Major League Baseball’s international signing period for 2023 opens on Sunday, Jan. 15. It’s the first date when players—many of whom have had signing commitments in place dating back two or three years—can officially sign a contract with a major league team.
For many scouts, the top international prospect this year is Ethan Salas, a 16-year-old catcher from Venezuela who is also the brother of Jose Salas, a shortstop in the Marlins’ system. Salas is extremely polished for his age—both as a hitter and as a catcher—to the point where he even got playing time in winter ball in the Venezuelan League where he caught and hit against players more than a decade older than him. Cuban outfielder Brando Mayea is another player who stood out early on in the scouting process for a well-rounded balance of tools, skills and hitting ability.
The reality, though, is it’s much more difficult to gauge an international class because players, mostly from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, are signing at 16 and 17 but often agreed with a team when they were 13 or 14. Between that initial commitment and their official signing date, so much can change. And unlike in the United States, where players often commit to a college when they’re 14 but are still scouted intensely by major league teams leading up to draft day, once an international player commits to a team, they stop going to showcases and typically aren’t scouted much in a competitive environment by other clubs. Those teams have largely turned their attention to the 2025 and 2026 classes over the past year.
As an example, there’s a 2024 high school pitcher in the United States who is 16. He went from throwing 86 mph in October to now touching 93 mph. That’s a seven mph jump that, in three months, took him from a lower-end Division 1 arm into now one of the harder throwers in the country for his age group. One of this year’s top international pitchers—who won’t sign for a high bonus or get attention in public rankings (yet)—was a solid, projectable arm up to 90 mph during the scouting process who has since reached 97 mph and shown feel for a good breaking ball. Players at this stage can change a lot in three months, let alone three years.
That all means that, truthfully, public rankings of the top international players before Jan. 15 are not a great way to accurately capture the true best players…