July 2 Notebook: Five-Tool Talent

Dominican outfielder Romero gaining steam





If there is a strength of the July 2 class this year in the Dominican Republic, it might be the outfielders.

Though many scouts believe 2010 is a down year for talent in the Dominican Republic, outfielders Eskarlin Vazquez, Vicmal de la Cruz, Phillips Castillo, Ariel Ovando and Edwin Moreno all have the type of tools that should land them bonuses at the top of the class when the international signing period opens on Friday.

According to recent conversations with scouts, there is at least one other Dominican outfielder whose name belongs in that class.

One international scouting director called Dominican center fielder Wilmer Romero one of the top three hitters on the market this year. Romero, 16, trains with Alberto Arias, who in the past has worked with top Dominican outfielders Juan Duran and Engel Beltre, and works out at the La Academia complex.

Romero is a 6-foot-3, 185-pound righthanded hitter from Santo Domingo with several plus tools. Romero is a good athlete with a projectable body who has shown plus speed and a plus arm. He's also flashed plus raw power and has hit well in games in front of some scouts, though at times he can overswing and pull his head off the ball. The Yankees are among the teams believed to be interested in Romero, though his signing might not come immediately on July 2 given that his exposure to several teams has been limited.

"When all is said and done, he could eventually be a five-tool player," said one scout. "He has all the ingredients."

• Another prominent center fielder in the Dominican Republic is Yoel Araujo, a solid righthanded hitter with an athletic 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame. Araujo, 16, has the plus speed to remain in center field, where he shows an average arm. The Rays are among the teams believed to have shown interest in Araujo.

Antonio Gonzalez is a switch-hitting shortstop from Bani in the Dominican Republic with a chance to stick at the position. Gonzalez, 16, is around 5-foot-11, 170 pounds and trains with Rafael Montero, who has worked with players such as Giants $2.55 million outfielder Rafael Rodriguez in 2008. Gonzalez has good instincts and a solid swing, though he doesn't have much power and his small stature is a concern for some scouts.

• The crop of righthanded pitching in the Dominican Republic hasn't blown anyone away this year. Even recent reports about the velocity of Felix Jorge (previously referred to as Jorge Feliz), believed to be one this year's top arms, have been spotty in recent weeks. One club's international director said the best righthander in the Dominican Republic is 16-year-old Luis Abad, whose fastball has been clocked at 88-90 mph and touched 91. Abad, who is from Boca Chica and is listed at a skinny 6-foot-3, 160 pounds, pitches primarily off his fastball but will also mix in a breaking ball in the mid-to-high 70s and an occasional changeup.

• The Yankees, Athletics and Dodgers have all shown interest in Luis Heredia, but the Pirates and Blue Jays still appear to be the heavy favorites to land the 15-year-old Mexican righthander. The latest word from sources in Mexico is that Heredia's bonus now could be closer to $3 million than the $2.2 million figure reported two weeks ago, though Heredia will have to wait to sign until he turns 16 on Aug. 16.