While many fans who like to look to the future mark down June 6th every year to see where the next great players will go in the Baseball Amateur Draft, July 2nd has become just as important a date. This is the day when teams are allowed to sign international free-agents. Two of the most interesting free-agents on the list this season were 16-year old catchers, Jesus Montero and Francisco Pena.
Francisco Pena has garnered much of the attention because of his famous baseball father, former MLB catcher Tony Pena, but Jesus Montero could be the top prospect among all the international free-agents. This past weekend both New York teams paid hefty bonuses to ink the talented young backstops.
The Yankees struck first, signing Montero to a reported $2 million contract. After losing out on Montero, the Mets quickly followed the Yankees’ lead by coming to terms with Pena for a reported $750,000.
Montero is considered by many scouts to be the best hitting prospect to come out of Venezuela since Miguel Cabrera. The fact that Tony Pena is the first base coach for the New York Yankees seemed to have no bearing on which of the two catchers the Yankees were targeting. Montero was clearly the favorite of Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman. His signing replenishes a Yankee farm system that, since the trading of Dioner Navarro, was devoid of top-talent at the catching position. He will start his Bombers’ career next season playing Rookie Ball for the GCL Yankees.
Montero was also the first choice of the Mets, but Mets’ GM Omar Minaya was ready to pounce on Pena once Montero chose the Yankees. At 6′ 2", Francisco Pena, from the Dominican Republic, is bigger and has more potential pop in his bat than both his father and brother (Tony Pena Jr. the shortstop for the AAA Richmond Braves). Upon his signing, he immediately becomes the Mets’ top-catching prospect.
"The kid is a good defensive catcher, but it is his bat that will take him far in baseball. We could say that he is a combination of Tony Pena’s defense and Mike Piazza’s bat."
Leo Mercedes, Pena’s baseball mentor
"I feel embarrassed to talk about my own son, but I think Francisco has a natural talent for batting, and as a catcher I can say that right now he has a better arm than I had when I was 16."
Tony Pena , father and 5-time all-star catcher
The Mets have not announced where Pena will start his career, but the GCL Mets in Rookie Ball is a good bet.
Carl the Cabbie