The Cincinnati Reds have made their biggest splash in years on the international market today when they officially signed Venezuelan shortstop Ricardo Cabrera. While there hasn’t always been publications that have tracked and ranked the international free agents, since that did start the signing of Ricardo Cabrera is the biggest non-Cuban signing the team has ever had. Both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline rank the shortstop as the #3 overall player in this signing class, with one source telling me that they believe he’s the top player in the class.

Scouting Report on Ricardo Cabrera

You’ve probably heard the term 5-tool player before. That’s exactly what Cabrera projects to be. All five of his tools project to be above-average or better. The 17-year-old has a potentially plus hit tool to go along with plus power potential. Currently listed at 6′ 0″ and 175 lbs. he can already use the entire field with some authority.

Defensively he’s no slouch, either. Currently a shortstop, the belief is that he should be able to remain there long term. He’s got good hands and footwork at the position to go with an above-average arm. If he does outgrow the position his arm will play just fine at third base and his bat still stands out at that position if the move is necessary. Cabrera also shows above-average speed.

Cincinnati has a pool of $5,721,200 this year to spend and sign players. Unlike the past few years, teams are not allowed to trade their bonus pool space to other teams so that they can expand how much they are allowed to spend. This signing period things are locked down to only what you originally qualified for (there are three tiers that are between $5,179,700 and $6,262,600).

What the Reds are saying

“He’s got a chance to really be an elite player and move quickly,” said Reds Senior Director of International Scouting Trey Hendricks. “The biggest question mark with him is whether he’s going to stick at shortstop long term or not. I could see a scenario where he gets really physical and maybe is forced to move to third. If that happens I think he’ll still have the bat and power profile for that position. But if he can stick at short, you have a chance to have a star there. It’s an elite bat. Just a special player.”

The other signings

Today is just the first day of the 2022 international signing period that runs through December 15th. With that said, most of the signings will occur over the next few days.

Cincinnati has signed/are expected to sign two other players ranked in the Top 50 of this signing class. Venezuelan shortstop Anthuan Valencia was rated as highly as #32 by MLB Pipeline and outfielder Esmith Pineda was ranked 49th overall by MLB Pipeline.

In the past few years Cincinnati has signed 15-25 players in each signing period and that’s expected to be the same during this one. For more information on the signing class as it comes in, we’ve got far more detailed reports on everyone else at RedsMinorLeagues.com.

36 Responses

  1. CFD3000

    Good news. Does this signing period really run through 12/15/2022? If so, why so long? Thanks as always for all you do Doug!

    • Doug Gray

      Yes, it really runs that long. I don’t really have a good answer as to why, but I guess I’d also ask – why not?

  2. Mark Moore

    Young, talented, Latin-American shortstop. Got to love the potential here.

    • TR

      How long will it take for the 17 year old Cabrera to make it to the Bigs especially with the Reds who seem hesitant to make a young player a regular before age 23.

      • Gaffer

        Miguel Cabrera was in our minors complex at age 17 but we didn’t sign him. He was a star in the World Series at age 19.

      • Mark Moore

        No idea, TR. And who knows how or even if he develops? I’m talking purely as a fan based on this kind of potential. Nothing more. But I agree our organization seems to have more than a little hesitancy with some of these kids. Maybe that’s good at times; maybe it’s bad. I also hate to see the kids get rushed and then flame out or get into other kinds of trouble from suddenly having “money” their entourage invariably latches on to.

      • Doug Gray

        I’ll come back at you on this one, TR. Who was the Reds player who was under 23 who was clearly ready to step into the big leagues? The Reds haven’t had a really young guy in the majors in forever because they simply haven’t had anyone that was ready to do it. When they’ve had guys just destroy the minors – they’ve pushed those guys fast and hard (Bruce, Cueto, Tony Cingrani). They simply just haven’t had those kinds of dudes in a really long time.

      • Oldtimer

        Long time indeed. Frank Robinson in 1956 and Vada Pinson in 1958 (really 1959) are two names from my Reds fan era.

        Johnny Bench in 1968 also.

