La Velle E. Neal III's Sunday Insider: July 2 is next date circled

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 13, 2010 - 8:34 AM

Now that the MLB draft is over, teams (the Twins included) can turn their focus to young foreign talent.

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Who will be the next Miguel Angel Sano? The Dominican shortstop considered by many as the top free agent teenage prospect in Latin America, signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2009 for a $3.15 million bonus.

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The Major League Baseball draft is over. But things are just getting interesting on the player procurement front for the Twins and other clubs.

That's because July 2 is the first day international prospects who have turned 16 years old can sign. This date continues to grow in importance as bonuses increase and more teams get aggressive in scouting foreign players, especially in Latin America.

The Oakland Athletics made a splashy signing in 2008 when they inked pitching prospect Michael Iona for $4.25 million. And the Twins made news last year when they waited for Miguel Angel Sano's age to be verified before signing the power-hitting infield prospect for $3.15 million.

All indications are that the Twins are not satisfied with landing just Sano and are after three of the best prospects this year:

Vicmal de la Cruz, outfielder, Dominican Republic: He stands only 5-11 but has a stocky build, good speed and a strong arm. Scouts like his bat speed and raw power.

He sounds like some of the high school outfielders the Twins have drafted over the years.

The Twins have told their scouts in the Dominican to stay aggressive with de la Cruz. But that shouldn't be a problem. According to Mike Radcliff, Twins senior vice president in charge of player personnel, de la Cruz lives in the same neighborhood as their Latin American scouting coordinator, Fred Guerrero.

Esteilon Peguero, shortstop, Dominican Republic: According to reports, he might be the best hitter to come out of the Dominican Republic this year. He might not have the quickness to remain a shortstop, but his sweet swing suggests that he's going to be a good offensive player.

Seattle and Texas are among the other clubs that have showed interest in Peguero. Radcliff said the Twins have scouted both de la Cruz and Peguero -- who are expected to receive seven-figure offers -- in depth.

"We have both those guys on the radar," Radcliff said. "Those are two who are going to get their money."

Carlos Martinez, shortstop, Panama: The Twins have even been down to Panama to check on an infield prospect who has also drawn attention from Cleveland, Philadelphia and Atlanta. The Twins came away very impressed and remain in contact with Martinez in hopes of signing him.

"We have sent scouts out to take a look at him," Radcliff said. "He's a true middle infielder."

The next few weeks will be interesting, as clubs determine how much it will cost to sign the best international prospects. The Twins are willing to spend the money to acquire top international talent and look to be in the mix for the top prospects once again.

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