As international market opens, White Sox remain confident

As international market opens, White Sox remain confident
July 2, 2013, 8:45 am
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With Marco Paddy at the helm, the White Sox once again have confidence in their international program.

The significance of their calm state cannot be overstated.

It was only a little more than five years ago the organization’s operation in Latin America took a massive hit with the Dave Wilder kickback scandal in which the team’s senior director of player of personnel and members of his staff were fired after it was learned they had taken portion’s of signing bonuses earmarked for prospects.

But on Tuesday, the first day teams can begin to sign international prospects the White Sox have renewed faith because of Paddy.

One player the White Sox have been linked to is Dominican Micker Zapata, an “athletic outfielder with good size, huge raw power and a strong arm,” per Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Badler identifies the White Sox as the favorites to sign Zapata, 16, who could receive a $1.5 million bonus, a good chunk of the team’s $2.168 international signing pool.

Assistant general manager Buddy Bell said the team is excited for Tuesday and continues to be optimistic about the future of its international program.

“It’s nice to know we’re seeing all the players that have to be seen,” Bell said. “We feel pretty confident about (that). … We all trust Marco is very good at what he does.”

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The White Sox have come a long way in five years.

They fired Wilder, at the time considered a rising star in the front office, after they discovered he and two former White Sox scouts, Jorge Oquendo Rivera and Victor Mateo, siphoned roughly $400,000 earmarked for 23 prospects. Wilder later pled guilty to federal fraud charges in February 2011.

In the interim, the team’s spending on international prospects dwindled to almost nothing.

But the team’s direction has changed and Bell sees plenty of gains made in Latin America since Paddy was hired to head the team’s international operations on Nov. 30, 2011.

Paddy came to the White Sox with a strong reputation for signing top-notch talent in his five seasons in charge of the Toronto Blue Jays’ international program.

At the time of his hire, Paddy has signed four of Toronto’s top 30 prospects, two of whom were sent to the Miami Marlins in last offseason’s blockbuster deal that sent Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and others north.

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Even though he knows it will take time because most prospects are signed when they 15 and 16 years old, Bell has confidence as he has begun to see positive changes.

This spring, for the first time Bell can recall, seven prospects were invited to camp. He also noted last November the difference he could see in talent from previous trips to the team’s Dominican Republic facility.

Besides the significant increase in the amount allotted for signing bonuses, Paddy’s makeover has also included beefing up the organization’s coverage this offseason as he hired seven new scouts for Latin America.

“We’ve been pretty optimistic for the last year,” Bell said. “We’re much more involved than we were three to four years ago. (Marco’s) very connected.”