State Report: Puerto Rico




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
It's a deep year in Puerto Rico, one that could rival the 2003 crop, when eight players were drafted in the top 10 rounds. That explains why about 90 scouts, including 22 scouting directors, crowded behind home plate for a showcase in February, and then about 50 came down for the island's annual Excellence Tournament in May. The top two players in the territory both have big league relatives, and as usual, there are some quality catchers.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Reymond Fuentes, cf, Callego HS, Manati (National Rank: 54)
2. Ruben Sierra Jr., of, San Juan Educational School (National Rank: 124)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

3. Hector Hernandez, lhp, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo
4. Jonathan Garcia, of, Luis Munox Marin HS, Anasco
5. Edwin Gomez, ss, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo
6. Roberto Perez, ss/rhp, Dorado Academy
7. Jan Vazquez, c, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo
8. Juan Silva, of, Teodoro Aguilar Mora HS, Yabucoa
9. Joseph Colon, rhp, Huertas JC
10. Roidany Aguila, c, Colegio Nuestra Senora de la Providencia HS, Rio Piedras
11. Enrique Hernandez, 2b, American Military Academy, Guaynabo
12. Raul Rivera, rhp, Colegio San Vicente De Paul HS, Santurce
13. Alex Diaz, of, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo
14. Ronald Sanchez, c, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo
15. Gabriel Hernandez, rhp, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo
16. Eddie Ahorrio, rhp, Jesus Siverio Delgado HS, Arecibo
17. Wesley Lopez, ss, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo
18. Edgar Corcino, c, Aldolfina Irizarry De Puig HS, Toa Baja
19. Martin Rosario, c, Fernando Suria Chavez HS, Barceloneta
20. Kaleth Fradera, rhp, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo

SCOUTING REPORTS

REYMOND FUENTES, OF, CALLEGO HS, MANATI

A relative of Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran, Fuentes is an electric, game-changing player. The 6-foot, 160-pound center fielder is slender, but has wiry strength and can put a change in a ball during batting practice. Like a ticking clock, he hits line drives from foul pole to foul pole with his lefthanded swing. He's also an elite runner, clocking in at just under 6.3 seconds in the 60-yard dash at Puerto Rico's annual Excellence Tournament in early May. In game situations, Fuentes stays within himself, goes with a contact-oriented approach and lets his plus speed play to his advantage. These tools make Fuentes an ideal leadoff hitter. Defensively, Fuentes' range will allow him to stay in center field as a professional. Right down to his below-average arm, he's a similar player to the Yankees' Johnny Damon.

RUBEN SIERRA JR., OF, SAN JUAN EDUCATIONAL SCHOOL

Like his father, Sierra passes scouts' eye test, standing 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds with room to fill out. As that happens, Sierra will likely have to move from center field to right field. He certainly has the arm strength for right—his throws from the outfield have been clocked at 92 mph. His other tools are impressive as well. He runs a 6.4-second 60-yard dash and can put on a show during batting practice. It's a different story, however, against live pitching. As a lefthanded hitter, Sierra has a tendency to bail out—his step is toward first base—causing him to become exposed against pitches away. Despite his natural tools, Sierra sometimes looks like he's just going through the motions. Still, teams that value tools and projection are dreaming on Sierra, and he's seen as a player who will greatly benefit from getting into pro ball, getting better instruction and playing every day.

Assemble Your Future Battery Here

Righthander Raul Rivera is the younger brother of Saul, a righthander with the Nationals. Raul spent the winter working with his brother to add a sinker to his repertoire. His fastball sits between 88-91 mph, and the new sinker is 83-84. His command and slow curveball are both inconsistent. Rivera, a Bethune-Cookman recruit, is more physical than his brother, coming in at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds. He's aggressive on the mound, never hesitating to pitch inside.

Lefthander Hector Hernandez has touched 90 mph with his fastball in the past, but has been mostly 86-88 this spring. He's 6-foot-1 and a thick 200 pounds and gets sink on his fastball, commands everything well and knows how to pitch. He has a loose arm, a good curveball and is working on a changeup. He has a calm, quiet demeanor off the mound and competes well between the lines. Scouts like the projection, and he could be the first Puerto Rican pitcher off the board.

Teams are split on where Roberto Perez will end up. Some teams prefer the 6-foot-1, 175-pound righthander on the mound, some see him at shortstop and others would like him to move to third base or even behind the plate. Lauded for his makeup and work ethic, Perez has been working hard to improve his defense and hitting. He wants to stay at shortstop, where he's quick to the ball and has a plus arm, but his actions are a bit mechanical and he doesn't have great hands. Perez has a high-energy, all-or-nothing swing and has focused on staying back and learning how to go the other way. Battling a stomach virus that had him running to the bathroom between innings, he still led the Excellence Tournament in hitting. On the mound, he's been clocked as high as 92 mph. Perez will continue to play both ways if he winds up at Oklahoma State.

