Major League Baseball continues to increase its presence in Puerto Rico, announcing it will host a showcase for draft-eligible Puerto Rican players for the first time since the territory entered the draft process more than two decades ago. The three-day showcase will be held in Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan from January 24-26.
This comes less than a year after MLB partnered with the Puerto Rico Scouts Association to host the Torneo de Excelencia (Excellence Tournament), the island’s annual high school tournament typically held about one month prior to the draft. The last two years, MLB hosted post-draft showcases in Puerto Rico for undrafted players, which resulted in several players being signed.
The showcase will commence with a pro-style workout on Friday, followed by doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday. Four teams will represent different regions of the country.
The island has produced seven first-round picks in the history of the draft, highlighted by 2012 No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa, who headlined a banner crop. Puerto Rico produced three first or supplemental first-round picks in 2012, the most ever. It also had eight selections in the first 10 rounds, the second-highest total since 1995.
Yet last year’s crop produced only one selection in the top 10 rounds, Phillies third-round pick Jan Hernandez. This was the second-lowest total since Puerto Rico entered the draft.
The 2014 class will likely be an improvement from last year’s fallow crop. Luis Alvarado (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo, P.R.) is an intriguing two-way player. The athletic 6-foot-5, 180-pound Alvarado offers tremendous physical projection with a large frame, slender build and broad shoulders leading to a tapered waist and long, lean legs. At Perfect Game National in June, Alvarado sat 85-88 mph with natural gloveside run, but his fastball velocity has increased and he has touched 93 mph. His mid-70s curveball has shown the makings of an average offering. The long-limbed Alvarado might be the youngest player in this year’s draft, having turned 17 earlier this month. The switch-hitting Alvarado has seen time in infield and outfield. His righthanded swing is currently more advanced than his lefthanded swing. His frame offers power potential as he adds strength, and he offers an above-average arm as a position player.
Shortstop Alexis Pantojas attends the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and was an Under Armour All-American this year. The lean, athletic Pantojas is a slick-fielding athletic defender with the ability to throw from multiple angles and at least an average arm. The 5-foot-10, 150-pound Pantojas is a lefthanded hitter with a contact-oriented approach.
Outfielder Marco Rivera of the Carlos Beltran Academy offers an exciting package of tools. The 6-foot, 180-pound Rios has posted plus times in the 60-yard dash and has above-average arm strength. Rivera has shown natural bat speed and some present strength. Third baseman Jan Hernandez was the first player ever drafted out of the Beltran Academy last year.