Top 20 International Prospects For July 2
The 2012 draft was unusual for several reasons. Aside from the new rules, there was little consensus about who the best player in the draft was or how teams had the top of their boards lined up.
In the world of scouting 15- and 16-year-old international free agents, that lack of consensus is more routine. One team might view a player as a $1 million prospect, while another sees the same kid as a $100,000 guy.
The best players usually rise to the top, though there is always disagreement about even who those players are. And there are always players who sign for bonuses that leave scouts from other teams scratching their heads. There have always been bonuses given out for questionable reasons, but this year there will be a new twist with the $2.9 million bonus limit for each team—and the relative ease with which teams could bend the rules if they want.
So in our international amateur rankings, we are doing things a little differently. In the past we have ranked players based on their expected signing bonuses, but this year we have ranked the top 20 players in the international market for July 2 based on talent, just as we do with our draft rankings. We aren't sure exactly how the bonuses will line up, but our rankings are an attempt to capture the scouting consensus of the industry—to the degree that it exists. The list does not include players who have already been eligible to sign or suspended players, like Dominican righthander Juan Carlos Paniagua.
The players at the top of the list have separated themselves, but after you get past the top 15 or 20 you'll find a large pool of players who generate a wider variance of opinion and are fairly close together in terms of value. For that reason, we cut the list off at 20. We will continue to add more scouting reports on notable players in the coming days, as well as a team-by-team forecast for Baseball America subscribers.
1. Franklin Barreto, ss/cf, Venezuela
Ht: 5-9. Wt: 175. B-T: R-R.
There are few amateurs who have ever had Barreto's extensive track record of dominance representing Venezuela during international competitions. Barreto has played in international tournaments since he was 10 in 2006. He was the MVP at the Pan American 12-and-under tournament in September 2008, then later that month led Venezuela to another title by winning the Criollitos de America
title en route to being named the 2008 athlete of the year by the Corporacion Criolltos
of Venezuela. He won another MVP in July 2010 at the 14-and-under Pan American championship, then last August starred at the 16-and-under World Championship, where he he .515/.568/.978 in 33 at-bats, tied for the tournament lead with three homers (including two against Team USA) and led the tournament with eight steals in eight tries.
Several teams have Barreto as the top player on their boards. A 16-year-old from Miranda, Barreto has two standout tools in his hitting and his speed. Some scouts project Barreto as a future plus hitter. He has quick hands, a short swing, recognizes pitches well and hits the ball to all fields. With his hitting acumen and plus-plus speed, he could become a potential .300 hitter. Barreto is small and is already a strong, physically mature player, so there are questions about projection, but he hits hard line drives and has shown he can hit the ball out of the park in games, with 15-20 homer potential.
Most teams don't think Barreto can stick at shortstop. He has a solid arm for the position, but his footwork and actions aren't ideal for the infield. With his speed, some teams view him as a good fit in center field, while others project him as a second baseman. High-end projections range from Rafael Furcal with less defense to a Shane Victorino type in center field. Barreto trains with Ciro Barrios, whose program last year delivered outfielders Wuilmer Becerra and Jesus Gonzalez and righthander Jesus Tinoco to the Blue Jays. Most sources believe the Blue Jays will sign Barreto, who is expected to sign for close to $2 million.
2. Luis Torrens, c, Venezuela
Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170. B-T: R-R.
Torrens has played on several international travel teams along with Franklin Barreto since he was 10 in 2006, when he won a Criollitos de America
championship for the 10-and-under team, followed up with another title two years later for the 12-and-under team and then won another tournament at the Pan American championship in 2010. Torrens also played in the Junior Caribbean Series in April 2011 in Barquisimeto and played in the inaugural season of Panama's new winter league, where he hit .255/.275/.303 in 66 at-bats as a 15-year-old. He played shortstop for most of his life, but moved to third base a year and a half ago and it seemed like he wanted to stay there. After the MLB showcase in the Dominican Republic in February, however, Torrens moved behind the plate and is expected to sign as a catcher.
Sticking at catcher would enhance Torrens' value, but teams have been drawn to him for his bat. A 16-year-old from Carobobo, Torrens has an advanced approach at the plate. His swing is loose and easy and he has good plate coverage, showing the ability to turn on the inside pitch and work the ball over to the right-center field gap as well. He has quick hands and his swing generates loft, though he's going to be more of a doubles hitter than a home run threat. His value will come more from his ability to hit and get on base.
Torrens isn't a great runner and he's built like a catcher, so the move behind the plate is something many scouts figured would happen eventually. He caught a little bit when he was younger and has a solid arm that should aid him in his transition. If he goes back to third base, he could still be a valuable player. Torrens has been training with Carlos Rios, the former Yankees international scouting director who signed Jesus Montero back in 2006. Most teams think the Yankees have the inside track to sign Torrens.
3. Jose Mujica, rhp, Venezuela
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. B-T: R-R.
