Halos eyeing international free agents in 2018

TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 19: Starting pitcher Shohei Otani
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 19: Starting pitcher Shohei Otani /

With the recent trade for reliever Jim Johnson and international pool money, the LA Angels have publicly opened up regarding their desire for Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani is commanding the attention of multiple big league clubs this offseason, which leaves expectations to land the stud athlete at a minimal. If the Angels miss out on the superstar not all is lost however, as this offseason happens to loaded with prime international talent.

Just recently, the Braves lost out on 13 prospects after the recent scandal involving international free agent signings from 2015-2017 being made on deceitful practice. Now these players are all available to be courted by new teams starting December 5th. Outside of Shohei Ohtani, which of these highly regarded international free agents should the Angels lock up if they miss out on the Ohtani sweepstakes?

Yefri Del Rosario (RHP)The small framed right-hander, at 6’2 180lbs, is projected to end up pitching out of the bullpen in the Majors. A high-octane fastball that clocks in at the 94mph range and a strong acceleration behind his delivery has inspired some buzz regarding Rosario’s talents. Beyond that, his slider has been evaluated on the plus side while his athletics leave scouts predicting his repertoire to extend with Minor League development. His small frame leaves a bit of question regarding his durability; but with 37.1 IP in 13 Rookie League games and an average of just under 3 IP a game, all to an ERA of 3.62, there is good promise shining with this young reliever.

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Yunior Severino (2B)The young Dominican ball player was originally scouted as a shortstop, but as scouting indicated he has recently moved to second base. Severino is celebrated for the raw power he is able to generate out of his 6’1, 180lb frame. Despite his sub-par fielding efforts there is a lot to love out of his bat; a timely swing speed and natural disposition at the plate led him to a .270/.345/.420 slash line in 226 ABs between the Braves Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League in 2017.

Livan Soto (SS):  The first thing that sticks out about this player is his size, listed at 6’0 and 160lbs, there seems to be some filling out Soto needs to do before fully coming into his form. At 17 years old his ability to read the ball is beyond his years and his ability to make contact is one of his strongest points. His 2017 slash line of .225/.332/.254 with the Braves in rookie league might not seem too inspiring until you put into context his ability to put his bat to the ball. Unfortunately his ability to get on base is all that has been highlighted, but when the kid works on developing his body and grows a stronger bat his projection is extremely promising.

Abrahan Gutierrez (C)Although this might not seem as exciting as other prospects there is still a lot to look forward to with Gutierrez. The Braves sought him out early on given his naturally powerful build at 6’2, 214lbs. Though the power only semi-translates to his bat as his skills at the plate require a bit more guidance. Throughout that he still managed a .262/.319/.359 slash line; his eye is well-developed given his young age, a big plus from a catcher, and he can put the bat on the ball. His ability to slug the ball needs work and his big body slows his motions from behind the plate. Still, he is only 18 and has plenty of strong attributes to inspire potential in his future development.

Kevin Maitan (SS)There’s not much to be said about Maitan that hasn’t already been said. He was the top international prospect in 2016 when the Braves signed him, he was considered the best international prospect since Miguel Sano, and some are already calling him the Shohei Ohtani consolation prize. Although his stat line of .240/.290/.340 and 2HR’s seems somewhat pedestrian his very well-rounded skill set at his age makes him one of the most promising prospects in the league. It isn’t a matter of when he develops, it’s how quickly.

Juan Contreras (RHP):  Contreras may have the best power arm in development class, his fastball stuns opposing hitters at speeds that touch up to 97mph. His tall body lends greatly to his power arm, and a stronger approach to developing his mechanics may see it top out at a greater speed. Even though it sounds like I’m describing his best pitch I’m not. His slider already flashes pure lethality based on scouting reports. One thing the Angels have needed for a long time is a power arm with a fatal repertoire. Regardless on their outcome with Ohtani, Contreras is someone the Angels need to look at hard.

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That list doesn’t include every prospect available after the Braves fiasco, but a select amount that possess skill-sets the Angels are lacking within the organization. There’s beyond a plethora of talent available on the international market with this influx of new talent.

Even if the Angels are going after Ohtani as hard as possible there still needs to be a considerable amount of effort put into obtaining some of this available talent.