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Phillies sign touted Venezuelan teen shortstop William Bergolla Jr.

Bergolla Jr., 17, is ranked as the fourth-best international prospect by MLB Pipeline. The Phillies nabbed him as the 11-month international signing period opened.

Phillies Club President, Dave Dombrowski looks on during spring training practice in Clearwater, Florida. Thursday, February 25, 2021.
Phillies Club President, Dave Dombrowski looks on during spring training practice in Clearwater, Florida. Thursday, February 25, 2021.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

It will be years before the Phillies know if they hit the jackpot Saturday. At a minimum, though, they believe they procured one of the most talented amateur players in Venezuela.

As the 11-month international signing period opened, the Phillies signed 17-year-old shortstop William Bergolla Jr., the headliner from among 17 players with whom they were expecting to reach agreements, according to major-league and team sources. Bergolla signed for $2,050,000, which represents nearly 40% of the Phillies’ $5,179,700 international bonus pool.

Bergolla (pronounced burr-GOYA) is ranked fourth among international amateur prospects by MLB Pipeline and eighth by Baseball America. His father, William, spent 10 years in the minor leagues, reaching the majors briefly in 2005 and going 5-for-38 (.132) with one RBI in 17 games for the Cincinnati Reds. The elder Bergolla’s first major-league hit came against the Phillies, a pinch single off Billy Wagner on May 15, 2005.

The Phillies were drawn to Bergolla’s ability to make consistent contact from the left side of the plate and his solid fundamentals at shortstop. He’s listed at 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds. According to a scouting report in Baseball America, Bergolla “has a sound swing and makes frequent contact in games with a line-drive approach and gap power.”

In addition to Bergolla, Baseball America reported that the Phillies signed nine other players from Venezuela (shortstops Aaron Escobar, Juan Villavicencio, Kilwer Colmenares, and Andres Hernandez; outfielders Romel Perez and Manolfi Jimenez; catcher Angel Mata; left-hander Eduar Chirinos; and right-hander Luis Gonzalez). They also signed outfielders Leny Carela and Neifi Rosario from the Dominican Republic and shortstop Nolan Beltran from Colombia.

Projecting teenagers from overseas as major leaguers is a guessing game, even for scouts charged with unearthing talent. But while rivals such as the Washington Nationals (Juan Soto) and Atlanta Braves (Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies) recently found superstars in the international amateur market, the Phillies haven’t mined many impact players in the last two decades. César Hernández ($49,000 in 2006), Maikel Franco ($100,000 in 2010), Héctor Neris ($17,000 in 2010), Seranthony Domínguez ($25,000 in 2011), and Ranger Suárez ($30,000 in 2011) contributed at the major-league level.

Two of the Phillies’ higher-profile signings, outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz ($4 million in 2015) and infielder Luis García ($2.5 million in 2017), have struggled in the minors, which isn’t uncommon for 16- and 17-year-old international prospects. Team officials remain bullish on them, as well as outfielders Símon Muzziotti ($750,000 in 2016), Johan Rojas ($10,000 in 2017), and Yhoswar Garcia ($2.5 million in 2020), among others.