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ORLANDO -- Dominicans Gustavo Cabrera, German Rosario and Carlos Belen and Venezuelans Franklin Barreto, Luis Torrens and Jose Castillo lead the pack among international prospects who will be eligible to sign with major league clubs on July 2, according to sources consulted by ESPNdeportesLosAngeles.com.
The list does not include Dominican outfielder Jairo Beras, whose pending $4.5 million contract with the Texas Rangers is under investigation by the commissioner's office. Beras was supposed to sign next week, but Texas discovered last February that the kid was already 17 years old and could be recruited before July 2.
Cabrera is a five-tool center fielder who has been evaluated by all MLB clubs, but sources say he agreed to an offer weeks ago and it will be announced next Monday.
Rosario is a genuine shortstop who can hit for average and power. It appears he will sign with the Mets, and sources say he is more polished offensively than Cabrera. Barreto is a very similar player to Rafael Furcal, but some scouts project him playing second base in the majors. The Toronto Blue Jays seem to be the leading candidate for Barreto.
Belen is a right-handed-hitting third baseman with great defensive instincts who many scouts compare to Texas Rangers All-Star Adrian Beltre. An industry source told ESPNdeportesLosAngeles.com that Belen will get at least a $1 million signing bonus and will most likely sign with the San Diego Padres.
While Torrens is a natural hitter, Castillo is the crown jewel among pitchers, more so because he is a southpaw with a decent fastball and control. Other highly regarded pitchers are Venezuelan Jose Mujica, Brazilian Luiz Gohara and Dominicans Kelven Pimentel and Osiris Ramirez.
The application of a new rule that limits the amount that MLB clubs can spend on international prospects practically eliminates the possibility of having similar bonuses this year to those previously granted, but there will be a handful of the best players in 2012 who will get seven-digit signing bonuses.
Last year, three Dominican players received bonuses of more than $3 million, including a record $5 million paid by the Rangers to sign outfielder Nomar Mazara. In 2008, Dominican pitcher Michael Ynoa signed for $4 million with the Oakland Athletics.
According to the new collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLB players' association, clubs will be able to spend up to $2.9 million on international prospects between July 2, 2012 and July 1, 2013. However, in 2012 and 2013, teams will also be able to sign at least six players for $50,000 or less and as many players as they wish for $7,500 or less, as expenditures that will not count against the cap limit.
About 2,700 international players will be available this year, more than half (1,500) from the Dominican Republic. Venezuela and Dominican players will comprise more than 80 percent of the players who turned 16 years old in the past year and will be eligible to sign for the first time.