At 9am EST on July 2nd, the MLB international signing period opened. For the second year in a row, teams are assigned a set bonus pool based on their record in the previous season that dictates how much bonus money they can give to international prospects they sign. The Nationals had baseball’s best record in 2012, so they have the smallest pool of any team at $1,846,900. Given that the biggest pool belongs to the Astros at $4,943,700, the Nationals appear unlikely to be taking shots at the biggest names.
The Nationals have a relatively unnotable history with international signings. Their most prominent is likely Esmailyn Gonzalez, also known as Carlos Lugo, who told the Nationals he was 17 when he signed but was actually 21. The reveal of his false identity and age prompted an FBI investigation of then Nationals GM Jim Bowden for bonus skimming, which led to his eventual resignation in 2009. Among actual contributing players, the Expos signed Roger Bernadina out of the Netherlands in
2004 2001, while the Nats signed Eury Perez from the Dominican Republic in 2007.
True to form this season, the Nationals do not seem to be on the verge of signing any superstars. However, according to Baseball America, they have zeroed in on one prospect. The apple of their eye is Dominican 3B Anderson Franco, ranked as the 29th-best international prospect by BA. Here is a scouting video of him, and here is a snippet of his scouting report, the entirety of which can be found for BA subscribers here:
He stands out more in the field than at the plate right now, an unusual description for a Dominican amateur third baseman, since most players his age are the opposite of that. Franco should be at least a steady defender at third base and could be above-average, with good hands and actions… He’ll show solid raw power in batting practice, but scouts question how much he will be able to get to it in games… Some scouts have seen Franco square up balls in games despite his unorthodox swing, but he might always have trouble avoiding strikeouts.
Franco was born on August 15th, 1997. Players cannot sign before turning 16, so the Nationals can’t ink him until his birthday in August. However, when the time comes, the Nats look like a heavy favorite to sign him, at a price perhaps as high as $1,000,000. Beyond Franco, BA reports that the Nats “haven’t been connected to any other notable players yet,” and may just wait and conserve their remaining pool money to catch some bargain players after the first wave of signings.
International scouting has never been the Nats’ strength, but they’ve produced a few major leaguers, so we’ll see where Franco, if the Nats sign him, goes. But given his age, don’t expect to hear about him until 2018.