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Showcase  | Story  | 3/23/2020

PG's International Platform

Jheremy Brown     
Photo: Rafael Devers (Perfect Game)

Throughout amateur baseball the ultimate end goal for players, whether it be from the high school or collegiate ranks, is the MLB Draft, held annually in the middle of June allowing for teams to reload their talent pools and build towards the future. The Perfect Game National Showcase is usually the springboard for prep prospects leading into their senior seasons, allowing teams to see the next wave of talent stateside, though this isn’t the only avenue for team’s looking for their next franchise player.

Shortly after the June draft the international signing period opens for teams on July 2, allowing clubs to scour the rest of the world for the next Juan Soto or Ozzie Albies, two of the fastest rising stars in the MLB today.

Over the years at Perfect Game, international prospects have taken their game stateside, whether it be via tournaments or showcases dating all the way back to the early 2000s. It was the 2004 National Showcase at Tropicana Field where outfielder Gerardo Parra took his game to the next level after a strong showing at the World Showcase five months earlier before embarking on what has become an 11-year MLB career to this point. Six years later on the same field during the 2010 National Showcase, shortstop and fellow Venezuelan Rougned Odor impressed PG scouts before signing with the Texas Rangers in 2011, eventually debuting in 2014.

The properly named World Showcase has long served as a pivotal platform in terms of Perfect Game events in the early 2010s for international prospects taking their game stateside. Take a stroll down memory lane to the 2013 rendition of the World Showcase and a pair of talented hitters, Rafael Devers and Jose Almonte, ultimately signed for more than $3 million combined with Almonte getting $300,000 more than Devers, putting his name on the dotted line for $1.8 million. Of course, the 23-year old Devers has gone on to star for the Boston Red Sox, the club that signed him, and he coming off a career year in 2019 after hitting .311 with 32 home runs.

While predicting such a performance at 16-years old may be tough to do, his performance at the World Showcase may have provided a bit of foreshadowing as our VP of Scouting David Rawnsley who shared the following in his report of Devers from that event following his live at-bats:

“Very advanced feel for hitting, sees ball + well, can foul off tough pitches, ball jumps off barrel in games, will hit with power to all fields”

Since Devers’ performance at the 2013 World Showcase, international prospects have continued to excel at Perfect Game events before inking big bonuses early in July. Kristian Robinson, the Diamondbacks No. 1 prospect per MLB.com put his tools on display at the WWBA World Championship prior to his $2.5 million bonus. Cleveland farmhand and shortstop Aaron Bracho ($1.5 million bonus) and Blue Jays righthander Eric Pardinho ($1.4 million) made a splash in the stadium at Terry Park in consecutive World Showcases with Bracho doing so in 2016 and Pardinho in 2017.

A switch-hitter, Bracho performed at three different showcases prior to his signing and in each viewing showed an ever-evolving handle for the barrel from both sides of the plate which translated well into his first season stateside while tapping into some power. Pardinho, a native of Brazil, brought perhaps the biggest hype with him to Fort Myers as he was making just his second appearance in the United States and more than lived up to the hype with the 50-plus scouts and decision makers in attendance tracking each pitch that jumped from his right hand.

While Pardinho’s draw was impressive in terms of MLB personnel on hand, Cuban righthander Yaisel Sierra brought perhaps the biggest buzz to a single Perfect Game event as he took the mound at Roger Dean Stadium during the 2015 WWBA World Championships in plenty of eyes watching on. A free agent who was eligible to sign immediately, Sierra brought easy mid-90s heat to the mound with a pair of secondary pitches, leaving everybody in the stands impressed, including the Los Angeles Dodgers who inked him to a six-year, $30 million a few months following his appearance. 

The recruiting efforts of collegiate programs have been expedited as of late, and with Perfect Game continuously at the forefront of amateur baseball, the rise of 14u level events have not only shown us the best players domestically, but also provided a look as some of the top international talent as well.

The inaugural 14u National Showcase in 2017 served as a pipeline to the second annual PG Select Festival, which Dominican outfielder Erick Peña was ultimately selected for after a strong showing while Venezuelan shortstop Jose Salas also brought his talents to Fort Myers. Jump ahead to the 2019 July 2 signing period and both Peña and Salas ranked as some of the top available prospects before the Royals signed Peña for $3.8 million and the Marlins locked up Salas for $2.8 million.

Peña’s selection to the 2017 PG Select Festival followed the appearances by Estanli Castillo ($350,000 bonus by the Rays) and Starlyn Castillo ($1.6 million bonus by the Phillies) in the inaugural Select Festival and served as one of Peña’s handful of appearances in the US, including the 14u National Showcase and WWBA World Championship. Shortstops Armando Cruz and Manuel Beltre have followed Peña’s footsteps at the 14u Festival, along with power-armed righthander Rayner Castillo. Another pair of shortstops – Joaan De Jesus and Rafael Castillo – both appeared in the inaugural 13u PG Select Festival last August.

The Dominican Republic has been well represented amongst the international signees throughout Perfect Game’s history, though another island in the Caribbean, the Bahamas, has begun making its presence known.

Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox, a staple in Elite Squad lineups and a 2014 PG National Showcase alum who signed for $6,000,000 as an international free agent with the Giants helped put the Bahamas in the headlines with his signing and several prospects have followed his path. Mentioned above, shortstop Kristian Robinson was a big J2 target while both Kiethron Moss and D’Vaughn Knowles signed with the Rangers in 2017. The pipeline has continued to flow from the Bahamas through the Elite Squad program as 14u Select Festival alum outfielder Andre Arthur and shortstop Ryan Reckley, as well as outfielder Paris Johnson, have all made an impact at Perfect Game events.

While the Caribbean and South America have been at the epicenter of this study, Perfect Game’s reach goes even further with the ever-evolving relationship in the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic was first represented in a tournament setting in 2016 at the 12u PG International Championship and has evolved into the country hosting its first PG showcase last summer with the 2019 European Showcase.

Last May also saw the Australian National Team travel to Fort Myers, Fla., for the Memorial Day Classic as well as the inaugural International Showcase (click here for an article highlighting the trip). The country has been represented in Perfect Games events in the past and includes players such as Jack Barrie – who blasted moon shots over the Green Monster at JetBlue Ballpark during the 2013 Main Event Showcase prior to signing with the Twins – and righthander Matthew Beattie – a Tigers signee who impressed at back-to-back showcases, the 2015 Main Event and the 2016 World Showcase at the dawn of the new year.

During their most recent trip to the states, 2022 shortstop Jimmy Nati was among the underclassmen on manager Glen Williams’ lineup card and his tools stole the show during the showcase portion of their trip as he threw 93 mph across the diamond and ran a 6.90 60-yard dash. Move from his showing in May to November and it was announced that Nati had made his college decision, committing to the Stanford Cardinal as a member of their 2022 class, one that is already ranked within the top-20 classes in ‘22 per Perfect Game.

With every passing year Perfect Game has not only grown its operation in the United States to help players realize and attain their goals, but has seen an ever increasing global reach. It’s one that will only continue to develop moving forward, stretching wider and further than ever before.