Former major league shortstop Carlos Guillen opened his academy in Venezuela in 2010 and has quickly become one of the bigger players on the Venezuelan amateur market. This year will be his biggest yet and Mujica is his best prospect and the best pitching prospect this year in Latin America. He threw well at the MLB showcase in the Dominican Republic in February, where he pitched two scoreless innings with no hits, one walk and a strikeout.
Mujica, who turned 16 on June 29, has a projectable body, free-and-easy mechanics and clean arm action. He can get upright in his delivery, but he throws strikes to both sides of the plate with a fastball that has peaked at 93 mph. His fastball has late, heavy life, and he could reach the mid-90s within a few years. Mujica's best secondary pitch is his changeup, which shows good sink and could be an above-average pitch. He sells the pitch well with his arm speed and throws it to both lefties and righties. Mujica doesn't have great fluidity in his wrists, which hampers his slurvy breaking ball. The Blue Jays were the early favorites to sign Mujica, but now it appears they might look in a different direction. Some teams sources say the Rays are now in the lead, but the Dodgers, Red Sox and Diamondbacks have all been mentioned as well.
4. Alexander Palma, of, Venezuela
Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 200. B-T: R-R.
The top position player at Carlos Guillen's academy this year is Palma, one of several Venezuelan hitters who have garnered attention during international play. A 16-year-old from Miranda, Palma played the the 16-and-under World Championship last August and hit .429/.462/.514 in 35 at-bats. He showed well again at the MLB showcase in the Dominican Republic in February, when he went 3-for-7 with a double and three walks. He hits in games, has a clean swing with good bat speed and barrels up the ball. Palma is a physical specimen, though scouts are mixed on his power potential. Some scouts see average power, though others say he has more than that. Palma is going to have to stay on top of his conditioning, but he projects as a right fielder with average speed and a solid arm. Teams say the Yankees have been high on Palma for a long time, and many believe they are the leaders to sign him.
5. Gustavo Cabrera, cf, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. B-T: R-R.
Cabrera followed in the footsteps of Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara, a pair of 2011 Rangers bonus babies who in August 2010 led the Dominican Republic to a junior division RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) World Series championship in Jupiter, Fla. Last summer, Cabrera also played in the RBI World Series at Target Field in Minnesota and led the Dominicans to the title, going 2-for-3 with a walk and a steal in the championship game to earn MVP honors.
In terms of raw tools and athleticism, there's nobody in Latin America who is ahead of Cabrera, a 16-year-old from La Romana who trains with Christian "Niche" Batista and plays in the Dominican Prospect League. He's an explosive athlete with plus-plus speed, which gives him excellent range in center field along with a solid arm. He has a heavier body type that may lead him to lose a step or two eventually, so some scouts think Cabrera may end up in a corner, but others think he will be a good defender in center field.
At the plate, Cabrera has terrific bat speed and above-average raw power, but nearly every scout comes back with the same report: Love the tools, not sure if he'll hit in games. Cabrera doesn't have the natural hitting instincts of someone like Barreto or Torrens, as he's still learning to stay balanced and cut down on the length of his swing. If a team thinks its hitting coaches can help Cabrera click at the plate, there may be significant upside. Because of that, many teams believe Cabrera could get the biggest bonus in the international class. The Nationals may be the favorite, though another team could try to jump into the mix.
6. Jose Castillo, lhp, Venezuela
Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. B-T: L-L.
Rangers lefthander Martin Perez made his major league debut a little short of five years after he signed with the Rangers for $580,000 in 2007, when he was 16. Perez trained with Felix Olivo, who now has another Venezuelan lefty on the rise in Castillo. In February at the MLB showcase in the Dominican Republic, Castillo pitched well, throwing two scoreless innings with four strikeouts, one hit and a walk. Scouts liked his mechanics and loose arm, though his velocity was mostly in the mid-80s. Since then, Castillo has taken off, as scouts have noted the remarkable improvement in his conditioning and fastball as July 2 approaches.
At recent workouts, Castillo sat in the low 90s with his fastball, touching 93-94 mph. He flashed a good changeup for his age, and while he's shown occasional ability to spin a breaking ball, the curveball is his third pitch for now. Reports on his control vary, though with his mechanics he should be solid in that regard. The Dodgers were linked to Castillo at one point, but now most sources believe the Rays are the team to beat.
7. Luiz Gohara, lhp, Brazil
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. B-T: L-L.
It was 20 years ago that the Blue Jays signed Brazilian righthander Jose Pett for $700,000, at the time a record bonus for an international amateur. Gohara may be the most significant Brazilian prospect since Pett, who never reached the major leagues, and he played in Brazilian amateur national tournaments since he was 10. He represented his country at the 14-and-under Pan American championships two years ago and again last August at the 16-and-under World Championship in Mexico. Gohara was named the best pitcher at the event, where he threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings with one unearned run, three hits, two walks and eight strikeouts.
