Multiple international baseball players have made enormous impacts over the last few seasons. As the talent keeps coming, international bonus money pools continue to rise from year to year. 

Already this offseason, we’ve seen teams shell out lucrative contracts for foreign prospects. That includes Cubans Yoan Moncada, Yasmany Tomas and Yoan Lopez as well as the Korean Jung-ho Kang. Moncada was one of the most highly coveted prospects in recent memory, signing a $31.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox. 

How important was bagging the teenage phenom? The Red Sox were willing to pay a 100 percent tax on their payment, raising Moncada‘s overall cost to upward of $60 million.

Despite losing its biggest fish, the international free-agent pond remains well stocked. There will always be a “next big thing” waiting for an opportunity in the big leagues, so let’s take a look at the next wave of international players poised to make the move to American baseball. 


Hector Olivera 

Olivera is likely the next international domino to fall, as the 29-year-old seems ready to follow fellow countryman Moncada to America. 

Let’s assess his risk first. While in his mid-20s, Olivera missed the end of the 2011-2012 season and the entire 2012-2013 campaign. To make matters worse, he also played in just 29 games at second base last season, spending most of his time as the designated hitter. 

According to Ben Badler at Baseball America, a blood disorder in Olivera‘s left bicep was the reason for his extended absence from the diamond. Despite proving both his health and ability at recent workouts, Badler mentions that many organizations are understandably hesitant on Olivera due to his mysterious health problems:

Through his recent play on the field during the tryout process, both at his open showcase games and private workouts, Olivera has answered questions about his present ability and conditioning level after scouts had gone years without seeing him in person. Yet the uncertainty about his medical past and how it could shape his baseball future is what has even highly interested teams feeling uneasy, especially with a big price tag. 

Despite those risks, Olivera remains a top target for many infield-needy major league squads. He can play almost any infield position but profiles as a second or third baseman in the big leagues. 

Olivera can hit, plain and simple. According to Marc Normandin of SB Nation, Olivera has posted a .986 OPS over his last six seasons. He also slashed .316/.412/.474 during the 2013-2014 Serie Nacional campaign. 

Here’s a clip of Olivera going deep in the 2009 World Baseball Classic:

So where will Olivera end up? Many of the same teams who failed to land Moncada will be players for the infielder, including the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Olivera has already undergone physicals for multiple MLB teams, including the Dodgers:

While both the Yankees and Dodgers undoubtedly have the funds to throw at Olivera, a more desperate team could sneak in the backdoor to sign him. That team could be the Atlanta Braves, who held a private workout for Olivera back in January, according to Badler

Under new President of Baseball Operations John Hart, the Braves have made an effort to become more active in the international free-agent scene. While Atlanta is in the midst of a mini rebuild in order to be a National League force when it enters its new stadium in 2017, Olivera could be the perfect short-term option to slot into that lineup. 

Badler wouldn’t be surprised if Olivera ends up with the Braves: 


Andy Ibanez 

While Olivera would provide more instant impact to a prospective team, fellow infielder Andy Ibanez can give an interested organization a long-term prospect to mold into a competent MLB player.

At 21, Ibanez is able to sign with a team right away due to the fact that he’s under 23 and has not played in a professional league for the last five seasons. 

Here’s what Badler had to say about Ibanez:

At 5’11”, 183 pounds, Ibanez has a thicker build for a middle infielder but he’s athletic and has good body control. With fringy speed and an average arm at best, Ibanez isn’t flashy, but he has a good internal clock and a high baseball IQ, fitting best at second base. Ibanez’s power is mostly to the gaps, projecting as a doubles hitter rather than a big home run threat, but what’s sold some scouts on him is his bat. 

Ibanez was the top player on Cuba’s 16-and-under and 18-and-under national teams. He was also the youngest player on the Cuban roster during the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

According to Jesse Sanchez of, players like Howie Kendrick, Omar Infante, Miguel Cairo and Placido Polanco are appropriate comparisons to Ibanez’s game. None of those names screams superstardom, but all were or remain above-average MLB talents who enjoyed successful careers. 

Ibanez’s potential suitors are similar to the squads that are pursuing Olivera and that coveted Moncada. Per Sanchez, the Dodgers, Yankees and San Francisco Giants are three of the organizations more serious about signing Ibanez. 

The Dodgers make sense, as they recently dealt away Dee Gordon to the Miami Marlins. While Kendrick will handle the second base duties in 2015, L.A. will likely be looking to find a young replacement to pair with emerging shortstop prospect Corey Seager


Yadier Alvarez 

While not having any professional experience in Cuba, Yadier Alvarez may have the highest ceiling of any of the three prospects mentioned here. 

The 18-year-old right-hander made waves in recent international showcases with a nasty repertoire. Sanchez notes that Alvarez “has a fastball that touches 98 mph with a plus slider and an above-average changeup, prompting one high-ranking National League official to say Alvarez was the best 18-year-old pitcher he had ever seen.” 

Alvarez’s allure has only been magnified by his other traits, including his size and age. Here’s what Mark Townsend of Yahoo Sports had to say regarding Alvarez’s intangibles

Alvarez looks the part as well. At 18, he stands 6-foot-3 and weighs around 175 pounds, which makes for a solid foundation. With so many years ahead of him, he also presents an opportunity to molded and developed within a team’s system. All things scouts and teams looking to stash talent will love. 

As you can imagine, many MLB teams are lining up to sign Alvarez. Unfortunately for interested organizations, they cannot sign him until after July 2 because he did not register in time to be eligible for the current signing period. 

It’s too early to decide the favorite for his services, but Alvarez is maneuvering his way to the top of the international free-agent list for the next signing period. Sanchez has reported that the Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Washington Nationals, San Diego Padres, Oakland A’s, St. Louis Cardinals, Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers have all expressed interest in the next Cuban phenom. 

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