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Marlins to sign Venezuela’s Julio Mendez via international free agency

Less than a month away from the opening of MLB’s 2021-22 amateur signing period, news breaks that Miami has a deal in place with a big arm.

International amateur Julio Mendez warming to pitch at a showcase @fabiandepab/Twitter

We have been mostly in the dark about the Marlins’ plans for international amateur free agency. With the January 15 signing date fast approaching, that’s beginning to change. Fabian De Pablos of the KPL Baseball academy in Venezuela shared on Thursday that left-hander Julio Mendez has committed to a deal with the Fish.

According to De Pablos, the 16-year-old currently maxes out at 95 miles per hour with his fastball (sits 91-93 mph) with an intriguingly high spin rate of 2700 revolutions per minute. As is the case for any player that age, there is the potential for his velocity to continue increasing in the coming years. He also throws a curveball and changeup.

Mendez was previously developed as an outfielder (bats from left side). As of May 2020, he was listed at 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds, but recent physical maturation has evidently changed his trajectory.

De Pablos adds that Mendez will become the first player from KPL Baseball to sign a professional contract with the Marlins.

At the opening of the 2020-21 signing period, the Marlins inked Venezuelan teenagers LHP Luis Baldiris, INF Reiner Chourio, OF Oscar Colina, C Edward Duran, INF Jesús Hernández, C Ronald Hernández and RHP Jhoniel Serrano, and the period before that (2019-20), they reeled in INF José Salas who has since established himself as one of the organization’s top overall prospects.

However, they dismissed international scouting director Fernando Seguignol earlier this year. It is unclear who has replaced him at that position. The Marlins website lists David Hernández Beayne (manager, international scouting) as the highest-ranking employee in the int’l department.

Since the franchise’s ownership change, the Marlins have been consistently heavy spenders in the international market. They memorably traded for additional bonus pool space in 2018 to accommodate the Mesa brothers, and they used nearly of their allotted funds (north of $5 million) in each of the two subsequent periods. Then in June, the Marlins broke ground on a new state-of-the-art academy in the Dominican Republic. But prior to the Mendez agreement, the only prominent prospect who they had been linked to in the upcoming IFA class was INF Yoffry Solano from the D.R. (ranked 44th by MLB Pipeline).

Keep in mind, all of the current international amateur rules are dictated by Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, which expired earlier this month. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs writes that “the general sense remains that the January signing day will take place as planned,” while noting that others anticipate a delay until the new MLB CBA is in place. De Pablos is among those in the latter camp.