On the first day of the international signing period, the Nationals announced deals with five players from the Dominican Republic. The Nationals spent just under $1.5 million on 11 players, but only five were announced because deals are being finalized with the others.
The Nationals have a bonus pool of $2.188 million to spend on international signing bonuses, and they can spend roughly $2.3 million without incurring a prohibitive fine. Some teams will break the bank and not worry about a fine, but the Nationals are expected to stick to the pool assigned to them by MLB. With only $1.5 million committed so far, there still have plenty leftover.
“That’ll give us some room to shop after July 2 and save some money down the road for another guy or couple of guys,” Nationals’ Director of International Scouting Johnny DiPuglia said. “Our rosters are pretty set so we don’t have to fill roster spots unnecessarily.”
The Nationals targeted value and quality instead of spending on a handful of splashy signings. None of the five announced signings were in Baseball America’s top 30 international prospects rankings. All five are from Dominican, position players and 16 years old.
“Instead of going to Macy’s, we go to Walmart and find a comparable guy,” DiPuglia said.
The biggest signing bonus went to shortstop Bryan Bencosme, who was listed at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds and signed for $425,000. DiPuglia said Bencosme is a solid hitter to all fields and an improving baserunner. “He faced 90-plus velocity at 16 and able to barrel the ball up, which was impressive,” DiPuglia said.
The next best prospect was Yoel Andujar, a 6-3, 185-pound outfielder. “A real physical body,” DiPuglia said. “A plus arm and plus power, which we’re going to have to refine a little more. But he has shown plus power and really good make-up.”
The three other signings were even more under the radar: outfielder Juan Evangelista, shortstop Adanlis Martinez and outfielder Brailin Mesa. DiPuglia said the Nationals expect to finalize deals with players from Venezuela soon.
Since the Smiley Gonzalez scandal in 2006, the Nationals have revamped their Latin American operations. Nationals ownership has regained trust in their international operations as more of their past lesser-known signings under have DiPuglia have turned into prospects.
Catcher Pedro Severino, right-handed pitcher Jefry Rodriguez, left-hander Hector Silvestre, center fielder Rafael Bautista and second baseman Wilmer Difo, among others, have all established themselves as possible big leaguers.
“We’re excited,” DiPuglia said of the new signings.