Outfielder Juan Silva has tools, but has struggled to put them all together. Listed at 6 feet and 185 pounds, Silva is naturally athletic, runs well and has a good arm. While he has raw power, he can get pull-happy at times and often bails out on pitches, resulting in a lot of strikeouts. He currently plays center field, but will move to a corner eventually.

From Benito Santiago to Ivan Rodriguez and Jorge Posada to the Molina brothers and Geovany Soto, Puerto Rico has long been a breeding ground for catchers. This year is no exception. A handful of catchers could be selected in the top 10 rounds of the draft, and Roidany Aguila could be the first off the board. A Cuban who moved to Puerto Rico by way of Miami, Aguila is solidly built at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds. He's a gamer with a good arm and good instincts behind the plate, with pop times in the 1.9-second range. He's more of a defensive catcher, but in Jupiter, Fla., last summer at the World Wood Bat Championship, Aguila turned around a 91 mph Tyler Skaggs fastball for a triple. He's committed to Bethune-Cookman.

Jan Vazquez is athletic for a catcher and has experience at shortstop. He runs a 6.6-second 60-yard dash, which is excellent for a catcher. A hitch in his throwing mechanics slows down his pop times, but he has a plus arm. He's seen more as a catch-and-throw guy, but the bat is coming along. At the preseason showcase, he ripped a double off the wall against Rivera, and he hit well at the Excellence Tournament too. Vazquez shows good leadership and plays hard.

Ronald Sanchez is the third-best catcher on the island. He's not a big kid, but has a big swing from the left side of the plate and is more offensive-minded than the other catchers. He has improved defensively and could be a single-digit pick. Martin Rosario has a good arm but is underwhelming offensively, and Edgar Corcino is a big third baseman who has been trying to catch. He's athletic and projectable with a good arm and some juice in his bat, as well as holes in his swing. He'll get a chance in the later rounds.

Shortstop Edwin Gomez did not play well this spring, and the consensus seems to be that he will eventually have to move off the position. With a 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame, Gomez is already more physical than his cousin, Alex Cintron of the Nationals. A move to a corner outfield spot is likely, though he might not have the bat to play there. Gomez is a switch-hitter and is better from the left side.

Righthander Eddie Ahorrio sat 88-93 mph with his fastball early in the year, which was the best velocity in Puerto Rico. He dropped to 86-88 mph late in the year, though, and was kicked off his high school team. He also throws a good breaking ball, but there isn't much projection in his 5-foot-11, 165-pound frame.

Joseph Colon went undrafted last year as a third baseman, then moved to the mound and has been firing fastballs at 90-92 mph. The Cubs actually signed the 6-foot-1 righthander in late January, but MLB voided the contract because Colon enrolled at Huertas Junior College, which does not have a baseball program. Colon is raw but has a fresh, loose arm with the makings of a good curveball. He was 88-91 mph at the Excellence Tournament with good sink. His secondary stuff is unrefined.

Second baseman Enrique Hernandez played well at the spring's first showcase, going 4-for-4 and putting himself on the fringes of the top 10 rounds. Hernandez has a short, compact swing with a little bit of pop. Defensively, he has smooth actions, soft hands and a good arm. His body type and defense are similar to Luis Matos, but Hernandez profiles as a better hitter.

Shortstop Wesley Lopez can hit a little bit and plays hard but will likely have to move to second base.

Outfielder Jonathan Garcia has tools, allowing him to look like a stud in workouts, but he struggles in game action. He's undersized at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds but has a hose—the second-best arm on the island to Sierra. In February, he put on a show in batting practice, hitting light-tower home runs, then looked awful against live pitching, swinging and missing at everything. He wasn't good at the Excellence Tournament, either. He's naturally strong, hustles and plays the game the right way. He's also a tough player who doesn't wear batting gloves and will run through a wall in the outfield.

Outfielder Alex Diaz is 6-foot-2 with a lot of raw power, and that's about it. He hit a home run off of Perez at a showcase in February and then had the second-best batting practice session to Fuentes in May, possibly hitting his way into the top 10 rounds.

Another Bethune-Cookman recruit is righthander Gabriel Hernandez. He's 6 feet tall with long arms and a fastball that sits 86-87 mph and tops out at 89.