2010-11 International Reviews: AL West

Los Angeles Angels
Top signing:
 LHP Oscar Cabrera, Dominican Republic and OF Luis Jolly, Dominican Republic, $150,000
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: None
Other six-figure signings: None

For years the Angels produced a steady pipeline of international talent for their big league club, including Ervin Santana, Erick Aybar, Francisco Rodriguez, Kendry Morales and Jose Arredondo. The influence of their international scouting department is apparent in the minor leagues as well with Angels No. 3 prospect Jean Segura and No. 8 prospect Fabio Martinez, while Rays No. 6 prospect Alex Torres (signed by the Angels in 2005) helped the Halos secure Scott Kazmir in an August 2009 trade.

The team has been relatively silent internationally, however, since firing international scouting director Clay Daniel in June 2009 amid allegations of bonus skimming and cleaning house among its international scouts. Marc Russo, who was working for the Angels as a pro scout based in Florida, took over as the team’s international supervisor.

With a surplus of draft picks the last two years, the Angels have focused more on the draft than the international market during that time. The Angels’ estimated $617,000 signing budget ranked 28th in baseball, with the organization focusing on rebuilding an international scouting staff to be players overseas down the road.

The organization’s top July 2-eligible signing from 2010 was Dominican lefthander Oscar Cabrera, who signed for $150,000 in November. Cabrera, 16, has a strong 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame and a fastball up to 89 mph. He flashes ability to spin a potentially above-average curveball and shows feel for throwing strikes with both his fastball and his curve. Like nearly all 16-year-olds from Latin America, his changeup is still in its nascent stages.

Dominican center fielder Luis Jolly was a high-profile player at the beginning of 2009 because of his size, speed and athleticism, but his bat didn’t develop as some scouts had hoped and he ended up signing with the Angels for $150,000 last March. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Jolly is a plus-plus runner who can cover a lot of ground in center field, though his arm is at best a 40 on the 20-80 scale. He’s still raw at the plate, evident in his .168/.288/.295 batting line last year in the DSL, where he struck out 47 times in 111 plate appearances.

Oakland Athletics
Top signing:
 3B Renato Nunez, Venezuela, $2.2 million
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: OF Vicmal de la Cruz (Dominican Republic), C Argenis Raga (Venezuela), OF Jesus Rivas (Venezuela), RHP Shawn Duinkerk (Aruba), LHP Anderson Mata (Venezuela), SS Chih-Fang Pan (Taiwan), LHP Jose Torres (Venezuela)
Other six-figure signings: None

Michael Ynoa still holds the record for an international amateur bonus, but the A’s have revamped their international scouting department since signing the Dominican righthander for $4.25 million on July 2, 2008. The A’s were one of the top spenders in 2010 with an estimated budget just south of $5 million, but they also made changes behind the scenes, adding scouts in Panama, Colombia, South Korea and Europe. They made use of their Pacific Rim staff last year to win the negotiating rights to Japanese righthander Hisashi Iwakuma, though the two sides never reached an agreement, and in 2011 by signing 17-year-old South Korean catcher Seong-Min Kim for $510,000.

Oakland gave two of the top 10 bonuses to July 2-eligible players in 2010. The A’s scouted third baseman Renato Nunez since he was 14, then signed him on July 2 for $2.2 million, the top bonus for a Venezuelan hitter last year. Nunez, now 16, is a 6-foot-1, 175-pound righthanded hitter who has stood out at the plate for the Venezuelan youth national team with a sound swing and above-average power potential. He’s a good athlete whose defense has improved, though some scouts wonder whether he will be able to remain at the position. Some scouts think his size, athleticism and arm strength would play well at catcher, but the A’s plan to keep him at third base. He figures to make his pro debut in the DSL along with the A’s other 2010 Latin American signings.

Dominican center fielder Vicmal de la Cruz was arguably the toolsiest player in the Dominican Republic, and the A’s signed him for $800,000 in November. Scouts were mixed on his present hitting ability, but he was widely considered one of the top prospects in Latin America, with some scouts preferring him to Nunez. Relatively physically mature for a 17-year-old at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, de la Cruz is built like a bull and just as aggressive in every phase of the game. De la Cruz isn’t fluid but is an excellent athlete and a plus-plus runner. He shows off an above-average arm, good bat speed and above-average raw power. An aggressive hitter, de la Cruz hits the ball hard when he does connect, though he has a tendency to collapse on his back side. Other scouts saw him as one of the better hitters against live pitching in the Dominican Republic. His defensive tools are obvious but he’s still learning to take crisper routes in the field. He’s more physically advanced than Nunez and could move more quickly.