  3. RedBB

    This may be a dumb Q Doug…but how do these prospects decide which team to sign with? Is it as simple as who offers the most money?

    • Doug Gray

      Sometimes it’s more than that, but yes, usually it’s about who is offering the most money – and at an early enough point. Despite the fact that it’s actually against the rules to really do, teams – all of them – are coming to agreements with these guys when they are 14-years-old at times and then those players stop working out for other teams, going to try outs, and all of that, and just wait until they are eligible to sign two years later. It’s a gross business.

      Before the pool allotments were put in place, things were still a lot about who offered the most money, but it was a bit more complicated, too. Who you knew and had good relationships with on the trainer side of things really came into play. But now that the bonus money is capped things have opened up a bit more because there’s less money to go around and guys can’t always be as “picky”, so to speak, with who they show their players to.

      Obviously you are going to get some guys who are signing with organizations for less money than they would another organization here or there for one reason or another, but yeah, for the most part it’s about who is offering the right amount of money at the earliest point that a player, their family, and trainer think is right.

      • Gaffer

        It’s also about how much they pay their “handlers” at age 14. While some of that money pays for the kids family to live while the kids are in training for years, a lot goes to guys that are basically mafiosos. Jose Rijo got busted for this while working with Jim Bowden (for theNats).

      • Old Big Ed

        This whole business feels seedy, and kind of a higher-stakes variation of AAU basketball in the U.S., where the “handlers” are AAU coaches who direct players to various college programs.

        The “handlers” in baseball and basketball would both insist that they provide valuable training, development and support for these guys, and I am sure that there is a germ of truth in that, but the opportunity for self-dealing is obvious.

        I don’t know that an international draft would be any better, because MLB would impose similar limits on the pool of money a team could spend, so players wouldn’t necessarily reap what they are worth. It might cut out the middleman while eliminating whatever services the middleman actually provides. Elly De La Cruz, for example, signed for a reported $65,000, so some “handler” may well have helped him get the exposure he needed.

      • Doug Gray

        Gaffer – What Rijo was doing was illegal and it’s why he got busted. He and Bowden were telling the organization they were signing a guy for, say, $200,000, but then the player would actually only get $100,000 and Rijo would keep a little of the rest for himself and then so would the buscone/trainer (who then kept more from the bonus the kid got, too).

        How the whole trainer/buscone/player relationship works is that the training/buscone gets a percentage of the signing bonus as “backpay” for the training and sometimes housing of the player. Their cut tends to be much higher than your typical agent here in the US. I’ve read stories that it’s been as high as 25% in rare cases.

  4. Hotto4Votto

    Just wondering, where he’d fall within the Reds prospect rankings? Before or after DeLaCruz? Both 5-tool guys, both young, but DeLaCruz has shown it against other pro’s.

    • Doug Gray

      Over at Reds Minor Leagues someone asked where I’d rank him, and truthfully, I don’t have an exact spot. But I do think you can make the argument that he could be as high as #8 on my list, but certainly could be lower, too. So somewhere in the 8-13 range feels about right to me depending on how you want to lean that day. Until he’s out there on the field against other pros – even if it’s going to be other teenagers in the Dominican Summer League – it’s just too tough to rate him higher than that for me right now.

      • Hotto4Votto

        Fair enough. Thanks for the response. Just on tools alone I think he’d be in the top 10. 8-10 on your prospect list have talent but haven’t actualized it consistently enough on the field. Though, I would also hesitate to rank him above DeLaCruz, Ashcroft, McClain, and Allen until there’s some game info to base it off of. Which is basically what you said. Exciting to add such a prospect to the Reds though.

      • Doug Gray

        Yeah, tools wise he’s right there with anyone. But until he shows something on the field, it’s tough to put him ahead of other guys with plenty of tools who have also gone out and really performed (even if it’s in a smaller sample size like what Jay Allen has done). That said, if he goes out this summer and looks good on the field and in the stats, he’ll likely rocket up the list. And if he does look good but doesn’t rocket up the list that’s even better because it means those ahead of him are also just out there killing it.

