July 2nd marks the first day of 2013 that teams are able to submit contracts to international prospects. The Royals decided to start their day with a bang.
According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, the Royals and 16-year old Italian SS Marten Gasparini have come to terms on a deal for $1.3 million – shattering the previous record of $775K held by former top European prospect Max Kepler of Germany and the Minnesota Twins.
Gasparini is considered to be the top prospect to ever come out of Europe. He is a switch-hitting shortstop renowned for his quick hands – both at the plate and in the field – and superb athleticism. While he possesses more gap-to-gap and line drive power than homerun power, his speed plays well enough on both sides of the ball to make up for it.
One of the few knocks against Gasparini is his lack of experience against premium competition and quality pitching. He has participated in international tournaments. He excelled in the 15U World Championship last summer in Mexico (.419/.514/.710, 1 double, 4 triples, 6 SB in 6 chances), but struggled in the 18U World Championship a few says later where he was the second-youngest player (note: he played CF for Team Italy in that tournament).
While he possesses great speed and soft hands, some scouts doubt his arm strength will allow him to stay at shortstop long-term; leading them to believe that center field may be his future defensive home. Other scouts note how well his defensive game has advanced in the past few seasons, leading them to believe that he has the ability to stay at short. Either way, he should end up at a premium position long term.
No doubt, Gasparini is as raw of a product as they come. But if he can excel against the advanced pro ball competition he’ll soon be facing, he has without a doubt the highest ceiling of any European prospect from this year’s class.
Go here to read Ben Badler of Baseball America’s outstanding piece on Marten Gasparini’s journey from a small town in northern Italy to the forefront of baseball’s international stage.
The Royals’ organizational talent at shortstop, which was fairly deep beforehand, has gotten even deeper. Gasparini will join the likes of fellow shortstop prospects Adalberto Mondesi, Orlando Calixte, Humberto Arteaga, and recent first round pick Hunter Dozier.