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2011-12 International Reviews: NL West

July 2 eligible six-figure signings are players who became eligible to sign last year during the July 2 international signing period as 16-year-olds. The “other six-figure signings” include players who signed in 2011 but had been eligible to sign prior to 2011.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Top signing:
 LHP Alexander Carreras, Cuba, $400,000.
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: RHP Jesus Castillo (Venezuela).
Other six-figure signings: SS Yefrey Ramirez (Dominican Republic).

The Diamondbacks figure to be one of the beneficiaries of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, as Arizona has largely stayed away from handing out extravagant bonuses to international signings. Last year their most expensive signing was Alexander Carreras, a 22-year-old Cuban lefthander. Carreras, who was represented by Edgar Mercedes, signed for $400,000 in November. Carreras’ final season in Serie Nacional was 2009-10, when he had a 5.01 ERA in 70 innings with 46 strikeouts and 36 walks for Industriales. He had played his rookie year for Metropolitanos in 2008-09, when he had a 3.94 ERA in 48 innings with 33 strikeouts and 27 walks. Carreras also pitched in winter ball for the Aguilas in the Dominican League, where he had a 4.20 ERA and a 12-10 K-BB mark in 15 innings over four starts. The 6-foot Carreras has a solid delivery and athleticism and has touched 93 mph, though several scouts said they mostly saw him sit around 86-89. Some scouts believe his best pitch is a hard cutter/slider, and he’ll mix in a breaking ball and a changeup as well. He’s at spring training now on the high Class A Visalia roster, though his Opening Day assignment is still to be determined.

The prize of Arizona’s July 2 class was Venezuelan righthander Jesus Castillo (video), who signed for $250,000 when he turned 16 on Aug. 27. He may end up being the youngest player in the Dominican Summer League in 2012, but he’s already come on quickly. A gangly 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, Castillo is from Valencia (though he also briefly lived in Spain) and trained with Oswaldo Camacho. Castillo is athletic (he used to also play soccer), has a good delivery, a long stride and gets out front well. When he signed, Castillo was throwing in the mid-80s with a loose arm and projection, and now he sits around 88-90 mph. His arm action can get long, but with his looseness and projection, his fastball should be at least a plus pitch and eventually reach the mid-90s. He has an advanced changeup for his age and it’s his No. 2 pitch right now ahead of his breaking ball.

The Diamondbacks signed Dominican shortstop Yefrey Ramirez for $125,000 in January 2011 for his arm strength and solid swing path, but he struggled at the plate in the DSL and moved to the mound. Ramirez, who at 18 is 6 feet 2, 165 pounds, has thrown up to 90 mph.

Dominican righthander Jose Fermin (video) could prove to be a bargain for the $55,000 Arizona gave him in June. Fermin, a 17-year-old from Restauracion, is a skinny 6-foot-1 and threw in the high-80s with a 70-75 mph curveball when he signed, but he’s now pitching at 90-93 while flashing an above-average curveball up to 80 mph. His fastball has good movement and he has the stuff that should help him miss a lot of bats. He’ll make his pro debut in the DSL this year.

Colorado Rockies
Top signing:
 SS Emerson Jimenez, Dominican Republic, $280,000.
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: RHP Antonio Senzatela (Venezuela), LHP Hector Villarroel (Venezuela).
Other six-figure signings: SS Darwin Garcia (Dominican Republic), RHP Jhonriz Santana (Dominican Republic).

Emerson Jimenez, a 17-year-old Dominican shortstop from Villa Mella who trained with the Global Sports Group, is a well-rounded player with an athletic 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame with physical projection. Jimenez has a line-drive stroke from the left side and uses the whole field. He has good hands, plus speed and is a solid fielder at shortstop. All of his tools play up because he has good feel for the game.

Several scouts spoke of Venezuelan righthander Antonio Senzatela as one of the better arms available in the international market last year, but the Rockies were able to secure him for a relatively modest $250,000 bonus in July. Senzatela, a 17-year-old from Valencia who trained with former Red Sox outfielder Jose Malave, has already started to fill out his broad-shouldered, 6-foot-1, 190-pound body. After throwing 88-92 mph upon signing, he has added a tick to his fastball and has since hit 94. Senzatela has a loose arm, repeats his delivery and is an advanced strike-thrower for his age with good downward angle. His offspeed stuff will need to improve, and some scouts wonder whether he has the fluidity in his wrists to project an average breaking ball in the future.

Venezuelan lefthander Hector Villarroel didn’t turn 16 until August, then signed in November for $200,000. Villaroel, who is from El Tigrito and trained at the Guerreros Baseball Academy, has a lean, underdeveloped 6-foot-4, 165-pound body. He’s a raw project, but he already has good feel for his delivery, his arm works well and he’s gotten his fastball up to 89 mph. Villarroel throws a curveball and a changeup but right now he’s mostly about physical projection.

Dawin Garcia, a 17-year-old Dominican shortstop from Santo Domingo who trained with Ulises Sierra, signed in January 2011 for $185,000. A 6-foot-1 switch-hitter, Garcia’s glove is ahead of his bat, and he’ll have to make adjustments after batting .126/.183/.172 with contact issues in 30 DSL games.

