Rays Notes: International Signings, Matsui, Maddon, Fuld

By Robbie Knopf

There was big news for the Rays on the international signing front as they signed three prospects: 16 year old right-hander Jose Mujica for 1 million dollars out of Venezuela, fellow 16 year old RHP Deivy Mendez out of the Dominican Republic for $120,000, and catcher David Rodriguez, also 16, out of Venezuela for an undisclosed amount.

Mujica, 6’2″ and 180 pounds, gets a nice birthday present, having turned 16 on June 29th. Mujica ranked among the top international prospects this summer thanks to a couple of pitches that fit the Rays profile. Mujica throws a fastball in the low-90’s that has topped out at 93 MPH so far, but what distinguishes it is not just its velocity, but its movement. Mujica’s fastball features late sink along with armside run, making it a swing-and-miss pitch and a very difficult pitch to elevate when he can keep it down in the zone. Mujica is a candidate to add more velocity as he fills out. Mujica’s second pitch is the Rays’ signature offering, a changeup. Mujica has great arm action on his change, which features more downward action and horizontal movement away from right-handed batters. He sells it as his fastball before forcing some very weak swings as it dives out of the zone. Mujica also throws a curveball that hasn’t progressed much yet, but he is still just 16. Mujica controls his top two pitches well, and the key for him will be to work on his command and get his breaking ball up to speed. Mujica has a lot of maturing to do, in terms of filling out, developing his pitches, and of courses age-wise, but he is another promising pitching prospect that the Rays are excited to add into the fold.

Not much information out there on Mendez right now. I’ll make sure to do an article on him when the information is available.

Rodriguez is a strong 5’11”, 195 catcher who possesses a solid all-around game. Rodriguez shows a compact swing with the ability to hit line drives to all fields. He is a relatively patient hitter who makes a lot of contact but has a decent idea of which pitches to drive. Rodriguez’s power is more to the gaps than to the fences. Defensively, Rodriguez has a good arm and is comfortable at the catcher position, but he has work to do in terms of the fluidity of his motions across the board. Rodriguez has shown good ability both offensively and defensively and gives the Rays another talent at a position of organizational weakness.

Now to the complete opposite edge of the spectrum and major league news. Hideki Matsui left Monday night’s game with a hamstring pull that is expected to sideline him for a few days (Marc Topkin). But the bigger news may be Joe Maddon.

Maddon may miss the entire football season! Hope Joe feels better and won’t have to actually undergo any type of procedure that would cause him to miss time.

And Sam Fuld is coming back!

The Rays have lacked a true fourth outfielder that they are comfortable taking at-bats late in games all season, and Fuld provides that along with speed of the bench. Hopefully the rehab will go well and Super Sam will return to the lineup for his first at-bats of the season within a couple of weeks.