Because of the rules on international spending, the Reds can't sign a player for more than $300,000 during this signing period due to having gone over their spending allotment last year. That hasn't kept them from scouring the globe for talent.
Nearly all of the players they have signed since the period opened on July 2 come from Central and South America, all but one to be precise. The outlier is also the one who received the Reds' largest bonus of $135,000, and he happens to hail from Italy.
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First baseman Leonardo Seminati starred for the Italian national 18-and-under team at the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in Canada in September, hitting .424/.531/.654 with a pair of homers in 26 at-bats. He went from there to Arizona for his first action as a member of the Reds, participating in instructional league play, which runs through Saturday for Cincinnati.
"This is our first time we've seen him," Reds farm director Jeff Graupe said. "He's playing above expectations."
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Italy's baseball program has grown; it went 2-6 in the WBSC tournament, finishing with an identical record as Nicaragua and Mexico and ahead of South Africa. There has been a small handful of Italian-born big leaguers, but only one since 1962: Alex Liddi, who saw time with the Mariners in 2011-2013 and, like the 18-year-old Seminati, had some raw power to tap into, though he never did so at the Major League level. But the Reds think Seminati could be more than just a loud bat.
"He has major power," Graupe said. "He hit a ball over the scoreboard in Glendale. But he's also a really good athlete. He has the ability to play first, third, and I think he could play the outfield."
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More than anything, the Reds have been very impressed with how the Italian teenager has carried himself. Even with an improved program back home, the assumption was that Seminati would be behind others given that baseball in Europe isn't exactly equivalent to the game here. The player development staff has been pleasantly surprised.
"For a young kid who hasn't played a lot, he's not as raw as you'd expect, and it looks like he'll be able keep up with the speed of the game," Graupe said. "You'd think he'd totally get thrown to the wolves, but he's been really good."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.