The Oakland A’s are set to make a big splash on the international amateur free agent market this summer, for the second straight year. The team is expected to sign 16-year-old center fielder Pedro Pineda from the Dominican Republic for at least $4 million, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America.
This isn’t actually news, as Pineda has been linked to the A’s for a while. Badler reported the connection between the two sides as far back as last August, including similar notes about a large bonus. Nevertheless, this is a convenient topic to bring up while there’s no baseball going on, and anyway nothing is official with these int’l signings until July so it’s nice to know when things remain on track.
Here’s what BA has to say about Pineda on their current big board, where he ranks as the top prospect in the 2020 int’l class:
Born: Sept. 6, 2003. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 180.
Report: Pineda is expected to sign with the Athletics and be the top-paid player in the class, with a bonus that appears headed north of $4 million. He’s a strong, athletic, physical center fielder with a loud tool set and a power/speed threat. He’s a center fielder with excellent speed, a fast bat and the power potential to hit 25-plus home runs. Pineda trains with Nube.
Meanwhile, FanGraphs offers the following notes, which aren’t quite as optimistic (while also ranking him only eighth in the class, with a 40+ Future Value grade):
PED suspension in February ‘19 after early $4.2 million deal with OAK. Highest upside guy in class before that, considerable risk similar to Puason with approach questions but loud tools.
Rather than read too much into any of those details, the big-picture takeaways here are that Pineda is a highly touted teenage prospect and that the A’s are willing to make a sizable gamble on him. Beyond that, he is the age of a current high school sophomore, so his development will be a long-term project no matter how he ends up panning out.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs goes on to offer another word of caution:
This [2020 J2] group doesn’t seem to have the top-end talent that most classes do, at least based on my notes. Elite 2021 and 2022 talents have already been identified, and a few of them are clearly a cut above the top of the 2020 group — shortstops Rodrick Arias (‘21) and Felnin Celesten (‘22) and outfielder Cristian Vaquero (‘21) — but this class will certainly have quality players.
Of course, even if this turns out to be a weak international class, you’d still rather acquire the top name than not. This isn’t like past years, where they’ll incur over-spending penalties that will hamper their ability to pick up stars in future classes. Either spend the money you’re allotted in this signing period, or don’t. Given the A’s recent affinity for maximizing upside in their farm system, it’s not surprising to see them go for one big prize rather than several less-heralded prospects. Click here for a refresher of how the current int’l signing rules work.
There is one clear sign that Longenhagen could be right about this 2020 int’l class being lackluster. The A’s also went big in this department last year, as their $5.1 million outlay to shortstop Robert Puason was tied for the highest bonus for any player in last year’s class. That figure is around a million more than Pineda is reportedly looking at while leading his own class, which could provide a hint about their value relative to each other, and thus the overall strength the top of this new class. Puason currently has a 45 Future Value grade from FanGraphs, a tick higher than they’ve given Pineda for now, and we ranked him No. 7 on our Community Prospect List over the winter.
The int’l signing period usually opens on July 2, which is when the A’s would be officially allowed to ink Pineda. However, that date is up in the air right now, as are many things in baseball and the world overall, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Jeff Passan of ESPN reported the following in March:
Manfred also can delay the 2020 international signing period, which was supposed to run from July 2, 2020, through June 15, 2021, to at latest Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 15, 2021.
So, Oakland may potentially have to wait a bit longer than usual to sign Pineda, though for now it just sounds like a delay rather than anything that would jeopardize the deal entirely. However, Passan goes on to note that “the league plans to pursue an international draft at the conclusion of the current collective bargaining agreement, which runs out in December 2021,” which would affect future classes (but not Pineda, whose signing period will definitely end before the current CBA expires).
In the meantime, here’s a brief glimpse of Pineda in action, via Baseball America. You can also click here to see another clip, this time with the player wearing A’s gear (not from an official source, so I’m assuming it really is Pineda).
Pedro Pineda is a power/speed threat from the Dominican.— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) April 6, 2020
He expected to sign with the @Athletics as the top-paid player in the 2020 international class in July, per @BenBadler.
Get to know Pineda here: https://t.co/c4ik59pzIX pic.twitter.com/AFoh3lAUN7
Looking forward to adding another exciting new prospect to the A’s farm system! Click here to read about all 31 players on our Community Prospect List.