The international free agent signing period has opened up today, and the Texas Rangers have agreed to terms with three of the top amateur free agents — outfielder Paulino Santana and shortstops Curley Martha and Yolfran Castillo.
Santana, from the Dominican Republic, is ranked #2 on MLB Pipeline’s international free agent rankings board. He’s a righthanded hitter seen as a potential five tool guy, with Baseball America praising his spin recognition and strike zone judgment. The MLB.com scouting report talks about his feel for the strike zone and ability to adjust.
Martha is ranked #29 on the MLB Pipeline board. He’s out of Curacao, and starred for the Curacoa team in the 2019 Little League World Series. He’s praised as a “pure hitter” with advanced instincts in the Pipeline scouting report, which brings to mind Jurickson Profar, also signed by the Rangers out of Curacao. Both Pipeline and BA indicate he’s a bat-first guy who likely will end up moving off of shortstop.
Castillo, who is from Venezuela, is ranked #46 on the Pipeline board. He, like Santana and Martha, gets positive reviews for his “feel for hitting and [understanding of] the strike zone,” per MLB Pipeline. He’s tall and rangy, and is seen as more likely than Martha to stick at shortstop.
The Rangers have a pool of $4,652,200 available to them, having lost $1 million as a result of signing Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob deGrom as free agents last offseason. There will be additional signings now that the J-2 window has opened, though these three appear to be the big dollar guys who will get the bulk of the pool money. Players who sign for $10,000 or less do not count against the bonus pool.
I would expect all three of these guys to spend the 2024 season in the Dominican Summer League, although as we saw last year with Sebastian Walcott, it is possible that a player who is exceeding expectations could end up playing in the U.S. before the season is over. Santana, in particular, had MLB Pipeline invoking comparisons to San Diego’s Ethan Salas, who signed this time last year with the Padres and ended the year at AA. The Pipeline article linked above says that “Santana could be a similarly fast riser through the ranks.”
UPDATE — Here is a list of 23 international free agents that the Rangers have announced they have signed: