15 Names To Watch In Arizona, Florida and The Dominican Republic
The minor leagues have been in full swing since April, but the real fun starts now. On dusty back fields, behind chain-link fences, played in heat with way too much and way too little humidity, the sport’s youngest prospects will now get a chance to show their stuff (officially) in the Arizona Complex, Florida Complex and Dominican Summer leagues.
Typically, this is where high schoolers from the previous year’s draft, as well as international signees from the past couple of seasons, get their starts. It’s also where future Top 100 prospects begin banging down the door to prominence.
Just last year, Reds prospect Elly De La Cruz bullied the competition in the ACL soundly enough (.400/.455/.780 in 11 games) until Cincinnati showed mercy and moved him to the Low-A Florida State League.
Now, De La Cruz ranks as the No. 63 prospect in the game.
This is also where a fair amount of trade pieces will come from in a couple of months. Last year, for example, the Yankees’ and Phillies’ GCL squads had a game suspended because of rain. At the moment the tarp was pulled, Phillies righthander Josh Gessner was facing Yankees outfielder Kevin Alcantara. By the time the game resumed, both had been traded. Gessner went to the Rangers and Alcantara became a Cub.
All three leagues opened on Monday (June 6) and there were plenty of prominent prospects on their rosters. Here are just a few.
ARIZONA COMPLEX LEAGUE
Jarlin Susana, RHP, Padres
Susana is notable for a few reasons. First, he’s gigantic, standing at a listed 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds. Second, he throws the living heck out of the ball, having already touched triple-digits. Third, he’s one of just two recipients of one of the 50 highest bonuses from the most recent international class (the other being the White Sox’s Oscar Colas) to jump over the DSL and get his first official game action stateside. Those factors make him one to keep a close eye on as the summer continues.
Gabriel Gonzalez, OF, Mariners
Gonzalez currently ranks No. 9 on the Mariners’ Top 30 Prospects list. He has a bounty of tools which project to be average or better, including potentially plus power, and showed hints of both power and speed last summer in the DSL. He’ll play all summer as an 18-year-old.
Rayne Doncon, SS, Dodgers
Doncon was one of the hotter names on the Arizona back fields during the spring, and he will certainly draw plenty of onlookers now that he’s playing in games that count. Doncon is LA’s No. 19 prospect and shows an impressive combination of physicality, projection and twitch. He added strength during the shutdown and, while he’s not a slam dunk to stay at shortstop, could be another in the Dodgers’ line of excellent prospects.
Cristian Hernandez, SS, Cubs
Hernandez was one of the more celebrated amateurs in the international class delayed by the pandemic. He’s the Cubs’ No. 3 prospect thanks to an extremely high offensive ceiling. He boasts a gorgeous swing that keeps the barrel in the zone a long time and produces tremendous power. Whether he sticks at shortstop or moves off the position, he has the potential to be an impact player in the middle of a big league lineup.
Carlos Jorge, SS, Reds
A strong, smaller player, Jorge exploded in the DSL last summer. The lefthanded-hitting Jorge placed among the top 10 in all three triple-slash categories, swiped 27 bases and paced the circuit with 10 triples. He boasts plus-plus speed and has shown an early knack for making contact with impact. His mix of skills both at the plate and in the field should make him an incredibly fun player to watch as the ACL kicks off.
FLORIDA COMPLEX LEAGUE
Miguel Bleis, OF, Red Sox
Bleis, whom Boston signed for $1.5 million in January 2021, already checks in as the Red Sox’s No. 18 prospect. He showed well in the DSL in his pro debut last summer and already boasts electric bat speed and bat-to-ball skills at the front of a tantalizing tool set. He’s a smooth route-runner in the outfield, too, and should have the chops to stick in center field.
Bubba Chandler, OF, Pirates
Pittsburgh did a tremendous job scooping up talent in the 2021 draft and adding it to a farm system bursting with excellent prospects. Of that group, Chandler was perhaps the most interesting, given that he is a two-way player who will be developed as such. He got first-round money—$3 million—in the third round, and his development may take longer than the typical player, but his upside could lead to a tremendous payoff.
Armando Cruz, SS, Nationals
Cruz was one of Washington’s highest-profile signings in the delayed 2020-21 international signing class, and he garnered a $3.9 million bonus. The Dominican native’s best tools are on the defensive side of the ball, where he’s already earned a rep as a surefire shortstop with the potential for 65-grade glovework and an above-average arm. If he can live up to his billing as an average hitter, he should be in the top tier of the Nationals’ system quickly.
Manuel Beltre, SS, Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have done a tremendous job on the international market in recent years, scoring big with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Alejandro Kirk and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the big leagues, Gabriel Moreno and Orelvis Martinez lurking in the upper levels of the minors and Yosver Zulueta and Sem Robberse proving to be key pieces of a fantastic High-A rotation in Vancouver. Beltre, who signed on Jan. 15, 2021, might be part of the next wave. He’s a polished player with a mix of potentially average tools, including a 55-grade hit tool. If he can gain strength, he might start showing more power as well.
Yiddi Cappe, SS, Marlins
Cappe performed well in his pro debut last summer, displaying a sound knowledge of the strike zone and burgeoning power in the DSL. He moves stateside this year and joins a cornucopia of talented middle infield prospects in the Jupiter, Fla., area. He’s a twitchy athlete with a good chance to stick at shortstop but he’ll need to get stronger to make the most of his bat-to-ball skills at the plate. Cappe opened his season on a loud note, with a 3-for-3 effort that included a double and a home run.
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DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE
Cristhian Vaquero, OF, Nationals
The biggest prize on the market in the most recent signing period, Vaquero commanded a $4.925 million bonus, the largest in the class. He’s overflowing with tools on both sides of the ball, including potentially plus defense and impact ability at the plate. He’s moved to switch-hitting in recent years and will continue doing so with Washington. Vaquero has already vaulted into the No. 4 position in Washington’s system and should be an exciting player to follow from afar.
Anthony Gutierrez, OF, Rangers
Gutierrez inked with Texas in the most recent international period. He’s a lanky, powerful outfielder with plenty of projection remaining and already has opened enough eyes in the organization to leap into the middle of their Top 30. He’s shown early ability to adjust and recognize pitches and could jump stateside at some point this summer if he continues to show signs of development. He started his official career on a strong note, by going 3-for-5 on Opening Day.
Luis Meza, C, Blue Jays
If you’re looking for catching prospects, Venezuela is the place to go. The Blue Jays got a good one in Gabriel Moreno, and they might have another on the way in Meza. He was one of the best hitters in the country, lauded for his smooth swing and track record of performing in games. There’s room to grow into power as well. Defensively, he’s shown strong catch-and-throw skills as well.
Jaison Chourio, OF, Guardians
Chourio inked with Cleveland in the most recent international signing period on the strength of an enviable skill set. He performed well at Cleveland’s complex during spring training in the Dominican Republic and has already jumped into the organization’s Top 30 prospects. He’s already earned a reputation as a player with top-of-the-order skills and a knack for contact but could develop into more of a power threat depending on the way his body develops as he gets older.
Roderick Arias, SS, Yankees
Arias was the prize in New York’s most recent international class and was one of the most talented players available. He got the second-highest bonus in the class on the strength of a balanced skill set that combines explosiveness with athleticism and projectability. He could grow into a player with above-average or better tools on both sides of the ball.