that has already begun producing some some prospects who have just started making names for themselves this summer at the ripe ages of 17, 18, and 19. And I expect, when the International Free Agent period begins next Saturday, the Cubs will sign many more Mexican players.
Why Mexico? Because these kids can play. They play year round and they play in international competitions all over the world.
Here are some signings the Cubs have made from Mexico in the past two years; Some names you may already know..
Carlos Sepulveda – Signed in the 2014-15 period, Sepulveda has already made a name for himself. You will see him on this month’s All-Star team on Friday. He’s only 18 and hitting over .300 at low A South Bend. He has great patience at the plate (380 OBP) while his defense could still improve.
Isaac Paredes – Paredes shows some power in his bat, he was signed in 2015-2016 and debuted last fall at instructs in Arizona and again this spring in Extended Spring Training where he hit .250 with 2 HRs and 16 RBIs in 25 games. He is listed as a shortstop but will likely move over to 3B. He was on the DL to start the season but made his debut on Saturday going 1 for 3 with a walk.
Faustino Carrera – He was signed last summer and the young 17 year old is dazzling in the Dominican Summer League. So far, the lefty has made three starts with a 0.56 ERA with 17 Ks in 16 innings. Carrera comes with an upper 80s to 90 mph fastball and a curve.
Jose Albertos – He’s been quite the star in unknown circles. He has flashed great stuff on the backfields of spring training and again in extended spring training. He made his debut at the age of 17 in rookie ball in Arizona a week ago. He went 4 innings and struck out 7 while sitting at 94-97 mph. At 17!!! Baseball America said this of the right hander’s signing:
Albertos is 6-foot-1, 185 pounds with a promising combination of stuff and feel for pitching. He touched 92 mph before he signed and has since been up to 94 with good angle. He’s poised on the mound, throwing strikes and changing speeds well with a slider that has a chance to be a plus pitch and feel for a changeup as well to profile as a starter.
Javier Assad – Assad made his debut on Friday for the Arizona Cubs. According to sources in Mesa, he threw “90-93, mid 70s CB, vertical break. Mature frame.” He’s not going to get much bigger in other words, but what he is, is pretty good for an 18 year-old.
Hector Garcia – Another pitcher, Garcia was signed in 2014 and is in his second go around in the Dominican Summer League. In 4 starts this year, the 18 year-old right hander has thrown 21.2 innings so far. He has an ERA of 2.08 and has struck out 15 while walking only 4 Baseball America was very positive of his signing as they described his talent at 16:
5-foot-11, 160 pounds with a fastball up to 92 mph, feel for a slider and changeup and advanced pitchability for his age.
Jesus Camargo – He was signed in 2014 and had an outstanding year in 2015 at Arizona in the Rookie League. He was one ace on the staff with a 3.30 ERA and opponents only hit .215 off of him. He struck out 57 in 46.1 innings. This year, he is still on the DL in Mesa battling some minor injuries.
Next Saturday is July 2. It is the official beginning of International Free Agency. Because of the Cubs spending habits last year, they cannot sign a player for more than $300,000 the next two years. The Cubs can get some quality players at that value, just not an elite player right now. With a pool of $2 million, expect the Cubs to get between 20-25 signings.
But here’s the thing about International Free Agency; selecting and signing a player is not about now, it’s about projection – what they might be like in a four to five years. Only three of the players listed above signed for more than $300,000, two of them were Sepulveda and Paredes. The Cubs are going to be able to go out and sign a lot of players for $100,00 and less who will be good players. The key will be to sign good projectable players that will do well beyond rookie and A ball.
*Ed. Note – Cards of Jesus Camargo and Jose Albertos were made with photos from John Arguello. The Carlos Sepulveda photo was taken by Rikk Carlson.