20 Pitching Prospects To Watch In The Dominican Summer League


Image credit: Branneli Franco

Teams just don’t spend a lot of money on pitching in Latin America.

There wasn’t a single pitcher this year whose bonus cracked the $1 million mark. Of the top 50 bonuses overall, just one went to a pitcher. If teams think it’s risky to bet on 18-year-old high school pitchers in the first round of the draft, there’s even deeper projection and uncertainty involved in trying to predict the future of pitchers who are signing at 16 or 17, especially when those signing decisions are often made a couple years before a player officially signs.

The Dominican Summer League is the first step in the minor leagues for nearly every Latin American pitcher. It’s also a league that’s fertile ground for finding sleepers and potential breakout pitchers at all price points. With better nutrition once they enter team academies, professional coaching and strength gains, pitchers that age can change quickly. Several pitchers on this list are showing better stuff now than they did when teams were scouting them and many of them have taken another jump forward this spring in DSL preseason action. The pitchers on this list include players who signed for $500,000 or more, but many of them signed for less than $100,000 and as low as $10,000.

These are 20 of the top pitching prospects to watch this year in the DSL, with notes included on other notable arms in the league to follow. The focus here is on players who project to be starting pitchers or who show traits to be starters—those are the players who have the most value—but there are also some flamethrowers who are more raw and might eventually land as bullpen arms too.

Jose Paulino, RHP, Marlins

Let’s start with one of the biggest up-arrow pitchers signed in 2024. When Paulino showcased for teams, he had a projectable 6-foot-3 frame, a fast arm and a fastball that touched the low 90s. By the time he signed with the Marlins for $350,000 on Jan. 15, his fastball had already kicked into a new gear, reaching 96 mph. That alone would be an exciting development for a 17-year-old righthander, but he took another step forward this spring when he hit 99 mph. He will probably sit in the mid 90s depending on how deep he goes into games, with a chance he could be hitting triple digits eventually. Seeing how many strikes Paulino is able to throw will be key, but he shows solid feel for his secondaries, including a slider and changeup. 

Branneli Franco, RHP, Cardinals

Franco signed for $800,000, the top bonus for any international pitcher this year. Between his size and stuff, Franco checks a lot of boxes teams look for in a 17-year-old pitcher. He’s 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with room to fill out and add to a fastball that has steadily trended up. Franco’s velocity crept up to touch the low 90s during the scouting process, was up to 94 mph by signing day and this spring has hit 95, with the arm speed and strength projection for another increase coming. He scrapped the curveball he threw as an amateur and switched to a low-80s slider with late tilt and has a firm changeup that rounds his repertoire. He throws without much effort, has good arm action and is a solid strike-thrower for his age. Franco and Earle Zulueta, a 17-year-old Cuban righthander up to 96 mph, should make for a strong duo in the DSL Cardinals rotation. 

Humberto Cruz, RHP, Padres

Cruz has been at the Padres’ academy in the Dominican Republic, but that could be a brief stop before he gets to the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League in an organization known to push its top prospects. The Padres liked Cruz so much that they were willing to trade Blake Dickerson—a high school lefty they just signed last year for $500,000 as a 12th-round pick—to the Tigers to be able to get extra bonus pool space so they could sign for $750,000. Cruz was the top pitcher in Mexico and one of the top pitching prospects anywhere internationally. He’s 6-foot-1, 175 pounds and signed with good pitchability for a 17-year-old, a fast arm and a fastball up to 93 mph. Last month, Cruz took another step forward when he reached 96 mph. His lively changeup has plus potential, with a slider that has solid tilt. Between the stuff, delivery and feel for pitching, Cruz has starter traits with an arrow pointing up. 

Gregory Sanchez, RHP, Rockies

Sanchez had good projection traits when teams were scouting him and he was touching 89, with the size, easy mechanics and projection for a lot more velocity to come. He signed for $285,000 and his fastball has skyrocketed. He’s now 6-foot-4, 190 pounds at 17 with a fastball up to 97 mph. It’s a huge fastball for his age, and while there are other pitchers in the DSL who can throw as hard as Sanchez, he separates himself because he’s able to generate that power without much effort to his operation. There could be triple-digits velocity in his future, with some feel for his secondaries too with a changeup that could end up as his best offspeed ahead of his slider. 

Yoel Roque, RHP, Twins

The Twins look like they found a bargain with the $27,500 signing of Roque, a Dominican righthander who was touching the low 90s when he turned pro. In one of his first outings of the spring, Roque touched 97 mph, then in another outing bumped 98 mph. It’s a top-shelf fastball for 17, and at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, there’s potential for him to surpass 100 mph. It’s a power fastball that he pairs with a slider with sweeping action, stuff he’s still learning to corral in the strike zone. With his age and stuff, he should get every opportunity to develop as a starter, though he could end up a flamethrowing reliever. 

