According to multiple reports, the White Sox made their biggest international amateur signing in recent memory, acquiring outfielder Micker Zapata from the Dominican Republic for $1.6M. To put this in perspective, last year at this time (international signing day) the Sox made a big leap forward in their international recruiting, and the biggest bonus they paid out was $450,000 (SS Johan Cruz and OF Hanleth Otano). Baseball America puts Zapata at #9 among the Top 10 international prospects available for this signing period, and was #2 on MLB.com’s list. Zapata was born and raised in St. Thomas, and only moved to the DR a few years ago.
So what sort of skills does a 16 year old (almost 17) possess to garner that level of bonus? In Zapata’s case, the big tool in his kit is serious raw power from above average bat speed. At a January scouting combine in the DR, Jason Parks (of Baseball Prospectus) relayed a story about scouts being rendered silent by the bombs being continuously sent over the wall by Zapata. He may have the best power potential in the entire July 2nd class, despite his young age. Defensively, Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel notes he has a plus arm, and above average foot speed.
Zapata is already 6’3” and 225 pounds, which while impressive, may mean he’s already confined to the corners, and could lose some speed as he puts on mass. Also, BA’s Ben Badler notes he has a pull-oriented approach, and the power will likely come with a high strikeout rate. This is a trend among some of the more toolsy position prospects in the White Sox system, but it is a common offset to power.
It is important to keep in mind that even the high-bonus players coming out of the DR are lottery tickets. They have a high rate of failure. But in order to be competitive, teams have to invest some money in markets where the occasional star pops out, and the Sox have been improving in this regard the past couple years.
White Sox press conference of official announcement tentatively scheduled for July 3rd.
Here is a video from MLB.com of Micker.