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July 02, 2016

Phillies sign two top 20 prospects as international signing period begins

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070216.Phils.Klentak Matt Rourke/AP Photo

Matt Klentak and his front office contingent will join the rest of baseball at this week's Winter Meetings in National Harbor, MD.

According to multiple reports, the Phillies opened baseball’s international signing period by coming to agreements with five Venezuelan teenagers they hope will further enrich their growing farm system in the coming years.

Right-handed pitcher Francisco Morales, catcher Juan Aparicio, and shortstops Brayan Gonzalez and Nicolas Torres all came to agreements with the Phillies on contracts Saturday. Both Morales and Gonzalez were rated about the top 20 non-Cuban international prospects eligible to sign on July 2 by Baseball America.

Morales, who ranked 12th on that list, agreed to a $900,000 deal according to MLB.com. Morales, 16, is listed at 6-5, 200 pounds on Baseball America’s scouting report and owns a fastball that already tops out at 96-MPH.

According to MLBPipeline.com, which rated him as the 16th best prospect eligible to sign Saturday, Morales’ fastball also has a lot of movement, but “his curveball could end up being his best pitch.”

Gonzalez, 16, ranked 19th by Baseball America and 26th by MLB Pipeline, is a switch hitter with strong defensive skills. Gonzalez was described on Baseball America’s scouting report as “one of the smarter, more polished players in the class, combining solid tools with good instincts.”


Torres and Aparicio ranked 45th and 47th on Baseball America’s list of the top 50 players eligible to sign on Saturday. According to CSNPhilly.com, the Phillies also have an agreement with a fifth Venezuelan, shortstop Jose Tortolero.

Gonzalez was signed for $800,000 and Torres for $665,000 according to MLB.com.

Taking advantage of their international bonus pool was something general manager Matt Klentak mentioned on the day he was officially hired last October. A few weeks later at the General Manager Meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., Klentak said that it was “paramount” that the Phillies allocate those international resources properly.

"It is paramount that we take advantage . . . to bring talent into our system," Klentak said in early November. "Understanding that when you're talking about kids at that age, from the Dominican Republic, from Venezuela, it's going to take a long time for a lot of those players to get there. But we still have to do that.

“"We have to create waves of players that will feed this team three, four, five, six, 10 years down the line, because we don't know where we'll be three, four five, six, 10 years down the line. We need to make sure we've got steady waves of players coming, and that's true of the draft. It's really true of the few areas that are still available to us to bring in players."

A year ago, the Phillies spent $4 million to land Dominican slugger Jhailyn Ortiz. The 17-year-old outfielder is currently playing in the Gulf Coast League in a lineup with recent No. 1 overall pick Mickey Moniak.

Ortiz, whose middle name is David (Little Papi?), is hitting .217 with three doubles, six RBI, and eight strikeouts in seven games with the GCL Phillies this summer.

The Phillies can only hope that Ortiz and the handful of players they signed on Saturday eventually rise to the big leagues like three of the players in their lineup against the Kansas City Royals (Maikel Franco, Carlos Ruiz, Cesar Hernandez) three others on their 25-man roster (Freddy Galvis, Edubray Ramos, Hector Neris), those already blossoming in the minor leagues (like Paul Owens Award winner and Futures Game participant Ricardo Pinto), and players originally signed by the Phillies who have found big league success with other teams (like Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco and Milwaukee’s Jonathan Villar).


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