10 Under-The-Radar Prospects Who Stood Out In Instructional League
Most of the players that scouts and coaches identified as the top players in instructional league this fall are top prospects. After all, that’s what makes somebody a top prospect—being the best player on the field.
But at every level of baseball, there are always under-the-radar players who show hints of potential that cause observers to take note. Instructional league is no different.
Here are 10 lesser-known players who intrigued scouts, coaches and front office officials during instructional league this fall. While none performed to the level of the top players, all showed something that led evaluators to consider them potential future major leaguers.
Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Sergio Campana, OF, Pirates
Campana stood out among a talented group of young international signees the Pirates brought to instructs. The 18-year-old showed the potential to hit for average and power, displayed the athleticism and instincts to stay in center field and had impressive polish to his game for his age. Campana has yet to play above the DSL, but his blend of tools and instincts opened eyes and showed why he was one of the top signees in the Pirates’ 2018 international class.
Wilmin Candelario, SS, Royals
Candelario is a late-bloomer who excelled in the Dominican Summer League last year and stood out for his offensive promise in instructs. The switch-hitter has an easy swing, showcased power potential from both sides of the plate and still has plenty of room to fill out and get stronger. Candelario was older than most of his competition in the DSL and has yet to make his stateside debut, but observers like the ease of operation in his swing and are bullish on his offensive potential. Candelario has the hands, footwork and arm strength to stay at shortstop, but the game tends to speed up on him and he's very mistake-prone.
Efrain Contreras, RHP, Padres
An international signee from Mexico in 2017, Contreras quietly excelled in the low Class A Midwest League as a 19-year-old and earned plaudits as the Padres’ top starting pitcher in instructs. His fastball velocity jumped to 93-95 mph and his curveball and changeup both drew above-average to plus grades. What separated Contreras was his command. He demonstrated pinpoint command of his fastball and landed his curveball and changeup in the strike zone at will, resulting in efficient, consistent outings.
Matt Cronin, LHP, Nationals
The Nationals’ fourth-round pick in 2019, Cronin had 27 career saves at Arkansas and showed traits of a potential high-leverage reliever in instructs. He overwhelmed batters with his mid-90s, high-spin fastball from the left side and was extremely difficult to barrel up. He pitched with confidence and deception and was able to dominate even when he didn’t have feel for his secondary pitches, which have included a plus curveball in the past.
Darell Hernaiz, SS, Orioles
Hernaiz’s athleticism stood out in a talented group of young Orioles infielders. The 2019 fifth-round pick is twitchy with tools to dream on, although he’s still plenty raw. He showed solid bat speed, played a capable shortstop and has the youth and body to project on. Hernaiz has some plate discipline issues he needs to tighten up, but evaluators saw the tools and athleticism of a potential big leaguer.
Matt Cronin Adjusts Seamlessly To Pro Ball
After three standout seasons at Arkansas, the 2019 fourth-rounder passed his first pro test by reaching low Class A.
Jacob Hurtubise, OF, Reds
Hurtubise signed with the Reds as a nondrafted free agent out of Army this year and was a pleasant surprise at instructs. He showed 70-grade speed, a plus arm and played with a high motor that allowed him to get the most from his tools. Hurtubise is purely a singles hitter who slaps the ball around and lets his speed work, but his hands work well in his swing and it’s the right approach for his skillset. His tools and playing style fit the “overachiever” archetype and have him on the radar as a potential big league reserve.
Keider Montero, RHP, Tigers
A 2016 international signee out of Venezuela, Montero posted a 2.08 ERA in 10 starts in his U.S. debut last year and jumped out at instructs. He sat 90-94 mph on his fastball and his upper-70s, high-spin curveball was an out-pitch that drew swings and misses from righthanded batters. He also threw an occasional changeup with late tumble. Montero has yet to pitch above short-season ball and still has a lot of development left, but his fastball-curveball combination has both opposing evaluators and Tigers officials intrigued for the future.
Erik Rivera, LHP/OF, Angels
Rivera shows the most promise of the many two-way players the Angels are trying to develop. The 2019 fourth-round pick showed a good lefthanded swing with power at the plate and a fastball up to 95 mph from the left side on the mound at instructs. Evaluators generally prefer Rivera as a pitcher and think that should be his primary role moving forward, but he showed enough offensive potential to contribute as a pinch-hitter or designated hitter on days he didn't pitch.
Leonel Valera, SS, Dodgers
Valera filled out his frame and got increasingly physical over the past year. With the added strength has come the ability to drive the ball up the middle and to right-center with authority. Valera is a bit of a free swinger and is still learning his new body, but his growing power bodes well. He retained his fluidity and athleticism in the middle infield even with his strength gains, providing optimism he has a major league future with his power potential and ability to play multiple positions around the infield.
Andy Weber, SS, Cubs
A fifth-round pick out of Virginia in 2018, Weber fits the Tommy Edman/Jake Cronenworth mold of college infielders who get overshadowed by bigger or toolsier players but end up having more substantial careers. He showed himself to be a capable defensive shortstop during instructs with the body control, athleticism and actions to stay at the position in addition to a solid internal clock and the ability to make throws on the run. He earned consistent grades as an average hitter and flashed surprising power for his size and swing. Evaluators mostly see Weber as a future utilityman, but he seems to continually improve and has a chance to grow into a regular.
Josh Norris contributed to this story.