The top prospects for this year's July 2 international signing class at the Dominican Prospect League all-star game were a pair of outfielders, but the game paid immediate dividends for a handful of eligible pitchers.
After the Jan. 29 game at the Mets' Dominican complex in front of more than 100 scouts, the Giants signed 18-year-old righthander Simon Mercedes for $400,000. Mercedes had previously presented himself as 16-year-old Jeffrey Tapia, until an investigation by Major League Baseball last year revealed he had been using a false age and identity.
Mercedes, who is 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, pitched two innings in the all-star game, allowed one run, walked two and struck out three. Mercedes' fastball sat in the low-90s, though scouts have seen him touch 95 mph in the past. Mercedes also throws an average to above-average curveball that he used to strike out outfielder Elier Hernandez, one of the top July 2 prospects for 2011.
"I don't think big leaguers would have hit that pitch," said one scout at the game.
Darwin Castillo, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound righthander, agreed to terms with the Royals after the game for $300,000. Castillo, 18, started the game and allowed one unearned run in two innings, striking out three without issuing a walk. Castillo stands out for his excellent frame and live arm that hit 92 mph at the game. He was born in the United States but moved to the Dominican Republic within the last couple of years and became eligible to sign as an international free agent.
Righthander Felix Jorge, 17, also made an appearance, throwing two shutout innings and striking out four of the nine hitters he faced. Jorge, who is 6-foot-4, 175 pounds, has been inconsistent with his velocity since becoming eligible to sign last July 2, but he touched 92 mph and showed a solid breaking ball in the all-star game.
MVP honors went to Franmil Reyes, who split time in left and right field. Reyes, a July 2 prospect for 2011, drew attention by going 2-for-3 with a double and drew three walks. Reyes is a physical righthanded hitter with power and a solid arm.
Two top prospects for this year's July 2 class in attendance were Hernandez and outfielder Ronald Guzman, who won the event's home run derby competition with six home runs in a 10-out format. Guzman, 16, is 6-foot-4, 170-pound lefthanded hitter who went to Wrigley Field last August to play in the Under Armour All-America Game. Reyes finished tied for second in the home run derby with four homers.
"Everybody was there to look at Guzman and Hernandez," said one scout in attendance. "They could be the two top prospects in the country this year. Whether you put Guzman or Hernandez No. 1, they're both definitely going to be seven-figure guys, no question about it. Those two guys were above everybody else."