  5. CI3J

    Well, that’s one for the future to keep an eye on for sure. Let’s see if he develops the way the Reds are hoping. If so, best case scenario is we see him in Cincinnati in about 3 years, which is right about the time the current young group should be entering their primes (or, in Winker’s case, right in the middle of his prime).

    I still would like to see Barrero stick at SS and maybe have Cabrera move to 3B, but it would be a good problem to have if both of them become stud MLB players. I also think that the fact the Reds seem to have no announced plan on what to do once Votto hangs them up in 2 years seems to indicate that they are planning on moving Winker to 1B, which is honestly a good move for all involved. Hope he starts getting some reps there this season.

    The Reds certainly seem to have no problem finding infielders. Now if they could just find some outfielders….

    • David

      I think Eric Davis was signed as a Short stop, and then, well, you know the rest of the story.

      Many times, the best athlete on a team plays shortstop. I think Todd Frazier played SS in high school. Being a really good ML shortstop also means having good range, etc. If a guy gets too big (alluded too if he gets “more physical”), then he would move over to 3rd base or the outfield.

      I also think you have to give props here to the Reds’ organization for spending the money to sign this young talented guy. We call them cheap when they didn’t hold on to Miley, but this might have been part of a larger strategy about allocation of money and resources. Signing Cabrera or keep Miley for 2022? It is not that easy or simple, but consider that in the context of what is happening.
      I would like “both”, but maybe that wasn’t in the cards.

      • 2020ball

        AFAIK the two budgets are seperate and there’s long term planning involved in both. I dont think theyre as connected as you might think. The Reds would be foolish not to use their whole budgeted amount in international spending even if they are as poor or poorer as they say they are.

  6. Old-school

    This is good news indeed for a franchise that must draft/sign/develop and trade for elite young players. Hendricks also made reference to his plate discipline and willingness to take a walk.

    Love to see the Reds getting young talent. It’s the lifeblood of the franchise.

    • TR

      The Reds need to have management who will play young players when ready. If so, the fans will come out.

      • Josh G

        or maybe the reds needs to have more young players that are ready?

  7. Redhaze

    I really hope he pans out.
    Not to play Debbie Downer but I saw where the Lions (1992) and the Reds (1995) are the two longest North American franchises that have not advanced in the playoffs since the Bengals won yesterday? Is that true? Yikes.

  8. Marty

    Anyone remember the last star Venezuelan SS who played for the Reds?
    Davey!

      • Tom Reeves

        Suarez is a Venezuelan player who’s been a star and played SS… just not at the same time.

  9. Frankie Tomatoes

    It’s good to see the Reds getting someone rated so highly. That has been rare over their history outside of Cuba. Everyone is still a long time from reaching the big league club but hopefully at least a few of them will get to Cincinnati and be productive.

  10. Klugo

    The best third baseman on a team full of third baseman.

  11. RedsGettingBetter

    The Reds have now 3 SS prospects (De La Cruz, McLain and Cabrera) with pretty good upside (by the way not including Ivan Johnson) … Despite this prospects are not in the same level, I wonder how the Reds are gonna figure it out in the next years because there will be some overcrowded position…

    • Doug Gray

      Barrero will be in the Majors. Figure Alfredo Rodriguez in Triple-A. Double-A is probably McLain. High-A will probably be De La Cruz. Low-A could be Jose Torres, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in High-A with De La Cruz with the two splitting some time at shortstop and second (and DLC at third every so often). ACL could be Braylin Minier repeating, or maybe he goes to Low-A if DLC and Torres both move to High-A, leaving the ACL for a guy like Carlos Jorge and then in the DSL you get the big three shortstops from this class.

      Suffice to say that the Reds are currently loaded with shortstop prospects.

      • Old-school

        Never seen De La Cruz but reports are tall long athletic and fast- sounds like CF.

        How fast is he? elite speed or just decent?

      • Greenfield Red

        Is Miguel Hernandez not part of the mix anywhere?

      • Doug Gray

        He might find himself playing second base at times given the other options around him.