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The Angels’ international signing woes are now behind them...hopefully

MLB: Los Angeles Angels-Media Day
Lesson #1: Never sign a guy who makes this face in every team photo
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It’s really tough to read up on Angels international signing news and NOT have my mind overtaken by Roberto Baldoquin bitterness. That’s what happens when your favorite team decides to tie their own hands behind their back for a few years, in the form of giving Baldoquin $8 million in January 2015, as well as trading away all their slot values in the 15-16 signing period.

So here I am today, checking out what Baseball America had to say about the Halos’ recent international signings, and sure enough, I instantly found myself sighing out loud, with visions of Baldoquin and Jerry Dipoto dancing around a burning pile of money, heads cocked back and howling with laughter. But, while at times the hole the team seemed to have dug for themselves seemed a mile deep and a foot wide, with only a tiny sliver of daylight to be seen, the good news is that the Angels are now out of the woods.

So what’s the good news? This signing period is the last in which the Halos will be limited to spending no more than $300,000 on an individual player. Now that the lingering international signing failure of Dipoto’s front office is all but gone, Billy Eppler and company can get to work putting their own stamp on that under-utilized talent pool, without being hamstrung by the previous regime. We’ve already seen him make big strides to rebuild the farm via his first amateur draft last year, and now we’ll get to see what he’s got in store on the international signing front.

The other semi-bright spot in this latest round of signings was the fact that the Halos weren’t so cheap this time around. In the 15-16 period, they had an allotment of $700,000 and ended up spending $780,000 total. In the 16-17 period, which began last July, they would finish up with 21 total signings, spending approximately $1.5 million total. The purse strings opened up a bit more, and next year, they will have even more wiggle room.

So, where did that money go?

The bulk of that went to 11 players that got six figure sums from the Halos. Most of these guys are unknown quantities to me, but Baseball America’s Ben Badler had some notes on a handful of them, so we can at least get a tiny clue about which names we could be seeing more often in the next few years. Badler’s favorite of the bunch is LHP Andersson Espinal. Here’s what he had to say:

For $175,000, the Angels signed 17-year-old Dominican lefthander Andersson Espinal on July 2. He’s 6-foot-1, 170 pounds with a clean, easy delivery and throws a high percentage of strikes. His fastball is still a projection, touching 88 mph right now, but he has a big-breaking curveball with tight spin and advanced feel to pitch for his age. Espinal trained with Chiqui Mejia.

That mark of $175,000 was the highest they went on any individual player in this signing period, and they did it twice. Once with the aforementioned Espinal, and the other $175K man is RHP Faustino Antigua. Here’s the lowdown, again from Ben Badler:

In December, the Angels signed Dominican righthander Faustino Antigua for $175,000. Antigua has a bigger frame (6-foot-5, 185 pounds) and velocity than Espinal, reaching 92 mph with a lively fastball. He’s tall and skinny with good break on his curveball and the physical projection to throw hard, though he will have to throw more strikes as he moves up the ladder. Antigua trained with Alberto Barjan and Lucas Garcia.

Beyond that, the values get lower and lower, the players get younger, and their futures get even harder to project. Some of them stand out to me, as the reported mix of youth, size and skillset is enough to make you daydream about all that potential. Like 17-year-old, Dominican RHP Stiward Aquino, who signed for $100K back in December. He’s 6’6 tall and weighs 175 lbs...and he’s SEVENTEEN YEARS OLD. That’s a big boy. Badler mentions that he’s already throwing near the mid-90s, and with some more growing to do, he could be throwing even harder in years to come.

Speaking of youngsters with growing to do, the Angels signed a Dominican shortstop, Daniel Ozoria, who only turned 16 in late August. He’s so young that he just barely missed having to wait until next year’s signing period, but the Halos got him for $125K, and are hoping his great hands, defense and instincts will develop into something special. The rub? He’s not only really young, but he’s 5’9 and 135 lbs, so they are obviously hoping that adding some size will put his tools up a few notches.

All in all, I think things are looking up for the Angels on the international front. Come July, they’ll be able to hit that market hard, and without any of the hindrances that the previous front office regime left in place for Billy Eppler to contend with. Then, I’ll be able to think about international signings without sinking into a nightmarish fever dream, starring Robert Baldoquin and Jerry Dipoto. Well, that’s my hope, at least.