Loophole in Contract System Costs Arizona Diamondbacks High-End Prospect

Baseball America reported earlier this week on the strange story of former Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Juan Carlos Collado, a Dominican pitcher who signed with the D'Backs in May 2009 for $17,000. He was 19 years old at the time.

After Major League Baseball investigators discovered that Collado was not his real name, they suspended his contract, and the Diamondbacks lost the rights to their prospect. But he played with them while the investigation was ongoing, "eating better" and improving with the help of Diamondbacks staff, according to BA's report.

Collado has since reemerged as Juan Carlos Paniagua, and appears to be an entirely different pitcher. His fastball is harder, hitting the high 90s. The pitcher formerly known as Collado just signed with the New York Yankees for $1.1 million dollars.

Maybe the weirdest thing about all this is that Juan Carlos is believed to be 20 years old. The MLB investigation has not been able to determine that he lied about his age -- the main reason Dominican prospects change their identity. Which makes the story even weirder.

Arizona Republic beat reporter Nick Piecoro has been looking into the story but has not found much more than BA reported.

This is only the latest in a string of strange stories coming out of the Dominican Republic in recent years. Last fall, former Chicago White Sox scouts and an executive were indicted on fraud charges alleging that they took kickbacks from players in the DR. An independent 2008 film called Sugar focused on the problems faced by Dominican ballplayers in the United States.

We'll keep you updated on the story as it develops. This sucks for the Diamondbacks, who could use the extra arm.

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