In the aftermath of the international signing scandal that ensnared the Atlanta Braves, Major League Baseball granted free agency to 12 prospects in their minor league system. On Tuesday, the Royals moved to take advantage, signing pitcher Yefri Del Rosario to a $650,000 signing bonus.
Del Rosario, 18, is a hard-throwing right-hander who originally signed with the Braves for $1 million in 2016. He split the 2017 season between Atlanta's affiliate in the Dominican Summer League and a Rookie League affiliate in the Gulf Coast League.
"We're excited to have this kid in our organization," said Rene Francisco, the Royals' assistant general manager for international operations. "He's another power arm with good makeup. That's the way our people have seen him."
Del Rosario, 6 feet 2 and 180 pounds, was born in Miches, Dominican Republic and grew up there before signing with the Braves. He had interest from other clubs, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, but he preferred to sign with the Royals because he grew up idolizing the late Yordano Ventura, who starred in Kansas City before his tragic death early last year.
Del Rosario became a free agent, along with 11 other Braves prospects, when MLB found that Atlanta had circumvented international signing rules across multiple years. The investigation led to a severe punishment from the league and a lifetime ban for former general manager John Coppolella. Del Rosario was ranked as the fourth-best prospect available in the group of 12 free agents, according to Baseball America.
In a scouting report, Baseball America wrote that "Del Rosario's stuff has taken a step forward since he signed (in 2016). He's now pitching with a plus 91-94 mph fastball that touches 97 and the added arm speed has also helped tighten up his sharp breaking ball. His delivery isn't particularly clean, but he throws strikes and his cross-fire delivery adds deception."
The transaction represented a nice lift for an organization that relies on its international scouting operation. The Royals have faced two years of penalties after exceeding their international signing bonus pool in 2015. In accordance to the rules, the club was prohibited from signing international prospects for more than $300,000 for two signing periods.
Yet once Major League Baseball granted free agency to the 12 former Braves, it ruled that clubs could sign the players and count the money spent toward their international signing pools in 2018. In addition, the Royals will only have to count $450,000 of Del Rosario's signing bonus toward their international pool. Del Rosario will also keep his previous bonus from the Braves.
The Royals scouted and liked Rosario during the 2016 signing period, Francisco said. However, their restrictions on signing bonuses took them out of the running. On Tuesday, though, they were able to add a talented prospect to their system.
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