The A’s also signed Venezuelan catcher Argenis Raga when he turned 16 on July 22 for $580,000, the top bonus for a July 2-eligible catcher in 2010. Raga was a shortstop but his 6-foot-1, 195-pound body was a better fit behind the plate, and he took to the position quickly. Raga projects as a solid righthanded hitter who uses the whole field and could have average power once he matures physically. Raga has a high baseball IQ and shows aptitude for catching with good hands, solid mechanics and a 50 to 55 arm on the 20-80 scale.

Oakland has established an impressive presence in Venezuela for a team that does not have an academy there, and the organization landed three other promising Venezuelan prospects this year, including 16-year-old Jesus Rivas. Growing up in Caracas, Rivas was physically mature and had a strong arm, so he also pitched for Venezuela at the COPABE Pan Am ‘AA’ 16U Youth Championships in Mexico in October. His future, however, rests on his righthanded bat. A strongly-built 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Rivas has experience facing live pitching and has the potential to have plus power in time. A below-average runner, Rivas has a strong arm and profiles best in right field, though he could see some time at third base or first base. Wherever he plays, his bat will have to carry him.

The A’s also added a pair of Venezuelan lefties in July: 17-year-old Anderson Mata and 17-year-old Jose Torres. With a 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame, Mata stands out more for his feel and secondary stuff than his fastball. He sits in the mid-80s and tops out at 88 mph, but he has an advanced curveball and feel for a changeup. He shows the ability to throw all three pitches for strikes and won’t blow anyone away, but he could move relatively quickly.

Torres isn’t as advanced as Mata but he has a more projectable 6-foot-2, 185-pound body and is a solid strike-thrower. He was sitting at 83-85 mph last summer, but his velocity has increased and touched 90 mph. Torres has large hands and could have two above-average pitches if he can get more speed on his fastball, as he already flashes a good curveball, though like many kids his age his changeup is still raw.

The A’s don’t have a full-time scout based in Aruba, but they were able to outmaneuver the competition to sign Aruban righthander Shawn Duinkerk for $250,000 in December. Duinkerk earned some national fame in August when he led Aruba to Little League’s Senior League Baseball (age 14-16) World Series in Bangor, Maine. In the championship game broadcast on ESPN2, Duinkerk led Aruba to an 8-1 victory by pitching a seven-inning complete game with only one run allowed. He also went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs, finishing the tournament with a .414 average. The game carried larger implications, as the Aruban government prior to the tournament had pledged to invest money in youth baseball if the long-shot Arubans won the championship.

Duinkerk, who also represented Aruba at the COPABE Pan Am ‘AA’ 16U Youth Championships in Mexico in October, is one of the youngest 2010 international signings, as he won’t turn 17 until Aug. 18. Duinkerk has an athletic 6-foot-4 frame, good mechanics for his age and mound presence. He throws strikes with an 85-88 mph fastball and has feel for a curveball. A lefthanded hitter who also served as a corner outfielder and first baseman in Aruba, Duinkerk has solid raw power and will also spend time playing the outfield this summer in the DSL, where he’ll likely report some time in June after he finishes high school in Aruba.

As a college freshman at National Taiwan Sport University in Taichung, Chih-Fang Pan’s statistics graded out well in the A’s internal analytics. Oakland’s scouts had been following Pan for more than a year when he signed with the A’s for $150,000 in April, making him the franchise’s first Asian amateur signing. Pan, 20, played shortstop and second base last summer in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he hit .331/.386/.439 in 171 plate appearances. At 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, Pan has good bat control of a lefthanded swing that finishes with him stepping out of the box, which combined with his plus speed helps him get to first base in under 4.0 seconds routinely. He has well-below-average power and doesn’t project to hit many home runs, but he could hit for a high average with his slashing approach and speed. In the field Pan has good actions and quickness along with average arm strength.

Seattle Mariners
Top signing:
 OF Phillips Castillo, Dominican Republic, $2.2 million
July 2 eligible seven-figure and six-figure signings: SS Esteilon Peguero (Dominican Republic), RHP Jose Torres (Colombia), LHP Luis Pina (Venezuela), 3B Yordyn Calderon (Venezuela), RHP Rigoberto Garcia (Dominican Republic), SS Ketel Marte (Dominican Republic)
Other six-figure signings: RHP Min-Sih Chen (Taiwan), RHP Scott Ronnenbergh (Netherlands), LHP Noe Berroa (Dominican Republic)

With no first-round pick last year, the Mariners ranked 25th in draft spending at $4 million. They made up for it through the international market, outspending every team for international amateur prospects and becoming the only team that spent more on international amateurs than the draft.