Not every team has seen Gohara, who will be able to sign when he turns 16 on July 31, but those who have come away impressed. He threw in the high 80s at the World Championship, but scouts have since reported his fastball velocity ranging from 86-94 mph, with recent reports of him pitching at 89-90 and hitting 92. It's rare velocity for a 15-year-old lefty, and Gohara complements it with a slider that some scouts grade as a future plus offering. He's a physical pitcher and projects to be a large man. Some teams put a higher grade on Gohara than Castillo, but in general teams feel less certain about Gohara because so few of them do much coverage in Brazil.
The Cubs and Dodgers were in on Gohara at one point, but the Mariners, who are one of the few teams who have signed Brazilian players in recent years, look like the favorite. Seattle hasn't been tied to any other frontline prospects yet, and when the Mariners want a player, history shows they typically get their guy.
8. Carlos Belen, 3b, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. B-T: R-R.
Coming into the year, Belen was not a prominent name on teams' follow lists. He was not selected to play in the MLB showcase in February, but now he has emerged as the top third baseman in Latin America for many teams. Belen, who is from Santo Domingo and trains with Ney Acevedo and Rodolfo Mendez, has a strong, powerful frame and one of the best bats in the Dominican Republic. He has a good approach to hitting, a quick bat and a simple, compact swing with good path that works in games. With his size and strength, he can hit the ball with authority, and he could hit for average and power.
The concern is where Belen might end up if he can't remain at third base. Some scouts think he can be an average defender at third, with a plus
arm, good hands for the position and the ability to make the highlight
play at times. He's already a big guy and a below-average runner who runs into trouble at times with his footwork. Sources in the Dominican Republic say the Padres are high on Belen, who should be able to eclipse the $1 million mark.
9. Luis Castro, ss, Venezuela
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190. B-T: R-R.
Castro is among a group of several polished Venezuelan hitters who have shown they can handle live pitching on the international circuit. A 16-year-old who trains with Jose Aguiar, he played in the Junior Caribbean Series in Barquisimeto in April 2011, then went to the 16-and-under World Championship in Mexico last August. Castro hit .583/.655/.750 in Mexico, going 14-for-24 with four doubles, four walks and two strikeouts. He tied for the tournament lead in OBP and doubles while tying for second in batting average. His performance included a 4-for-5 game with two walks and a pair of stolen bases against Team USA.
Castro doesn't have the loudest tools, but scouts like his ability to hit and his power potential. His hitting approach is sound, he has good bat speed with a short swing, and he squares up the ball easily. He hits to all fields and has a good idea of the strike zone. With his size, some scouts think he has the potential to hit for average and power, though others don't see quite that much offensive impact since his power now is more gap to gap.
Castro is an instinctive player, both in the batter's box and in the field. He's a fringy runner at best, so he doesn't have great range, and many teams think he projects as a third baseman, with second base or even catcher as a possibility. He's expected to sign as a shortstop, but he would fit well at third because he has clean hands and a solid arm. The Rockies once appeared to be the most likely destination for Castro, but if the Blue Jays have indeed backed off Mujica, they could land Castro, who should be able to get around $1 million.
10. Wendell Rijo, ss, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 195. B-T: R-R.
When scouts saw Rijo early in the evaluation process, they were lukewarm because of his size (he's listed at 5-foot-11, which may be generous). But the more scouts see Rijo, the more they like him. A 16-year-old from La Romana who trains with Victor Brus, Rijo has benefited from playing regularly in the Dominican Prospect League, where he has proven to be one of the best players available in terms of present ability.
Scouts love Rijo's baseball instincts and consistent ability to hit in games. He has a good approach, quick hands and a sound swing. He's small and there isn't as much physical projection with him as with other players, but Rijo hits the ball squarely and shows surprising pop for his size. He's a plus runner with solid hands and is fundamentally sound, though he may move to second base because of his arm. Rijo sprained his knee when the DPL went on a spring training tour to the United States in March, and he's still working his way back. Without the new $2.9 million bonus pools, it might make sense for Rijo to wait and get back to full strength to show what he can do on the field before signing, but players may want to sign more quickly under the new system, as they have in the draft. The Rangers, Yankees and Nationals have all come up as potential suitors.
11. Amed Rosario, ss, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 170. B-T: R-R.
Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara set the international bonus record last year when he signed out of Ivan Noboa's program for $4.95 million. Growing up, Mazara played in La Javilla
youth league in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Rosario was one of his boyhood teammates, but because he was born six months after Mazara in November 1995, he is part of this year's July 2 class. Rosario trains with John Carmona, who is also the president of La Javilla
. Ellis Pena, known as "Peñita", a former scout who was fired by the Pirates, is also one of Rosario's coaches.
