So July 2 is upon us. It is the second most important day of the year outside of the draft, however everything about it is the exact opposite of the draft in terms of clarity. Must deals have been place for months even as long as a year. The Phillies have spent to their bonus limit since the limits were put in place, and this is not expected to change. This year they have $3,041,700 to spend and can trade for up to 50% of that from other teams, meaning their max pool this year is $4,714,635 (there is an additional 5% overage that is just taxable).
Ortiz at one point was the top player available, but his stock has plummeted of late. This is what Baseball America had to say about him:
Ortiz is hard to miss, whether you’re watching him show off his vicious power in BP or just see his pure size. It’s an extra-large frame with extra-loud power. Between his strength and bat speed, Ortiz generates easy 65-70 power on the 20-80 scale already. His raw power is the best in the class, which allows him to put on a show in BP. When Ortiz has his timing right and gets a pitch in his kill zone, he can take a fastball out from right-center field over to his pull side, which he showed last summer when he homered off former major leaguer Fautino de los Santosthrowing in the mid-90s.
That was the peak of Ortiz’s stock, and it’s expected to make him one of the highest-paid players on July 2, to the surprise of many scouts. Ortiz has always had a heavy body type, but since last summer he’s concerned scouts by getting heavier and losing his mobility, like a taller version of Dan Vogelbach or Prince Fielder. It’s something he will always have to watch and will almost certainly limit him to first base, although he does have an above-average arm. The larger concern is his game hitting, as Ortiz struggled with contact at MLB events in February and March in alarming fashion. In BP, Ortiz has a sound swing and keeps his hands inside the ball, but it’s another story when he faces live pitching. He has trouble especially recognizing breaking pitches, so in games his timing gets thrown off and he loses his balance, waving through too many pitches. As one scout who liked Ortiz put it, “I’ve never seen him worse than at the MLB showcase. I was shocked. That wasn’t the guy we knew.” Many others felt the empty swings were consistent with what they had always seen from him. The optimistic outlook is that he is still young and just hasn’t been seeing much live pitching, so if he learns to recognize a breaking ball, the power will take over.
When Nomar Mazara signed with the Rangers for a record $4.95 million bonus in 2011, he had huge power but frightened scouts with his swing-and-miss rate. Now he’s one of the best prospects in baseball. If Ortiz can make the adjustments to make more frequent contact, the raw power is there for 25-plus home runs to carry him at first base, but there is a lot of risk here. Ortiz is the hardest player on this list to rank. He would have ranked much higher had this list come out last summer, and while a few teams would have him higher, a lot of scouts will think this ranking is generous. The Phillies are known to be extremely high on Ortiz, who trains with Baltazar Mesa and played in the Dominican Prospect League, and are the favorites to sign him.
And here is what Kiley McDaniel had to say:
Ortiz is a prospect of extremes. He is 16 years old, has present 70 raw power, he’s listed at 6’2/260 and ran the same 7.25 in the 60 as Guerrero, but may be even quicker than the 40-pounds-lighter Guerrero once underway. I didn’t have the camera out, but, in one of the games, Ortiz hit a triple over the center fielder’s head and, going from first to third, he looked about an average runner, which is kinda unbelievable given the other information I just told you.
Ortiz’s arm is average and he has that looseness to his actions at the plate that tell you he’s more than just the stiff slugger most guys this size are. Like Guerrero, Ortiz wasn’t quite himself at the MLB event, with the huge stadium full of hundreds of scouts likely contributing. Ortiz whiffed on more than a few sliders out of the zone, which he’ll need to clean up, but he more than showed flashes of elite ability.
A scout recently told me that he saw Cecil Fielder when he was 16 years old and people don’t realize how athletic he was back then: the scout saw him reverse dunk at that age. I don’t know if Ortiz can do that, but he’s got some of the same athletic indicators. One scout pointed out a lot of similarities with Jesus Montero and noted that the size and slower first step means every ounce of value comes from the bat, which is very hard to peg this far in advance. The consensus in the scouting community is that Ortiz has or will have a deal with the Phillies and that the bonus starts with a four, with my latest info pegging it at $4.2 million. Some teams have Ortiz valued at about half that price due to the contact concerns, but 10 years from now, Ortiz will either be a good player or a bad one, not a good/bad value or an over/underpay.
