2011 International Reviews: AL 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.
Los Angeles Angels
Top signing: LHP Ivan Melo, Dominican Republic, $200,000.
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: C Gabriel Santana (Venezuela).
Other six-figure signings: LHP Nataniel Rodriguez (Dominican Republic), RHP Victor Alcantara (Dominican Republic), RHP Arjenis Fernandez (Dominican Republic).
While Clay Daniel ran the Angels’ international scouting for nearly a decade, the organization’s pipeline of international talent was among the best in the game, delivering Ervin Santana, Erick Aybar and Kendrys Morales, among others, including their No. 2 prospect, shortstop Jean Segura. Then shortly before July 2, 2009, the Angels fired Daniel amid a reported MLB investigation into bonus skimming, the details of which never fully emerged, though Daniel is now a pro scout with the Diamondbacks. The 2009 and 2010 international signing periods were relatively dormant for the Angels as they rebuilt staff and worked on a restricted budget, but they started to get back on track in 2011, now under the direction of Marc Russo.
The Angels added a host of intriguing Dominican arms last year, including lefthander Ivan Melo, who signed for $200,000 last March. Melo, 17, was solid in his Dominican Summer League debut, posting a 2.57 ERA with 17 strikeouts and eight walks in 14 innings. Melo, who is from Azua and trained with Tony Arias (no relation to the Reds’ Latin American director), throws his fastball up to 90-91 mph but stands out more for his feel for pitching and potentially above-average curveball, which has good spin and depth and can miss bats. At 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, Melo has to get stronger but he has a repeatable delivery to be able to potentially work as a starter as he develops and learns a changeup. He’s expected to head back to the DSL this summer.
In the United States, a 20-year-old Division 1 college player usually isn’t even eligible to be drafted yet, but historically in Latin America, teams have treated those players as ancient. Lefthander Nataniel Rodriguez, who trained with Quico Pena, played in the Dominican Prospect League and showed a low-90s fastball that touched 94-95, then signed with the Angels in April for $180,000. Rodriguez, who turned 21 in August, pitched out of the bullpen last year in the DSL, where he had a 4.58 ERA and a 23-6 K-BB mark in 20 innings. Rodriguez isn’t tall (5-foot-10, 185 pounds), but he has a physical, well-developed build with a wide back and present power stuff. His fastball has even taken a step forward since signing, as the Angels have seen him up to 97, though he works more in the lower-90s. Rodriguez threw a curveball as an amateur that has morphed into a slurvier slider as his velocity has increased. Rodriguez has a power mentality and is still learning to harness his stuff after the velocity spike, so if necessary he may fit well in a bullpen role. He’s expected to make his U.S. debut this year.
The Angels’ top signing from last year’s July 2 class was Gabriel Santana, a Venezuelan catcher who signed for $180,000 when he turned 16 on Aug. 18. Santana, who is from Margarita and trained in Puerto la Cruz, sold the Angels on his righthanded hitting ability. He’s a contact-oriented hitter with a good hitting approach, clean bat path and the ability to use the whole field. At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Santana has the frame to add strength and shows occasional gap power now, so he will have to grow into his power later in his career. Santana throws well with a solid-average arm and has good lateral movement behind the plate. He was a catcher as an amateur, but his hands aren’t the softest so he’s still working on his receiving and learning how to catch.
Dominican righthander Victor Alcantara, 18, signed with the Angels for $174,000 in June. His older brother, 20-year-old Martin Alcantara, pitched for the Indians last year in the DSL. Victor has an athletic, projectable body (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) and has already shown signs of morphing into a power arm. When the Angels signed Alcantara, he was touching 92-93 mph, but since then the Angels have clocked him as high as 96. He has a power approach with his fastball and a slider that shows promise. His arm stroke is clean in the back, though it’s not a fluid delivery, so whether he remains a starter is up in the air. He may learn a changeup but his two-pitch mix could work well in relief.
The most exciting player the Angels signed in 2011 might be Arjenis Fernandez, a Dominican righthander who got a $150,000 bonus in August. Fernandez, an 18-year-old from San Francisco de Macoris, has a big, durable body (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) a power arm and flashes an impressive three-pitch mix for his age. His fastball works at 90-93 mph and touches 95 coming out of a good delivery with clean arm action. His curveball has good shape and hard power around 75-77 mph, while he also shows for and maintains his arm speed on his changeup, giving him the ingredients of a starting pitcher with promising upside.
Top signing: C Seong-Min Kim, South Korea, $510,000.
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: C Santiago Chavez (Mexico), RF/1B Sandber Pimentel (Dominican Republic).
Other six-figure signings: None.
