After pushing the original signing date of July 2 back to January 15 because of the pandemic, MLB’s international free agency will finally open this Friday. With a new collective-bargaining agreement looming on the horizon, this could be the last signing period where any team can individually reach agreements with players ahead of time. More than likely, MLB is going to institute a draft in either 2022 or 2023.
The Cubs have a total of $5,348,100 to spend on international free agency this year, not including contracts under $10,000. A bulk of that will be going to 17-year-old shortstop Cristian Hernandez, who has been linked to the Cubs since October 2019 and could earn a signing bonus north of $3.5 million. Hernandez looks impressive in Instagram and other videos and has drawn comparisons to Manny Machado and Alex Rodriguez.
FanGraphs ranks Hernandez among the top international prospects in baseball and he’s the youngest in the top 18, though only by a month or so. He’s got a lot of room to grow into both the hype and his 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame, so expect him to spend the summer playing rookie ball in Mesa.
“A high-probability shortstop with a long-limbed, projectable frame, Hernandez is your traditional international amateur who excels in a workout environment,” reads a scouting report from Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs. “His infield actions are smooth and athletic, his swing has a gorgeous, pronounced finish, and he has the right amount of overt physical projection that may see him mature into the unteachable, star-making Goldilocks Zone where Hernandez stays at short and also has impact power.
“The components of Hernandez’s swing push and pull against one another, as his cut is pretty long but he also has very advanced barrel control. He’s able to pull his hands in and get the barrel on inside pitches and he also has good vertical plate coverage.”
Here’s a little more video evidence if you’re interested.
In addition to Hernandez, the Cubs have been linked to four other players.
On Friday, the Cubs are set to sign 5 international free agents. Most Cubs fans know Cristian Hernandez, but the Cubs should sign OF Daniel Ferreria (Throws R/ Bats R; DR), LHP Carlos Cabrera (VZ), OF Oferman Hernandez (R/L; DR), and C Moises Ballesteros (R/L) pic.twitter.com/3v7OHCJR5b
— Duke Leto Atreides🐾 (@RealCubsAnalyst) January 10, 2021
Catcher Moises Ballesteros from Venezuela is ranked as one of Baseball America’s top 50 international free agents, in part because he generates very easy power from the left side. He hasn’t discovered the weight room yet, so that power could increase greatly over the coming years. It’s unclear where Ballesteros will start his Cub career in Arizona or the Dominican.
Outfielder Daniel Ferreira from the Dominican Republic has been decked out in Cubs gear for several months on his Instagram page. He looks to have grown a few inches since I started following him and I really like his swing. He catches the ball out front, so he’ll want to keep working on his discipline in order to not be too susceptible to offspeed pitches. He will probably start this summer in the Dominican.
Lefty pitcher Carlos Cabrera is a hard man to find much information and his digital footprint is almost nonexistent except for an article in Baseball America. He looks to be a little undersized but has some deception to his delivery and already has a pretty good command of his fastball and curveball. He is probably destined to begin his career in the Dominican Summer League.
Like two of the other expected Cubs signees, Dominican outfielder Oferman Hernandez has a picture of Javy Báez featured on his Instagram. Hernandez is right-handed but bats left and looks to be a right fielder based upon videos I’ve seen. He should join most of the signees in Boca Chica at the Cubs Academy in the Dominican this summer.
Overall, this seems like a pretty decent crop of young prospects as the Cubs get quantity and quality in one fell swoop. Cristian Hernandez is likely to vault into the top 5-7 prospects in the system immediately while the others are going to have to work up through those ranks over time.
Ben Badler of Baseball America and Jesse Sanchez of MLB Pipeline should be announcing most deals on Twitter as they become official Friday morning. Cubs Insider will provide additional reporting on the signings when they happen as well.