International Free Agents Make a Splash in a Few Budgets

A total of 24 International Players have been signed by Major League franchises this season. The Iowa City Bison, a historically minor player in the International market, and the Milwaukee Beer Swillers lead the pack in numbers of signings with three. In terms of talent, the Baltimore Blast and the Portland Rain have claimed the biggest prizes so far, by landing highly touted pitching  prospects RJ Nunez and Frank Shigetoshi.  Here is a look at the top signing bonuses and the prospects that got them:

Frank Shigetoshi, SP- Portland Rain - $22.8 million signing bonus with spring  training invite. The 19 yr old native  of  Fukuoka, Japan has been touted as the best pitching prospect  to come out of Japan. With four pitches anchored by  a wicked curveball, the young pitcher has the tools to succeed at  the ML level. The Rain invested heavily based on international scout accounts, and although  the US-based scouts are skeptical that Shigetoshi will develop into the lights-out potential superstar that was advertised, there is  no  doubt that he will be  a serviceable, reliable ML starter.

RJ Nunez, RP- Baltimore Blast - $12 million signing bonus. The 18 yr old Dominican projects to be a strong major league closer. At 18 yrs of age, he has quite a bit to learn in terms of maturity and patience, but he alredy possesses a fastball and a slider that could compete at the Major League level. Despite struggling through his first 13 appearances at the Low A level, (blowing 5 of 9 save opportunities and holding a 10.66 ERA through 12 2/3 innings), Nunez has shown steady improvement and has built some confidence.

Esteban Camacho, 1B- Iowa City Bison - $5.4 million signing bonus. The 18 yr old Cuban defector is an aggresive, impatient hitter with minimal defensive skills. He projects to have average major league hitting capabilities, with a superb ability to make contact and get on base. In 185 at bats at the Low A level, Camacho has hit .345 with an OBP of .425 and a .901 OPS.

Jim Gran, RF- Saint Louis Kamikazes - $4.5 million signing bonus, plus a 5 yr major league contract. The Kamikazes invested heavily on the 18 yr old British import from Bedford, in the United Kingdom. Gran has grand power, hitting mammooth shots from both sides of the plate during tryouts in front of the international scouts. Critics have said that Gran will excel as a power hitter, although by the time he develops at the end of his current ML contract, he may be demanding major Euros before playing  at  the ML level. 

Alfredo Cairo, SS - Charlotte Wolfpack - $4.2 million signing bonus, plus a 5 yr major league contract. Signed as a shortstop, early accounts suggest that Cairo will likely be a 2B or 3B at the ML level. Cairo has shown impressive skills and advanced development for his age and experience set, and only time will tell how far Cairo is from reaching his true potential. 

Octavio Guerrero, CF- Saint Louis Kamikazes - $4.0 million signing bonus, plus a 5 yr major league contract. Originally scouted as a 2B, Guerrero has played several positions, and mostly CF since signing with the Kamikazes. Guerrero is a balanced hitter with  great speed and good defensive skills that enable him to play almost anywhere on  the field. The 21 yr old Cuban defector from Bauta made his professional debut at the AAA level, where he has hit .407, a.509 OBp and 1.172 OPS through 31 games. There is no doubt that Guerrero is a bona fide prospect and will not be long before he makes an impact at the ML level.

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