MLB.com Columnist

Jesse Sanchez

Shakeup atop Top International Prospects list

Shakeup atop Top International Prospects list

Three top prospects have officially changed the landscape of the international market.

Cuban outfield prospect Eddy Julio Martinez, who some have compared to a young Andruw Jones, infielder Lucius Fox, who is from the Bahamas, and Cuban pitcher Yadier Alvarez have emerged as the top three eligible players for the international signing period that begins on July 2.

Martinez, 20, Alvarez, 19, and Fox, 17, make their debut on MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospects list at Nos. 1, 2 and 3. respectively. Outfielder Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 16, moves to No. 4 and outfielder Starling Heredia, 16, moves to the No. 5 spot. Powerful right-handed-hitting outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz, 16, moves down to No. 6.

Scouts are still enamored with Ortiz, the former No. 1 on MLB.com's Top International Prospects list, and his raw power, but at this point, the consensus in the international scouting community is that the young slugger is not as polished as the new top three players on the market or as athletic as Guerrero and Heredia, who continue to build on their all-around game.

"I'm feeling really good right now and I'm in great shape," Martinez said in Spanish from the Dominican Republic, where he is training. "I'm working hard get to my goal to play in the Major Leagues. That's what I have always wanted to do."

It's already been a long road for Martinez. He left Cuba in November and established residency in Haiti in February. He was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball two weeks ago and is eligible to sign.

It's unclear if the 6-foot-2, 195-pound outfielder, who played two seasons for Las Tunas in Cuba's Serie Nacional, will sign during the current international signing period or wait until the next period that begins on July 2. The Cubs, Yankees, Angels, Blue Jays, Nationals, Rockies, Tigers, Dodgers, Giants, Reds and White Sox are among the teams that have already expressed interest in Martinez, according to industry sources.

The Angels, D-backs, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees are in the maximum penalty for the current 2014-15 international signing period and won't be able to sign any pool-eligible players for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods starting July 2. Martinez is expected to command much more than a $300,000 bonus.

Scouts have praised Martinez's compact swing and his athleticism. He's shown home run potential and the ability to work the counts during recent showcases and games.

Evaluators also say Martinez has displayed good defensive instincts and the ability to cover the gaps in the outfield. He has a playable and accurate arm, leading scouts to believe he will stay in center field as he progresses through a team's Minor League system.

As for Fox, he was born in the Bahamas and spent 2 1/2 years playing at American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., before returning home to be closer to his family last May. The outfielder was later declared an international free agent by Major League Baseball, thus making him eligible for the upcoming international signing period.

Fox is known as sure-handed fielder with quick actions with an arm strong enough to keep him at shortstop. He's also known for his ability to put the ball in play and can spray the ball to all fields. Fox said he has improved dramatically since participating in highly competitive showcases such as The Perfect Game and East Coast Pro Showcase because he has gained close to 15 pounds in the last year and said it transformed him as a player.

"I'm just a kid from the Bahamas working hard to make an impact on the sport of baseball on or off the field," Fox said from the Bahamas. "Help young kids, donate to different organizations and play this beautiful game the Lord blessed us with us."

The Dodgers, Rangers, Reds, and Giants are among the teams to have expressed interest in signing Fox, according to industry sources.

Top Int'l Prospects: Alvarez

Alvarez has been one of the most coveted arms on the international market since he showed up in the Dominican Republic earlier this year. The right-hander is raw and could use some polish, particularly with his command, but he's young and has a 98-mph fastball, a plus-slider and a plus-changeup. He established residency in March and was granted free agency by Major League Baseball, making him eligible to sign when the international signing period begins on July 2.

The Rockies, Nationals, Blue Jays, Padres, A's, Cardinals, Twins and Brewers have all been linked to the young right-hander, but the Dodgers are considered the favorite.

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.