By Allan Simpson
(Talent Ranking: ** out of five) The establishment of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy is already paying off in the development of talent in Puerto Rico, even if the full results will not be reflected in this year's draft. As many as seven of the island's 10 best prospects have attended the academy, which opened in 2003. Almost all of Puerto Rico's best prospects are position players, in contrast to the rest of the country.
Projected First-Round Picks
Second- to Fifth-Round Talent
Adrian Ortiz, of
Ortiz has blazing speed, possibly the best of any player in the draft. He has been clocked in 6.3 seconds over 60 yards and 3.9 seconds to first base. Scouts compare his tools to those of Marlins center fielder Juan Pierre. He has excellent center-field range but a below-average arm. Lean and skinny, he has no power. Ortiz is mostly a slap hitter and scouts are convinced he'll hit, but aren't sure whether he'll be a .260-.270 or .290-.300 hitter. Of all Puerto Rico's top prospects, he's the lowest risk because he's the best bet to reach his projection. He'll appeal to teams in the second or third round that emphasize speed and tools.
Reinaldo Ortiz, of
The 6-foot-4, 180-pound Ortiz has the highest ceiling in Puerto Rico, and veteran scouts compare him to Juan Gonzalez at a similar age. He can drive balls a long way to the opposite field, but it's batting practice power now because he has a long swing. Ortiz is athletic and has right-field arm strength, but is just an average runner. Raw and inconsistent, he could be a two-year Rookie-league player. A fourth- or fifth-round talent, he's regarded as an easier sign than Adrian Ortiz and could slip ahead of him in the draft order.
Lonny Roa, c
At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Roa is stronger and more physically mature than the rest of the island's top prospects. He was the best performer at Puerto Rico's annual Excellence Games in early May, demonstrating power potential with a quick, short, compact swing. Scouts aren't sure whether he'll remain behind the plate because his feet are slow and he's not a polished receiver. His arm strength is adequate. Roa, who moved to Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic about five years ago, is eager to sign and made himself a possible fourth- or fifth-round pick off his showing in predraft workouts.
Others To Watch
There's debate among scouts which shortstop grades higher, Jeff Dominguez, who attends the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, or Agustin Montanez, who does not. Both are switch-hitters, though Dominguez hits better from the left side and Montanez from the right. Neither projects power. The 6-foot-1 Dominguez is a solid defender and compares favorably to Puerto Rican product Alex Cintron, a 36th-round draft pick in 1997 but now the Diamondbacks everyday shortstop. The 6-foot-3 Montanez is further away in his development, but may have greater upside.
• OF Brian Maldonado is one of Puerto Rico's top young basketball players and his athletic ability is evident on a baseball field, particularly his speed. Scouts liken his baseball ability to Orioles OF Luis Matos, a former 10th-rounder from Puerto Rico.
• C Martin Maldonado (no relation) has good catch-and-throw skills but an inconsistent bat.
• Two other position players generating attention in the first 10 to 12 rounds are OFs Luis Rivera, a top-notch defender, and Ibrahim Lopez, an athletic specimen at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds. Both players have major issues with their bats.
• RHP Jorge Charre is the most advanced pitching prospect on the island, but his fastball registers only 89-90 mph, there's effort to his delivery and he's not overly projectable at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds.
• RHP Jose Delgado has a live, loose arm but scouts are leery of his skinny, 6-foot-3 frame.
• LHP Leonardo Calderon projects as a draft-and-follow because his fastball is in the 85-87 mph range.