Yander Maria, RHP, Cubs

Maria signed at 17 for $200,000 and has become one of the more promising Latin American pitchers the Cubs have signed in years. For most of last year, Maria was pitching in the upper 80s, but he took time off, went on a throwing program and when he ramped back up he was reaching the mid 90s. He’s 6-foot-4, 200 pounds with a frame that should hold more weight and gives him the look of a pitcher who should throw even harder, especially as he learns to incorporate his lower half more into his mechanics. Maria pitches with downhill plane, good body control and doesn’t have to throw with max effort to generate his power stuff, complementing his fastball with a high-spin curveball that looks like a potential out pitch.

Yhoiker Fajardo, RHP, White Sox

The arrows are pointing up on Fajardo, who signed for $400,000. The 17-year-old Venezuelan righthander is 6-foot-3, 185 pounds with velocity that has been on a steady upward climb, going from the mid-to-upper 80s when most teams were scouting him to eventually touching the low-90s coming into signing day. This spring he has been up to 95 mph and doing it from a low-effort delivery with good arm action. There’s more velocity that should be on the way as he continues to get stronger and his athleticism helps him repeat his mechanics to throw strikes with a willingness to pitch inside aggressively that isn’t common for his age. His low-80s slider flashes hard, late action and could develop into an out pitch for him, with a firm changeup rounding out his repertoire. 

Orlando Suarez, RHP, White Sox

With Suarez and Fajardo, the White Sox signed two of the top pitchers this year in Venezuela, with Suarez getting $375,000. Suarez is even bigger, stronger and has arguably better present stuff than Fajardo, though Fajardo might be more advanced in terms of his strikes and pitchability. Suarez is 6-foot-4, 215 pounds at 17 and can reach 95 mph with high spin rates on both his fastball and curveball, with his breaking ball at times ticking above 3,000 rpm. His curveball should miss a lot of bats and he has a deep repertoire that might ultimately condense with a sinker, splitter, changeup and slider. Strikes will be key to watch this summer with Suarez, but he’s a good athlete and throws without a lot of effort.  

Argenis Cayama, RHP, Giants

Cayama had been working out for clubs in Venezuela as an outfielder, then around a year and a half ago moved to the mound. His athleticism, arm speed and fastball that touched 91 mph got him attention and he ended up signing with the Giants for $147,5000. Now 17, Cayama has added five mph, hitting 96 mph this spring. He’s 6-foot-1, 180 pounds with wide shoulders and the arm speed that points to potential for more velocity as he continues maturing physically. Cayama shows feel for a changeup that’s ahead of his curveball, and while he has less experience on the mound than other pitchers his age, his athleticism bodes well for his ability to make adjustments and repeat his delivery. 

Erick Matos, RHP, Athletics

Matos is a 17-year-old righthander from Cuba who signed for $700,000, the third-highest bonus for a 2024 pitcher behind Cardinals righthander Branneli Franco and Padres righthander Humberto Cruz. It’s a classic projectable pitcher’s body at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds and there’s already strong stuff for his age. He pitches from a loose, fluid delivery without much effort and already touches 94 mph with the physical potential for another gear still to come on his fastball. It’s a starter look with a curveball that has good depth and his splitter. 

Irwin Ramirez, RHP, Pirates

Ramirez is from Venezuela and trained in the Dominican Republic before signing with the Pirates for $450,000. During the amateur scouting process, Ramirez grew taller and started throwing harder, going from a fastball that was mostly in the upper 80s when teams were scouting him early on to eventually touching 95 mph by the end of 2023. He’s 17 and has grown to 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with indicators pointing to him having another velocity jump once he’s physically mature. Ramirez has done a good job cleaning up some of the effort in his delivery over the past year and has shown feel to spin a curveball, mixing in a slider as well that could eventually take over as his primary breaking ball, with a changeup in his mix as well. Reinold Navarro, a 17-year-old, 6-foot Dominican lefty whose fastball has already increased this spring to touch 95 mph, is another Pirates pitcher to watch in the DSL. 

Dalvinson Reyes, RHP, Red Sox

There are other pitchers on this list who have better present stuff, but Reyes has traits that scream projection with a starter look. Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $450,000, Reyes is 6-foot-5, 200 pounds with a tall frame with space to add another 30-plus pounds. Reyes has fluid arm action in a loose, easy delivery with good body control for a 17-year-old with his size and a fastball that has reached 92 mph. Reyes should have mid 90s or better velocity coming once he fills out and his huge hands help him manipulate his secondary pitches, a slider and changeup. 

Wilinyer Ardiles, RHP, Guardians

The Guardians have signed a bunch of quality position prospects from Latin America in recent years, but it’s the draft picks who have carried their pitching pipeline. They signed a handful of promising international pitchers this year, including a deep sleeper in Ardiles for $65,000. Ardiles is a 16-year-old from Venezuela whose Aug. 14 birthday would have made him a 2025 prospect had he been born a few weeks later, but his stuff already sticks out. He’s a wiry 5-foot-11 righthander with a fast arm and a heater that has improved to reach 94 mph. There’s power and tight spin on his slider too, at times eclipsing 2,900 rpm. That gives Ardiles two major weapons to go with a changeup that he’s just learning to throw. 