He is going to cost the Phillies a lot of money, but if he can hit it will be worth every penny. If not it will go down as a giant flop.
Marchan is a converted shortstop moved to catcher where his defense is raw, but he has a contact oriented line drive stroke to go with a good approach.
What Baseball America has to say about him:
Other Venezuelan players at the 15U World Championshs last August in Mexico may have looked better in a uniform and had louder tools, but Marchan was definitely the top offensive performer on the team. Marchan ranked third in the tournament in batting average, seventh in OBP and third in slugging, leading the Venezuelan team in all three categories. He hit .531/.605/.719 in 32 at-bats with three triples, six walks and two strikeouts and led the team in stolen bases by going 7-for-7. At the time, Marchan was playing shortstop, but with his short, stocky frame and lack of speed, that wasn’t a long-term fit, so he moved behind the plate while training in Carlos Guillen’s academy.
Marchan is a player scouts appreciate the more they see him because he’s a smart, high baseball IQ player who is fundamentally sound and consistently hits well in games. He starts his swing with a leg lift but stays balanced and under control, taking a short, flat swing that stays on plane with the ball and in the hitting zone a long time, which allows him to make frequent contact and hit to all fields. He has a good approach and works the count, so his ability to hit and draw walks give him good on-base skills. He will have to rely on those more than power, since he’s mostly a gap hitter with limited physical projection. Marchan is fairly new to catching so his defense is understandably raw. That means there are questions about whether he will stick at the position, but he does have a good arm and some scouts think he can be a solid defensive catcher. He’s a better hitter right now than Panamanian catcher Miguel Amaya but Amaya has more physical upside and is more of a lock to stick behind the dish. There are some similarities, both physically and in terms of skill set, with Rangers catcher Tomas Telis. The Phillies are the favorites to sign Marchan.
Marchan is expect to get somewhere around $450,000.
This means that they should be able to fit both players in under their pool if they manage it right. This lines up with what Kiley McDaniel has said about the Phillies.
The teams that will spend about as much as they’re allowed without going into the penalty includes the Blue Jays, Phillies, Braves, Mets, Twins, Rangers and Mariners. Here’s what the bonus pools are for each team.
The downside to Ortiz pushing them near the pool amount is that they are unlikely to sign their normal allotment of 30+ players so we will see how they fill their VSL/DSL rosters.
What Will Happen on July 2:
There is no guarantee the Phillies are going over or at their bonus pool. But we should know very quickly what the Phillies plan to do. One of three things are going to happen.
- They sign Ortiz and Marchan on July for their rumored amount. You cannot trade for slots once you have gone over, so if they sign them on day 1 their plan is to fight with the Dodgers for the next 12 months over all the big Cuban free agents.
- They may sign Marchan, but not Ortiz, at least not officially. They will then trade for the slots needed to be able to sign Ortiz and then sign him when they have those slots. This means Christmas may be delayed by a month, but Christmas will still come.
- They are going to sign Ortiz for much lower than the rumored cost. This is almost certainly not going to happen, but it is worth keeping in mind.
About Busting the Pool:
The simple answer is that it is no longer worth it. Even if the draft comes in 2017, there won’t be amnesty for teams who went over their pools in previous years. So if you are going over you need to either be getting an elite talent you can’t get another way or you need to be signing three years of players. If you aren’t doing that it is better to not go over. This will disappointing to fans who feel like they are kicking the International spending down the road, but there is no point in making bad moves to make moves. This year that would mean spending on the Cuban talent available and outbidding the Dodgers. This isn’t an impossible task, but it is very difficult as Dodgers have no real spending limits.
Additionally, with the front office changes, any big overspending plan would be going off half cocked as MacPhail and his team won’t be up to speed on the latest reports, nor will they have the relationships built. Next year the Phillies also should have the largest bonus pool to work with, a fact that could help them go even bigger for cheaper.