10:40am UPDATE: The Twins have also signed Australian left-hander Lewis Thorpe. The deal was announced by Paragon Sports International, who represent Thorpe. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith broke the signing amount of $500K on Twitter.
Baseball America notes that Thorpe was considered the top Australian prospect by several teams in this brief write-up. The 6'1", 175lb. 16-year-old's fastball currently sits in the 86-88mph range, but he's touched 91mph. Thorpe appeared in last year's 16-and-under World Championship in Mexico and also pitched in the MLB Australian Academy.
Thorpe's signing continues a strong history of the Twins' presence in the Australian free agent market. The Twins have had a few Aussies reach the Majors, including Grant Balfour, Luke Hughes, and Liam Hendriks.
With Minier signing for $1.4M, and Thorpe netting $500K, the Twins will have about another $1M to commit to international prospects before reaching their $2.9M cap.
Yesterday marked the opening of international free agency in Major League Baseball, and several teams leapt into action right away, signing teenagers from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other areas of the world for bonuses in the six- to seven-figure range.
As you likely saw here yesterday, the Twins signed 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Amaurys Minier for a bonus of $1.4M -- the second largest given to any July 2 IFA prospect at the time of the deal (it should be the third-largest once the Blue Jays finalize their deal with Franklin Barreto). Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement has significantly restricted spending on IFAs, so the Twins' investment is more significant than it may appear (not that $1.4M for a kid who's barely legal to drive a car in the United States isn't always significant); while teams were permitted to spend as they pleased in years past, this year they'll be dealing with a $2.9M budget for their IFAs in an effort to keep the IFA market balanced and "fair." Teams won't shelling out $3.15M for the Miguel Sanos of the world.
The Twins saw fit to exhaust nearly half of their IFA budget on Minier, and I'll jump into some more on him, as well as a few other names who might pop up in the coming days as new Twins prospects after the jump.
Minier was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 12 international prospect this year, although they anticipated that he would receive one of the three largest signing bonuses due to his upside. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo had Minier ranked as the No. 4 prospect.
The 16-year-old switch hitter's swing is more advanced from the left side of the plate, according to BA, who call his left-handed stroke "one of the sweeter swings in the Dominican." His balance and bat speed from both sides have scouts from plenty of teams showing interest. That bat speed led to some impressive batting practice displays, and he's drawn praise for a strong throwing arm that should easily be enough to keep him on the left side of the infield.
The caveats with Minier are that he has a thick lower body without much speed and that his pitch recognition leaves plenty to be desired. That has most scouts predicting that he'll end up at a corner position (likely third base), and also leads scouts to question his ability to hit in games. As a 16-year-old, however, he'll have plenty of time to hone his pitch recognition abilities. You can't "teach" the bat speed that Minier possesses, but you can teach him how to tell the difference between a curveball and a fastball.
You can check out a batting practice video of Minier here (courtesy of Bullpen Banter), while I found this video of Minier taking fielding drills, and Mayo's rankings include a brief video clip included as well.
The Twins have also been linked to a pair of 16-year-old Venezuelan prospects: outfielder Antonio Tovar and catcher Rainis Silva.
Tovar has done some catching in the past, according to BA, but he's far better suited to be a corner outfielder. He represented Venezuela at the 14-and-under Pan American Championship in 2010 (hosted in Nicaragua). He seems to be a departure from the toolsy outfielders the Twins typically target in the Amateur Draft each year, as BA notes that he doesn't offer a large tool-set. Instead, the right-handed hitter's value lies primarily in the right-handed hitting prowess he has displayed. He'll sign for a fraction of what Minier did. Here's a short clip that I found of Tovar taking BP; he looks like a pretty big kid for being just 16 years old.
BA calls Silva a "defensive-oriented catcher," noting that he's represented Venezuela at several international tournaments. He was a teammate of Tovar at the 2010 Pan American Championship and also appeared on Venezuela's team in 2011's 16-and-under World Championship in Mexico. He's currently 5'11" tall and 175 pounds. He'll need to continue working on he's impressed scouts with his ability behind the plate to date. I wasn't able to come up with any scouting footage of Silva. If you find any, by all means, share it in the comments below. Silva, like Tovar, is expected to sign for a bonus in the low six figure range, per BA.
There's good news on the horizon for the Twins' international endeavors as well. The 2013 and 2014 spending caps will be based on the previous year's standings, meaning that Terry Ryan and his staff will be looking at a noticeably larger budget next season, while baseball's better teams could be looking at budgets that are as little as one-third of what the Twins will have to work with. Pools next year will range from somewhere around $1.7M to $4.8M, so the Twins could find themselves at a significant advantage in this sphere come July 2, 2013.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com, RotoAuthority.com, and MLB.com's Fantasy Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve