After months of not hearing anything, all of a sudden both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline released their top international free agents for the 2023 signing period. The Cubs have a little over $5 million to spend and they are already linked to three top shortstops in MLB Pipeline’s top 50 list and two on Baseball America’s top 20.
What’s strange about these lists is that some players are still being certified to get signed. There’s a couple of guys, most notably pitchers, who are coming from Cuba and Asia that could also be in play for the Cubs.
Let’s take a look at who the Cubs are linked to and just remember that the position listed is temporary and not permanent. Many young players often shift a couple of times at this age. To be eligible to be signed on January 15, 2023, the player must be 16 and born between Sept. 1, 2005, and Aug. 31, 2006.
Baseball America’s list only went to 20 names and they have the Cubs linked to two shortstops. They are Derniche Valdez from the Dominican at 11 and Ludwig Espinoza from Venezuela at 20. Valdez is a pretty good sized kid at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds and it looks like he might be the one to stay on the position next year. Espinoza is already familiar with the Cubs since his brother Leonel was signed by them in 2020 and debuted in the DSL in 2021 but was injured this year.
Check out this video by Ben Badler on Instagram of Valdez.
Because it is a subscription site, I don’t really like to give out too many comments by BA, but Pipeline is another story. While BAs list only went to 20 guys, Jesse Sanchez of MLB Pipeline had his list going to 50 and it’s there that we really start to dig into a little bit more meaty profiles of the players.
Sanchez really liked Valdez a lot more than Badler. Valdez was ranked as the number six prospect on MLB Pipeline. Here’s a key blurb from Sanchez:
He’s best known as a prospect with tons of upside on the offensive side. Valdez projects to be a middle-of-the-order hitter and run producer if he continues to develop and mature physically at a normal pace. He already shows the ability to hit hard line drives to all fields and drive the ball out of the ball.
To see more video of Valdez, click here.
As for Ludwig Espinoza, Pipeline had him ranked quite high at number 14 while he was at number 20 over at Baseball America. More than likely, Espinoza will move off of shortstop and slide over to second base. Sanchez also liked his mental skills as he said that Espinoza is a “smart player, Espinoza could be a potential base-stealer and is the type of player that makes things happen on both sides of the ball.”
The player that got most of my attention from any description was SS Angel Cepeda’s from the Dominican. First off, I love the name Cepeda! I really liked Orlando Cepeda when I was a kid and I thought he was great. There’s no relation here, though. What I love most about Sanchez’s description was he talked about the athleticism of Cepeda to play almost every position except first base and catcher. He is that athletic enough. And the key thing I took away from that profile was that Cepeda is really a bat first guy right now and that he’s only gonna get better at the other positions as he gains experience.
Cepeda is very polished on both sides of the ball for a player his age and can flat out hit. He’s shown an above-average hit tool and has the potential to hit in the middle of a lineup. In addition to his game play in the Dominican Republic, he has experience with travel baseball and the showcase circuit in the United States.
This is really only the beginning of our international free agent coverage this winter. At some point in December, or early January, Ben Badler of Baseball America will actually have a list of about 7 to 10 names linked with each organization. Those come strictly from the clubs and I am excited to see just exactly what kind of players the Cubs may be getting and if they’re really focusing on picking up some pitching prospects for more than the usual $10,000 which does not count against the pool.