Alexander Almonte, RHP, Yankees

Who’s going to be the next Yankees international prospect popping up throwing gas in the complex leagues soon? Almonte is a good candidate. Signed for $275,000 out of the Dominican Republic, Almonte is 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and pitches with downhill angle on a high-spin fastball up to 94 mph with cut and ride that hitters take uncomfortable swings against. It should be an even more dangerous pitch with his physical projection to throw harder. There’s power and tight rotation on his curveball that reaches the low 80s, with his breaking ball ahead of his changeup, though he’s shown some early feel for that pitch as well. 

Kevin Santana, RHP, Astros

Santana signed out of the Dominican Republic for $122,500 and has been trending up with signs of more to come. He’s a 17-year-old righthander who has a ton of space to fill out his 6-foot-4, 175-pound frame, with his fastball inching up from touching 92 mph when he signed to hitting 94 mph this spring. His extension helps his fastball play up and there’s likely more velocity in the tank, with a tight-spinning curveball that has good depth and looks like a potential out pitch. 

Kifraidy Encarnacion, LHP, Marlins

There isn’t a ton of prominent lefthanded pitching that signs out of the Dominican Republic. Encarnacion, 18, got $165,000, the second-highest bonus for a Dominican lefty in 2024. Encarnacion’s bonus was on the larger end for a pitcher who was eligible to sign in 2023, but being a 6-foot-4, 185-pound lefty throwing 94 mph with a fastball that hitters have difficulty squaring up from his low release height helped him stand out as an amateur. He has gotten even more dangerous since then, hitting 97 mph in DSL preseason action and flashing a potentially above-average slider. Encarnacion will have to develop better control, something that could take time as he learns to sync up his long limbs to repeat his delivery, and will develop as a starter but could end up a power reliever. Encarnacion and Eric Gutierrez (6-foot-5, 170 pounds up to 95 mph) give the Marlins two hard-throwing 18-year-old Dominican lefties on their DSL staff, with 17-year-old Dominican righthander Estarlin Francisco (a lanky 6-foot-3 up to 94 mph) being another pitcher to watch on a pitching-rich DSL Marlins staff behind the headliner Jose Paulino. 

Enderson Mercado, LHP, Brewers

Mercado hasn’t been pitching that long. He had been working out for clubs as a position player in Venezuela, but he moved to the mound last year and signed for $10,000 as a raw but athletic, 16-year-old lefty pitching in the upper 80s. Mercado turned 17 in March and is now up to 95 mph with the arm speed that makes it look like he could eventually get into the upper 90s. Mercado’s touch and feel on the mound are understandably behind others with more mound experience, but he has shown early signs of feel for a solid slider. Mercado and Dominican righthander Miguel Mercedes, a 2023 eligible pitcher who was young for the class and is still 17 with a fastball that has jumped to reach 97 mph along with a high-spin slider, give the Brewers two promising sleeper arms in the DSL. 

Leyvi Rodriguez, RHP, Mets

Rodriguez was eligible to sign last year but didn’t garner a lot of attention when the Mets signed him this year for $40,000. He’s an 18-year-old righthander from the Dominican Republic who is 6-foot-2, 195 pounds and was usually reaching the low 90s, occasionally touching 94 mph at the end of 2023. This spring he has been up to 96 mph, missing bats up in the zone with that pitch and at the bottom with his diving changeup, a pitch some scouts think is his best secondary ahead of his curveball. Rodriguez and 17-year-old righthander Maxgregori Harvey (up to 94 mph) are two Mets arms to watch in the DSL.

Juan Rivera, RHP Royals

By the time Rivera signed with the Royals in January for $117,500, his fastball had climbed up to 91 mph, an uptick from the mid-to-upper 80s velocity he had shown when teams were scouting him. Now the 17-year-old Dominican righthander is cruising in the low 90s and has hit 94 mph, with the arm speed and strength projection in his wiry, long-limbed, 6-foot-1 build for bigger radar gun readings in his future. Rivera has already shown feel for a changeup that’s ahead of his slider. Rivera and 19-year-old Dominican righthanders Sthiven Benitez (6-foot-3, 185 pounds up to 97 mph) and Jose Cruz (6-foot-4, 200 pounds up to 95 mph) are all big arms for the Royals in the DSL. 

Juan Cazarez, RHP, Mariners

Around a year and a half ago, Cazarez stopped training as an infielder and converted to pitching. The 18-year-old Mexican righthander signed with the Mariners for $105,000 and is able to generate impressive velocity for his size (5-foot-11, 172 pounds), dialing his fastball up to 95 mph. Cazarez has shown feel for a tight breaking ball as well that could develop into a bat-missing pitch for him. He’s still fairly new to pitching, so he’s just learning a changeup and a recently-introduced cutter. With his size and repertoire, some scouts will see reliever risk, but he should develop as a starter and will have some of the best stuff right away on the DSL Mariners.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone