July 2 Preview: Pitcher Profiles
Historically, the bonuses paid to Latin American pitchers have been lower than those received by their hitting counterparts.
Of the top 10 bonuses of all time given to Latin American teenagers (excluding Cuban defectors), only one went to a pitcher, when Ricardo Aramboles received $1.52 million from the Yankees in 1998.
Certain teams prefer to find positional players in Latin America, particularly at premium defensive positions such as shortstop, and acquire their pitching in the United States. Others may see increased injury risk or other uncertainties that cause them to invest more heavily in Latin American hitters than in pitchers. Whatever the reason, the market historically has valued hitters more than it has valued pitchers.
Some of that could change this year, as international sources expect a team—most likely Oakland—to sign 16-year-old Dominican righthander Michel Inoa
for a bonus in excess or $4 million, with $4.2 million the most persistent number. Venezuelan righthander Adis Portillo
, who already has a low-90s fastball, is also expected to generate a seven-figure bonus, possibly more than $1.5 million.
While no other pitcher may crack the $1 million mark this year, there are several other pitching talents that interest international scouts.
The latest pitcher with buzz is righthander Santo Franco, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound righthander from the Dominican Republic. Franco, 16, threw in front of what one scout estimated was 40 scouts at a tryout camp two weekends ago. The Tigers have been linked to Franco, but it's not clear what kind of offer he has on the table from Detroit or any other team.
Franco's velocity has grown from 88-89 mph to 90-91 mph, touching 92 with good sink and armside run. His present velocity and long, lanky frame scream projection on his fastball, which should be a plus pitch in the future if not even plus-plus.
However, Franco is almost completely projection right now, as the rest of his game is still raw. He has flashed a solid-average breaking ball, but mostly the pitch is inconsistent and his changeup is non-existent. One scout said that Franco might be asking for $1 million, but that it would take an overzealous team to match that price.
"We liked him," said another international scouting director. "He had a good arm, but he doesn't have a breaking ball. It's not really a good pitch—he's more suited for a slider with his arm action because he's long in the back. He's the prototypical projection guy with a big arm."
Another 16-year-old Dominican, Eswarling Jimenez, has gotten attention for his ability to throw 88-90 mph, topping out at 92. At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Jimenez has a wiry frame with broad shoulders.
Several teams have been linked to Jimenez, but some teams have had concerns about his velocity, which has dipped in recent weeks. Jimenez also throws a curveball and has some feel for a changeup.
In Venezuela, a few arms have generated some attention, including 16-year-old righthander Alving Megias. Some scouts see a pitcher throwing 87-89 with full legs, a maxed out body and limited upside. Others have seen him top out at 93 mph with sink, command of a mid-70s curveball and feel for a changeup with some sink and deception.
"He has a very clean arm," said one scout. "He's got command and he's effortless; he's not a guy who is prone to injury because of the way he throws and repeats (his delivery)."
The Red Sox, Indians and Dodgers have all been linked to Megias.
The Red Sox have also been strongly linked to 6-foot-2 pitcher Vicente Escobar, though the Indians have also been mentioned. Some scouts have never heard of Escobar, who lives in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, but those who have seen him in the past say he's pitched regularly at 89 mph, touching 90-91.
"The body is kind of iffy," said one scout. "He's got a good arm, but you just don't know how big he's going to get. He's a guy who's high on some people's lists."
Another 16-year-old Venezuelan lefty, Ismael Guillon, is also a first baseman. The 6-foot-3 Guillon throws 90-91 mph, but there are question marks about both his hitting and pitching.
"This guy has some power but he misses a lot," said one international scouting director. "He collapses his back leg. On the mound, I think he's going to get hurt eventually because he's got bad arm action that's long and sweepy."
"He's got a good arm," said another scout, "but it's a funky delivery. He's kind of thick, and with his funky delivery it makes you wonder , if you put 100 innings on that arm, how it's going to react."