From Baseball America:

The international signing period is still four months away, but the Reds have already made a big splash in the Dominican Republic, giving a $2 million signing bonus to 16-year-old outfielder Juan Duran, a player who many thought would not be eligible to sign until July 2.

“We’ve scouted him extensively,” Reds scouting director Chris Buckley said. “We had not thought he was eligible until this coming July 2. But we found out he was eligible, and when we did we were able to react. (Assistant general manager) Bob Miller and (director of Latin American scouting) Tony Arias deserve the credit on this one, because Bob was going over guys we were preparing for this year’s signing period, and he said, ‘You can sign this guy right now.’

There’s a lot of legalese in the article about the rules for signing players this young.

Click below for lots more (very interesting) information about Duran:

Duran, who bats and throws right handed and checks in at roughly 6-foot-6, 190 pounds, likely will not play a game this year in the PL, however, where at 16 years old he would be by far the youngest player in the league. The Reds cannot assign him to the Gulf Coast League, since the GCL season ends on Aug. 27, so sending him to the GCL would void his contract.

Buckley and Arias were both with the Blue Jays when the team drafted outfielder Alex Rios as an 18-year-old with the 19th overall pick in the 1999 draft.

“He compares favorably, only he’s bigger and stronger at this age than Rios was,” Buckley said. “He’s more physical, and he has shown some of the same feel for hitting that Alex displayed.

“We don’t have a second-round pick this year so we wanted to be creative and get more talent any way we can.”

Arias said that Duran was one of the Reds’ top targets for July 2 before they realized within the last week that they could sign him.

“His body and offensive ability stick out like a sore thumb,” Arias said. “In batting practice, he was just hitting them over the trees in our complex, hitting them out to center and right-center field. You can tell just tell from the way the ball jumps off his bat.

“I’ve never seen a 16-year-old with this type of ability. I talked to some people in the Dominican Republic who crossed paths with Vladimir Guerrero at that age, guys who have been scouting in the Dominican for more than 20 years, and they said they’ve never come into contact with a bat like this. He’s got 80 power potential (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and just gets tremendous loft. In my opinion, in terms of his bat and his body, he’s a better overall package than Angel Villalona. We wanted to change the perception in the baseball industry that Cincinnati is a cheap organization. We want to get back to being the Big Red Machine.”

Another AL international scouting director said his team was also interested in Duran.
“We liked him,” another AL international scouting director said. “We saw him as a corner outfielder, big, long-limbed, real bat potential. He’s definitely a guy a lot of people liked.”

One National League international scouting director compared Duran’s body to that of a young Juan Gonzalez.

“He might end up being in center field because he’s a plus runner. It’s all going to come down to how big he gets and if he slows down,” the scout said. “He’s going to put on some weight, so whether he retains that speed will tell if he ends up at a corner.

“He’s got some bat speed, and the power will come from the bat speed, but it all comes down to how thick he grows.”

The same NL international scouting director also noted that Duran has been bothered by an elbow problem—which Arias said might have something to do with Duran having grown six inches in the past year—and that Duran only started throwing as far as 40 feet last month.

“He went to a tournament in Puerto Rico in the winter, and he didn’t throw there. I saw him in February, and all he did was hit. I don’t know what the up-to-date situation with his elbow is, but maybe they already checked him. Was he worth that kind of money? I guess he was to the Reds because they think he’s an impact guy, but to me, I don’t think so.”

One AL international scouting director called him “one of those guys who don’t come around very often.”

“He’s got all the tools,” he said. “He’s a pretty good player, very advanced for his age. I think it was a good investment. He’s a good athlete, he has above-average power right now and he has a chance for 80 power (on the 20-80 scouting scale). He demonstrated every ability that you like to see in a kid. He’s a very outgoing kid, good swing. There’s no doubt about his approach, bat speed and power . . . he has all the common denominators you like to see, good balance, rhythm and a pretty good idea of what to do at the plate.

“If he has to go to a corner (outfield position), he certainly has the power to go there. But right now I’d give him every opportunity to play center field because he’s light on his feet and has a good idea how to play out there. He’s probably 6-foot-6, 195 pounds, somewhere in that area, so he could gain a whole 40 pounds with no problem. You look at this guy, and you hate to compare guys to major league players, especially at his age, but he could be a young Dave Winfield in the making.”

Sounds like a very exciting signing to me. But the kid is 16 years old…that’s a long way from the major leagues.

Update from John Fay:

Edinson Volquez has seen Juan Duran play. He watched the 16-year-old outfielder the Reds signed in a tournament the Dominican.

“I saw him hit two two home runs in two at-bats,” Volquez said. “I saw him throw from the outfield. Unbelievable. I’ve never seen someone like that. He’s a little skinny right now. But he’s going to be really good.”

Duran is 6-foot-6, 190 pounds.

Mario Soto has not seen Duran play but he heard all about him.

“In my country, they said he was asking for $5 million,” Soto said.