We live in an age where we can find pretty much anything we want (and lots of things we don’t want) on the internet with relative ease. This was not the case when the Phillies inked 17-year-old German outfielder Julsan Kamara to a seven-year minor league deal on May 13th. Google results yielded very little on Kamara, let alone the sort of in-depth information I look for when I begin to build a foundation of scouting information on an unknown international player.
I have since made a few calls and got in touch with Phillies Director of International Scouting, Sal Agostinelli, who was gracious enough to tell me a little bit about Kamara.
“We went to (redacted foreign country) to check out (redacted international player whose name I won’t give out until he signs because it can do the Phillies no good for me to tell you who it is) and a few arms out there and I see this German kid. He’s about 6’2” or 6’3” and had impressive raw power, good bat speed, real athletic. Below average arm but, you know, really athletic and good overall skills. I decided to fly back over to Germany for a workout north of Frankfurt where I knew he’d be, we watched him some more, liked what we saw and we signed him. $40,000.”
A high profile signing it is not. This isn’t Michael Ynoa or Yasiel Puig we’re talking about here. But before we just dismiss this signing as a cheap lottery ticket, you have to consider Agostinelli’s body of work. He’s signed countless prospects across three continents on the cheap and many have gone on to carve out lengthy professional careers for themselves. Agostinelli signed Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis on the same day in 2006. He inked Maikel Franco, the system’s best position prospect, for just $100,000. He signed Sebatian Valle, who would have netted the Phillies a fine setup man this past offseason if not for a failed physical, for just $30,000. Carlos Carrasco was another Sal Agostinelli signing and he headlined the Cliff Lee deal. Go look at Baseball America’s Prospect Hot Sheet from May 3rd of this year. Three of the guys on that list were Agostinelli signings. In 1998, Agostinelli ventured down to Panama and scouted a horribly unathletic second baseman who displayed remarkable arm strength. He signed that 19 year old for $8,000 and suggested he be moved behind the plate. That young man has since been immortalized in a mural on 24th & Walnut streets and as a bobblehead that sits atop my cubicle as I write this piece. Sal Agostinelli knows what the hell he’s doing.
So be excited for the future because a toolsy new prospect is in the system. Be excited for the future because the Phillies have planted a flag in a growing baseball market. Be excited for the future because Sal Agostinelli hand-picked this kid. Be excited for the future because in 2013 we all desperately need something to be excited about.