July 2 Notebook




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With the draft over and many of the top picks having already signed, the market for international players has started to become more clear as July 2 approaches. We have already profiled many of the top players for this year's international signing period, but here is a look at some of the other notable names to follow for this year's class.

Richard Urena (video) is a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop from San Francisco de Macoris who plays in the Dominican Prospect League and trains with Decarte Corporan. At 6-foot-1, 160 pounds, Urena doesn't have premium tools, but he has a handful of average tools that play up due to his instincts. He's a lefthanded hitter who drops his hands when he swings, but he has good rhythm at the plate and flashes occasional power, though he's more of a line-drive hitter. He's an average runner with an average arm. His actions at shortstop are smooth, with clean hands, a quick release and slick feel for turning the double play. Urena also attended the Perfect Game National Showcase at the Metrodome in Minnesota last week.

• Venezuelan shortstop Kristian Trompiz wasn't one of the big names at the MLB showcase in the Dominican Republic in February, but he flourished in games there, going 3-for-3 with three walks and a stolen base. A 16-year-old from Maracaibo who trains with Emiro Barboza, Trompiz is 6-foot-1, 160 pounds and doesn't have any spectacular tools, but he should be able to command a low to mid six-figure bonus. Scouts have some concerns about his bat speed from the right side, but he's shown he can work the count with a solid approach and hitting instincts. He's around an average runner and a solid fielder, though his 45 arm may fit better at second base. The Astros, who signed Venezuelan shortstop Arturo Michelena last year from Barboza, are believed to be showing interest in Trompiz.

Edmundo Sosa (video), a Panamanian shortstop who trains with German Gil, played for the Panama Metro youth team that won the junior national championship. Sosa, 16, has a lively, athletic body at 6 feet, 160 pounds with long arms and legs. He's done some switch-hitting but he's far more advanced from the right side, where he shows more bat speed and natural rhythm. There isn't much power in Sosa's bat, but he makes a lot of contact and has a good approach. He's flashed above-average speed, shows good instincts and game awareness in the field along with a good arm. A few sources have connected the Cardinals to Sosa.

• Last year the top player that Pedro Nivar (known as "Nube" in the Dominican Republic) trained was Hersin Martinez, an outfielder who signed with the Mariners for $1.1 million. This year Nivar has a carbon copy of Martinez named Jose Pujols (video), another corner outfielder out of Santo Domingo with huge raw power. Pujols, 16, is 6-foot-4, 175 pounds with long limbs and a projectable body that oozes projection. Pujols can send the ball as far as anyone in batting practice. He has good bat speed, takes a big uppercut and can launch balls over the left-field fence when he does connect. How often he makes contact is the big question with Pujols, whose bat doesn't stay in the hitting zone very long and will swing and miss by a lot if the pitch isn't grooved into his bat path. He's an average runner who some sources said has drawn interest from the Phillies.

* The Red Sox signed Dominican righthander Simon Mercedes for $800,000 in February, though that contract is still pending as Major League Baseball reviews his background. One of Mercedes' trainers is Felix Liriano, who also another righthander, Jose Almonte, who sources say has drawn interest from the Red Sox and may be one of the best Dominican pitchers this year. Almonte, 16, is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, with a smooth delivery, loose arm action and good arm speed on a fastball that touches the low-90s. His control has been erratic at times, but he's also flashed the makings of a solid curveball.

• The Braves have brought a handful of promising pitchers through their international program in recent years. This year sources say the Braves have their sights set on Yeralf Torres, a 16-year-old Venezuelan righthander from Barquisimeto who trains with Jose Montero. Torres is 6-foot-1, 165 pounds and has an excellent fastball, touching the low-90s with lively action from a delivery with some drop-and-drive to it. He will have to learn to throw more strikes and improve his secondary pitches, which includes a mid-70s curveball that's ahead of his changeup.

• Dominican third baseman Carlos Belen stood out at the May 31 game between the Canadian junior national team and a team of July 2-eligible Dominican prospects organized by Major League Baseball. Belen went 1-for-3 and drew a walk in the game played in Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo.