Jesse Sanchez from MLB.com released his list of the top 50 international prospects for the upcoming international signing period, which begins on January 15th. He has the Pittsburgh Pirates as the favorites to sign 16-year-old (turns 17 in December) Dominican outfielder Raymond Mola, which I was able to confirm.
Mola is rated as having 50 grade tools across the board in all five categories. He stands in at 6’2″, 170 pounds and he hits/throws right-handed. He’s described as having a large frame, who projects to be an everyday corner outfielder in the future. He drives the ball well to all fields, showing excellent bat speed, which should lead to more power as he fills out.
Here’s a great video
The Pirates have maxed out their international budget every season for quite some time, going over a few times when it was allowed via trade acquisitions, which is no longer possible. Mola is the only player in the top 50 connected to the Pirates, so they will have plenty to spend besides him (likely over/near $5M besides him). However, 49 of the top 50 players are already connected to teams. The only one who isn’t is pitcher Jun-Seok Shim from Korea, who is ranked tenth on the list. The Pirates have had a strong presence in Asia recently with Po-Yu Chen receiving over $1M, along with Tsung-Che Cheng looking like a steal at $380,000 and Hung-Leng Chang signing this year for $500,000. I don’t know if that gives them any edge, but it does make him intriguing.
I’ll also say that these lists are quite subjective. Anyone who has followed the amateur draft can tell you how much the high school scene can change from April though June and that’s for 18-year-old players. Imagine trying to do the same for a much large group of 16-year-old players. No factor in that some of them agreed to deals more than a year ago and dropped off the scouting radars. It’s definitely a tough list to put together with confidence. A player like Mola could be much higher or much lower for other people, but that being said, the prospects who make the list are all considered to be strong prospects at this time.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.