International free agent signings have begun, as teams are looking to sign the top players who were not eligible for the Amateur Draft. Yesterday, the Royals made their first foray into such waters this year, signing 16 year old Domincan shortstop Ricky Aracena. Aracena will reportedly receive a signing bonus of $850,000.
A switch hitting shortstop, Aracena ranked amongst the top thirty international prospects according to both MLB.com and Baseball America. Even though Aracena is only 5’8″ and 155 lbs, he is considered to have excellent bat speed and power potential from both sides. A gap to gap hitter with a patient approach, Aracena could be the type of player that would eventually fit well into Kauffman Stadium.
Defensively, Ricky Aracena is considered to be able to remain at short, given his footwork and range. Aracena is also considered to have solid hands and a strong arm, which will help him to remain at the position. On the basepaths, Aracena is considerd to have above average speed and good instincts, which could make him a productive basestealer.
While it is far too early to know whether or not Aracena will be able to make an impact at the major league level, that does not stop people from throwing around comparisons. Already, Aracena has been compared favorably to Rafael Furcal and Jose Altuve. While neither Furcal nor Altuve are home run hitters, both have been able to build careers around their speed and ability to drive the ball into the gap for extra bases. If Aracena is able to develop into that type of player, then the Royals may have found another international gem.
It will be some time before Ricky Aracena is seen in Kansas City, if he is able to progress that far in the system. However, if the scouting reports and the comparisons are accurate, Aracena may end up as a fixture in the middle of the Royals infield by the end of the decade.