Rosario might be the most divisive player in Latin America. He has a long, lanky build, good bat speed and raw power in batting practice along with average speed. Some scouts who like Rosario enough to have him ranked as the top prospect in the Dominican Republic, seeing him as a true shortstop who with power who can hit in games. He showed that at the MLB showcase in February in games against Venezuela, going 4-for-7 with a double, a walk and no strikeouts. Supporters like his fielding instincts, hands, arm strength and ability to make the barehanded play.
Other scouts see an upright hitter with a leg kick that gets him out on his front foot against offspeed stuff and leads to strikeouts with his uppercut stroke. His body has a lot of room to fill out, so he may end up at third base, but some scouts aren't sold on his infield actions and see him as a corner outfielder.
Scouts are united in their appreciation of Rosario's makeup. He is scheduled to graduate high school before July 2. His father is a lawyer who will be influential in the signing, and his mother has a cousin who is married to Brewers scout Rafael Espinal. If a team sees a true shortstop with an impact bat, Rosario could end up the highest-paid player in the Dominican Republic. Some sources think the Mets will be that team, though the Astros and White Sox have also been mentioned.
12. Amaurys Minier, ss, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. B-T: B-R.
A 16-year-old from San Cristobal, Minier trains with Jaime Ramos and plays in the Dominican Prospect League, where he has drawn attention for his bat speed and plus power from both sides of the plate. Minier's swing is more advanced from the left side and is one of the sweeter swings in the Dominican Republic. He has some noise in his set-up, but he has a smooth stroke with good balance and whips the bat head through the zone. With his power, he can put on a good show in batting practice. Scouts have reservations about his ability to hit in games, so his pitch recognition skills will have to improve.
Many players with Minier's body type—thick lower half and below-average speed—are already at third base. He figures to slide over there soon after signing. He has a strong arm but will have to work on his infield actions to avoid a move further down the defensive spectrum. Sources in the Dominican Republic think Minier has a chance to land one of the top three bonuses from the island among this year's July 2 group, with the Twins the team that pops up the most.
13. Richard Urena, ss, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 160. B-T: L-R.
Urena is a 16-year-old from San Francisco de Macoris who trains with Decarte Corporan and plays in the Dominican Prospect League. He attended the Perfect Game national showcase at Target Field in Minnesota earlier this month. Scouts who like Urena say he stands out more in games than tryout settings. He doesn't have one calling card in his tool set, but he has several average tools and good baseball instincts.
Urena has a tendency to drop his hands when he swings, but he has a sound stroke, good hitting rhythm and the ability to work the count. His power is below-average, and while he has shown more power recently, he projects more as a line-drive hitter than a power guy. Urena is an average runner with clean hands, a quick release and a solid arm. He might be the top
true shortstop in Latin America among players who project to stick at
the position. The White Sox have been the main team linked to Urena, though the Reds have also been mentioned.
14. David Rodriguez, c, Venezuela
Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 190. B-T: R-R.
Venezuela has a strong track record of producing major league catchers, which is why many teams go to the country looking for catchers or players at other positions who can move behind the plate. A 16-year-old from Anzoategui who trains at Carlos Guillen's academy, Rodriguez went to the MLB showcase in the Dominican Republic in February, going 3-for-8 with a triple at the event. He has a good frame and a sound hitting approach. He makes a lot of contact, uses the whole field and drives the ball from gap to gap. There are questions about his bat speed, but his proponents think he can get his hands started early enough to have success. He probably won't be a big power hitter.
His defense draws a range of opinions, but he should be able to stay at catcher. There are catchers with better arms in this year's class, and his footwork may need to improve on his throws, but he has solid arm strength. Scouts were mixed on his receiving. The Rays have a strong scouting presence in Venezuela and are believed to be the favorites to sign Rodriguez.
15. Deivi Grullon, c, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 175. B-T: R-R.
Unlike Venezuela, the track record of Dominican catchers is spottier. The greatest Dominican catcher of all time is Tony Pena, but the drop-off after that is steep, with guys like Miguel Olivo, Ronny Paulino, Tony Eusebio and Carlos Santana among the most prominent. Grullon is hoping to break that trend. A 16-year-old from Bonao, Grullon plays in the Dominican Prospect League and trains with Luis Coronado, who has also coached Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez), Wandy Rodriguez and Carlos Marmol. Grullon is a defensive-oriented catcher whom some scouts prefer to David Rodriguez. He draws physical comparisons to Carlos Ruiz. Grullon has a plus arm that could get even stronger and some scouts like his accuracy. He moves well behind the plate, has good hands and frames pitches well, giving him the raw ingredients to be an above-average defender.
Grullon has shown a decent approach at the plate with some ability to work the count and gap power, but his bat is a question mark. His swing has length, and teams would like to see more production from him against live pitching. Several teams have been tied to Grullon, but many think his asking price is too high. He has also been slowed by an ankle injury during the DPL's spring training trip to the United States. The Athletics, Astros, Tigers, Phillies and Rangers are among those who have been linked to Grullon.