On paper, the A’s scaled back their international spending in 2011, though going by the calendar year can be a bit misleading. This listing does not include 2012 signee Yoenis Cespedes, the top Cuban player available, who signed a four-year, $36 million major league contract. Also, many teams, including the A’s, start their budget Nov. 1 and go through Oct. 31 the following year. In 2010 the A’s dropped a combined $1.05 million to sign center fielder Vicmal de la Cruz in November and outfielder Shawn Duinkerk in December, so the A’s spending has been more stable than the way we present the numbers may indicate. (On a related note, the way teams schedule their budgets may be an issue with the new CBA rules on international spending; because teams are now subjected to a new limit they have to plan from July 2 until the following July 2.)
The top bonus for an amateur player out of the Pacific Rim last year went to Korean catcher Seong-Min Kim, who signed with the A’s for $510,000 last March. Kim stood out as one of the top hitters last summer in MLB’s Australian Academy. He played in 14 games and hit .364/.431/.545 in 44 at-bats, then went to Arizona for instructional league in the fall. Kim, 18, is a righthanded hitter with a physical 6-foot-1, 200-pound build. He stands out for his plus raw power and he can take it to game situations. He’s athletic and runs well for a catcher. Behind the plate he shows a 55 arm on the 20-80 scale, though he’s still relatively new to catching after converting from first base/DH to catcher in high school. Some scouts who saw him as an amateur weren’t sure whether he’d receive well enough to stay at the position, but he’s made strides with his blocking and technique.
The A’s stayed away from an expensive July 2 market, then came away with a pair of interesting players in November. One of those players was Mexican catcher Santiago Chavez, who was not affiliated with a Mexican League team and signed directly with the A’s for $200,000. Chavez, who turned 16 last year on Aug. 5, was one of the younger players in last year’s signing class. He played in the Saltillo Little League and shows good instincts. At 6-foot, 165 pounds, Chavez is athletic for a catcher with room to get stronger. He has a quick righthanded bat and an average arm.
A couple of weeks before the A’s signed Chavez, they added Sandber Pimentel of the Dominican Republic for $160,000. Pimentel, a 17-year-old lefty from Santo Domingo, is the younger brother of Rangers outfielder Guillermo Pimentel (no relation to the more prominent Mariners outfielder of the same name). Pimentel doesn’t have a very broad tool set, but he stands out for the one thing that matters most: his bat. A 6-foot-2, 175-pound lefty, Pimentel has a good swing and hits in games, showing the ability to square up balls routinely and turn on good fastballs. He’ll hook a ball for some power occasionally, but he’s a hit-first, power-second bat. Pimentel’s other tool that sticks out is his arm, which is above-average, but the rest of his game is limited. Pimentel showcased at La Academia as an outfielder. His arm strength gives him a chance to play right field, but he’s slow and moves awkwardly, so he may end up at first base. The A’s will likely let him get time at both positions in the DSL.
Shortstop Yairo Munoz (video) was a 2012 signing for $280,000 in January, but he’s notable among players who became eligible to sign on July 2, 2011. Munoz’s older brother, 20-year-old Jairo Munoz, is a righthander who signed with the Royals last year in March, though Yairo is the better prospect and played in the Under-Armour All-America game last August at Wrigley Field. Munoz, who is from Cabrera and trained with former Yankees infield coach Rafael Perez, stands out with defensive potential thanks to his agility, athleticism, range and arm strength, though like many young shortstops he can try to do too much and may rack up errors early in his career. At 6-foot, 170 pounds, Munoz is a switch-hitter with good speed, but his defensive tools are ahead of his bat.
Oakland also made an interesting smaller-level signing in August when they added Aruban shortstop Mitchell Martes for $50,0000 in August. Martes was born in the Netherlands to a Dutch mother and an Aruban father, then made his way to Aruba. He played on the Aruban Little League 2010 Senior League World Series team in Bangor, Maine, that won the championship, playing with 2010 A’s signee Shawn Duinkerk and Phillies 2011 signing Jiandido Tromp. Martes, 17, is an extra-large 6-foot-5, 190-pound frame with good athleticism and footwork for his size, though with his size it’s up in the air where he ends up. It’s a pull-oriented approach with some rawness, but the A’s liked his bat speed and hitting potential.
Top signing: RHP Victor Sanchez, Venezuela, $2.5 million.
July 2 eligible six-figure signings: OF Jose Leal (Venezuela), SS Angel Jimenez (Dominican Republic), C Georvic Perez (Venezuela).
Other six-figure signings: OF Gabriel Guerrero (Dominican Republic), LHP Roenis Elias (Cuba), 3B Joshua Franco (Dominican Republic), OF Wilton Martinez (Dominican Republic), RHP Lars Huijer (Netherlands), Ugueth Urbina Jr. (Venezuela/Spain), RHP Daniel Thieben (Germany).
Bob Engle knows what he’s looking at when he scouts a pitcher. The Mariners vice president of international operations was the scouting director with the Blue Jays when they drafted Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter and Pat Hentgen, a trio of Cy Young award winners. More recently, Engle and the Mariners’ legion of international scouts delivered to the big league club two of the best pitchers in the American League in Venezuelan righthander Felix Hernandez (another Cy Young award winner) and Dominican righthander Michael Pineda.
