Chicago Cubs: Priming the upcoming international free agent market

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

It is that time of the year again when international talent from all across the globe gear up with dreams of achieving the ultimate goal of one day playing Major League Baseball. Heading into a new calendar year here in a few short weeks, the start of 2022 will open with organizations wading into the talent pool to land the next big foreign names.

The lockout may and probably will put a damper on this year’s signing period, as it would be a surprise to see it commence in January as is customary. However, the landscape should not change much, if at all, as far as teams go.

Suppose you are an avid FanGraphs frequenter and follow uber-prospect writer Eric Longenhagen. In that case, you’ll notice the very recently updated international big board – and it includes a pair of young infielders linked to our very own Chicago Cubs.

There should be no surprise regarding much of the talent pool. On the surface, it can be summed up as a bunch of undersized developing 16 and 17-year-old “shortstops” because, let’s face it, practically all infielders are given that designation. Likely it will change for many down the line, and, for the time being, the Cubs connection is to a pair of young unrefined future Javier Báez’s, so let’s jump in, shall we?

Chicago Cubs: Diving deep into the fountain of youth

First up and most prominent is 15-year-old Fernando Cruz, a 5’10”, 160-pound free-swinging right-handed hitter. He has been observed to potentially become a great defensive player with a strong arm and already elite-level transfer abilities. Cruz has also been viewed as a guy with potential massive upside, which seems to continue to fit the Cubs narrative in the talent they land each year from the various international markets.

At this stage, Cruz generates his power with a wind-up toe-tap and follows through with a powerful extended swing that allows him to drive the ball to all parts of the field. Unfortunately, the only video I could find on Cruz was a grainy two-minute clip on YouTube on some makeshift baseball fields, but the power in this kid seems legit and, when you watch him, Báez is the first name to come to mind.

The most exciting area of his game to this stage and age is his glove and reaction in the field. Like many, defense and glovework are tantamount to development, and given another few years, the sky’s the limit with this kid. Cruz is expected to receive one of the top bonuses in the class.

The other name on the big board connected with the Cubs is 17-year-old Alexis Hernandez and, if you even had to guess, Hernandez profiles as another shortstop. A bit older, Hernandez does not have much on him yet in scouting; however, he has been seen as a guy who can get there down the line regarding his fit at the six-hole and a 6’2″, 175-pound frame that profiles well.

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If I had thought there was little to nothing on Cruz, there is absolutely nothing on Hernandez, and that is alright for now. Avid prospect enthusiasts will undoubtedly follow him closer as we get closer to signing day, and for now, he’s one to keep on the radar as the Cubs continue to grind it out in Latin America in hopes of building their talent pool up once again. We’ll see you in 2026, gentlemen.