The top teens from the Great White North are going back to the Caribbean.
For the second consecutive year, Canada's 18-and-under Junior National team will travel to the Dominican Republic to take on some of the island's top talent playing in Major League Baseball's Amateur Prospect League.
The exhibition game is scheduled for Thursday at Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo. MLB's team will be primarily made up of prospects eligible to sign with Major League clubs when the international signing period begins July 2.
"It's great to see the players in this type of setting against good competition like Canada, and I'm excited to see how they fare," said Joel Araujo, manager of Latin American game development for MLB. "It's a win-win. It's a great evaluation tool for the scouts and clubs, and it can only help the players in terms of development. This is consistent with what we are trying to accomplish from a central office standpoint."
Last year was a banner year for Major League Baseball in its efforts in Latin America. MLB held its first international showcase in February, with 25 prospects from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. And a month later, MLB created the Amateur Prospect League for teenage prospects. It capped off league play last May with a visit from the Canadian Junior National team, and resumed play in July for players eligible to sign in 2013.
Other MLB Amateur Prospect League highlights in 2012 included an event in Venezuela and a showcase at Tetelo Vargas Stadium in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. MLB also hosted a four-day tournament that featured amateur teams from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and USA Baseball in Santo Domingo last summer.
Four months ago, MLB held its second annual international showcase in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, featuring more than 50 prospects from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia and Panama.
"Scouts have seen these players quite a bit this year and have been able to follow their progress," Araujo said. "Our goals are to provide prospects the opportunity for prospects to play games leading up to the July 2 signing period and provide a neutral setting where scouts can evaluate. We feel like we've made strides in that area."
In accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each club was allotted $2.9 million to spend on the international market in the signing period that began last July 2. This July's international signing period will work similar to last year's, but the amounts that clubs will be allowed to spend is based on their records in the 2012 season. The pools will range from just under $4.25 million for the Astros, which had the lowest winning percentage, to just under $1.15 million for Washington, which had the highest winning percentage.
Each team is allotted a $700,000 base. In addition to that base, the team gets a signing bonus pool that is made up of four slot values, based on its 2012 record. Additionally, clubs will be allowed to trade pool money.
Like last year, there are exemptions. Clubs can sign six players for bonuses of $50,000 or less, and those do not count against the pool. All bonuses of $10,000 or less are also exempt.
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 three or more seasons are also exempt.
"It's always an exciting time of the year because of the possibility of becoming a professional," Araujo said. "You see their excitement and you can't help but get excited, too. This year's crop is pretty good, and eligibility week is always a really big deal."