16. Julio de la Cruz, 3b, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190. B-T: R-R.
Former major league outfielder Luis Polonia has a budding program in the Dominican Republic. His top player this year is de la Cruz, a 16-year-old who was born in Yamasa, lives in Santiago and plays in the Dominican Prospect League. De la Cruz has a solid, athletic frame and has drawn interest from a handful of teams for his hitting. He has a hitch in his swing that concerns some scouts, but others like his ability to hit in games. His proponents say he has an advanced approach at the plate, makes a lot of contact and keeps his weight back on offspeed pitches, showing the ability to make in-game adjustments at a young age. He has average power and a projectable body.
De la Cruz is a bit heavy-footed, but he should stick at third base with solid hands and a strong arm. The Pirates have signed a handful of players from Polonia recently, including first baseman Edwin Espinal and even Polonia's son, 19-year-old second baseman Rodney Polonia, who is in his second season in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. The Pirates are the team that pops up most in conversations about de la Cruz, though the White Sox have also been mentioned.
17. Jose Almonte, rhp, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. B-T: R-R.
Almonte is a 16-year-old who trains with Felix Liriano and another coach known as "Batata." He pitched at the MLB showcase in February against the team of Venezuelan prospects, though he didn't have a great outing. It has been hard for some scouts to get a look at Almonte recently, but scouts who saw him early in the year liked him because of his projectable, lanky frame, smooth delivery and good arm action. He touched 90-91 mph early in the year, though more recent reports had him topping out at 89. He has some projection and could throw harder down the road. He's flashed ability to throw a solid curveball with downward bite, but it's inconsistent and he's still learning to throw it for strikes. Several sources believe the Red Sox will be the team that ends up signing Almonte.
18. Sergio Alcantara, ss, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 155. B-T: B-R.
Alcantara is the nephew of Anderson Hernandez, the 29-year-old second baseman in the Pirates organization with Triple-A Indianapolis who has spent parts of six seasons in the big leagues. Alcantara is only 15 and it shows in his thin frame. Those who like him talk more about his instincts than his raw tools, and his glove more than his bat. He has a plus arm and could be one of the best defensive shortstops in the Dominican Republic, with good fundamentals. He's a fringy runner and doesn't have explosive quickness, but given his youth and frame he could get faster with additional strength.
Alcantara can switch-hit, but scouts wonder what kind of impact he'll have at the plate. When Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers was with the Padres, they signed a Dominican shortstop named Alvaro Aristy (later revealed to be Jorge Guzman) in 2008 for $1 million with a similar profile. The Diamondbacks are the favorites to land Alcantara, who can sign when he turns 16 on July 10.
19. Frandy de la Rosa, ss, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. B-T: B-R.
De la Rosa is a 16-year-old who lives in Boca Chica, plays in the Dominican Prospect League and trains with Valentin Monero. Like many players at the bottom of the Top 20 and below, de la Rosa does a few things that scouts like but brings question marks. Scouts like his ability to handle the bat as a switch-hitter. He has a simple, short swing and quick hands at the plate and has shown he can barrel balls up, but he's more of a line-drive hitter than much of a power threat right now.
His tools beyond the bat aren't as flashy. He's not quite an average runner and he doesn't have the range or arm for shortstop, though he's made strides with his arm and hands. Teams who like him see a potential offensive-oriented second baseman, but where he ends up playing in the field remains to be seen. The Cubs have been the team most prominently linked to de la Rosa, though the Astros and White Sox are also believed to have interest.
20. Jose Pujols, of, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 175. B-T: R-R.
Pedro Nivar, who is known as "Nube" in the Dominican Republic, has trained some of the island's top power bats in recent years, including Mariners corner outfielders Phillips Castillo and Hersin Martinez. His top player this year is Pujols, who some scouts think is a clone of Martinez, with more bat speed and projection. A 16-year-old from Santo Domingo, Pujols might have the best raw power among the top prospects in Latin America this year. With his height and long, lanky limbs, Pujols has plenty of room to fill out but already generates his power with bat speed. In batting practice, he has hit mammoth blasts, but the big question is whether the power will translate. He's pull-oriented, takes a big uppercut and has had trouble connecting when the pitch isn't grooved, so he'll have to make adjustments. Pujols has run average times in the 60-yard dash and will play an outfield corner. Sources believe the Phillies have the most interest in Pujols.
More Players To Watch
The top-paid player from Panama for July 2 this year might end up being Edmundo Sosa
), whose Panama Metro youth team won the country's junior national title. Sosa has long limbs on his athletic 6-foot, 160-pound frame. He's dabbled in switch-hitting, but he shows much better balance and rhythm with his righthanded swing. He's more of a line-drive bat than a power guy, showing the ability to make contact with a good approach at the plate. He's run above-average times in the 60-yard dash. His instincts at shortstop are a plus and he has a good arm. The Cardinals have shown the greatest presence scouting Sosa.
