The day where Major League teams could officially sign international free agents for 2023 arrived on January 15th, where the New York Yankees and all other teams made a big splash in Latin America. I was fortunate to conduct interviews with some of the prospects signed in Spanish, and we are grateful for their time.
The headliner for the 2023 class is Cuban OF Brando Mayea, whom the Yankees signed for $4.4 million. It’s safe to say that most Yankees fans are familiar with the name, but maybe not so much as far as performance goes.
Mayea was originally a shortstop but recently converted to an outfielder, specifically center field. His utility may come into play at some point, similar to how the Yankees utilized INF Oswaldo Cabrera this past season.
While we know how comps go at this early stage in a prospect’s career (Jasson Dominguez was comped to be the next Mike Trout or Mickey Mantle), scouts are saying he’s a “mini Gary Sheffield” because of his bat speed and above-average power. In fact, looking at his profile on MLB Pipeline, Mayea’s power and fielding are expected to be his greatest assets, both standing as above-average tools with his run, hit, and arm tools as average.
Brandon Mayea, a top Cuban SS prospect that is expected to sign with the #Yankees next month, takes live BP in the Dominican Republic.
Video via his Instagram pic.twitter.com/gBJBhTcPde
— John Brophy (@jbrophybaseball) December 22, 2022
The Yankees also signed two other outfielders, Gabriel Lara and Richard Meran, both of the Dominican Republic.
Lara is possibly one of the most intriguing of the outfield prospects signed. Looking at a 60-yard dash time of 6.14 puts him at an 80-grade run tool, which is important in the large center field of Yankee Stadium. Lara has a somewhat high leg kick along with a compact left-handed swing. He’s quick to get out of the box, an issue with some left-handed batting prospects.
Lara told me in a brief interview that he feels like his approach to batting during the game and getting a lot of contact with the ball is his best tool aside from his speed. In asking him what it was like to sign with the Yankees, he said his biggest takeaway was seeing his mother overjoyed with emotion after all the hard work he’s put in over the years meant a lot to him. He also said that all the kids in the DR wanted to be Yankees growing up.
Meran seems to be another shortstop turned outfielder, as the video below has him showing as a SS, but the Yankees signed him as an OF. Let’s call him a utility player until he gets some games in with the DSL. He says that he was recently moved to the outfield when he was told he looked better in the outfield and that of the two positions he prefers being in the OF.
Meran also told me that while growing up, the Yankees were his favorite team so signing with them is an honor. When I asked about what he thinks is his best tool, he mentioned his hitting, which you can see in the short video below. I would expect that the Yankees tweak his leg kick a bit since I can see Meran producing more power using his back foot as a driving foot. He otherwise seems to have a very relaxed swing.
The Yankees signed 2 middle infielders, Gabriel Terrero who plays 2B and SS, and Jeison Coca, another SS.
Terrero’s swing reminds me a lot of Jasson Dominguez’s. Terrero has an exceptionally compact 5-foot-6 frame and seems to be quick on his feet despite taking a few steps before throwing the ball to 1B. In this Spanish language interview with his academy, Terrero notes Rays SS Wander Franco as a player he admires because of his aggressive attitude on the field. He also notes that he started playing baseball at 8 years old and entered into his former academy at 12 years old.
Later in that interview, one of the coaches says Terrero looked identical to Franco at the age of 14. The coach also notes that Terrero has great instincts and a great mentality on the field. Additionally, he mentions that speed is Terrero’s greatest ability and that he’s quicker than Franco was at his age (the interview was recorded June 2020); a 6.5 second 60-yard-dash time was mentioned, giving him a 70 run.
Coca showed off a 6.9 second dash time, good for a 50 run. He also appears to be more agile than Terrero and has an above-average (55) arm. Coca is another of this year’s signings that has a high leg kick, one similar to that of 2021 1st rounder Trey Sweeney. His swing looks similar to that of Sweeney’s, in my opinion, although he has his front toe turned in while at the plate. Something to be noted: Coca’s first name seems to have various spellings as seen in this video, but going forward we will be using the name that the Yankees will be using.
The bulk of the signings were with pitching. The Yankees signed 5 pitchers, all righties.
Jerson Alejandro is a 6-foot-6, 255 lb beast (his nickname is “King Kong”) who throws a fastball that tops out at 98 MPH, along with a curveball that averages 80 MPH, a changeup that sits at 86-87 MPH and a sinker that sits at 94-95. He told me that he likes his curveball the most, so that will be a pitch to watch in the upcoming 2023 campaign. Like all of the other prospects interviewed, he said he’s proud to wear the pinstripes and grew up in the D.R. with the Yankees as his favorite team.
I was unable to speak with the other pitching prospects by the time this went to press, but Joshawn Lampson and Joshua Quezada are both Nicaraguan arms, an area the Yankees have been closely watching from what I was told in a conversation with a scout last season.
Lampson held an interview shortly after the formal signing by the Yankees, where it was mentioned that his fastball is currently at 93 MPH. No other pitches were noted, but his father did mention that he got his son into baseball at the age of 6.
Looking at the video below, I like Quezada’s breaking ball the most. The other pitches don’t have a lot of life, although his fastball (“recta” in Spanish) has some very late rise.
A Nicaraguan name Yankee fans should be familiar with is RHP Jonathan Loáisiga, a pitcher the Yankees signed in a similar fashion in 2016 after being released from the Giants in 2012. Loáisiga was brought up through the Yankees’ system.
Panama is another area the Yankees have been paying more attention to, and from there they have signed Emanuel Vargas. Vargas threw with fellow Yankee RHP Omar González on the same Panamanian team, Coclé. Easily the most recognizable name of Panamanian nationality for Yankee fans is RHP Mariano Rivera. Hopefully he can be another pitching legend to come out of the small country.
El orgullo de Natá el la lanzador Coclesano Emanuel Vargas firma con los Yankees de New York par a jugar Béisbol Profesional. pic.twitter.com/vhgkbCDlL6
— MLBPTYOFICIAL (@mlbptyoficial) January 16, 2023
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