The Mariners locked in on Phillips Castillo early, signing the Dominican outfielder for $2.2 million in July. Castillo, 17, might have the most upside among last year’s international signings in terms of his ability to hit for average and power. A 6-foot-2, 175-pound righthanded hitter, Castillo has the frame to put on a lot of weight but already has strength now, particularly in his wrists and throughout his upper body. Castillo has good bat speed, generates loft and plus raw power. He’s a good low-ball hitter who has shown some ability to handle offspeed stuff and hit well for some scouts in game situations, though he does have a small but correctable hitch in his swing. Castillo’s bat will have to carry him because his average speed and average arm will limit him to an outfield corner, though he’s a better defender and all-around player than Guillermo Pimentel was when the Mariners signed him in 2009 for $2 million.

Esteilon Peguero’s $2.9 million bonus would have ranked as the No. 1 international amateur bonus last year, but the Mariners re-worked his contract with a $1.1 million bonus. Peguero, 17, is still using the same date of birth, he has not received a suspension due to age fraud or steroids, and a source close to Peguero said he passed his physical. The Mariners have not commented on the reason for the reduction.

Regardless of his price, some scouts regarded Peguero as the best hitter among 2010 international signings. He has good bat speed and hits well in game situations to all fields with a sound righthanded swing and advanced pitch recognition. At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Peguero is not a power hitter but he could be a 15-20 home run hitter down the road. Peguero has had some problems against good inside fastballs because he has a late trigger, but it’s correctable and he can make up for it now with his quick hand speed and excellent extension. Peguero has good baseball instincts but he is neither an elite athlete nor an especially toolsy player, so his hit tool will have to carry him. He’s an average runner with a below-average arm, so it’s difficult to find a scout who believes he will stick at shortstop, though he’ll begin his career there for Seattle. His most likely defensive destination is second base, though he could handle third if his arm improves.

Seattle’s top signing among pitchers was righthander Jose Torres, whose $851,000 bonus broke Julio Teheran’s Colombian bonus record for a pitcher by $1,000. Torres, 17, is a slender 6-foot-3, 165 pounds, a frame that screams projection. He’ll need to get bigger and stronger, but he already sits at 86-89 mph and he has touched 90-91 on occasion with a loose arm and a good delivery. He has the makings of a true curveball with good rotation when he stays on top of the ball, giving him the potential for two plus pitches.

Luis Pina of Venezuela signed for $650,000, the top bonus in 2010 for an international amateur lefty last year, though the figure came as a surprise to some scouts as Pina’s potential is based much more on projection than current tools. Pina, who is around 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, went to Arizona in the fall for instructional league and pitched briefly this winter in the Liga Paralela (the minors of the Venezuelan League), where he showed uneven control. At 17, Pina sits in the mid-to-high 80s with his fastball, mixing in a slider and an occasional curveball it its nascent stage. He’s still ironing out some mechanical issues that can lead to erratic command.

Third baseman Yordyn Calderon has the potential to be one of the better hitters from last year out of Venezuela, which is why the Mariners signed him for $477,500 in July. A righthanded hitter with a well-built 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame, Calderon has a projectable body, is a good athlete and has above-average raw power. Some scouts said they saw Calderon hit better earlier in the year than he did as July 2 approached, but he hit for power and average against older competition this winter in the Liga Paralela. Calderon’s swing can get long at times and can lead to strikeouts, but he has a good approach to hitting and can hit the ball out of the park. He’s an above-average runner with a solid-average arm who could handle third base or possibly second base. Other scouts believe he might end up in the outfield, where he would likely have enough arm strength to play right field.

A gangly 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, Dominican righthander Rigoberto Garcia has a large frame, long arms and is built like a young Michael Pineda, who has since filled out to 6-foot-5, 250 pounds. When Garcia adds weight, he could become a power pitcher as well. At 17, he has a quick arm, a high-80s fastball and a solid slider that he’s still working on.

The Mariners are among the most active teams in the Pacific Rim and signed 21-year-old righthander Min-Sih Chen for $153,000 in December. A wiry 6-foot-2 converted outfielder, Chen has a loose arm that delivers low-90s fastballs, though he can touch the mid-90s and could be a power pitcher. His inexperience on the mound is evident at times with his command, but he has the makings of two solid pitches with his fastball and a solid low-80s slider (and an occasional splitter) with the athleticism to make adjustments.

