Signing day: White Sox reel in top OF prospect Yoelqui Cespedes

The White Sox announced the signing of Cuban outfielder Yoelqui Cespedes on the first day of the international signing period Friday. Cespedes received a $2.05 million bonus. He is the No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline.

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The White Sox are expected to announce the signing of outfielder Yoelqui Cespedes on Friday, the first day of the international signing period.

The White Sox are expected to announce the signing of outfielder Yoelqui Cespedes on Friday, the first day of the international signing period.

The White Sox announced the signing of Cuban outfielder Yoelqui Cespedes on the first day of the international signing period Friday. The deal for Cespedes ($2.05 million), which had been reported previously, adds the No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline to the Sox farm system.

The international signing period that was scheduled to begin last July started today because of the coronavirus pandemic. It ends on Dec. 15.

The Sox are also expected to sign several more international prospects, including right-hander Norge Vera from Cuba. The Sox are close to finalizing a $1.5 million signing bonus for Vera, the No. 15-ranked prospect.

Cespedes, 23, the half-brother of free agent outfielder Yoenis Céspedes, is the big prize. According to MLB Pipeline, he could be the first international prospect in this class to reach the major leagues, although he will likely play at the Class A levels in 2021 with 2022 probably the earliest arrival for the strong-armed, five-tool talent.

Cespedes defected from the Cuban National Team in June 2019 while playing in the Can-Am League in New York. Since then, he has added 15 pounds of muscle to his 5-9 frame.

“Yoelqui has worked extremely hard to put himself in this situation,” said Marco Paddy, Sox special assistant to the general manager – international operations. “He has the ability to play all three outfield positions with above average defense, line-to-line hitting ability with power to all fields and running instincts to steal and stretch singles into doubles.”

Cespedes will need an acclimation period to playing in the U.S. in the Sox farm system before projections can be made about when his major league career might begin.

“I can’t tell you exactly how close or far I am to the majors because I never played here,” Cespedes said through translator Billy Russo. “I know the quality is higher than the baseball I used to play in Cuba. But I think with time in the minors I’m going to be able to develop and show what I can do and we’ll see how long it’s going to take. But I’m confident in myself.”

The 6-4, 190-pound Vera, 20, possesses a 94-97 fastball with “a plus breaking ball and a plus slider,” Paddy said. He is the No. 15 international prospect per MLB Pipeline.

“He’s got potential to be a frontline starter in the big leagues,” Paddy said. “Commands the strike zone and has a great feel for pitching.”

Vera’s father, Norge Luis Vera, is a former Cuban National Series star.

According to Baseball America, the Sox are also expected to sign Dominican infielder Victor Quezada for a bonus in the $500,000 range, as well as catcher Manuel Guariman, outfielder Dario Barrero and right-handers Adrian Gil and Gabriel Rodriguez. The latter four are from Venezuela.

“This class we think has got a chance to be as good as any other class that we’ve had,” Paddy said. “When you have a chance to sign two Cuban players with high ceilings and ability and then combined with the younger kids from Venezuelan and the Dominican and other Latin American countries, I think it’s a good combination. We have a chance to have a very good, strong class that we’re going to be talking about for quite some time.”

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