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Angels open wallet for prized Venezuelan left-hander

Angels open wallet for prized Venezuelan left-hander

Angels open wallet for prized Venezuelan left-hander

ANAHEIM -- The Angels went into the international signing period, which began on Tuesday, with a bonus pool just below $2 million. The expectation was that they'd do what they've done the last few years -- hand out smaller bonuses to as many prospects as possible.

But then the opportunity to sign a 16-year-old left-hander named Ricardo Sanchez came along.

The Angels consider Sanchez one of the top pitching prospects in the baseball-crazed nation of Venezuela. On Tuesday afternoon, they signed him to a reported $580,000 bonus, which is more than they've handed out in a few years, but less than what they expected Sanchez to sign for.

"If we were going to do something a little bit different, it had to be the right guy," said Angels international scouting director Carlos Gomez, who's in his first year. "It was probably a little bit more than we thought the biggest bonus was going to be this year, but he kind of fit all the things that we were looking to do."

Sanchez is only 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, but his fastball can reach the low-90s and he has a good feel for his changeup and breaking ball, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. Alex Torres of the Rays and Martin Perez of the Rangers have been popular comparisons.

Sanchez was most notably named MVP of August's Under-15 World Championships, pitching Venezuela to a win over Cuba in the title game. After the contract is officially approved by Major League Baseball, Sanchez will report to the Angels' new academy in the Boca Chica area of the Dominican Republic, and Gomez believes he can soon go to the United States to pitch in the Arizona Summer League.

Sanchez isn't ranked among MLB.com's Top 30 international prospects, and Baseball America lists him 27th. Gomez, who's been following him for the last couple of years, believes he should be in the top 10.

"I will wear you out with what I think of Ricardo Sanchez, not only as a player but the human being himself," Gomez said. "Phenomenal kid. Trainer is phenomenal, fantastic family. It's a nice face of the international world."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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