Putting together a ranking with scouting reports on the top July 2 players is one of the most fun and challenging projects we do. I know general managers, team presidents and owners read these rankings and reports, so we owe it to the people who dedicate themselves to international scouting to be as thorough and comprehensive as possible. This year, while I’m confident we have more information than ever before, the puzzle is especially challenging to piece together.
In the draft, 95 percent of the information that teams have available to them is all the same. Whether it’s a high school or a college player, they all play in games open to the public, whether it’s in the Southeastern Conference, a local high school game, a summer college league or a high school showcase event. Evaluations might differ among scouts because they all look at players differently, but nearly all of the possible scouting looks and all of the performance data are open for all to see.
In Latin America, that isn’t the case. There are trainer-organized leagues and showcases run by Major League Baseball, but a lot of the scouting is done at private or semi-private looks, whether it’s at a team’s own academy or with scouts going out to see a player at the trainer’s field, the latter becoming a necessity with MLB tightening its rules on bringing players into a team facility. That in itself has always made Latin American scouting different than the draft. Throw in that the kids who are eligible to sign are 16 years old, where scouts are making longer-term projections, and it’s easy to see why teams can be so split on players depending on when they saw them, how they saw them and how much they saw them, all before getting to philosophical differences on how to forecast a player’s future talent level.
Now, the international market moves at a more aggressive pace than ever before. Teams are making decisions to lock in 2015 players with oral agreements in 2014, in some cases at this time a year ago. When that happens, those players disappear, other than perhaps to pop up at an MLB showcase, where they might not be going with 100 percent effort or have been facing regular live pitching leading up to the event. So while we have more and more information and scouting contacts in the international world today than ever before, the information itself becomes more challenging to interpret.
That caveat aside, the premium players in the class separated themselves. The first three players on the list repeatedly came up as at or near the top of the class and were a clear first tier. The rest of the players in the top 10 also earned consistent praise, and while they all come with their own risks, these are all very good players. The 11-20 players are all good players. There are a lot of teams that would put players ranked in that spot somewhere in the top 10 on their own individual lists. By the time we get to the last few spots on the list, the talent pool becomes more muddled. There are good players after this point, but the spread in talent between a player who we could rank as the No. 27 player in the class or the No. 50 player is fairly flat and mostly comes down to what different teams prioritize in their evaluations. For that reason, we cut the list off at 30 players, but we will have reports on lots of other notable players as well.
While I’ve seen most of these players myself in person, these reports are at attempt to reflect industry consensus, to the degree that it’s possible. Every player has some combination of risk and reward, of raw athleticism and tools compared to present game-playing skills. In general, players move toward the top of the list if they hit in games and have the hitting attributes that project well as they move up—if a 16-year-old kid can’t hit players his own age, it’s hard to project him to hit better pitching—and if they project to play a premium position. There aren’t many players who have both, so for a lot of players, teams have to pick their risk and pick their upside preference. Players tend to move down the list if they project to play a less valuable defensive position and have question marks on the bat, even if they have big raw power. The list is heavy on position players, which is usually the case. The best pitchers will probably be small-level projection signings whose stuff jumps up in the next few years.
If a team preferred Gilberto Celestino to Starling Heredia because Celestino is a better bet to play a premium position, I think that’s very reasonable, and I know some teams have them graded out that way. It just depends what you prioritize. In the reports, I will try to point out where players were divisive, explain why some teams would have a player much higher or lower, and why a player is ranked ahead of or behind other top players at the same position.
While some Cuban players are subject to the bonus pools, they were not included in this list. The most advanced Cuban players like Norge Ruiz, Vladimir Gutierrez and Randy Arozarena would clearly be ahead of these players, who are almost all still 16 years old.
Full scouting reports on these players are available to Baseball America subscribers.
|1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||of||Dominican Republic||Video|
|2. Andres Gimenez||ss||Venezuela|
|3. Leodys Taveras||of||Dominican Republic||Video|
|4. Lucius Fox||ss||Bahamas|
|5. Derian Cruz||ss||Dominican Republic|
|6. Gregory Guerrero||ss||Dominican Republic||Video|
|7. Seuly Matias||of||Dominican Republic||Video|
|8. Starling Heredia||of||Dominican Republic||Video|
|9. Wander Javier||ss||Dominican Republic||Video|
|10. Alvaro Seijas||rhp||Venezuela|
|11. Jeison Guzman||ss||Dominican Republic||Video|
|12. Aramis Ademan||ss||Dominican Republic||Video|
|13. Juan Soto||of||Dominican Republic|
|14. Miguel Aparicio||of||Venezuela||Video|
|15. Albert Guaimaro||of||Venezuela||Video|
|16. Daniel Montano||of||Venezuela|
|17. Gilberto Celestino||of||Dominican Republic||Video|
|18. Jhailyn Ortiz||of/1b||Dominican Republic|
|19. Carlos Vargas||ss||Dominican Republic||Video|
|20. Yonathan Perlaza||ss||Venezuela||Video|
|21. Christian Pache||of||Dominican Republic|
|22. Miguel Amaya||c||Panama||Video|
|23. Rafael Marchan||c||Venezuela||Video|
|24. Simon Muzziotti||of||Venezuela||Video|
|25. Ronny Brito||ss||Dominican Republic|
|26. Kevin Melean||ss||Venezuela|
|27. Franklin Reyes||of||Dominican Republic||Video|
|28. Jose Fermin||ss||Dominican Republic|
|29. Jose Sibrian||c||Venezuela|
|30. Anderson Amarista||rhp||Venezuela|