International Reviews: Arizona Diamondbacks
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 West International
OF Ismael Pena, Dominican Republic, $750,000.
SS Sergio Alcantara (Dominican Republic), C Oswaldo Garcia (Colombia), OF Jose Ordaz (Venezuela), RHP Rafael Pujols (Dominican Republic), LHP Anthony Basora (Dominican Republic).
The Diamondbacks stepped up their international spending significantly in 2012, using the majority of their $2.9 million international bonus pool space in the first two months of the 2012-13 signing period. After the season, international scouting director Carlos Gomez left to take the same job with the Angels, reuniting him with Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who had worked in Arizona. The Diamondbacks brought in Craig Shipley, who had previously been Boston's vice president of international scouting before being let go by the Red Sox, to serve as an assistant to general manager Kevin Towers. Junior Noboa, the organization's vice president of Latin American operations who oversees Arizona's Dominican scouting and is one of the most prominent figures in Dominican baseball, remains with the club.
Though Sergio Alcantara
didn't receive the biggest bonus the Diamondbacks gave in 2012, he might be the best player they signed. Alcantara, who signed for $700,000 when he turned 16 on July 10, is the nephew of Anderson Hernandez, a 30-year-old Triple-A infielder with the Pirates who has big league experience and was involved in the signing process. Alcantara didn't play in any of the trainer-organized leagues in the Dominican Republic but he grew up playing in games, including a trip to the United States in 2009 when he was 13 with the Dominican team that won the Cal Ripken World Series.
At 5-foot-11, 155 pounds, Alcantara separated himself in the field as one of the best defensive shortstops in Latin America. He has smooth actions, sound fundamentals and a natural ease for the game at shortstop. While many young shortstops are learning to play under control, Alcantara has a good internal clock that allows him to slow the game down. His best tool is his rocket arm, which is at least plus now and could be a plus-plus tool. Alcantara's still a fringy runner at best, but he moves better than his pure speed would indicate and because of his youth and wiry frame, he has a chance to get faster.
The key for Alcantara will be the development of his bat. He's a switch-hitter who's going to have to make adjustments, as his front side tends to leak open, especially from the left side. His swing plane is solid, but he's primarily a singles hitter and power won't ever be a big part of his game. Alcantara has a chance to start in the Rookie-level Arizona League, which would be an aggressive assignment for someone who will still be 16 when the AZL season begins.
The biggest bonus the Diamondbacks paid last year was $750,000 for Ismael Pena
, who is the son Diamondbacks Dominican area scout Arturo Pena. The bonus for Pena was one of the bigger surprises of the year, but Noboa and Arturo Pena have worked together and been friends for years, so Noboa pushed for the signing. (Interestingly enough, Noboa's brother Ivan has been involved in two of the biggest surprise bonuses of the last two years as the trainer for Rangers $4.95 million outfielder Nomar Mazara in 2011 and Indians $1.1 million outfielder Hector Caro last year.)
Ismael Pena, who signed the same day as Alcantara and turned 17 in December, was born in Canada but has spent the last several years living in the Dominican Republic. He's fluent in Spanish, English and French. He's a 6-foot-3, 175-pound lefty with a tall, lean frame. His baseball upbringing is evident at the plate, where he shows a smooth, simple swing with good balance and a refined hitting approach for his age. Pena showed he can handle the bat, but the question is on the rest of his tool set. He does have some lift in his swing, but he's mostly a line-drive hitter with gap power. He's around an average runner now, but he'll slow down to below-average eventually, which combined with a 45-50 arm makes him likely a left fielder or a first baseman.
Some scouts considered catcher Oswaldo Garcia
the top Colombian prospect in last year's class, and his $430,000 bonus in July was the biggest of the year for a Colombian. Garcia, who turned 17 in November, is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and has a chance to be a power-hitting catcher from the right side of the plate. A former pitcher, Garcia stood out for his power and his arm strength. He grew up playing in the youth leagues in Colombia and has good feel for the game. Garcia's a big-bodied guy, so his agility and lateral movement behind the plate will need work.
The Diamondbacks added lefthanded Venezuelan outfielder Jose Ordaz
) for $210,000 when he turned 16 on Aug. 11. Like Alcantara, Ordaz was one of the youngest players who signed in 2012, so he'll play the entire 2013 season at 16. Ordaz, who trained at Carlos Guillen's academy, is 6-foot-1, 165 pounds and doesn't have one carrying tool but he's a fundamentally sound player who does a lot of things well along the lines of David DeJesus. He has good rhythm at the plate and a solid hitting approach for his age. He has a good swing plane and hits to all fields, though he doesn't have much power right now. He's around an average runner and is a solid outfielder with an average arm that could improve once he gets stronger, so he has a chance to stay in center field.
Before July 2 last year, the Diamondbacks also signed a pair of Dominican pitchers to six-figure bonuses in February in a package deal with Edgar Mercedes, whose Born To Play program has provided the Diamondbacks with several players in recent years, including Cuban lefthander Alexander Carreras, Dominican outfielder Wagner Mateo and Colombian shortstop Raul Garcia. Of the two pitchers the Diamondbacks signed from Mercedes, righthander Rafael Pujols
, who got $120,000, has the most upside. However, even though Pujols' contract was approved in May, he didn't play in the Dominican Summer League because he ended up having an issue with a valve in his heart that he had corrected, so the Diamondbacks kept him off the field. Pujols, who turned 17 in August, is tall and lean at 6-foot-4, 180 pounds with a good delivery for his size and a lot of physical projection. When he signed, he threw 85-88 mph and flashed a good changeup, though his breaking ball needs to come along.
Lefthander Anthony Basora
was the other signing from Mercedes and he landed a $100,000 bonus. Basora, who turned 18 on Sunday, had a solid season in the DSL, where he had a 3.07 ERA, 49 strikeouts and 16 walks in 58 2/3 innings. Basora is a thick-bodied 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and doesn't have much projection left on his mid-80s fastball that peaked at 88 mph. Some scouts had concerns about his arm action, but he throws strikes and flashed a solid changeup that's ahead of his small breaking ball.
Arizona also added a possible sleeper in Dominican shortstop Fernery Ozuna
for $85,000 on July 2. Ozuna, who turned 17 in November, is only 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, but he's a switch-hitter who's better from the left side with sneaky power. He's an instinctive player with a strong arm.