Oakland signs son, not player, in Inoa
Young pitcher's level of success will depend on the A's
Being sixteen means getting a driver's license or your own vehicle if you are lucky. It means getting your first job that's not paid in cash-only and if you're an athlete, it means getting the first taste of varsity sports and trying to be cool while your voice cracks.
It's all about Myspace, your space, Facebook and trying to hide those annoying red marks on the face. Barely visible baby mustaches are all the rage on guys -- and some girls.
Dominican pitching prospect Michel Inoa is not your average teenager. He's already been tabbed as the next best thing, the next King Felix Hernandez on the mound, and the next you-name-it although most people in the United States have never seen him pitch.
He's the most-hyped teenager since LeBron James. Thanks for not putting any pressure on the kid.
For Inoa, being sixteen means he is eligible to sign with a Major League club, and he did just that, agreeing to a record-setting $4.25 million deal with the Oakland Athletics this week.
"There is no question that Michael is an impact prospect," said Raymond Abreu, Oakland's director of Latin America operations. "In my opinion, he's the most impressive Latin America player since [2002 Seattle signee] Felix Hernandez. As a pitcher, [Inoa] has effortless mechanics with loose arm action on all his pitches and a clean, easy delivery. He's an exceptional athlete and he throws a very heavy fastball."
Inoa hit the jackpot. Or did he?
The six-foot-seven teenager is an instant millionaire and celebrity. He is the new face of organization in Latin America and the reason the island is going green. He's also just a kid. He's a high school dropout like every other Dominican teen that enters a Major League academy and although it appears he has a fully developed arm of gold, the rest of his body and mind need guidance, just like every other teenager in every other country in the world.
Congratulations Billy Beane, you became a father again this week and the world, especially in Latin America, will be watching how you support this child. Don't be a deadbeat GM. Obviously, he signed with your club because of the money but also because he trusts you will get him to the Major Leagues. His family thinks you will take care of their boy. Keep that in mind. He could have signed for more money with another club, but he chose you.
No pressure, but as far as Latin America is concerned, how Inoa is treated, develops as a player and matures into a man is all on you now. No, it's not fair, but it's not necessarily a bad thing, either. If Inoa develops in anything on the Major League level, Oakland's stronghold on the island will become legendary and Beane will be the rich Godfather of the D.R. If he struggles, personally or professionally, guess who gets blamed?
But here's where it gets tricky. There is no guarantee Inoa will make it to the Major Leagues one day and the men that scouted, courted and signed him will still be employed by the organization if or when he does. Yes, Inoa has the money and some will already deem him a success because he can bathe in dollar bills, but that's wrong.
He's rich, but he's not a success, not yet. He's just a kid, a kid with unbelievable potential and that potential landed him a serious payday. But where he goes from here is up to the people from Oakland.
Will he be a child-star turned superstar or will he fall victim to the pitfalls of the "too much, too soon" syndrome. Beane is confident Inoa is the real deal. Let's hope he is right.
"You kind of run out of superlatives," Beane said. "The first thing you notice is there's a self-confidence that's really, really unique. He's 6-7 now and ... he looks like a small forward in the NBA. He's a very athletic kid. He's an outstanding athlete at that size and that age. ... He has an outstanding fastball, a real feel for his breaking ball and a real feel for pitching.
"At this age, he's very unique. At 16, he probably wouldn't have been eligible for the [First-Year Player Draft], but if he'd gone into the Draft this year, he probably would have been a top-15 pick, and at 18, he'd have probably been a top-five pick."
It's party time in Santo Domingo, but there will come a time when the honeymoon ends. The Inoa family will realize why Beane is considered one of the most astute general managers in the game and they will see that the sport Inoa grew up playing is really just a big business. If he is lucky, one day Inoa will earn a new contract, become a free agent or get traded. He will experience everything a professional ballplayer experiences and that's fine because it will mean he is still in the game.
But for now, he's still a kid and his name is Michel, not Michael. He could be one of the greatest stories to ever come out of the Dominican Republic. If he is not taken care, he could be one the worst. Congratulations, Oakland. You didn't sign a player this week. You had a son.
Now take care of him.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.