International Reviews: Philadelphia Phillies




Follow me on Twitter
Baseball America's annual International Reviews provide scouting reports on every team's top international amateur signings from the 2012 calendar year, as well as a look at any notable signings from the Cuban market.


See also: 2011 National League East International Review


Philadelphia Phillies

Top signing: C Deivy Grullon, Dominican Republic, $575,000.
Six-figure signings: OF Jose Pujols (Dominican Republic), RHP Lewis Alezones (Venezuela), SS Willerker Isava (Venezuela), C Gregori Rivero (Venezuela).

The Phillies were busier than usual around July 2, which is when they signed the majority of their top players last year. Their biggest bonus went to Dominican catcher Deivy Grullon (video), who signed for $575,000 on July 2. The Dominican Republic usually doesn't produce many catchers, but Grullon, who trained with Luis Coronado and played in the Dominican Prospect League, was the top catching prospect on the island. Grullon, who is from Bonao and turned 17 on Sunday, is 5-foot-10, 175 pounds and stands out for his advanced defense. He's agile, his feet work well, he has soft hands, blocks well and even has a good sense for framing pitches. He has a plus arm and some scouts praised his accuracy as well.

It's easy for scouts to see Grullon becoming an above-average defensive catcher, but the question mark is on his bat. He has a decent approach at the plate and some ability to work the count, but he tends to spin off and get long with his righthanded swing. He's not going to be a big power threat, so cutting down on his stroke and staying within his plan at the plate is going to be key for Grullon. The Phillies plan to start him in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League this summer.

Dominican outfielder Jose Pujols (video) might have had the best raw power of any player who became eligible to sign last year on July 2, which is when he signed with the Phillies for $540,000. Pujols, a 17-year-old from Santo Domingo who also played in the DPL and trained with Pedro Nivar (known as "Nube"), is 6-foot-4, 175 pounds with excellent bat speed and explosive power from the right side. With his long, lanky build, he has room to add at least another 30 pounds and develop even more juice.

Pujols' raw power is evident in batting practice, but there are big questions about whether his power will translate to game situations. He came as advertised at instructional league, hitting home runs and piling up strikeouts. He drop his hands, has a pull-oriented approach and takes a big uppercut swing that doesn't stay in the hitting zone very long, which causes him to swing and miss a lot. He'll be a project for the Phillies development staff to get him to simplify his swing mechanics, improve his pitch recognition and plate coverage. He's an average runner who will slow down and has an average arm. He might see time in right field, though some think he's a better fit in left field. Pujols has some similarities to Houston's Domingo Santana, another high-power, high-strikeout Dominican outfielder who was originally signed by the Phillies, but Pujols has more raw power and a looser swing than Santana at the same age. Pujols is expected to join Grullon this summer in the GCL.

Venezuelan righthander Lewis Alezones, who trained with Ciro Barrios, signed for $325,000 in August. Alezones, who turned 17 in November, has a skinny 6-foot-3, 155-pound frame and a clean, smooth delivery. He was throwing 83-86 mph early on last year, but before signing he got his fastball up to 89-91 mph. Alezones has plenty of room to add strength, gain velocity and he could have three average or better pitches. His changeup is ahead of his breaking ball right now. When he overthrows his breaking ball and flies open he loses the pitch a bit, but it's sharp with three-quarters tilt when he keeps his delivery together. With his slight build, he'll have to be brought along carefully, although he's expected to skip the Venezuelan Summer League and start his career in the GCL.

The Phillies made two more notable signings on July 2 out of Venezuela. One was Willerker Isava, a shortstop who turned 17 in January and signed for $200,000. Isava is 5-foot-10, 150 pounds with wide shoulders and stands out more in the field than at the plate. He has clean hands, an average arm, good range in the hole and makes the routine plays. He's a switch-hitter who's more advanced from the right side, but he's a singles hitter who's bat is going to need time to develop.

Philadelphia's other six-figure Venezuelan signing on July 2 was Gregori Rivero, a catcher who got $110,000. Rivero, 16, was a shortstop and a third baseman, but the Phillies liked him when they put him behind the plate. The bat is Rivero's most advanced tool. He's a switch-hitter with a short, sound swing, especially form the left side with doubles power. He's still learning how to catch and has an average arm with a short but funky throwing stroke.