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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Royals sign largest international class in history, headlined by catcher and center-field talent – The Athletic

About seven years ago, in July of 2015, several future major-league stars signed as international prospects. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. were among the top names. That trio alone has amassed 40 wins above replacement at the big-league level.

Those players demonstrate the potential of international free agency.

But there’s a flipside.

In that same class, no international player signed for more money than Yadier Alvarez, a Cuban pitcher who has not risen above Double A in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system. Jhailyn Ortiz, an outfielder from the Dominican Republic who signed for a reported $4 million with the Philadelphia Phillies, also has not eclipsed Double A.

Hence why Rene Francisco, the Royals’ senior vice president of major league and international operations, said bluntly Tuesday afternoon: “This process is so difficult.”

The Royals had earlier in the day announced their 2022 international signing class of 28 players, which marked the largest international free-agent class in franchise history. The group boasts 12 right-handed pitchers, four left-handed pitchers, four outfielders, four shortstops, two catchers, one third baseman and one first baseman.

In explaining the Royals’ approach to this class, Francisco drifted back to the talent of 2015 and how it highlighted the difficulty of this process. Projecting the baseball future of teenagers is challenging in itself.

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