Wednesday, July 2, 2008

MLB International Signing Day - Michel Inoa Scouting Report

According to Baseball Digest Daily,
The Oakland Athletics are scheduled to make a major player announcement in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic on Wednesday at 11:30 AM ET. If speculation is correct, the A's will announce the signing of super prospect Michel Inoa.

In attendance at the press conference will be Billy Beane, Vice President & General Manager, Billy Owens, Director of Player Personnel, and Raymond Abreu, Director of Latin America Operations.

As I mentioned yesterday, this is all but official. By the time that most of you read this, it will have become official. The Oakland Athletics, yes, the perpetually trying to save A's, are going to dish out the largest signing bonus to an international amateur.

While evaluating the move the Athletics made during the last off season, I speculated that they were building to contend for when they move to Freemont in 2011. Looking at the pieces they acquired, it would appear all of them will be ready and/or arriving at their peak when the Athletics (whom are being speculated to be undergoing a name change) for the 2011 or 2012 season. Each of the players acquired are under team control through at least the 2011 season. Could Inoa be another piece of the puzzle? If he is in fact the real deal, why not?

Something I do not understand is why teams will not hesitate to throw out $6M or so on a North American high school kid whom they can not be certain exactly what type of mileage he has on his arm and are involved in a 'bidding war' for a 16 year old. As I mentioned yesterday, the Tigers threw a guaranteed $11M at Rick Porcello from the 2007 draft (to be paid over the next 4 years). Despite Inoa's large reported signing bonus, he will still cost the Athletics less then Porcello over the same amount of time. While Porcello is undeniably closer to the majors, and is clearly further developed then Inoa, if the scouting reports are accurate, Inoa should be the better of the two. Thus, could this be the Athletics again attempting to take advantage of the market? Why spend $11M on a Porcello when a kid like Inoa can be had for half of that?

As per Michael Lewis' Moneyball,
A poor team couldn't afford to go out shopping for big league stars in the prime of their careers. It couldn't even afford to go out and buy averagely priced players...The poor team was forced to find bargain...
Picture Billy Beane, sitting in his office at McAfee Stadium hearing about this 'once in a generation talent' that can be had for a one time price of $4M plus minor league expenses (which really won't kick in until he comes to America in a year or two). To me, it seems logical to shoot Inoa $4-5M while having him under your microscope and can be certain how much he throws and what type of pitches he is throwing.

But why this kid? What, outside of a few scouts calling him 'once in a generation' makes him so special? How are we to know he will be the next Dwight Gooden (minus the cocaine)? Saber-Scouting (SS) has a scouting report on the kid, let's go through it:

Despite being 6'7" most do not consider him to be a tall, gangly teenager. In fact, there have been numerous occasions where scouts have stated that his mechanics are under control and repeatable. According to SS, Inoa has basketball player athleticism. Combine all of this, and we have a teenager that is extremely advanced, this is mostly noted through Inoa's confirmed command, which is considered very strong.

Saber-Scouting continues by stating,
Inoa’s mechanics are clean and the ball “comes out of his hand shockingly easy,” according to another source. Inoa comes from an athletic family, has a clean and fluid arm action, and earns high marks for his makeup and work ethic.
High praise for a 16 year old.

Inoa also possesses a curve ball, which rates out as a plus pitch, and a splitter which has been called 'dirty'. Owning a plus third pitch, combined with solid command and a reported strong mound presence is what makes Inoa an easy signing, even for the small market Athletics.

Saber-Scouting continues grading out Inoa's pitches on the traditionally used 20-80 scale. The first figure is his current rating, while the second represents a projection-which is nearly impossible to do, given Inoa's lack of professional instruction:

Fastball: 55/70
Curveball: 50/60
Splitter: 45/55
Command: 45/60

Not the best, but spectacular from a 16 year old. Given some proper coaching, and monitoring of usage, and it would not come as a surprise to anyone to see Inoa in the majors before his 20th birthday. Hopefully I am still around and writing by that time.

BallHype: hype it up!

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