Ten International Prospects To Watch In Rookie And Short-Season Ball

When the short-season and Rookie-level leagues begin in June, the high-profile draft picks are easy to spot.

The international prospects? That can be a little trickier, especially given that the best international prospects are often the ones who didn't sign for staggering bonuses.

Yet there is a clear edge for teams that are able to identify high-ceiling international talent before they reach full-season ball and jack up their trade value.

The Rangers were able to steal Neftali Feliz away from the Braves in the Mark Teixeira trade on July 31, 2007 while Feliz was carving up the Rookie-level Appalachian League. The Braves were on the other side of the coin this offseason when they snagged righthander Arodys Vizcaino from the Yankees in the Javier Vazquez deal after Vizcaino's stint in the short-season New York-Penn League.

So let's take a closer look at 10 international prospects worth keeping tabs on from Rookie ball and the short-season leagues. One caveat: We're not going to include any player who signed for at least $1 million. Scouts have heaped praise on Twins third baseman Miguel Sano and Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez after what they've done early on in Rookie ball, while Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar and Royals third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert are already at advanced levels for their ages.

None of that, of course, should be of any surprise based on their scouting reports as amateurs.

1. Carlos Perez, c, Blue Jays (short-season Auburn)
It's rare to find a catcher whose caught stealing rate is higher than his on-base percentage in the major leagues, where catchers this year have thrown our 28 percent of basestealers and a .280 OBP usually gets you sent back to the minors. Yet in Perez's case, it's a phenomenal stat given that he's getting on base at a .422 clip while having thrown out 9 of 19 basestealers, or 47.4 percent. Perez has all the ingredients you can ask for of a young catcher with the ability to hit, control the strike zone, hit for some power and play good defense. He backs it up with performance, too, as his .330/.422/.526 line in 28 games shows. With a wave of former catching prospects recently hitting the big leagues, Perez has suddenly become one of the most promising young catchers in the minors.

2. Aderlin Rodriguez, 3b, Mets (Rookie-level Kingsport)
The Mets have spent big money in Latin America on bat-first prospects like Fernando Martinez and Wilmer Flores. Rodriguez is another prospect who doesn't do anything spectacular in the field but shows advanced aptitude at the plate. The 18-year-old Dominican has a solid swing and plus power, which is why he's already hit eight home runs in 27 games with a .310/.363/.619 slash line.

3. Juniel Querecuto, ss, Rays (Rookie-level Gulf Coast League)
Querecuto was a key signing last year out of Venezuela for the Rays, who sent the 5-foot-9 switch-hitter to the U.S. at 17. Querecuto shows good feel for the game at the plate and in the field. Though he doesn't hit for power right now or project to in the future, he has a good swing, and with a pair of hits yesterday he raised his GCL numbers to .312/.349/.364 through 21 games while showing good speed and a strong arm.

4. Adrian Salcedo, rhp, Twins (Rookie-level Elizabethton)
Salcedo made his U.S. debut last year in the GCL, but the Twins thought highly enough of him to give him experience in the high Class A Florida State League before the Appalachian League opened last month. Salcedo has done his best Cliff Lee impersonation, walking just four of the 158 batters he's faced in 41 innings with a 2.41 ERA and 42 strikeouts. At 6-foot-4, 175 pounds, Salcedo's numbers aren't a mirage, as he has the stuff to back it up with a low-90s fastball and a breaking ball that can be an out pitch.

5. Ji-Man Choi, c/1b, Mariners (Rookie-level Arizona League)
The Mariners drop big money in Latin America every year but they also have a strong presence in Europe and the Pacific Rim, where the Mariners went last year to sign Choi, a 19-year-old lefthanded hitter from South Korea. With quick hands and a polished bat for his age, Choi could become an offensive-oriented catcher (though he's played mostly first base temporarily), and he's shown early offensive promise in the AZL by batting .432/.511/.554 in 22 games.

6. Exicardo Cayonez, of, Pirates (Rookie-level GCL)
We wrote about Cayonez last week in the Helium section of the Prospect Hot Sheet, but the 18-year-old from Venezuela keeps hitting. Like many young Latin American prospects, Cayonez doesn't have much power right now but his swing is sound and his feel for hitting is advanced beyond his years.

7. Oswaldo Arcia, of, Twins (Rookie-level Elizabethton)
With Salcedo also in Elizabethton, Arcia might not even be the best prospect on his own team, but the 19-year-old switch-hitter from Venezuela has done enough damage to generate buzz around the league. Arcia stands out for his ability to handle the bat and plus raw power from a physically mature 6-foot, 210 pound frame. Arcia has already clubbed eight home runs in 29 games, as he's been one of the Appy League's best hitters early on with a .376/.422/.744 line.

8. Ramon Flores, of, Yankees (Rookie-level GCL)
The Yankees signed Flores out of Venezuela two days after the international signing period opened in 2008 for $775,000, so he's certainly not an under-the-radar prospect in international scouting circles. A 5-foot-10, 150-pound lefthanded hitter, Flores has some similarities to Cayonez in that he doesn't have great power but his feel for hitting is advanced. Flores, who is hitting .348/.449/.439 in 18 games, has a quick, compact swing and good plate discipline for his age.

9. Hector Guevara, 2b, Rays (Rookie-level Princeton)
The numbers haven't been great for Guevara—though they have been better the last two weeks—but an assignment to the Appy League merits some attention, as the Rays skipped him over the GCL after he mauled his way through the Venezuelan Summer League last year. Guevara, who at 18 is 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, has moved off shortstop to second base, where his advanced bat could be his carrying tool.

10. Jorge Bishop, ss/2b, Pirates (Rookie-level GCL)
Teams don't blanket Panama the way they do the Dominican Republic. The talent level in Panama isn't as high, but some teams have reaped the benefits of having an active presence in the country. The Pirates might have found a good one in Bishop, a 19-year-old righthanded hitter. At 5-foot-10, 152 pounds, Bishop runs well and has a good idea of how to handle the bat, though he's still cleaning up his defense.