Everybody Loves Reymond

Baseball bloodlines on display at annual Puerto Rico showcase




On Jan. 28 and 29, the second-annual Puerto Rican baseball showcase took place, pitting the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy against a team of players from other schools on the island.

It's a deep year in Puerto Rico, with one agent saying it's the best year he ca n remember since 2003 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 the event. Here are a few of the players they had their eyes on. . .

Reymond Fuentes, of, 2009, Fernando Callego HS, Manati, P.R.: The nephew of Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran, Fuentes profiles as a prototypical leadoff hitter; one American League international scout called him an "electric, game-changing player." The 6-foot, 160-pound center fielder is slender, but has wiry strength and can put a charge in a ball during batting practice. In game situations, Fuentes stays within himself, understands his role is to get on base and doesn't try to do too much. He uses more of a contact-oriented approach and uses his plus speed to his advantage. Fuentes ran the fastest 60-yard dash at the event at 6.38 seconds. Defensively, Fuentes' range will allow him to stay in center field as a professional and will make up for his below-average arm strength.

"He has a lot of tools," said an American League area scout, who predicts Fuentes will be selected in the first three rounds. "He's a very good player, a very exciting player. His best tool is obviously his legs, but he's not a slap hitter like a lot of fast guys. He's a line drive hitter with occasional power—a Johnny Damon type of player."

Raul Rivera, rhp, 2009, Colegio San Vicente De Paul, San Juan, P.R.: Rivera was a little rusty at the event, having spent the past couple months away from his team. Raul spent December and January with his brother Saul, a righthander with the Nationals, working to add a sinker to his repertoire. Rivera's fastball sat between 88 and 91 mph and the new sinker was 83 to 84. His command and curveball were both inconsistent. Rivera is more physical than his brother, coming in at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds. He's very aggressive on the mound, never hesitating to pitch inside, and is committed to Bethune-Cookman.

Ruben Sierra Jr., of, 2009, San Juan Educational School, San Juan, P.R.: Like his father, Sierra passes scouts' eye test. He is currently 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, but has 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 to play right field—his throws from the outfield have been clocked at 92 mph. His other tools impress 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 more than others are dreaming on Sierra and if he hits this spring, he could sneak into the second round.

"He's been inconsistent to perform—he's not putting good swings on balls in the games—but he can be a five-tool guy, he just needs to put it together," an American League area scout said. "He's an all-or-nothing kind of guy. He could be a superstar or he could flame out in A-ball."

Hector Hernandez, lhp, 2009, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo, P.R.: The lefthanded Hernandez has been up to 90 mph in the past. At this showcase, he was mostly between 87 and 88 but was getting a lot of sink, giving the hitters trouble. He has a loose arm, a good curveball and is working on a changeup. Hernandez is 6-foot-1 and a thick 200 pounds. He has a calm, quiet demeanor off the mound but competes well between the lines. If his velocity improves this spring, he could challenge Rivera as the first Puerto Rican pitcher selected in the draft.

Roberto Perez, ss/rhp, 2009, Dorado Academy, Dorado, P.R.: Some say Perez improved his stock the most at the showcase, although teams are split on where he 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 is quick to the ball and has a plus arm, but his actions are a bit mechanical and his hands can be hard.

As a hitter, Perez has a very high-energy, all-or-nothing swing, but has been focusing on staying back and learning how to go the other way. On the mound, he's been clocked as high as 92 mph. Perez will continue to play both ways if he isn't signed away from his commitment to Oklahoma State.

Juan Silva, of, 2009, Teodoro Aguilar Mora HS, Yabucoa, P.R.: Silva has not flashed all of his potential, but the Excellence Tournament in May could set the stage for his coming out party, much like it did for Mets second-rounder Javier Rodriguez last year. Listed at 6-feet tall and 185 pounds, Silva is naturally athletic and is a similar hitter to Danny Ortiz, who was selected in the fourth round last year by the Twins. Silva has some power, but can get too pull happy at times. He currently plays center field, but will likely move to a corner. He is calm and quiet, but is driven to play professionally.

Roidany Aguila, c, 2009, Colegio Nuestra Senora de la Providencia, Rio Piedras,  P.R.: 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 Aguila could be the first off the board. A Cuban national 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 last summer at the World Wood Bat Championships, Aguilar turned around a 91 mph Tyler Skaggs fastball for a triple. Like Rivera, Aguilar signed a letter of commitment to Bethune-Cookman.

Jan Vazquez, c/if, 2009, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo, P.R.: Vazquez is very athletic for a catcher and has experience at shortstop. He runs a 6.6 60-yeard dash. A hitch in his throwing mechanics slows down his pop times, but he has a plus arm. He's currently seen more as a catch-and-throw guy, but the bat is coming along. At the showcase, he ripped a double off the wall against Rivera. Vazquez shows good leadership and plays hard.

Edwin Gomez, ss, 2009, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo, P.R.: Gomez did not perform well at the showcase and the consensus seems to be that he will eventually have to move off of shortstop. With a 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame, Gomez is already more physical than his cousin, Alex Cintron of the Washington Nationals. A move to a corner outfield spot is likely, but he might not have the bat to play there. Gomez is a switch-hitter and is better from the left side.

Eddie Ahorrio, rhp, 2009, Jesus Silverio Delgado HS, Arecibo, P.R.: Ahorrio sits 88-93 with his fastball. He has the best velocity in Puerto Rico and complements it with a good breaking ball, but there isn't much projection in his 5-foot-11, 165-pound frame.

Joseph Colon, rhp, 2009, Huertas Junior College, Caguas, P.R.: Colon is an interesting case. He went undrafted last year as a third baseman, but has since moved to the mound and has been firing fastballs at 90-92 mph. The Cubs actually signed the 6-foot-1 righthander two weeks before the showcase, but MLB voided the contract because Colon is enrolled at Huertas JC, which does not have a baseball program. Colon is obviously raw, but has a fresh, loose arm with the makings of a good curveball.