CAGUAS, P.R. — Dozens of scouts were on hand for the first day of the annual Puerto Rican high school tournament, the Torneo De Exelencia (Excellence Tournament). The Puerto Rican players ran 60-yard dashes, showed off their fielding skills and took batting practice. Shortstop Carlos Correa was the standout, running a 6.69-second 60-yard dash and hitting five home runs with a wood bat during his second round of BP. We'll have more on those players on the Draft Blog throughout the next week as the tournament continues.
After the Puerto Ricans were done, scouts stuck around to see 22-year-old Dominican righthander Juan Carlos Paniagua take the mound. Paniagua agreed to a $1.1 million contract with the Yankees in March 2011, but that deal fell apart last year when MLB declared him ineligible to sign for one year due to issues with his documentation. He will be eligible to sign on July 19, which will make him subject to the new international signing bonus pool restrictions.
Throwing around 30 pitches on May 1, Paniagua sat in the 93-95 mph range with his lively fastball. He showed a 78-81 mph changeup and mixed in a couple 77-78 mph curveballs. But, after his fastball, his most impressive pitch might be his slider. When Paniagua signed with the Yankees, scouts said his slider was a slurvy pitch and lagged behind his fastball and changeup, but today he showed a nasty 81-84 mph slider with sharp, late tilt.
Paniagua is every bit of his listed 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. He showed good rhythm and balance in his delivery and was around the strike zone with all of his pitches. Before this outing, Paniagua last threw in front of scouts on March 28 at Palm Beach (Fla.) CC. He spent this offseason playing winter ball in Panama, where he had a 5.09 ERA in 17 2/3 innings with 18 strikeouts and nine walks.
Paniagua had originally agreed to terms with the Diamondbacks for $17,000 on May 8, 2009 as Juan Carlos Collado. At the time, MLB allowed players to play in the Dominican Summer League when their contracts were still pending the league’s investigations and approval process, so Paniagua pitched 29 innings in the DSL in 2009 with a 4.66 ERA, 33 strikeouts and 15 walks. Paniagua pitched for Arizona’s DSL club for part of 2010 again with his contract still pending, but his contract never was approved and MLB declared him ineligible to sign for one year. When he became eligible to sign again in March 2011, he struck the deal with the Yankees that is no longer intact.
Paniagua is still using the same age he used to sign with the Diamondbacks and the same identity he used when he signed with the Yankees, so it’s still not clear what will happen yet with regards to his contract approval if he signs with a major league team once he becomes eligible to sign again.
Contributing: Ben Badler
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