The Mariners signed lefthander Scott Ronnenbergh from the Netherlands in March. Ronnenbergh never got into a rhythm last year, reporting to the Arizona League briefly after completing school, then joining the Dutch national team at the 18U Junior World Championship in July in Thunder Bay, Canada. In three appearances he allowed 11 runs (eight earned) in 4 1/3 innings with five walks and one strikeout, and his control wavered upon his return to the AZL. Ronnenbergh, 19, stands out for his size (6-foot-2, 170 pounds) and has shown feel for pitching in the past.

Seattle also added a pair of Dominican shortstops: Ketel Marte in August and Noe Berroa in March. The sleeper of the Marlners’ July 2 signings could be Marte, a 17-year-old righthanded hitter who makes contact and has a good approach to hitting, though he doesn’t project to hit for much power. He has a lively 5-foot-10, 160-pound body, runs well and shows quickness in the field, where he has feel for the position with good feet and plays with a flair. Berroa, a 17-year-old lefthanded hitter, hit .200/.333/.283 in 50 DSL games. At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Berroa has a bigger frame than Marte and has some ability to work the count, but he struggled at the plate and will need to get stronger.

Thyago Vieira isn’t the same caliber of prospect as Seattle’s other signings, but he was the only Brazilian player who signed a contract in 2010. Vieira, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound righthander, has good size and shows some feel for a breaking ball at 18, though he is quite raw. He signed for $65,000 in September.

The Mariners also got a strong showing in the DSL from Dominican lefthander Brandol Perez, who signed for $30,000 last April. Perez, 20 (his age is listed incorrectly as 17 in some places), allowed only one earned run 48 1/3 innings, finishing with an ERA of 0.19, 68 strikeouts and 14 walks. Perez throws in the mid-80s so he’s a guy who will have to prove himself at every level, but he’s a strike-thrower with an excellent changeup.

Seattle started 2011 by signing a 2010-eligible player, Dominican outfielder Gabriel Guerrero, for $400,000. Guerrero, 17, is the nephew of Vladimir Guerrero and appears to have modeled his mannerisms after his uncle, right down to the no batting gloves approach. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Guerrero is still ironing out his mechanics at the plate but he has good bat speed, raw power and a solid arm, with speed that’s best suited for a corner outfield position.

Texas Rangers
Top signing:
 C Jorge Alfaro, Colombia, $1.3 million
July 2-eligible six-figure signings: SS Alberto Triunfel (Dominican Republic), C Fernando Vivili (Dominican Republic), SS Smerling Lantigua (Dominican Republic), LHP Frank Lopez (Venezuela), SS Luis Marte (Dominican Republic), SS Nick Urbanus (Netherlands), SS Elio Castillo (Venezuela)
Other six-figure signings: SS Guy Edmonds (Australia)

Though the Rangers’ international spending for 2010 (approximately $3.6 million) ranked among the top 10 in baseball, their activity wasn’t centered around July 2 as it was in past years when they landed shortstops Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas and lefthander Martin Perez. The Rangers’ area scouts still stayed on their top targets, and after their ownership situation was resolved the Rangers went on a run of low six-figure signings at the end of the year.

Their prize signing came last January, when they locked up catcher Jorge Alfaro for $1.3 million, a record for a Colombian player. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Alfaro trained with Enrique Soto, who brought the converted shortstop over to the Dominican Republic to work out for teams. Like many young Colombians, Alfaro’s righthanded bat proved to be raw in the DSL, where he hit .221/.278/.291 in 48 games. Alfaro, 17, still has promising tools, including a 60 to 65 arm on the 20-80 scouting scale and above-average raw power. He’ll have to learn more patience after drawing just five walks last year.

Though Venezuelan shortstop Rougned Odor signed in early January and thus is technically a 2011 signing, his $425,000 bonus was the largest the Rangers gave to a July 2-eligible player from the 2010 class. Odor, 17, is the nephew of Indians Double-A hitting coach Rouglas Odor, and he plays with the instincts of someone with baseball bloodlines. Odor was an all-star at the Pan-American 14-and-under championship in 2008 after leading the tournament in average, tying for the top OBP and ranking second in slugging, then was an all-star again at the World Youth Championship in Taiwan in 2009.

Odor draws widespread praise from scouts for his efficient, sweet lefthanded swing and ability to work the count. While Odor’s size (5-foot-10, 155 pounds) is a concern for many scouts, he has shown some surprising pop for his size. Odor has good hands but many scouts believe he will end up at second base, though he went from an average runner last summer to an above-average runner before he signed with Texas. He spent time training in Florida and his English is already advanced, so there’s a chance he could begin the year in the Arizona League, where he could see time at both shortstop and second base.

