Every now and then, a player from Latin America will try to pull a fast one on Major League scouts, not to mention the U.S. State Department, by lying about their age and forging their identity, in attempt to convince the big wigs with checkbooks that they’re three to four years younger than most people thought.
These elaborate ruses are pulled with the hope that they can boondoggle their way to a few extra thousand (or in some cases, million) bucks from Major League clubs when it comes to signing bonuses.
In almost every case, the scheme only lasts for so long, and the players have to embarrassingly face the music.
Most baseball fans followed the recent high-profile case was the discovery that Cleveland Indians’ pitcher Fastuo Carmona was actually named Roberto Hernandez.
Another interesting case that broke this summer was the revelation that Padres outfield prospect Yoan Alcantara, of the Dominican Republic, is actually named Yeison Asencio, and is 22-years of age, not 19, as he tried to use a birthdate from November, 1992 (according to Baseball America).
Things got a little more tricky when it was revealed that an investigator hired by Major League Baseball to combat these identity issues was in cahoots with a scout to siphon money from whatever big league club signed Asencio.
To read a more detailed account of the legal ramifications, click here.
But, being that this is a baseball blog and not an episode of Cops, I turn to the most important point of this story: regardless of Asencio’s shady moves to obtain a visa (which he finally received back in May), the guy can flat-out play, and bolsters an already stocked San Diego Padres farm system.
This season, playing for the low Class “A” Fort Wayne Tin Caps, the right-hander is hitting .322 with 8 HR and 58 RBI—and keep in mind, he’s only been playing since May.
There were signs last season that Asencio was something special. Sure, he caught the eyes of scouts in his native Dominican Republican, but goodness, the man hit .348 in 50 games for the short-season Arizona League Padres after only hitting .241 in the 2010 Dominican Summer League.
While Asencio has put up strong numbers, he has an equally-strong throwing arm in the outfield.
He was knocked in some scouting reports as being a bit of a free-swinger, but he only has 37 strikeouts in 332 at-bats.
One of the most overlooked thing about players from Latin America is the difficult backgrounds they hail from—they often share meager apartments with up to 10-15 family members (often extended family members), have trouble finding work in poor, impoverished towns, and subsequently, seem to have little time to develop their natural athletic talent.
Then, if they are discovered, the pressure put on them by scouts, MLB organizations, and their own friends and family must be enormous. To think they could sign a sheet of paper guaranteeing them money and a trip to America is earth-shattering for them.
While I’m certainly no proponent of some player’s attempt to lie about their identity, the temptation to fudge their identity with the hopes of securing more money is something that I bet most struggle with (but fortunately, only a few act on.)
Therefore, hopefully fans, Padres’ brass, and Asencio himself will put this unfortunate incident them in their pursuit to having Asencio roam the outfield of PETCO Park in the next few years.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To read more on Asencio, check out this earlier story featured in our Padres site, Chicken Friars