With the international signing period coming up in fewer than six weeks, here are reports on 10 more players to watch for July 2:
Wendell Rijo, SS, Dominican Republic
Listed at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds—which some scouts say may be generous by a couple of inches—Rijo is exactly the type of player who benefits from playing in the Dominican Prospect League. A 16-year-old from La Romana who trains with Victor Brus, Rijo consistently earns high marks from scouts who have been impressed by his baseball acumen and ability to hit in games wherever he goes. In terms of present ability, he's one of the best baseball players in the Dominican Republic, with quick hands at the plate and surprising pop for his size. He doesn't have the strength or speed of Venezuela's Franklin Barreto, another undersized shortstop who hits well in games, but he has a solid all-around skill set. Rijo runs well, has solid hands and is a fundamentally sound defender, though some teams think his arm will play better at second base. He sprained his knee during the DPL's spring training tour in the United States in March, but he's back on the field working his way back to 100 percent.
Amaurys Minier, SS, Dominican Republic
Jaime Ramos trains Minier, a switch-hitting shortstop from San Cristobal who plays in the Dominican Prospect League. The 16-year-old is 6-foot-2, 190 pounds and stands out for his bat speed and power from both sides of the plate. Minier is more advanced from the left side, and while there's some noise in his setup to get his hands started, his lefty stroke is smooth, balanced and he can whip the bat head through with loft to take balls over the fence in batting practice. Some scouts haven't seen him hit much in game situations, which they believe is due to his pitch recognition. Due to his big body, thick lower half and below-average speed, Minier won't play shortstop. He has a strong arm, but some scouts don't think he looks like a natural infielder, so he'll have to put in work to avoid a move to a corner outfield spot.
Sergio Alcantara, SS, Dominican Republic
Alcantara is the nephew of Anderson Hernandez, who has spent parts of six big league seasons as a middle infielder with the Mets, Nationals, Indians and Astros and is currently a 29-year-old with the Pirates in Triple-A. A switch-hitter with a thin frame around 5-foot-11, 155 pounds, Alcantara is around a fringe-average runner—and his lack of quickness is a concern for some scouts—but he's fundamentally sound and shows good instincts in the field with solid hands and a strong arm. Scouts are mixed on his bat, but sources have said the Diamondbacks may make a push to sign him. Alcantara can sign when he turns 16 on July 10.
David Rodriguez, C, Venezuela
Catchers are always in demand in Venezuela, where this year the top backstop is expected to be Luis Torrens, though he only moved to the position in recent months from third base. There are a handful of other interesting Venezuelan catchers this year as well, including Rodriguez, a 16-year-old from Anzoategui who trains with Carlos Guillen. At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Rodriguez has a good frame and approach to hitting from the right side. He makes a lot of contact, works the middle of the field and drives the ball to the alleys. He isn't a big bat-speed guy and might not hit for a lot of power, but he showed well at the MLB showcase in February in the Dominican Republic, where he went 3-for-8 with a triple. According to scouts, there isn't anything that jumps out defensively, though Rodriguez is playable back there. He should be in line for a six-figure bonus somewhere north of $500,000, with the Rays showing the most interest.
Joshua Lopez, C, Venezuela
Lopez hasn't been scouted as widely as Rodriguez or some of the other top Venezuelan players on the market this year, but international sources have said the Cardinals have made Lopez one of their priority guys this summer. He has a stocky 5-foot-9 frame that he'll have to work to maintain, but he has nimble feet, receives well, has a quick transfer and an average arm. Lopez isn't much of a runner, and scouts have some questions about his athleticism and stiffness in his swing, but he's shown the ability to go to the opposite field and has played better in game situations for some teams than others.
Melvin Novoa, C, Nicaragua
Nicaragua has a few interesting players for 2012, but the best position player in the country appears to be Novoa, a righthanded hitter who turns 16 on June 17 and trains at Nicaragua's Acedemia Cinco Estrellas. He has good bat speed and some scouts like his offensive potential and his swing, though others say he can get long and pull-oriented at times. At 6 feet, 190 pounds, Novoa throws well but most scouts have labeled him an offensive-oriented catcher, with a long transfer and some stiffness to his game. He was spotted in the Rangers' Dominican academy earlier this month.
Julio de la Cruz, 3B, Dominican Republic
Luis Polonia's program has produced some promising players in recent years, including Rockies righthander Joel Payamps and Pirates first baseman Edwin Espinal, both of whom ranked among the Top 20 prospects from the 2011 Latin American summer leagues. Polonia's top prospect this year is de la Cruz, a 16-year-old righthanded hitter who was born in Yamasa and lives in Santiago. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, de la Cruz has a better frame than Espinal and some scouts have called him one of the better hitters in the Dominican Republic. He has an advanced approach at the plate, showing the ability to keep his weight back on offspeed pitches and make adjustments in games, and scouts have said he makes a lot of contact with projectable power. He's a solid-average runner with a good arm and should be a solid defender. The Mets, Cubs and Pirates are among the teams who have been linked to de la Cruz.
Carlos Belen, 3B, Dominican Republic
Some scouts think that Belen is one of the more underrated players in Latin America. He's a righthanded hitter from Santo Domingo who has good bat speed and a smooth, simple swing with good bat path and extension, hitting the ball with plenty of juice when he connects. Belen is a below-average runner who gets mixed marks for his defense. He has a plus arm and flashes the ability to make the special plays at times, while at other times he struggles with his footwork on routine grounders.
Luis Barrera, OF, Dominican Republic
Barrera, a 16-year-old lefty from Santiago who trains with Kiko Pena, is one of the more polished hitters in the Dominican Republic. He has international tournament experience as well, having gone to the Junior Caribbean Series in Venezuela last April. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Barrera has a smooth swing that works well and stays in the hitting zone a long time, which helps him hit to all fields and hang in against lefties. He flashes solid power, though he gets himself into trouble by chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone. Barrera clearly has offensive aptitude, but scouts have questions about his ultimate ceiling. Given his thick body, below-average speed and below-average arm, he's a left fielder in a best-case scenario, and even then he'll have to work on his outfield routes or move to first base.
Gabby Vizcaino, RHP, Dominican Republic
Pitching is thin in the Dominican Republic this year, though the top bonuses for Dominican pitchers in recent years have gone to players older than 16. Vizcaino, a 16-year-old from Santo Domingo who trains at La Academia, is 6 feet, 165 pounds, and has one of the best fastballs in Latin America. He sits in the low-90s with good armside run, and scouts have clocked him as high as 94-95, though there are questions about how much projection he has left. He flashes a solid changeup with sink that's ahead of his slurvy slider, and he'll have to work on maintaining his arm speed when he throws his offspeed stuff. Some scouts look at Vizcaino's delivery and arsenal and see a future reliever. The Rangers, Athletics and Dodgers are among the teams that sources have connected to Vizcaino.