Among the other shortstops the Rangers added was Alberto Triunfel, who signed for $300,000 in December. Triunfel is the younger brother of Mariners shortstop Carlos Triunfel, though Alberto is quite different from his brother. The younger Triunfel, 17, has a thin 5-foot-10, 160-pound build and stands out for his athleticism and smooth actions at shortstop. He can make the flashy play at shortstop, though his speed and arm are around average. He has made improvements at the plate but his bat will need to catch up to his fielding.

Fernando Vivili, a 17-year-old Dominican catcher, signed in December for $300,000. A strong-bodied 6-foot-2, 200-pound righthanded hitter, Vivili shows good power, solid receiving skills and arm strength that is a tick above-average. That month Texas also signed Dominican shortstop Smerling Lantigua, a 17-year-old righthanded hitter. At 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, Lantigua isn’t a speedster and will likely move over to a corner, possibly sliding over to third base. Lantigua is a contact hitter with a good frame, and his power could come around once he fills out.

Another December addition, Venezuelan lefthander Frank Lopez trained in the same program that produced Rangers catcher Tomas Telis and Rockies outfielder Rafael Ortega. Lopez, 17, is 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and is an aggressive strike-thrower with some feel for spinning a breaking ball. He throws in the high-80s with projection for more with broad shoulders and good arm action.

Luis Marte, a 17-year-old shortstop from Santo Domingo, is an athletic righthanded hitter with a wiry 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame. Marte is an aggressive line-drive hitter with gap power and above-average speed. In the field he shows feel for the position with good actions, solid hands and a solid-average arm. Texas also signed a Venezuelan shortstop in December when they added 16-year-old Elio Castillo, a skinny 6-foot-2, 160-pound righthanded hitter with good instincts and feel for making contact—he hit .311/.357/.356 in 132 at-bats this winter in Venezuela’s Liga Paralela—though his power and defense are further away.

Texas was active internationally outside of Latin America as well, making the franchise’s first European signing in November by giving $175,000 to Nick Urbanus, an 18-year-old Dutch shortstop. Urbanus is the grandson of righthander Han Urbanus, a member of the Dutch Baseball Hall of Fame and the first Dutch player to come to the United States when the Giants invited him to spring training in 1952 and 1953. Though the Giants offered his grandfather a contract, he returned to the Netherlands, where he won five Hoofdklasse championships with Op Volharding Volgt Overwinning Amsterdam. Nick’s father, Charles, also played in the Hoofdklasse in the 1970s and ’80s and won multiple MVP awards as a pitcher and a shortstop before joining Han in the Dutch Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

Nick Urbanus has represented the Netherlands in the 2008 World Junior Championship in Edmonton, the European Junior Championship (where he was named the tournament’s most outstanding defensive player) in 2009 and in the 2009 World Port Tournament in Rotterdam. Though the Rangers do not have a full-time European scout, Rangers Pacific Rim coordinator Jim Colborn played in Europe and the Rangers were able to see Urbanus in July when he played at the 18U Junior World Championship in Thunder Bay, Canada. Urbanus starred at the tournament, hitting .379/.471/.448 with only one strikeout in 34 trips to the plate.

Urbanus has more advanced baseball instincts than many European prospects and has room to add weight to his 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame. A lefthanded hitter with some switch-hitting experience, Urbanus is a contact-oriented hitter who should begin his career this year in the AZL, where he’ll likely also see time at second base.

Before July 2, Texas also signed Australian catcher Guy Edmonds for $150,000 last February. Edmonds, 17, was an all-star at the World Youth Championships in Taiwan in 2009. He hit .186/.303/.206 in 34 DSL games in 2010 and should head to the AZL this summer. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound righthanded hitter had just two extra-base hits in the DSL but shows some pull power and an average arm.

Another notable international signing in 2010 came in May, when the Rangers agreed to terms with righthander Santo Angel Perez for $85,000, though his deal is still pending official MLB approval. Perez originally presented himself as 16-year-old Santo Angel Franco in 2008, when he agreed to a $570,000 deal with the Cardinals. That deal fell apart and MLB suspended him for one year for lying about his age and identity. Perez is now presenting himself with a new name and age (22). Players last year did not have to wait for MLB approval to participate in the DSL, where the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Perez had a 2.59 ERA and a 41-9 K-BB mark in 59 innings. He’s a strike-thrower with a heavy 88-93 mph fastball and some feel for a changeup.

Texas also signed Neftali Feliz’s younger brother, 18-year-old third baseman Aneudy Feliz, for $25,000 in November. Feliz, an athletic 6-foot, 175 pounds, is a righthanded hitter with strength and raw power potential. He has a strong arm and figures to also spend time at first base in the DSL.

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