GUERRA, Dominican Republic—The history of Dominican pitchers signed at age 16 is not good.
In recent years, teams have started to spend more money on Dominican pitchers who have established themselves once they were older than 16, the most notable recent examples being Cardinals righthander Carlos Martinez ($1.5 million), Yankees righthander Rafael DePaula ($500,000) and Cubs righthander Juan Carlos Paniagua ($1.5 million).
Jacob Constante isn't at that level, but the 18-year-old Dominican lefty has established himself as one of the top prospects on the market eligible to sign right now. Constante was one of the starting pitchers at today's International Prospect League all-star game at the Rays academy. He worked efficiently through the first inning and, despite having a few guys square him up well in his second inning, he made a strong impression with close to 100 scouts—including several international directors and a handful of scouting directors—in attendance.
Constante, who is from Santo Domingo and is training with former Rays Latin American director Rudy Santin, has a big, durable body at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and solid mechanics for his age. He worked at 92-94 mph today and plus life, to the point where the catcher had difficulty receiving the ball cleanly. While that may have been because he was pitching to a Venezuelan catcher who had never caught him before, some who have seen Constante say other catchers have trouble handling his fastball as well. His velocity has increased over the last several months, as he was more in the 90-91 mph range and touching 92 last summer.
Constante also mixed in an 80-83 mph slider that scouts have said could be an above-average pitch. The pitch was inconsistent, spinning with short action at times, but when it was at its best it had sharp break and got swings and misses from both lefties and righties. Constante also flashed an 83-84 mph changeup, but it's a pitch he's going to need to develop and he had trouble throwing it for strikes and not bouncing it in the dirt.
Unlike Martinez, DePaula and Paniagua, Constante has never been suspended by Major League Baseball over any age or identity discrepancies. Constante, who turns 19 on March 22, is also fluent in both English and Spanish. The word at the field today was that Constante is expected to sign by Monday.
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