State Reports: Puerto Rico




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here

Heading into Puerto Rico's annual Excellence Tournament in May, this year's crop of talent from the island looked to be a bit down, particularly compared to last year when Reynaldo Navarro, Neftali Soto and Angel Morales all went in the third round. In all, seven prospects from Puerto Rico received six-figure signing bonuses.

It doesn't look like this year's class will be able to match last year's, but a few players boosted their stock considerably at the Excellence Tournament, highlighted by outfielders Javier Rodriguez and Danny Ortiz. But perhaps the most intriguing talent on the island is catcher Antonio Jimenez, a gifted defender with athleticism, quickness and a strong arm behind the plate. It's the medical report on his arm, though, that gives scouts hesitation. That could drop Jimenez behind Rodriguez and Ortiz on draft day, but a team that feels confident in his health could make Jimenez the first player drafted from Puerto Rico this year.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Javier Rodriguez, of, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (National Rank: 103)
2. Danny Ortiz, of, Harrison HS (National Rank: 131)
3. Antonio Jimenez, c, Disculpus de Christo HS (National Rank: 200)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

4. Rayan Gonzalez, rhp, Antonio Luchetti HS
5. Alex Lanos, of, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
6. Luis Cruz, lhp, Academy of Santa Monica
7. Julio Rodriguez, rhp, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
8. Benjie Gonzalez, ss, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
9. Cristian Vazquez, c, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
10. Edwin Roman, of, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
11. Cristian Vazquez, c, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
12. Rene Garcia, c/ss, Sagrada Familia HS
13. Jonathan Valdez, c, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
14. Kevin Fontanez, ss, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
15. Xavier Lopez, c, Isabel Flores HS

SCOUTING REPORTS


1. Javier Rodriguez, of, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (National Rank: 103)

Considered one of the better prospects in Puerto Rico heading into the Excellence Tournament that annually draws scouts to see the island's best talent each May, Rodriguez elevated his status after his strong showing there. He is the best pure hitter from Puerto Rico and has good bat speed. With a lean, athletic body, Rodriguez should have the ability to add muscle to his long frame. He shows above-average raw power to the pull side, though there is some length to his swing. Rodriguez is an average to above-average runner, clocking in at 6.7 seconds in the 60-yard dash. Reviews of his fielding are mixed, though his arm is above-average for both the length and carry he gets on the ball and for its accuracy.

2. Danny Ortiz, of, Harrison HS (National Rank: 131)

Like fellow Puerto Rican Javier Rodriguez, Ortiz is a sweet-swinging outfielder who boosted his stock as much as anyone at the Excellence Tournament in May. Though he doesn't have the classic size of a corner outfielder, Ortiz has pure hitter with a projectable bat and a good approach at the plate. With quick hands and power to all fields, Ortiz has good hitting mechanics and his bat stays in the hitting zone for a long time. He recorded a 6.7-second time in the 60, but Ortiz will likely play left field ultimately in pro ball. He projects to go in the top five rounds, and a team who saw him play well in May could take him as high as the third round.

3. Antonio Jimenez, c, Disculpus de Christo HS (National Rank: 200)

Jimenez still could be the first player from Puerto Rico selected in this year if a team feels confident in his medical report. Jimenez injured his throwing elbow, though it's unclear whether he will need to have Tommy John surgery. A team that liked him could take him in the third round, but teams more concerned about the health of his arm may wait longer. Jimenez stands out for his above-average defense. He shows his athleticism behind the plate with his blocking skills and his 1.8- to 1.9-second pop times. When healthy, his arm is a plus tool that helps Jimenez control the running game. Jimenez's bat is behind is defense. He has some bat speed and above-average power potential, but his swing has some length as his hitting lags behind the rest of his tools.

Late Struggles Hurt Gonzalez

The ace of Puerto Rico's junior national team, righthander Rayan Gonzalez's fastball has been clocked in the 88-92 mph range earlier in the year. In May, however, his stock slid as he sat at 84-88 mph at the Excellent Tournament, where his slider also looked flat. Still. at 6-foot-4 with proper mechanics and arm action, scouts say he has the projection to be throwing 94-95 mph down the line. His curveball lacks rotation and bite at the moment. He has some feel for the changeup, and his pitchability and command are better than most in Puerto Rico.

Center fielder Alex Lanos saw his stock rise at the Excellence Tournament. A plus runner who ran a 6.5 in the 60-yard dash, Lanos is a converted shortstop who has been playing center field for just a few months. His speed plays well in the outfield. At the plate, he has a physical frame (6-foot-3, 175 pounds) with good bat speed and contact-hitting ability. He could land in the top five to 10 rounds.
 
Were he a bit taller, lefthander Luis Cruz's draft stock might soar. As it is, Cruz is listed as 5-foot-9 but is still the best lefthander out of Puerto Rico. He may have the best stuff as well. His fastball works at 88-91 mph, touching 92 with late sink. His changeup is an above-average pitch, and his curveball shows potential with quick bite but is still inconsistent. Cruz works with clean mechanics, a loose arm and gets extension out front, but his size has scouts thinking he's a future reliever.

Righthander Julio Rodriguez sat at 83-86 mph earlier in the year, but touched 90 in May and reportedly has been as high as 92, which has caught the attention of scouts. Throwing from an over-the-top arm slot, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Rodriguez projects to have a plus fastball. Reports on the quality of his curveball are mixed. His changeup is a fringe-average pitch. Where Rodriguez goes in the draft depends on how many looks a team got on him and when those looks came.

A glove-first shortstop with a commitment to Oklahoma State, Benjie Gonzalez is a switch-hitter now but may just hit from the right side as a pro. His 6.6-second 60 time was the second-fastest at the Excellence Tournament. Gonzalez , 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, has excellent hands a plus arm, but there are significant questions about whether the bat will play in pro ball.

A catcher with strong catch-and-throw skills, Cristian Vazquez is a good defender with an accurate arm. But at 5-foot-10, 210 pounds, his body is maxed out and he will have to watch his weight.

Edwin Roman offers plus-plus speed as the fastest player in Puerto Rico, clocking 60 times in the 6.4- to 6.5-second range. He's athletic and a good defender in center field, but his bat is questionable and lacks any real approach at the plate. A team that likes his speed and athleticism might snag him in rounds 10-15, though he's more likely to go in the 15 to 20 range.