Texas Rangers Set to Sign Star International Prospects in J2 Period

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: The Texas Rangers logo to the entrance of the press box is shown before a game against the Seattle Mariners at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: The Texas Rangers logo to the entrance of the press box is shown before a game against the Seattle Mariners at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images) /

The Texas Rangers look ready to add depth to their prospect mix after reaching agreements with international free agents at the opening of the J2 period.

July 2nd marks the opening of the J2 period in the MLB. This means that teams can begin signing young, international free agents to deals and adding them to their organization. This can be a crucial time in an organizations’ development presenting the opportunity to bring in top tier talent from abroad. Texas has made good use of this period in recent memory signing players like Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman represent what impact the J2 period can have at the big league level. J2 signings also make up a fair share of the Rangers top prospects with Leody Taveras and Julio Pablo Martinez as recent examples.

In the 2019 J2 period, Texas entered with $5.398 million in bonus pool money and look set to sign a trio of international free agents, Bayron Lora, Maximo Acosta, and Zion Bannister, 2 of which fall in the MLB.com International Prospect Top 30 rankings.

OF Bayron Lora, Dominican Republic

Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com tweeted out Tuesday morning that the Rangers were in agreement on a $4.2 million deal for 16-year old OF Bayron Lora. Lora, a native of the Dominican Republic, was ranked as the #3 international prospect available in this period by MLB.com and the #5 J2 prospect by Fangraphs.

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Lora, an outfielder at 6’3″ and 200+ pounds, is renowned for his power from the right side of the plate. Fangraphs notes that Lora has an incredible build for a 16-year old which could help him progress quickly. Defensively, he’s expected to stick in the corners with Fangraphs listing him as a left fielder, while some view him as a right fielder long-term. He’s shown good speed according to MLB.com, clocked at 6.7 seconds in the 60-yard run.

He’s yet to sign a deal with Texas needing to add some international bonus money along the way to sign Lora and his counterparts, but this was likely agreed upon months ago and the Rangers will have a plan in place to secure the necessary slot money.

Fangraphs already has Lora in their Texas Rangers prospect rankings and slot him in at #18 in the system. It’ll be a while before we see the young outfielder in the big leagues with Fangraphs also giving him an ETA of 2025 but this has the makings of an impact signing for the Rangers if he continues to develop. For now, Lora will probably stay in the DR and play for the Rangers teams there until making the jump stateside in a couple of seasons.

SS Maximo Acosta, Venezuela

Lora was not the only MLB Top 30 international prospect that Texas was able to agree with on Tuesday. Jesse Sanchez also reported that Texas had reached a deal with Venezuelan shortstop, Maximo Acosta. Acosta, a 5’9″ 145-pound infielder, was ranked as the #14 J2 international prospect by Fangraphs and the #17 by MLB.com.

An all-around player, MLB.com notes a player comp of Gleyber Torres, young standout for the New York Yankees. Levi Weaver tweeted that the agreement for Acosta was $1.65 million which in conjunction with Lora’s reported signing bonus and Bannister, would exceed the Rangers $5.4 million international bonus pool they entered the window with meaning Texas will acquire extra cash via trade.

Expectations are that Acosta will be able to stick at shortstop long-term due to a quick glove and above average arm. Like Lora and most free agents in this class, we won’t see Acosta in the Majors anytime soon. He probably has a timetable similar to Lora and perhaps a bit longer. He’ll probably continue to train under the Rangers organization internationally before coming to the US in a couple of years.

OF Zion Bannister, Bahamas

The third international prospect picked up by the Rangers is Bahamian outfielder Zion Bannister. Less info is readily available regarding Bannister who is not a part of Top International Prospect rankings. Perfect Game has the Zion listed as a switch hitter on their website and also a right-handed pitcher for what you think that’s worth. In an article from December of 2018 covering the game of baseball in the Bahamas, Jesse Sanchez on MLB.com grouped Bannister as a shortstop. In a piece on The Athletic ($), Jamey Newbery noted that Texas intends for Bannister to play center field long-term.

The signing bonus for Bannister is $835,000 reported via Twitter by Levi Weaver of The Athletic.

Finishing Touches

The deal for Lora is being reported by MLB.com and is listed on the Fangraphs website however it’s not completed yet due to Texas’ bonus pool money. As mentioned, Texas entered with $5.398 million in slot money. After the signings of Acosta ($1,650,000) and Bannister ($835,000), the Rangers are left with just $2.913 million for international signings. Teams are allowed to trade for up to 60% of their total bonus pool now meaning the Rangers could work themselves up to $8.637 million through a series of deals with other clubs.

Texas could very well be done with this trio of players however Jamey Newberg notes that it has been reported by Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com that the Rangers are linked with Nicaraguan pitcher Lester Medrano. A quick search of Medrano’s name on Twitter brings up various reports from January that Medrano had signed with Detroit and one tweet from yesterday noting an agreement with Texas however none are from known sources.

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