Dominican righthander Jhonriz Santana, who was in Victor Baez’s program, also signed in January for $100,000, and he pitched briefly in the DSL. Santana, who at 18 is 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, has some arm strength but remains a raw project.

The Rockies also went to Saint Maarten to scout 18-year-old center fielder Denzel Richardson, a $30,000 sign in November. Richardson, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound righthanded hitter, has a projectable body and is already one of the fastest players in the organization. He’s an 80 runner who has run the 60-yard dash in 6.3 seconds, and his speed is a big weapon in the field.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Top signing:
 RHP Raydel Sanchez, Cuba, $250,000.
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: None.
Other six-figure signings: None.

While bonuses for international players have soared in recent years, the Dodgers yet again rank last in the league in Baseball America’s estimates of international amateur spending. They did purchase the rights to three players from Monclova of the Mexican League for undisclosed amounts last March—20-year-old righthander Francisco Villa, 21-year-old righthander Juan Noriega and 21-year-old middle infielder Jesus Arredondo—though it’s believed those were small signings. According to BA’s records, the Dodgers did not sign any international players after June last year. They landed righthander Rubby de la Rosa for $15,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, and they will have to hope for another bargain to emerge from last year’s signing class.

Of all of their international signings, the Dodgers’ most expensive signing was Cuban righthander Raydel Sanchez, who took an unusual path to sign for $250,000 in April. Sanchez, 22, defected in 2008 at the 18U World Youth Championship in Edmonton, Canada. He ended up at Miami Dade CC in 2009 and pitched well there, but he went undrafted and didn’t pitch for Miami Dade in 2010. Sanchez’s agent, Gus Dominguez, brought him to a tryout for the Dodgers in spring training in Arizona and they signed him after that. He debuted last year in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, where in 75 1/3 innings he had a 4.66 ERA, 77 strikeouts and 16 walks. Sanchez, who is 6 feet, 205 pounds, throws a 87-90 mph fastball that gets a little straight, but he puts it in the strike zone. His changeup is more advanced than his slurvy curveball

Most of the Dodgers’ international amateur signings last year were pitchers. Aside from Sanchez, the top bonus went to Venezuelan righthander Edinson Bock, a 17-year-old who signed for $28,000 last March. Bock only pitched briefly in the DSL, but he’s a raw arm with a 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame, a high-80s fastball that touches 90, a slider and a changeup. He’s still ironing out his mechanics to be able to throw more strikes.

Venezuelan righthander Jonathan Martinez, 17, signed for $27,500 in May, though he didn’t pitch in the DSL. Dodgers Venezuelan scout Francisco Cartaya helped sign righthander Jhoulys Chacin when he was with the Rockies, and the Dodgers see some similarities at the same age. Martinez is 6 feet 1 and throws strikes from a three-quarters arm slot with a 86-91 mph fastball that has natural cutting movement. His curveball has three-quarters break and he’s starting to learn a changeup.

Venezuelan lefthander Miguel Sulburan doesn’t have great size (5 feet 10, 165 pounds), but he performed well as a 17-year-old in the DSL, where he had a 2.81 ERA in 58 innings, 52 strikeouts and 18 walks. He’s a strike thrower and pitches backwards, mixing an 85-89 mph fastball, a backdoor curveball and a tailing changeup. Dominican righthander Wascar Teodo, 18, signed for $15,000 in May. He throws up to 93 mph from his high three-quarters slot and could be a power arm down the road.

San Diego Padres
Top signing: C Jose Ruiz, Venezuela, $1.1 million.
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: OF Franmil Reyes (Dominican Republic), OF Jose Urena (Mexico).
Other six-figure signings: LHP Alexander Constanza (Dominican Republic), 3B Franchy Cordero (Dominican Republic), OF/2B Malquiel Brito (Dominican Republic).

Several scouts considered Jose Ruiz and Mark Malave (Cubs) the top two catchers in Latin America last year, with Ruiz the more advanced defender among the two Venezuelans. Ruiz, a 17-year-old from Guacara who was represented by Felix Olivo, has a strong, athletic body (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) for a catcher and moves around well behind the plate. He receives well, doesn’t have issues handling good fastballs, has good footwork and an above-average arm. Ruiz’s best offensive weapon is his power. Ruiz can get into a groove in batting practice where the ball jumps off his bat, but some scouts wonder how much he’ll hit in games. His swing gets lengthy and he has a tendency to pull off the ball, so he’ll have to make adjustments and learn to incorporate his lower half in his swing more for the bat to catch up to his defense.

The Padres’ Dominican academy is in San Cristobal, and they have recruited heavily from the southern part of the island in recent years. One of those signings was Franmil Reyes (video), a 16-year-old outfielder from Palenque who got $700,000 in November and trained with Basilio Vizcaino (known as Cachaza) and Juan Valera. A righthanded hitter, Reyes stands out for his size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) and plus raw power from right-center field to his pull side. Reyes can hammer a fastball, but his hitting has been inconsistent in games and he’s still learning to recognize breaking pitches. He doesn’t have great speed or arm strength, so he’s likely a left fielder.

