ANAHEIM, Calif. Look for the Mariners to sign the top power hitter in the Caribbean market along with a heady, projectable shortstop when the international signing period begins Sunday for players aged 16 and older.
The Mariners are heavy favorites to land Dominican outfielder Julio Rodriguez, a 17-year-old whom Baseball America rates as the No. 6 overall prospect, and Venezuelan shortstop Juan Querecuto, who is ranked No. 21.
"Rodriguez is a tall, strong hitter who sticks out immediately during batting practice," Baseball America’s Ben Badler reported. "He has quick hands, a loose trigger and good bat speed on a rhythmic swing with good bat path through the zone."
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In contrast, Querecuto is a 16-year-old who lacks a plus-plus skill but whose "high baseball IQ" draws high marks.
"While many shortstops his age tend to play out of control," Badler reported, "Querecuto is calm and collected in the field, with a good internal clock and a knack for slowing the game down."
The signing period covers foreign-born players who are not eligible for the MLB Draft. A player must be 16 years old when he signs and turn 17 either by Sept. 1 or the conclusion of his first pro season (whichever is later).
All clubs are assigned a spending limit and face escalating penalties for exceeding it. The Mariners have $4.75 million in their international pool.
Players who are 23 or older and come from a recognized professional league, such as those in Japan, are not subject to the international signing restrictions.
Baseball America reported the Mariners are expected to sign Rodriguez for about $2 million. The magazine also links the club to Cuban left-hander Yorlenis Noa.
There are knocks on Rodriguez and Querecuto.
Rodriguez’s game performances have been disappointing at times, and he shows swing-and-miss tendencies when adjusting from fastballs to off-speed pitches.
"While the game performance wasn’t as consistent as some scouts had hoped for," Badler reported, "at his best, Rodriguez has an impressive combination of hitting ability and power that could make for a future middle-of-the-order bat."
Badler also reported Querecuto "has a simple swing, uses the whole field and tracks pitches well with good strike-zone discipline." It says he is a "gap-to-gap hitter" who needs to get stronger.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners