Royals reach $1.3 million deal with Italian shortstop

The Royals opened the international signing season with a bang Tuesday morning by reaching a $1.3 million deal with Marten Gasparini, a 16-year-old Italian shortstop often cited as the best European prospect in history.

The deal was first reported by

Baseball America

and has not yet been confirmed by club officials. The bonus would be the highest ever given to a European amateur player.

“Gasparini is one of the best athletes on the international market,”

Baseball America

reported. “(He) has excellent speed and should play a premium position, with a lot of scouts projecting him as a center fielder.

“He’s a switch-hitter who performed well at the 15U World Championship last August in Mexico.”

The previous high bonus for a European amateur player was $800,000 given by Minnesota to German outfielder Max Kepler in 2009.

Kepler, now 20, is batting .295 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 11 games at Lo-A Cedar Rapids after returning from an early-season elbow injury.

Gasparini is 6 feet and 175 pounds and was ranked by

Baseball America

as the No. 12 international prospect, i.e., amateurs who are not eligible for the annual first-year player draft.

Tuesday was the first day that clubs could sign international amateur players. The Royals are also viewed as the favorites to sign Cristhian Vasquez, a 16-year-old outfielder from Venezuela.

International amateurs must be 16 years old at the time of the signing and turn 17 either by Sept. 1 or by the end of their first professional season. They must also register with the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau.