At midnight on Friday, the Phillies signed Dominican player Luis Encarnacion the very minute he turned 16 years old.
Yes, please insert your “youth movement” joke here.
Encarnacion was rated by Baseball America as the 4th best international prospect this year, with the Phils paying $1 million for the kid who BA says has “plus raw power from the right side.” MLB.com’s Jess Sanchez had him ranked 12th, noting a “line drive stroke that allows him to hit the ball to all fields with power.”
Here is video of Encarnacion taken in January of this year (from Youtube).
Of course, the 6′ 2″ 195-pound teenager only just turned 16, so it’s fair to say making judgments on his playing ability is a bit premature. And while he’s playing third base right now, most people think he will eventually become a first baseman or a corner outfielder if he reaches the big leagues.
The Phillies have had success in recent years with international signings, landing Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez and Carlos Ruiz among others through that process. Maikel Franco, hands-down the top position prospect in the organization, was also signed out of the Domincian, and Venezuelan Carlos Tocci, signed in 2011, is also seen as one of the club’s top prospects.
The Phils appear to be trending more and more in this direction, especially with the signing of Cuban defector Miguel Rodriguez to an eye-opening 6-year, $50 million contract, something unprecedented in team history. However, as of a few days ago, that deal was in jeopardy, mainly due to concerns about Rodriguez’ elbow.
Still, for just a million bucks, the Phillies have landed the best right-handed hitting prospect in the international market this year. And, at just 16 years old, if things go well, Encarnacion could give the Phils a quality young player who will be around for a long time.
And it appears the Phils understand that paying larger amounts of money for better international prospects may be a better way to build a team than through free agency and trades.