April 18, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Angels add seven players as international signings begin

The Angels fired Billy Eppler as general manager more than three months ago, but the impact he made on the team’s international operations was felt Friday when the team added seven amateur players at the start of the international signing period.

The phase usually opens July 2 of every year, but it was pushed back six months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The signing period will remain open until Dec. 15, so the Angels can still add eligible players until then so long as they don’t exceed their allotted $4.73-million bonus pool or spend more than $10,000 on one contract. Bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count against the budget.

The Angels’ most high-profile addition was Dominican shortstop Denzer Guzman, who reportedly signed for $2 million. The 16-year-old is 6 feet 1 and 180 pounds. He was considered one of the most polished hitters in his class. He isn’t likely to hit for tremendous power but can drive the ball to all fields, according to MLB.com. He is also a strong defensive player.

The Angels also added two catchers in Eiver Betancourt and Edwin Hidalgo; two right-handed pitchers in Darlin Francia and Fernando Guanare; left-hander Luis Viloria; and shortstop Kleiver Lopez. Betancourt, Guanare, Lopez and Viloria are Venezuelan. Francia hails from the Dominican Republic, and Hidalgo was born in Panama.

Before Eppler arrived in Anaheim in late 2015, the Angels’ international budget was hamstrung for two years because of misguided spending during Jerry Dipoto’s tenure. The Angels were not allowed to commit more than $300,000 to a single player during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods. The farm system, rated among baseball’s poorest under Dipoto, suffered further as a result.

After the restrictions were lifted, the Angels spent part of their next international pool on signing two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, who received a $2.315-million signing bonus in December 2017. Eppler also was able to give international scouting director Carlos Gomez more leeway to go after top prospects in Latin America. Among his top acquisitions are shortstops Arol Vera and Adrian Placencia, who signed for $2 million and $1.1 million, respectively, and outfielder D’Shawn Knowles. The Bahamian signed for $850,000. Last summer, the Angels counted nine international players acquired during Eppler’s tenure among their top 30 prospects, as ranked by Baseball America.