Cuban left-hander ranked No. 2 on Top 30 International Prospects list
By Jesse Sanchez
The Padres have been busy since the international signing period began Saturday, and their latest international acquisition is their biggest to date.
The Padres agreed to terms with teenager Adrian Morejon, a left-handed pitching prospect from Cuba. The deal, which is pending a physical, is worth $11 million, according to industry sources. Morejon, 17, is ranked No. 2 on MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospects list.
"We view him as an elite talent in the game, at least on the amateur scene this year" said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. "You combine projection with 'now' stuff. … It's a combination of a 17-year-old left-hander with some growth potential, that you're excited about what the future holds. But he's a guy that's going to go out right now and compete and get outs, and we'll start seeing that next year."
Morejon will compete with the Padres' plethora of international signings at their academy in the Dominican Republic, before heading to instructional ball at the team's complex in Peoria during the offseason. He'll begin pitching at the professional level next year.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Morejon pitched for Cuba's 12-and-under team, 15-and-under team and 18-and-under team. He was the MVP of the 15-and-under World Cup in Mexico in 2014 -- which was when Preller said he burst onto the Padres' radar. At 15, Morejon played in the Serie Nacional, and he is believed to be the youngest player to participate in the island's top league.
"One of the first things you see when you watch him is the way he walks around the mound -- whether he gets a weak ground ball or he strikes a guy out, he just has this look that he's been there before," said Padres director of international scouting Chris Kemp. "He looks like a professional at a very young age."
Kemp feels as though Morejon still has room to add another couple inches and about 20-25 pounds to his already-athletic frame. Morejon boasts an elite fastball, which hits 95, and a two other above-average pitches in his curveball and changeup, Kemp said.
The Padres have already signed Luis Almanzar, ranked No. 4, to a $4 million deal; shortstop Gabriel Arias, ranked No. 6, for $1.9 million; outfielder Jeisson Rosario, ranked No. 10, for $1.85 million; shortstop Jordy Barley, ranked No. 16, for $1 million; shortstop Justin Lopez, ranked No. 28, for $1.2 million; and Mexican outfielder Tirso Ornelas, ranked No. 29, for $1.5 million.
The Padres also signed catcher Alison Quintero for $830,000 along with right-handed pitchers Michel Miliano for $450,000 and Jose Manuel Guzman for $400,000. Add infielder Tucupita Marcano, who signed for $320,000.
From Mexico, they signed right-handed pitcher Martin Carrasco for $115,000 and center fielder Augustin Ruiz for $80,000, along with right-handed pitcher Luis Patinio from Colombia for $130,000.
The club also signed Taiwanese right-hander Wen-Hua Sung for $675,000. In all, the Padres have signed 26 international prospects since the international signing period began on Saturday.
"It's a great message to the organization. You don't make this type of signing, this kind of investment for a player where there's a lot of competition for his services without a ton of organizational support. … When you have that support from ownership and from Mike, we had a game plan of what we wanted to try to accomplish, and Chris and his group put us in a spot to accomplish it."
In accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team is allotted a $700,000 base and a bonus pool with four slot values based on the team's record in 2015 for the international signing period, which started Saturday. San Diego's overall pool total for this year's signing period is $3,347,600, which means the signings -- worth about $25 million so far, and expected to grow -- will thrust the club into the maximum penalty.
The Padres are in the most severe penalty for exceeding their pool by 15 percent or more, so they will not be allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods. They must pay a 100 percent tax on the pool overage, a total close to $43 million. But ultimately, the Padres were able to capitalize on a number of other teams sitting out this signing period because they exceeded their pools during the past two years.
"You're trying to get three-years worth of players in one year, and you're trying to set the organization up long-term," Preller said. "There were a lot of factors in play, and I think when we looked up, we knew that we had a chance to be very competitive. There were teams that were going to have to be out of this year's period. That was part of the whole decision. Mainly because of the talent that was available, we felt like it was the right time to go and the right players to go on."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.