The Tigers have been linked to Domingo Leyba
, who was teammates with Gustavo Cabrera on the Dominican team that won the junior division RBI World Series at Target Field in Minnesota last summer. Leyba has very smooth hands and good defensive actions. At around 5-foot-9, Leyba's defense may be ahead of his bat, but he's a solid player who seems to play above his raw tools.
is being showcased as a shortstop, but at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, he should slide over to third base fairly quickly. He stands out for his size, righthanded power and arm strength, but defensively he's still raw. Cruz has been connected to the Indians.
Some scouts think one of the better defensive shortstops this year is Johan Cruz
from the Dominican Republic. He's 6-foot-1, 175 pounds and shows clean hands, good footwork and an above-average arm. He's not flashy, but he's a steady defender. He's an above-average runner whose righthanded bat has started to make strides as well after making some adjustments. A couple of sources have tied the White Sox to Cruz.
When Kristian Trompiz
went to the MLB showcase in the Dominican Republic in February, he went 3-for-3, drew three walks and stole a base. His tools don't jump out as much as some of the other shortstops in this year's class, but he's shown a solid bat in game situations. At 6-foot-1, 160 pounds, Trompiz has a solid approach and can work the count, though some scouts have questions about his bat speed. He's around an average runner and is a solid fielder, but with his fringy arm he may be a better fit at second base. The Astros look like the leaders for Trompiz.
One of the better defensive shortstops in Venezuela is Jose Martinez
, a switch-hitter who can sign when he turns 16 on Aug. 15. At 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, Martinez isn't a major offensive threat, but he stands out in the field with a strong arm and good awareness at shortstop. The Brewers, Phillies and Cardinals have been tied to Martinez.
Though Venezuela's Miguel Patiño
has tried out for teams as a shortstop, sources say the Mets may sign him to try to make him a catcher. He's a little guy at around 5-foot-7, but his bat is solid with gap power, solid hands and a close to average arm.
Dominican outfielder Luis Barrera
) received some consideration for the Top 20, but scouts have different palates for a player with his skill set. Barrera, who played at the Junior Caribbean Series in Venezuela last year in April and plays in the DPL, is a lefty with one of the sweeter swings in Latin America and average power. His bat stays in the hitting zone a long time, which helps him hit the ball to all fields, although he will need to tighten up his strike-zone discipline. Barrera's hit tool is there, but that's where most of his value lies. He's a thick 6-foot-1, 190 pounds and doesn't have great speed or arm strength, so he's a left fielder in a best-case scenario, but first base may be more likely.
from the Dominican Republic has the physical profile of a right fielder. His 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame is projectable and he shows good righthanded power and arm strength. He had surgery to remove the hamate bone from his left hand in April 2011 and returned to the field in October. Teams want to see if he can learn to recognize breaking pitches so that he can cut down on his strikeouts. A few sources believe the Padres may make a move for Minaya.
has a lanky, athletic frame at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds. A righthanded hitter from the Dominican Republic, Contreras has good bat speed and good power, though he has a tendency to lunge at the ball. He's an average runner with an average to slightly above-average arm that should play in right field.
Several sources in the Dominican Republic believe the Indians are willing to pay outfielder Hector Caro
a bonus in excess of $1 million. Caro trains with Ivan Noboa, the trainer who pulled off the surprising $4.95 million deal with Texas a year ago for outfielder Nomar Mazara. Caro has flashed power, but there's stiffness to his stroke and he's limited to left field by his speed and fringy arm. If any team does give him a seven-figure bonus, that club would appear to be out an on island in its evaluation.
played for the Venezuelan team at the 14-and-under Pan American championship in Nicaragua in 2010. He's done some catching but he's better as a corner outfielder. Tovar doesn't have a ton of tools, but he's flashed solid hitting ability from the right side and has drawn interest from the Twins. He could be in line for a low six-figure bonus.
Nicaragua's Melvin Novoa
) received some consideration from teams for the top 20. Those who like Novoa, who is 6 feet, 190 pounds, point to his bat speed and righthanded swing as signs of his offensive potential. Other teams wonder about swing length and his pull-oriented approach. He throws well, but his transfer has length and he's not the loosest guy behind the plate. The Rangers, Mariners, Giants and Athletics have been mentioned in connection with Novoa at some point.
Venezuela's Joshua Lopez
has shown advanced defensive skills for some teams. Lopez has good footwork, receiving ability and an average arm that plays up because of his quick release. A stocky 5-foot-9 righthanded hitter, Lopez has question marks on his athleticism and stiffness in his swing, but he's shown he can go the other way, with some teams seeing him better in games than others. The Cardinals seem to be the team closest to Lopez.
