"As an international player, you grow up hearing about July 2 throughout your childhood," said Joel Araujo, manager of Latin American game development for MLB. "It's not just another day on the calendar. It's the beginning of the period, and for players that sign, it's the first step toward realizing the dream of becoming the next great baseball player from their country. It means a lot."
"This year is a deep class with lots of good players from top to bottom," Araujo said. "Clubs can get a lot of value throughout the entire class because of the talent pool that's available. It's a diverse group with players from different parts of the world. The game continues to grow globally and we as an industry are all very proud of that and we want to continue to see it evolve."
There are an estimated 6,000 players eligible to sign when the international period begins on July 2, and hundreds will ink contracts with Major League teams. This year's Top 30 International Prospects list includes 20 players from the Dominican Republic, six from Venezuela, two from Cuba, one from Panama and one from the Bahamas. The position breakdown is as follows: 14 outfielders, 12 infielders, three pitchers and one catcher.
There are also a few familiar names in this year's class. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the son of former Major League slugger Vladimir Guerrero Sr., is the top 16-year-old on the market. He's ranked No. 4 by MLB.com. Fernando Tatis Jr., the son of former Major League infielder Fernando Tatis, is ranked No. 27.
The top two players in the class are both from Cuba -- outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez and right-handed pitcher Yadier Alvarez. Martinez, 20, and Alvarez, 19, were declared free agents by Major League Baseball within the past two months, thereby making them eligible for this year's signing period. They're expected to fetch two of the largest signing bonuses in the class.
The international signing rules:
An international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team between July 2 and June 15 of next year if he is 17 or will turn 17 by the end of the first season of his contract. Additionally, any prospect who is already 17 or older and has not previously signed a Major or Minor League contract, resides outside of the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and has not been enrolled in a high school or college in the U.S., Canada or Puerto Rico within the previous year is eligible to sign during the period.
Each team is allotted a base of $700,000 and a bonus pool made up of four slot values, based on the team's record from the previous year, to spend on these prospects. Including the base, the money allotted to spend ranges from $5,393,900 for the D-backs, who had the Majors' lowest winning percentage last year, to $1,968,600 for the Angels, who had the highest winning percentage.
Additionally, clubs are allowed to trade pool money. Bonuses of $10,000 or less are exempt and do not count against the allotment.
Teams that exceed the pools by 0 to 5 percent have to pay 100 percent tax, and teams that exceed the pools by 5 to 10 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $500,000 during the next signing period. They also have to pay a 100 percent tax on the pool overage. Teams that exceed the pools by 10 to 15 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next signing period, and must pay a 100 percent tax on the pool overage.
In the most severe penalty, teams that exceed the pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods, in addition to paying a 100 percent tax on the pool overage.
The D-backs, Angels, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees exceeded the 2014-15 pool by at least 15 percent, and cannot sign any pool-eligible players for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods.
The international signing guidelines do not apply to players who previously signed a contract with a Major or Minor League club, nor do they apply to players who are least 23 years old and have played as a professional in a league recognized by the Commissioner's Office for a minimum of five seasons. Cuban players who are at least 23 and have played in a Cuban professional league for five or more seasons are also exempt.
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.