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07/02/2008 11:43 AM ET
Athletics agree to terms with Dominican pitcher Michael Inoa
16-year-old Puerto Plata native called "once-in-a-decade" prospect
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OAKLAND -- The Oakland Athletics announced today the club has agreed to terms with 16-year-old Dominican pitcher Michael Inoa, generally regarded as the top eligible prospect in Latin America this year.

Inoa, a 6-7, 205-pound right-hander from Puerto Plata, D.R., was actively pursued by several Major League organizations before making his commitment to the A's. Plans are he will play in the Dominican Summer League.

"Michael has a chance to be a very special pitcher in the Major Leagues," said Athletics' Vice President and General Manager Billy Beane. "Even at this early age, he is a very polished pitcher with three above-average pitches and a fluid delivery. We are very excited about this young man's potential and look forward to watching his growth, both personally and professionally, in the years to come."

Beane and a group of Athletics executives including Managing Partner Lew Wolff visited the Dominican Republic last month to scout and evaluate Inoa. What they saw is a promising pitcher who features a fastball clocked consistently at 92 to 95 MPH-and projected to throw harder as his body fills out-and a quality curveball and change up.

Raymond Abreu, the Athletics' director of Latin America operations, also offered a glowing report on the team's newest addition.

"There is no question that Michael is an impact prospect," Abreu said. "In my opinion, he's the most impressive Latin America player since Felix Hernandez (2002). As a pitcher, he 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's athleticism likely can be attributed to his parents. His father, Simon Inoa, was considered a great amateur baseball player in the Dominican, while his mother, Juana Ventura, was an accomplished softball pitcher.

During the past year, media and scouts from other Major League teams have reinforced Oakland's assessment of Inoa's abilities. Among the superlatives:

• ESPNdeportes.com called him "the Crown Jewel of the pool of Latin American Players."
• "Inoa is every scout's dream. He has it all," one National League scout was quoted as saying in an ESPNdeportes.com article.
• "He's a once-in-a-decade type pitcher," said one international scout in an issue of Baseball America.

Today's announcement reflects the Athletics' renewed emphasis in Latin America, as the club has increased its budget and earmarked more resources for signing bonuses in recent years.

Currently, Oakland features approximately 129 Latin America players in its organization, including 88 from the Dominican Republic. In 1993, the team opened a state-of-the-art baseball academy in the D.R. called "La Victoria," located about one hour north of the nation's capital, Santa Domingo. Over the past 15 years, the facility has produced such Major League players as Miguel Tejada, Ramon Hernandez, Esteban German and Luis Vizcaino.

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