Despite limitations on their current international spending, the A's added a speedy outfielder from Cuba to their system.
Oakland had been scouting Dairon Blanco extensively for the past year or so after he defected from Cuba and settled in the Dominican Republic. He officially signed with the club Monday.
Blanco, who turns 25 next month, spent four seasons playing in Cuba's top professional league, Serie Nacional. It's been nearly two years now since he's played competitively, so Blanco figures to require considerable time in the minors.
But his speed grades out at 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, the highest grade possible, and he'll instantly become one of the fastest players in the A's organization.
"We're thrilled," said A's assistant general manager Dan Feinstein, who heads up the team's international scouting. "He's been in the Dominican a while now, and we've been watching him. The first thing the jumped out to all of us is just how athletic he is. How fast he is. He's a true '80' runner."
The A's made headlines two summers ago, signing a five-player international class that was headlined by outfielder Lazaro "Lazarito" Armenteros. They incurred penalties for spending over their $3.8 million bonus pool limit then. Because of that, they're not allowed to sign any single international player for more than $300,000 in the current period, so Blanco did not break the bank.
Feinstein wouldn't speculate on how quickly Blanco might be an option at the major league level. For now, the A's are working to secure his visa so he can join the team this spring in Arizona. From there, they'll decide which minor league affiliate he'll join.
Feinstein is pleased with the development of that five-player class of teenagers that signed in July 2016. Armenteros and shortstops Marcos Brito and Yerdel Vargas all finished last season playing in the Arizona rookie league after making the permanent move to the United States.
Armenteros, one of the more highly touted international prospects to come along in recent years when the A's signed him to a roughly $3 million bonus, hit .288 with four homers, 22 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 41 games of rookie ball. His mature physical build stands out for someone his age.
"It's hard to believe he's just 18," Feinstein said.
It will be a few years still before fans see ‘Lazarito' in the bigs. He's likely to log time with Class A short-season Vermont in 2018. Armenteros probably won't be among the non-roster invitees to big league camp this spring, but it wouldn't be a shock to see him brought over from the minors to fill in for an exhibition or two. Last spring, he was believed to have become the youngest player in franchise history to appear in a Cactus League game, at age 17.