The top Colombian player this year for some teams is Osvaldo Garcia
, who has been linked to the Diamondbacks. Garcia is a large frame at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and could be a power-hitting catcher from the right side. He's a former pitcher with a strong arm, though his agility and lateral movement behind the dish aren't as advanced as some of the other catchers on the market.
Other catchers are more regarded for their defense and are expected be in line for low six-figure bonuses. Yoiber Marquina
has played for Venezuelan teams during international tournaments since he was 10. He's 5-foot-11, 200 pounds with an arm that gets grades of 60 or better on the 20-80 scale. He could be a quality defensive catcher and he does show occasional raw power in batting practice, but he'll have to make adjustments against live pitching. The Royals and Brewers had been linked to Marquina, but now the Indians look like the favorites.
is another defensive-oriented catcher who has represented Venezuela at several international tournaments, including the 14-and-under Pan American championships in Nicaragua in 2010 and the 16-and-under World Championship in Mexico last August. He's 5-foot-11, 175 pounds and has extensive experience behind the plate handling pitchers. He's a good bet to stick at catcher but his bat will have to continue to improve. The Twins have been tied to Silva.
Dominican catcher Francisco Mejia
is a little guy with a big arm. He's only 5-foot-8, 155 pounds but his arm is among the strongest in Latin America and he has a chance to be a good defender behind the plate. He's a switch-hitter whose bat will need time to develop. The Indians have been linked to Mejia.
was a bigger name in Venezuela coming into the year because of his line-drive bat. He has a strong arm with good carry, though scouts aren't sure whether he will remain a catcher or possibly move to third base.
In Europe, Rachid Engelhardt
) is a righthanded hitter from the Netherlands who played for the Dutch team at the 16-and-under World Championship in Mexico last August. At 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Engelhardt has good bat speed and flashes solid power potential, though he'll need to work at his approach to have it play more in games. He's shown promising defensive tools but like many young catchers will need to add polish behind the plate. Some expect the Mariners to be involved.
It's difficult for third basemen to distinguish themselves in Latin America. The general profile of a 16-year-old third baseman always seems similar: Big body, righthanded power, questions about hitting in games and whether he will stay at the position.
One of the third basemen in this year's class who has hit in games is Venezuela's Samir Dueñez
. He's a lefthanded hitter who just turned 16 on June 11 but has already performed well last winter in the Liga Paralela, the minor league version of the Venezuelan League. Dueñez played for the Navegantes and led the team in batting average by hitting .313/.329/.448 in 19 games over 67 at-bats with six doubles, a homer, two walks and 13 strikeouts. He made an impression earlier this month at the Perfect Game International Series put on by the DPL at the Yankees' Dominican academy as well. Dueñez has flashed good raw power at times, though there are questions about whether his uppercut swing and aggressive approach will play at higher levels. He's listed at 6-foot-1, 196 pounds but he has a Pablo Sandoval body type and will need to continue to improve his defense, so a lot of scouts project him as a first baseman, though he does have a good arm. Sources believe the Royals are targeting Dueñez.
Another third baseman who played well at the PG International Series was Dominican third baseman Natanael Javier
), who was named MVP of the showcase's all-tournament game after going 3-for-3 with a double. Javier's hitting has been inconsistent, but he has an extra-large frame (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and shows flashes of raw power. His older brother, Sony Javier, spent three years playing for the Dominican Summer League Blue Jays before the organization released him earlier this year. Sources believe the Giants are showing the most interest in Javier.
Juan Carlos Arias
and Miguel Mercedes
are similar players who both train at the Arias and Goodman academy with Alfredo Arias in the Dominican Republic. They both have huge frames—Arias is 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Mercedes 6-foot-4 210 pounds—with present strength and good raw power, with Arias' showing a little more pop right now. Scouts say they need to continue to improve against live pitching and in the field, although Arias has shown the ability to work the count.
Another Dominican third baseman, Luis Castillo
, will have to wait until he turns 16 later in July to be able to sign, but he's drawn attention for his short righthanded swing and plus power. He's already 6-foot-2, 205 pounds and projects to be a large man.
) has stood out as one of the more advanced hitters in the DPL, with a nice righthanded stroke and solid power, though it's more line drives now than a big show in batting practice. He's 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and projects to be a big, strong player. His hands and arm may eventually lead him to left field as he continues to mature physically.
is a lefthanded first baseman from the Dominican Republic. He trains at La Academia and is similar to Athletics left fielder Sandber Pimentel, who signed out of La Academia last year for $160,000. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Marrero has a better frame than Pimentel and he also shows a sweet lefty swing. He doesn't show power right now, but he hits well in games.
The youngest player in this year's class who will sign might be Leury Vargas
, who can sign once he turns 16 on Aug. 30. Vargas, who plays in the DPL and went to the Perfect Game national showcase at Target Field in Minnesota earlier this month, is 6-foot-3, 215 pounds with good bat speed and raw power from the left side. He doesn't offer much right now defensively, but he'll get interest for his youth and power.
