We are just about two weeks from the official start to the international signing period on January 15, 2022. According to Baseball America, Cristian Vaquero will receive the largest signing bonus in this class and head to the Washington Nationals. But what about the rumors of the Nats signing Anthony Gutierrez? According to Baseball America, Gutierrez is “expected to wait for the next signing period (2022-23) to sign.”
The risk of Gutierrez waiting is that in any new CBA, they could change the current system to sign international players and start an international draft and put the kibosh on a signing of Gutierrez by the Nationals who consider him to be another top prospect. The Mets could have a similar issue with Elian Soto, younger brother of Juan Soto, who is not eligible in this upcoming international signing period due to his age.
According to MLB Pipeline, they are ranking Vaquero as the second best international player eligible to sign at this point. They have Roderick Arias, a shortstop from the Dominican Republic, as their top player. MLB Pipeline writes this on Vaquero:
“A potential five-tool player with lots of potential, Vaquero is one of the most dynamic international prospects on the market. He’s also one of the most athletic.
Vaquero was originally a left-handed hitter, but he learned to switch hit once he left Cuba, which has resulted in improved pitch recognition and more confidence at the plate. At 6-foot-3 and close to 190 pounds, he is a physical specimen with tons of raw strength and power. He can really cover ground in center field, shows a strong arm and has a chance to be a plus defender at the position. He plays hard with lots of energy and shows tons of natural instinct in practice and in games.
Consider this: If Vaquero was in the US, he would be a high school sophomore and on track to be a top five pick in the Draft in a couple of years.
Originally from Cuba, both of Vaquero’s parents were athletes on the island. He has been working out in the Dominican Republic with trainer Javier Rodriguez, a member of MLB’s Trainer Partnership Program. The Nationals are the favorite to sign him.”
The start of the international signing period which was traditionally on July 2, was moved to January 15 after the COVID pandemic changed everything. For prospects from Latin America and the Caribbean, and foreign locales all around the globe including Australia, South America, and Europe, this international signing period is the beginning to a pro baseball career.
For those wondering, it appears Vaquero will be represented by Scott Boras as his agent. Boras who just turned 69, will be close to 80 years old when Vaquero is set to be a free agent around 2032.
Originally from Havana, Cuba, Vaquero eventually made his way to the Dominican Republic in order further develop his baseball skills. Vaquero trains under the guidance of the Javier Rodriguez Academy outside of Santo Domingo Este.
Currently measured at 6’3″, Vaquero has grown into a larger frame and should continue to broaden to a wider base. Keep in mind, he is just 17 years old. He began showing advanced baseball ability at an early age. He made his first Cuban National Team at the age of eleven. The Cuban National Team competition took him to events at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex as well as to Chicago. It was there he had the opportunity to meet fellow Cuban Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox and quite possibly convinced him to head to the Dominican Republic to further a baseball career in the U.S.
Vaquero was born into an athletically accomplished family. His mother Elizabeth competed as a swimmer on the Cuban National Team. Also, while in Cuba, his father competed nationally in Judo. Vaquero counts his two major baseball influences as Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Trout because of their five-tool ability.
Below: Video of Cristian Vaquero running the 60, throwing from the outfield and hitting:
With Vaquero projected to sign with the Nationals, he could move quickly into their Top-10 prospects and strengthen the farm system. Last year the Nationals signed Armando Cruz to the largest international signing bonus. This seems to be a trend for the Nats to make sure they spend the most on one player to get who they believe is the best player.
“I want to say that I thank God, my parents, and the coaches of this Academy, mainly Javier [Rodriguez] for everything that I am living in these moments,” Vaquero told me.
In January of 2020, Vaquero got to visit the Nats complex in the Dominican Republic, and got to meet Juan Soto and Victor Robles (photo above) and work out with them.
“That was a great experience meeting them since they were able to advise me, and I liked practicing with them,” Vaquero continued in our conversation.
“I will work hard and continue to work on hitting from both sides of the plate. I have good coaching and look to continue to get better.”
Yes, Vaquero, a natural lefty, has been batting as a switch-hitter with Rodriquez. His tools boast plus speed, a strong arm, and the makings of a player who you could see in centerfield which is the position he has been playing. With the bat, he has been showing increased bat speed and power.
Per a conversation between Armando Cruz and myself, the teenager confirmed that he and Vaquero are already friends as seen in a photo taken over a year ago at the Ágora Mall together in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Cruz has been a part of the Nats’ Dominican team since he signed earlier this year.
With this current crop of international signings, the farm system will hopefully find a few future stars. The money they have spent in recent years will hopefully show it was funds well spent.