In August the Padres purchased the rights to 17-year-old outfielder Jose Urena from the Diablos Rojos del Mexico of the Mexican League for $550,000. In 2010 Urena was a teammate with Blue Jays righthander Roberto Osuna on Mexico’s 16-and-under COPABE Pan American Championships that lost to Team USA in the championship game in Lagos de Moreno, Mexico. A righthanded hitter, Urena has a great frame (6-foot-3, 197 pounds), an advanced approach at the plate, very quick hands and above-average raw power, though there is some length to his swing. He’s around an average runner and projects as a potential power-hitting right fielder, the position he’ll likely play this summer in the DSL.

Dominican lefthander Alexander Constanza, a 17-year-old from Santo Domingo who trained with Alberto Barjan, signed for $200,000 in May, but only threw a few innings in the DSL. At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Constanza has a projectable body, a good delivery and a fastball that has jumped from 87-90 mph upon signing to 88-92 mph. He could throw harder once he fills out and already shows good rotation on his curveball, along with a changeup that’s still in its early stages.

Franchy Cordero, a 17-year-old Dominican from Azua, signed for $175,000 the same day as Reyes. Cordero’s trainer, Antonio Arias, showcased him as a third baseman, but the Padres will play him at shortstop and give him a chance to play there, though he may end up back at third base or slide over to second base. He has a big 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame with above-average speed, good hands and an average arm. Cordero has a a good hitting approach, a quick lefthanded swing with good finish and present gap power that should improve once he adds strength.

Malquiel Brito, 18, signed for $175,000 in February 2011. Brito was born in the Dominican Republic, started high school in the United States (at Fort Myers, Fla., High), but moved back to the island before signing with the Padres. Brito signed as an outfielder but the Padres moved him to second base, though he hurt his shoulder before the DSL season began and was limited to DH for all but the last couple weeks of the season. Brito is a good athlete with a lively 6-foot-1, 190-pound body and has a good approach from the left side, though the shoulder injury limited him to a .217/.348/.276 line in 152 at-bats last summer. He’s expected to make the jump to the Arizona League this summer.

The Padres also signed 6-foot-1, 185-pound Dominican righthander Yimmi Brasoban for $75,000 in May. Brasoban, a 17-year-old out of San Cristobal, had a 5.65 ERA with more walks (28) than strikeouts (25), but he has a loose arm and a low-90s fastball up to 94 mph, along with a slider that’s ahead of his changeup.


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San Francisco Giants
Top signing:
 LHP Adalberto Mejia, Dominican Republic, $350,000.
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: 3B Anthony Gomez (Venezuela).
Other six-figure signings: OF Carlos Valdez (Dominican Republic), RHP Keury Mella (Dominican Republic), RHP Shan Gomez (Nicaragua).

Dominican lefthander Adalberto Mejia signed with the Giants for $350,000 in February 2011, then went on to become one of the most dominant pitchers in the DSL. Mejia, an 18-year-old from the Arias and Goodman academy, ranked sixth in the DSL in ERA (1.42) with a sterling 71-8 K-BB mark in 76 innings, giving him the third-lowest walks per nine innings rate in the league. At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Mejia is polished for his age and has pounds the strike zone with an 88-93 mph fastball. Mejia’s best secondary pitch is an advanced changeup that he throws with good arm speed. As an amateur he threw a slurvy curveball, but he’s added a slider into his mix as well. He should make his U.S. debut this summer.

In July the Giants added Dominican center fielder Carlos Valdez for $325,000. Valdez, a 17-year-old from La Romana who trained with Josue Herrera in the Dominican Prospect League, is 5-foot-11, 180 pounds with plus speed and a good bat from the right side. He sprays the ball to all fields with gap power. Dominican righthander Keury Mella, an 18-year-old from Bonao who trained with Luis Coronado and signed for $275,000 in September, is 6-foot-2, 190 pounds with a power arm up to 92-93 mph. He has a chance to have a plus fastball/curveball combination, though whether he remains a starter is still up in the air.

Venezuelan third baseman Anthony Gomez is a 17-year-old power hitter from Maturin who trained with Ricardo Petit and signed for $200,000 in September. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Gomez produces plus raw power from the right side, though he’ll have to continue to work on his defense to remain at third base. Another third baseman, 18-year-old Royel Astacio from Hato Mayor in the Dominican Republic, trained with Fernando Vidal Diaz and signed for $150,000 in May. A switch-hitter, Astacio batted .218/.371/.306 in 50 games in the DSL. He doesn’t have Gomez’s power, but he flashes average raw power and can work the count, as his 40 walks were among the most in the league. Astacio has a thick 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame, and like Gomez he’ll also have to bring along his defense to avoid a move to first base.

Dominican righthander Simon Mercedes (previously known as Jeffrey Tapia) would have been San Francisco’s biggest international signing of 2011 after agreeing to a $400,000 deal with him at the beginning of 2011, but his contract was not approved and MLB suspended him for one year due to a false age.

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