Scouts often lament the lack of pitching in Latin America for July 2, but many teams have had success waiting for pitchers to develop later in the year or signing them at 17.
One pop-up guy as July 2 approaches has been Osiris Ramirez
), a Dominican righthander who converted to pitching from shortstop within the last year. Ramirez has an athletic 6-foot-3, 185 pound frame and some teams think he might be the best pitcher on the island. Ramirez has a loose arm, sound mechanics without much effort and he has taken quickly to pitching. His fastball ranges from 88-92 mph with a lot of late life that runs in on righthanded hitters. He's not refined as a pitcher yet, but he throws a solid three-pitch mix with ability to spin a curveball that's ahead of his changeup. The Indians are one of the teams who have been linked to Ramirez.
There are teams who think Mexican lefthander Julio Urias
belongs with the other top pitchers in this year's class. At 6 feet, he doesn't have a lot of size, but he's still only 15 and is already throwing in the high-80s and touching 92 mph with feel for his craft. He has a good delivery, a loose arm, he's able to cut his fastball and throw it for strikes, which is why some scouts prefer him to Venezuelan lefthander Jose Castillo. His changeup is one of the best secondary pitches in this year's class, throwing the pitch in the high-70s and earning plus to plus-plus future grades from scouts. Like Blue Jays righthander Roberto Osuna last year, Urias pitches for the Mexico City Reds. Some teams think the Dodgers will sign Urias in a package deal along with a few other players for more than $1 million, maybe even close to $2 million. Whoever does sign Urias will get some flexibility in its bonus pool because MLB has said that for Mexican League transfers, only the amount of the payment that goes to the player—typically 25 percent—will count against the team's pool space if he's a Mexican-born citizen like Urias.
Sources say that one of the pitchers the Braves have their eyes on is Yeralf Torres
), a 6-foot-1, 165-pound righthander from Venezuela. He has a bit of drop-and-drive in his delivery, good arm strength and reaches the low-90s with a lively fastball. Some think he could end up becoming a power pitcher. He throws a mid-70s curveball that's ahead of his changeup, though his secondaries and his control will have to improve.
One intriguing lefty in the Dominican Republic is Bienvenido Morales
, who has good projection from his Rafael Perez body type at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds. Morales, who is one of the youngest pitchers in the class having turned 16 on June 26, has a clean, loose delivery with good arm action and a lively fastball around 87-91 mph. He has shown good mound presence for his age while pitching in the DPL with average command for a 16-year-old . He flashes feel for a changeup that's ahead of his slurvy breaking ball, which may morph into a slider.
Dominican righthander Gabby Vizcaino
is a hard thrower who can put up big numbers on the radar gun, as he's touched 94-95 mph with good armside run. Vizcaino is 6 feet, 165 pounds and there are questions about how much projection he has left. He's still learning to maintain his arm speed when he throws his secondary pitches, which include a changeup with solid sink and a slurvy slider. Some scouts look at his delivery, arm action and repertoire and see a potential bullpen weapon. The Dodgers, Rangers and Athletics are among the teams who may be players for Vizcaino.
One of the sleepers in the group could be Lewis Thorpe
, a lefthander from Australia. Thorpe pitched at the 16-and-under World Championship in Mexico last August and participated in the MLB Australian Academy last year, when he posted a 3.90 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 15 walks in 30 innings. At 6 feet, 170 pounds, Thorpe has good pitchability and mound presence. He's sat around 86-88 mph for some teams and topped out at 91, showing feel to spin a breaking ball.
Nicaragua has a couple of pitchers generating interest from teams. Corby McCoy
is a 6-foot-3 projection lefthander with an athletic frame and a fastball ranging around 85-88 mph. He hasn't shown scouts a great breaking pitch yet, but a team may take a chance on his physical projection. Nicaraguan righthander Ronald Medrano
is 6 feet, 170 pounds and doesn't have as much physical projection as McCoy, but he throws strikes and has feel for pitching. He pitches in the high-80s and has scraped 90-91, showing the ability to work both sides of the plate. Some scouts also like his feel for his secondary pitches, which include a curve and a changeup.
Dominican righthander Victor Magallanes
has a large 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame, touches 91 mph and could be a power pitcher. He shows the makings of three pitches with feel for a breaking ball and may be drawing interest from the Rockies. Colorado has also been tied to Venezuelan lefthander Luis Guzman
, who throws in the mid-to-high 80s and stands out for his pitchability and advanced secondary pitches, including a good curveball.
is a righthander from Panama who has been training in the Dominican Republic. He turns 16 on June 30 and there are pitchers with more velocity than Jurado's mid-to-high 80s fastball, but he has projection on his skinny 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame, good pitchability and feel for his offspeed stuff. The Rangers and Red Sox are among the teams who have come up in connection with Jurado.