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Royals sign top Cuban free agent as international signing period begins

The Royals get four of the top 61 ranked players.

The Royals have reportedly signed shortstop Yandel Ricardo, the top prospect out of Cuba and the #9 prospect in this year’s international signing period according to Baseball America. In addition to Ricardo, they have reportedly signed Venezuelan shortstop Jhonayker Ugarte, ranked #31, Dominican shortstop Darison Garcia (#51), and Cuban third baseman Jose Cerice (#61). They have also signed unranked prospects catcher Anthony Longo and outfielder Robinson Chacon out of Venezuela, and shortstop Anderson Garcia, and right-handed pitcher Juan Rivera out of the Dominican Republic.

The 17-year-old Ricardo, who has been training in the Dominican Republic, stands at 6’2’’ and has “good size, athleticism and hitting ability from both sides of the plate”, according to Baseball America. Eric Longenhagen at Fangraphs ranks him #10 in this class and reports that the Padres were considered the favorite at one point for Ricardo, and he is expected to sign for around $2.5 million.

MLB Pipeline ranks him #16 in this class, writing he has a “chance to be an impact power bat in the future.” Both publications note that he is a natural right-handed hitter with more polish from that side, but has learned to hit from the left side as well. He shows good defense at short, but his size may get him moved to third base eventually. MLB Pipeline notes he has drawn raves for his leadership and has been referred to as a “field general.”

Ugarte is a right-handed hitter with gap power who has had a recent growth spurt that has led to more power. Longenhagen ranks him #20 and cites scouts that think he should be higher because of his “hit/power combination.” He writes that Ugarte will end up at third base and that the Royals will sign him for $1.3 million. Baseball America writes he is a “below-average runner” but a solid defender with an average arm.

Garcia is described by Baseball America as an “instinctive, high baseball IQ player and steady offensive performer with a “line-drive stroke with gap power.” They write that Cerirce has “hit-over-power with more juice that could come down the road, defensive skill set for third base.”

The Royals were one of six teams that have the largest international bonus pool at $7,114,800. Third baseman Jose Perdomo will reportedly sign with the Braves for the largest bonus in this class, $5 million. The Padres will sign Leodalis De Vries, who ranks #1 on rankings for MLB Pipeline and Fangraphs and #2 on Baseball America’s list, for $4.2 million. The Mets signed Vladi Miguel Guerrero, the half-brother of Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero.