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International FA signings and MiLB acquisitions: January has been a busy month for the Braves farm system

International FA signings and MiLB acquisitions: January has been a busy month for the Braves farm system

Saturday, January 29, 2022

-Clint Manry

The MLB lockout has taken away a lot from the current offseason. No big, superstar signings or trades — just mostly silence across the internet waves. With a recent exchange of proposals between the League and Union (which you can read about in detail, here), hopefully this CBA business will get resolved soon, but in the meantime the only real notable news stays in the minors.

The month of January is nearly over, and because of the International Free Agent signing period, it was a rather busy month for big league clubs. For the Braves, the international period featured 14 signings, including a top-ten ranked prospect in 17-year-old infielder Diego Benitez from Venezuela (receiving a $2.5 million signing bonus), a no. 31 prospect in 16-year-old outfielder  Douglas Glod, also from Venezuela (receiving a $1.3 million bonus), and a talented teenage catcher, Alexander Martinez (also from Venezuela), who received a $400,000 signing bonus.

Starting with Benitez, this is a kid that could soon be included in my Braves Top 35 Prospect List. He already possesses 50+ grades from MLB Pipeline, including a 55 grade regarding his Power and Arm, which is pretty amazing given he’s still a teenager. You can read plenty of scouting reports on the infielder, but Benitez is already receiving Manny Machado-like comps, so he’s definitely a player to keep an eye on down in the minors this coming season.

Glod appears to be a power-hitting outfielder that’s already receiving positive reviews regarding his physicality. And Martinez could be another talented homegrown catcher to develop in the Braves system.

Here’s the complete list of the Braves international signings earlier this month, compiled from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s writeup back on January 16.

  1. Genderson Almonte, RHP, Dominican Republic, $10,000
  2. Diego Benitez, INF, Venezuela, $2.5 million
  3. Leiker Figueroa, INF. Venezuela, $100,000
  4. Didier Fuentes, RHP, Columbia, $75,000
  5. Elian Garcia, OF, Dominican Republic, $45,000
  6. Douglas Glod, OF, Venezuela, $1.3 million
  7. Robert Gonzalez, OF, Dominican Republic, $50,000
  8. Maximo Maria, OF, Dominican Republic, $100,000
  9. Alexander Martinez, C, Venezuela, $400,000
  10. Jhonny Martinez, RHP, Venezuela, $35,000
  11. Josnaider Orellana, C, Venezuela, $175,000
  12. Yorvi Pirela, RHP, Venezuela, $40,000
  13. Cristian Suarez, INF, Dominican Republic, $10,000
  14. Jhonly Taveras, RHP, Dominican Republic, $65,000

Other minor league acquisitions from January

It wasn’t just international signings this month. The Braves have also made four other transactions so far in January, including re-signing two 30+ year-old journeymen minor leaguers from 2021.

1/28 – Ryan Goins (INF)

1/25 – Ryan Casteel (C)

1/20 – Justin Maese (RHP)

1/20 – Michael Tonkin (RHP)

Goins and Casteel are both depth pieces that will most likely play at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2022. Both are decent hitters that wield a bit of pop with the bat, and in a pinch, could help out the big league team. Goins, 33, hit .233 with six homers in 91 games with the Stripers in 2021, while Casteel, 30, hit .224 with eight homers in 68 games at the Triple-A level.

Maese, 25-years-old, was signed to a minor league contract by the Braves and has already been assigned to Double-A Mississippi, where he’ll provide reliever depth for the organization. The former third-round pick (2015) has spent his entire pro career in the Blue Jays farm system, and is coming off a 2021 campaign with Toronto’s High-A club in which he struck out 10.7 batters per nine in 53 total innings, while sporting a 4.75 ERA. Maese’s jump in K rate looks promising.

Tonkin, 32, was signed to a minor league deal by the Braves and has since been assigned to Triple-A. He’s a former big league reliever, though he hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2017, when he posted a 5.14 ERA in 21 innings with the Twins. Since then, Tonkin has pitched out of the bullpen for both the Brewers and D’Backs’ Triple-A affiliates (both in 2019), and over the last two seasons has pitched in both the Atlantic and Mexican leagues. In the Dominican Winter League this year, the righty posted a 0.68 ERA in 13 1/3 innings.

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