This season there was a seemingly endless supply of gold in the IFA market!
Leon Jackson – Cobbfather Post Gazette
Season 18 presented an unprecedented wealth of international free agents. Right when one big star signed it seemed that another would pop up for bid. All in all there were 18 IFA’s who signed for over $5 million, 11 over $10 million, 7 over $20 million and 2 over $30 million. With the IFA season winding down, we thought we’d bring you the top 10 IFA’s of Season 18. Who knows though, there could be more added to the list soon. But for now, here’s how we rank them.
10. Erubiel Perez – Charlotte - $8.1 million
97 AB .402 AVG 27 RBI at High A
Perez looks to be a solid, but not great hitter. His biggest upside lies in his fielding ability. If he demonstrates shortstop level fielding abilities, he’ll be far more valuable, but he’d still be a solid guy at any other fielding position. Nice grab for Charlotte compared to what some of the other IFA’s went for.
9. Alving Palmeiro – Honolulu - $13.6 million
12-27, 11 RBI at Low A
Palmeiro doesn’t have quite the bat Perez does, but looks to be a sure-fire major league shortstop, as opposed to Perez who is a bit of a question mark. He has nice speed as well, and a good batting eye. His hitting stats won’t be impressive, but they’ll be solid compared to other shortstops.
8. Benito Acosta – Buffalo - $22 million
Did not play
Acosta has plus hitting ratings across the board. His biggest assets look to be power, batting eye and contact. On the down side, he isn’t great in the field, but he is more than capable of being a great 1B/LF bat, and he could be a borderline RF. Durability might be a bit of a concern too, but overall this is a great bat, and it’s hard to believe he was only (arguably) the 8th best IFA this season!
7. Tony Benavente – Charlotte - $14.4 million
5 IP 0.00 ERA 4 for 4 saves at High A
Charlotte was the only team to land two players on our list. Benavente looks to be a lights out reliever with practically no weaknesses. He could be a dominant closer or a stellar setup A guy. The only question mark is his RH split. If he gets that up into the 70’s, look out.
6. Yeico Oliva – Boston - $28.8 million
3-1 2.35 ERA 57 K in 46 IP at rookie league
Oliva is going to be a great Major League starter one day, he throws with great velocity, has nice pitches, solid control and should develop 200 IP+ stamina. His LH split is a major question mark though, he may be vulnerable to lefties. Still, he projects to a nice #2 starter with #1 upside, depending on how he develops vs. lefties.
5. Vin Gandarillas – Florida - $26.3 million
116 AB .353 AVG 12 HR 38 RBI 1.182 OPS at Low A
At only 19, one could argue that Gandarillas has a major league ready bat now. You’d like to see contact and batting eye go up a bit, but his splits and power are top notch. It will be interesting to see how he develops in the field. He has fringe shortstop upside fielding, but more than likely ends up at 3B or somewhere else, where he’ll still be amongst the top hitters at the position.
4. Hideo Sakamoto – Omaha - $25.7 million
485 AB .299 AVG 14 HR 73 RBI 20+ plays at AA
Sakamoto got almost a full season in at AA for Omaha, which saw him develop nicely. He was excellent in the field, and if he develops SS quality fielding levels, he will probably be the best hitting SS in the league for years to come. His batting splits are a bit low, but should continue to develop. His contact, power and batting eye could all potentially be elite.
3. Willie Cerda – Little Rock - $33 million
375 AB .323 AVG 34 HR 86 RBI 1.100 OPS at AA
It’s not a stretch to say Cerda could play at the majors now and possibly be an all- star. Other than RH split all his hitting ratings are plus to elite. It was a major buzzkill for Little Rock that he went on the 60 day DL with a bulging disk in his back, but he should be fine, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be injury prone. If he hadn’t gotten hurt, he might have been #1 on the list.
2. Enrique Garces – Atlanta - $26.8 million
185 AB .319 AVG 1.051 OPS at High A
Garces could be an upper tier 2B/CF in the majors right now. He owns lefties, is good against righties with a tremendous batting eye and contact. He should develop into a plus fielder at either 2B or CF and has unbelievable speed that could make him an annual 30 HR/50 SB base guy.
1. Francisco Aramboles – Dover - $32.2 million
4-3 1.07 ERA 55 K in 59 IP at Rookie/Low A
If you looked at Aramboles’ potential and said strengths: everything weaknesses: nothing, it would be hard to argue. He looks to be a sure fire #1 starter that could win multiple Cy Youngs. His only fault is that he doesn’t keep the ball down, but his pitches are so good and his throws so hard that not many will be able to get it up in the air on him.
What a season of International Free Agents, here’s hoping for many more to come!