Moises Ballesteros – Picture by Todd Johnson

When we started this website back in 2021, one of the first things I did was to compile some resources for you to refer to for the MLB draft and international free agency. Last week, I took a look back at the draft class of 2022, and offered up an initial grade for that grouping. When it comes to international free agent classes, it’s a little bit harder to grade.

The challenge lies in the fact that most IFAs take a while to develop. They sign at 16 or 17 and some as late as 20. And if they get out of the Dominican, in the first place, it takes another two years before we get to see them in Myrtle Beach. That is usually where we get our very first full-length look. For example, Jefferson Rojas is the rare exception as he is at Myrtle Beach in his second pro season at the tender age of 18. Last year, we saw Alfredo Zarraga debut at Myrtle Beach, but he was a bit older.

Today, I will be offering up a second set of grades but I will not be doing the 2022 IFA class just yet as most of them have not made it to Myrtle Beach.

2012 – Soler and Alzolay
Initial grade: A-
2023 grade – Their grade gets bumped up to an A because we have a pretty good closer out of this deal. We also got a World Series Championship with Jorge Soler. And you really can’t argue with getting two very good contributions to the big league club.

2013 – Eloy and Gleyber
Initial grade: A+ – And that hurt to type that…again
2023 grade – This is also an A+, and it still hurts over and over.

2014 – Who is left? No one.
Initial grade: F
2023 Grade: They are going to get an F for eternity.

2015 – Who is left – Javier Assad, Brailyn Marquez, Miguel Amaya, Christopher Morel
Initial grade: B
2023 Grade: As these kids turn 24, it’s hard to think they’re still that young. That goes to show you just how long development takes and this class is looking very very good. We could have two every day contributors and Assad has really taken big steps the last two years. I am going to go with a B+ this year. One or two of these guys makes it into the everyday lineup in the next year or two, then that’ll get bumped up to an A or A-.

2016 – Who is left – Yovanny Cruz
Initial grade: B
2023 Grade: Nobody took a big leap forward this. But with only one left, the chances of getting to Chicago are getting slimmer and slimmer even though Cruz still has a high powered arm. And again, he is a free agent at the end of 2023  Going with a D as this class bottomed out the last two years.

2017 – Who’s Left – Devers, Manny Espinoza, Pablo Aliendo, Malcolm Quintero, Reivaj Garcia, Luis Verdugo
Initial grade: C- 
2023 Grade: This class probably has grown the most in the last two summers. Between Devers and Aliendo, and the resurgence of García, we might be looking at something a little bit bigger next summer. I am going to give them a B minus. Although, next year is do or die for most of them as they are set to be free agents at the conclusion of the season.

2018 – Who is left – Yovanny Cabrera, Richard Gallardo, Joel Machado, Rafael Morel, Cristian More, Yohendrick Pinango, Felix Stevens 
Initial Grade: B- 
2023 Grade: This past summer was pretty fun as Cabrera broke out a little bit along with Gallardo before his ankle injury ended his season. And we also saw Stevens and Morel pop while Joel Machado finally got in a game that mattered. I am sticking with the B-.

The New Grades

We are now at the point in the article where we’ve got some new initial grades to give out. The original grades listed above were all given out in November 2021. The class of 2022 will get their initial grade next fall/end of next season. 

Let’s get to it.

2019 – Who is left
PITCHERS: Angel Hernandez, Anthony Mendez, Gleiber Morales, Kenyi Perez, Marino Santy
CATCHERS: Brayan Altuve. Dilan Granadillo, Wally Soto 
INFIELDERS: Andrws Cruz, Leonel Espinoza, 
OUTFIELDERS: Frank Hernandez, Anderson Suriel

Initial Grade: This class already had some attrition, but we’re also starting to see some of them get all the way up to Myrtle Beach. Marino Santy has had a pretty good year for the Pelicans moving from a reliever into a starting role. Kenyi Perez also made it to Myrtle Beach and flashed at times. We’ve also seen a lot of position switches. Both infielders moved to the outfield, and those original outfielders also moved to the infield and behind the plate. Frank Hernandez is now doing very well as a catcher and Anderson Suriel has been playing a mean first base. But we’ve not really seen “the”A” breakout performance from this group other than Santy. As a result, they are going to get a C minus. There is just not a lot of star power here.

This is also the class that had Ronnier Quintero as the top signee and he is no longer a Cub. Shortstop Kevin Made, who is now in the Nationals’ system, left this summer.

2021 – Who is left…
PITCHERS: Gabriel Agrazal, Carlos Garcia, Zhiorman Imbriano, Scarlyn Lebron, Starlyn Pichardo, Wellington Quintero, Luis Albert Reyes, Luis Rafael Reyes, Tomy Sanchez, Runelvis Toribio, Eligio Paredes, Yafrerlyn Vasquez, Kevin Valdez, Yenrri Rojas, Diego Dugarte, David Olivo, 
CATCHERS: Moises Ballesteros, Fredy Montenegro, Jairo Diaz
INFIELDERS: Cristian Hernandez, Geuri Lubo, Pedro Ramirez
OUTFIELDERS:  Wilmer Bolivar, Raino Coran, Oferman Hernandez

Initial Grade: This turned out to be a pretty big class of players because there was no 2020 class. Alfredo, Zárraga, debuted in Myrtle Beach, and then was traded later last summer. Most of these players that are remaining, were either at Mesa or Myrtle Beach this year with Moises Ballesteros being the only one to make it to South Bend. Cristian Hernandez has not popped yet, but we’ve seen good things from Pedro Ramirez as well as Scarlyn LeBron, and Starlin Picardo in the bullpen in Myrtle Beach. Next year might be the year for this class. Ballesteros is making this class look pretty good. As a result, let’s roll with an initial grade of B. If the pitching clicks in the next year, we’ll see what happens. Kevin Valdez looks like he could be a guy going forward along with Eligio Paredes, who was just promoted up to Myrtle Beach two weeks ago.

I really enjoyed putting this collection together today.

What I’m taking away from this post is just how different development is for one player over another. Some guys catch on quick like Ballesteros and move through the system in a fairly quick manner. Other players take a while to grow into their bodies and develop muscle and there’s nothing wrong with that. Remember, this – Cristian Hernandez is still only 19 years old. He basically would be just finishing his freshman year in college.