10 Exciting Prospects To Watch In Complex Leagues
Last week, Baseball America brought you a list of 10 players to watch as they make their jump into full-season ball after spending 2021 in either the Arizona or Florida Complex Leagues.
Today, we’re going a little bit deeper and looking at players who in 2022 will jump stateside—to either the FCL and ACL—for the first time. These are players who stood out in the DSL and now will look to repeat their success in a similar but slightly more advanced environment.
Cristian Hernandez, SS, Cubs
The Cubs’ premier signing of the 2020 class has a sky-high ceiling and put a strong foot forward in the start to his career in 2021. His slash line of .285/.398/.424 was impressive enough, but all five of his tools rating as at least average or better—with potential pluses for his power and throwing arm—is even more notable. His bat path, which gets into the zone quickly and stays there for a long while, also leads some evaluators to project an above-average hit tool. He should be one of the best prospects in the ACL.
Cristian Santana, SS, Tigers
Santana signed in the same class and for a nearly identical bonus as Cubs prospect Cristian Hernandez, and both could be the talk of their leagues in 2022. Santana produced a .941 OPS in the DSL last summer and checks in at No. 11 on Detroit’s Top 30. He’s already posted exit velocities up to 106 mph and, at a listed 6 feet, 165 pounds, still has room to add strength to his frame. The Tigers have plenty of talent at the top, and now it’s clear they have prospects bubbling at the lower levels, too.
Gabriel Gonzalez, OF, Mariners
The most exciting prospects in Seattle’s system are well-known. Julio Rodriguez. George Kirby. Noelvi Marte. Next on that list might be Gabriel Gonzalez, whom Seattle inked for $1.3 million in 2021. The Dominican outfielder showed a well-rounded tool set in the DSL, and currently projects to have average or better tools across the board. He’s also got potentially plus power, and nearly half of his hits in 2021 went for extra bases. Sticking in center field would give Gonzalez even more cachet, but he will be plenty exciting regardless.
Adrian Pinto, 2B, Rockies
In his pro debut, the sleight of height Pinto showed an outstanding ability to control the strike zone. He drew plenty more walks (38) than strikeouts (18) and dotted the tops of multiple categories of the DSL leaderboard. He was among the top five in all three triple-slash categories, including second place in both average (.360) and on-base percentage (.486) and fourth in slugging (.543). But that’s not all. Pinto was also second in the league in hits (63), tied for third in total bases (95), and led the league in steals (41) and runs (63). Simply put: The man put a lot of numbers on the board. He will be fascinating to watch in the ACL in 2022.
Yanquiel Fernandez, OF, Rockies
Fernandez is the second of the two-pack of Rockies to watch in their first seasons in the states. Signed in 2019, the Cuban native showed well in his pro debut. Armed with a physical frame and bruising power from the left side—his exit velocities reached 110 mph—Fernandez’s profile fits that of a classic corner-outfield masher. He’s not likely to be a standout defender, but his offensive skill set and potential could be more than enough to carry him to his high ceiling.
Carlos Colmenarez, SS, Rays
Colmenarez came into 2021—his first pro season—with a boatload of hype after being one of the most sought-after players in the class. His results were muted by a broken hamate, which limited him to just 26 games. When he returned, his power seemed slightly sapped. With a full offseason to recover, that part of his game might return. He’s a well-rounded prospect with potentially plus defense at shortstop and above-average speed. A return to health might pop Colmenarez back on the national radar.
15 Names To Watch In Arizona, Florida and The Dominican Republic
Breaking down 15 prominent prospects in the ACL, FCL and DSL.
Carlos Jorge, SS/2B, Reds
After Elly De La Cruz thrust himself upon the scene—and into the Top 100—in 2021, Jorge might be the next to make himself famous. The 2021 signee out of the Dominican Republic produced numbers at or near the top of plenty of categories in the DSL. That included a league-best 10 triples and 27 stolen bases, which ranked fifth-best in the league. Like the Rockies’ Adrian Pinto, Jorge is a smaller player who does his damage with a swing that is short and quick and produces more power than might be expected from a player of his stature. Add the speed and twitchy athleticism to the mix, and the result is a very intriguing player.
Victor Acosta, SS, Padres
Like many other players on this list, Acosta was part of the 2021 international signing class. He inked for a $1.8 million bonus in January, then spent the season in the Dominican Summer League. He’s an excellent athlete with big-time bat speed that combines with loft to produce surprising power for a player his size. Scouts see the potential for a player with above-average grades in both hittability and power as well as plus grades for his speed and throwing arm. That mix of tools should make for an exciting stateside debut in 2022.
Joel Diaz, RHP, Mets
It would be a bit of an understatement to call Diaz’s pro debut merely impressive. Pitching all season at 17 years old, Diaz whiffed 63 against just nine walks in 50 innings while posting a 0.54 ERA that was the lowest in the DSL since at least 2006 for a pitcher his age. Diaz’s fastball velocity spiked into the 92-96 mph range, and he flashed an above-average changeup and a nascent curveball as well. He was impressive enough overall to jump into the Mets’ Top 10 prospects, and should be a fun one to follow in the Florida Complex League.
Yeison Morrobel, OF, Rangers
The Rangers’ system has been revitalized over the past year through a series of trades, high draft picks and high-profile international signings. Morrobel falls into the third category, and he put forth a solid debut in the DSL. Texas’ hitting department has worked with Morrobel to adjust his bat path and keep the barrel in the zone for a longer period, which will likely improve his already-impressive bat-to-ball skills. He showed hints of power and a solid understanding of the strike zone in his first test as a pro and will look to provide an encore performance in 2022 in the ACL.