19 June 2011

Cup of jO's (June 19, 2011): Introducing the 2011 July 2 IFAs

Game Wrap
Nationals 4, Baltimore 2
Box Score / Play-By-Play / AP Summary

Don't look now, but the Nats are building the type of excitement that Baltimore was hoping to capture this summer. Now winners of eight in a row, and one game from .500, the other side of the beltway is starting to generate at least a little buzz. Add to that the expected arrival next year of Bryce Harper and the expected return of Stephen Strasburg, as well as a slightly more winnable division in the NL East, and you have a recipe for a team turning things around. Time will tell which organization flips the script first, but as Baltimore stares down the possibility of being swept by their perennial neighboring cellar-dwellers, it's tough to remain optimistic. Some good news -- despite a rough line, Brian Matusz saw a slight climb in his sitting velocity yesterday and much more feel for his offerings (though he did leave the game with a tweaked calf).

Of interest...
Of interest to me this morning is a series of articles by Baseball America's Ben Badler, upon whom many fans rely when it comes to getting a quick breakdown of the class of international free agents hitting the market on July 2nd of a given year. Each posted last, and the article I'd like to focus on is subscriber material only, focusing on some of the top outfielders available in this year's July 2nd crop.

One benefit of the increase in prospect/draft interest is that some of the showcase companies, as well as some of the trainers and agents down south, have started to work to get the talented Latin American ballplayers some exposure on the showcase circuit. Two Octobers ago top Dominican prospect Wagner Mateo traveled to Jupiter to lace them up with the Texas Yankees Scout Team (a team that also found O's top draft pick Dylan Bundy on the roster). Last August I got a sneak peak of power hitting outfielder Ronald Guzman (video below).

Guzman is exactly the type of talent for which O's fans are hoping Baltimore will eventually open up it's check book. Highly projectable with quick hands, leverage and enough raw power now to make it easy to envision plus or better in-game power in the future. He was overmatched at the Under Armour All-America Game (of course, he was just 15 at the time, playing against the top rising high school seniors in the United States.

Guzman is one of several potential power bats in a bumper crop of international talent. As with the First Year Amateur Player Draft earlier this month, 2011 represents a good opportunity for teams to invest in the future. These players are less developed than even the high school draft-eligible talents, and represent more risk, to be sure. But they also represent an open market for adding more potential premium young talent to the farm system.

Later this week and next we'll take a closer look at some other July 2 IFAs, as well as the question as to how much sense it makes to pump money into this market at this time.

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