This year's class of July 2 international free agents (IFAs) came into fair play over the weekend, and the Twins' first move was to sign 16-year-old Dominican right-hander Miguel Gonzalez for a bonus of $650,000. Gonzalez isn't a Miguel Sano ceiling type of player; he's unlikely to immediately vault to the top of the Twins' prospect charts, but he's a projectable young right-hander who already shows good velocity and plus command of his fastball, despite the fact that he'd barely be legal to drive in our country. More about Gonzalez and another potential Twins target after the jump.
According to Baseball America, Gonzalez is 5'11" with a 185-pound frame at age 16. His size has led scouts from some organizations to pause, but those who were interested took to his already 88-91mph fastball at age 16, as well as his overall feel for pitching. Gonzalez has a repeatable delivery and already has a solid feel for both a change-up and a curveball, and BA cites the curve as the more advanced pitch of the two right now.
He's projected to move quickly for someone his age, and one would have to think that as he continues to mature, the 90mph fastball will creep upwards, hopefully into a solid mid-90's heater. That he already has a feel for pitching as opposed to merely throwing speaks highly of his baseball IQ, and someone who can already pound the strike zone certainly fits the Twins' organizational philosophy and will hopefully fast track him throughout the system. He's far from the top IFA on this year's market (that honor goes to Elier Hernandez, a Dominican outfielder whose whopping $5M+ bonus from the Rangers broke the record for a July 2 IFA signing), but from the limited data available this seems to be a solid addition to the Twins' farm system that we should see some benefits from in a couple of years. BA projected Gonzalez to receive the 22nd-largest bonus of any IFA this summer.
The Twins have been increasingly active in international scouting over the past few years, and it's good to see them getting into the Dominican Republic. They've been big players in Venezuela, but recently we've seen them add guys like Sano, Gonzalez, Jorge Polanco, and more out of the DR, and you can never have scouts in too many areas when you're combing the world for talent.
The other name linked to the Twins is projected to receive the summer's fifth-largest bonus: Venezuelan shortstop Wilmer Becerra. Becerra stands at 6'3", 175 pounds and is all but 100% certain to be almost immediately moved to an outfield position. The 16-year-old has a wider lower-half than upper body, which helps him generate power but will also likely limit his ability in the outfield to some extent, leading BA to ultimately project him as a left fielder. Many scouts consider him to be one of the best right-handed hitters in this year's IFA class, and like his plate coverage and projectable power. His detractors will say that his presently-awkward frame will eventually sap him of his speed, though he currently runs a 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds. The Twins are one team who have been linked to Becerra, with the Cardinals being another big suitor and the Blue Jays being the biggest competition of all. Most scouts consider them the favorites, but it wasn't too long ago that the Pirates were all but a sure thing to sign Sano, so let's not rule out the Twins just yet.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com and contributes at 612Sports.net and MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve