| The Detroit News
One more disruption from a pandemic-pummeled baseball year will be confirmed Friday when 2020-21 international signings can begin for 30 big-league clubs, the Tigers included.
The date arrives six months later than is customary. But such has been COVID-19’s effect on an important talent pipeline baseball has depended upon for generations.
The Tigers are expected to begin formally signing a number of Latin players, almost all of them teens.
Ben Badler, an editor for Baseball America, and one of the widely recognized experts on the international market, has linked the Tigers to five players. The Tigers, as is the case with all MLB teams, do not comment on potential signings until those players are officially in the fold.
Badler projects the Tigers’ top prize as Cristian Santana, a 17-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic, and a right-handed hitter. Santana’s skills are considered so heavy that Badler expects Detroit to spend nearly $3 million of its allotted, MLB-determined pool of $6,431,000 on Santana, who is a cousin of Tigers infield prospect Wenceel Perez.
Should the Tigers lure Santana for something approaching $3 million, it could match, or exceed the most money they ever have handed a teenage talent, which was the $2.85 million invested two years ago in then-16-year-old Cuban outfielder Roberto Campos.
Other signings expected by Badler and Baseball America, with the Tigers likely to be these players’ choice:
► Abel Bastidas, also a shortstop, and 17-year-old Venezuelan, who switch-hits and who is listed at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds. He is ranked the 27th best international talent by MLB.com.
► Rainer Castillo, a 6-foot-4, right-handed pitcher from the Dominican whom BA predicts will receive a healthy – compared with most international teens — $500,000 from Detroit.
► Carlos Pelegrin, an outfielder from Cuba, 20 years old, who defected to the Dominican Republic in 2019.
► Yimmy Diaz, a shortstop from Venezuela, who also switch-hits.
Players can begin signing Friday and have until Dec. 15 to sign with a particular MLB team.
The Tigers, by virtue of their heavy losses, market components, and minimal revenue, were given the maximum international signing budget of $6 million-plus, along with five other clubs: Marlins, Twins, Brewers, Rays, and Reds.
Teams cannot exceed those budget ceilings, except for players who are signed to contracts of $10,000 or less.
The Tigers have had mixed fortunes during the last decade in bringing international players to Detroit. Their last, notable homegrown star was outfielder Avisail Garcia.
But the Tigers also have lost talented international players to trades, with emphasis on Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez, as well as Rays shortstop Willy Adames.
Their current pipeline could restore some luster there. Campos, as well as outfielder Jose De La Cruz, are ranked 14th and 13th, respectively, on The Detroit News’ 2021 list of top tigers prospects.
Adinso Reyes, a shortstop, 19, is ranked 17th, while 20-year-old right-handed starter Keider Montero is 20th.
Lynn Henning is a freelance writer and former Detroit News sports reporter,