Venezuelan righthander Victor Sanchez isn’t at that level of his compatriot Hernandez, but scouts viewed Sanchez as one of the country’s top prospects for years before he signed with the Mariners in July for $2.5 million, the top bonus for an international amateur pitcher in 2011. Sanchez, 17, put himself on the national radar in 2008 when, as a 13-year-old, he was the second-youngest player on Venezuela’s 14U squad at the COPABE Pan American championships, a team that included Blue Jays righthander Adonys Cardona, Rangers shortstop Rougned Odor and Cubs catcher Mark Malave. When he pitched against Ecuador, Sanchez threw a five-inning no-hitter and was only a hit batsman away from a perfect game. Sanchez also pitched for Venezuela’s 16U team in Mexico in 2010, though he wasn’t quite as crisp there. Sanchez also used to play the outfield in international tournaments and showed above-average raw power with inconsistent contact, but his future is on the mound. After he signed with the Mariners, Sanchez pitched pitched briefly in the Liga Paralela (the minors of the Venezuelan League) and had a 4.61 ERA with 13 strikeouts and five walks in 14 innings.
Sanchez, who was represented by Carlos Gavidia, has power stuff and feel for pitching beyond his years. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Sanchez is built like an ox with a thick, mature frame, strong shoulders and large hands. There isn’t much physical projection left with Sanchez, but he already throws 89-92 mph and cranks it up to 94. Sanchez has a loose arm and a sound delivery, which he’s able to repeat well for his age thanks to his athleticism. He throws strikes with his fastball to both sides of the plate, mixes in a plus slider, an occasional curveball and has flashed feel for a changeup that could become a third above-average pitch. While Sanchez stands out for his stuff and polish, scouts have noted that he doesn’t miss as many bats as they would have expected for someone with his stuff, which may be partly because his fastball tends to flatten out and get straight. He’s expected to make his professional debut this summer in the Arizona League.
While several teams were high on Sanchez, many in the industry were surprised when the Mariners gave Venezuelan outfielder Jose Leal a $1.925 million bonus in July. Leal, a 17-year-old from Guarico who was represented by Carolina Andrade, has a projectable, wiry 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame and he is a good athlete, but several scouts described his game skills as very raw. While scouts have said Leal’s hitting needs polish, when he does square one up the ball jumps off his bat. He runs well for his size and has an arm that will play in right field, though he’s still learning how to get proper reads off the bat. After signing, Leal went to instructional league in Arizona and then to the Liga Parlela, where he batted .246/.316/.362 in 69 at-bats.
In January 2011 the Mariners gave $400,000 to Gabriel Guerrero (video), who is the nephew of Vladimir Guerrero and might as well be his batting stance doppelganger. The tools aren’t the same as his uncle’s, but Guerrero’s hitting mechanics and mannerisms bear an uncanny resemblance to Vlad, right down to the no batting gloves approach. Guerrero, an 18-year-old out of Nizao who trained with Basilio Vizcaino (known as Cachaza), hit .236/.288/.298 in 57 DSL games last year. Guerrero has good size (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) and flashed solid raw power in batting practice before he signed, but he’s still learning to take it to games. He’s not a burner but he has a solid arm in right field.
Guerrero was only one of a few players the Mariners signed last year with baseball bloodlines. Third baseman Joshua Franco is the son of former major leaguer Julio Franco, who played in 23 big league seasons up until he was 48 with the Braves in 2007. Joshua Franco was born in Miami but has lived in San Pedro de Macoris, and he signed with the Mariners for $200,000 in November. At 6-foot, 190 pounds, Franco has a lefty bat that drew the Mariners to him, though he does have an uppercut swing and some scouts were concerned about his bat speed. He’s not a great runner or defender, so his bat will have to carry him.
Before the year came to a close, the Mariners signed Dominican shortstop Angel Jimenez for $225,000 in December. Jimenez, a 17-year-old from Santo Domingo, is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds with good athleticism and actions in the field. He’s an above-average runner with a line-drive swing from the right side and power to the alleys, though with his frame he has a chance to get stronger and hit for more extra-base pop.
Venezuelan catcher Georvic Perez signed with Seattle for $200,000 in July. Perez is from Barcelona and trained with Dennys Suarez, who in 2010 represented Mariners lefthander Luis Pina. At 6-foot, 190 pounds, Perez is a switch-hitter who sold the Mariners on his bat potential and approach to hitting. He’s a contact-oriented bat who will have to develop power later in his career. He played briefly after signing in the Liga Paralela, where in 28 at-bats he hit .250/.344/.250. Perez has a good arm and he’s made strides with his blocking and receiving.
In May the Mariners signed Dominican corner outfielder Wilton Martinez for $192,500 from Javier Rodriguez, the trainer who also worked with Mariners infielder Carlos Triunfel when he was an amateur. An 18-year-old from San Cristobal who played in the Dominican Prospect League, Martinez went to the DSL after signing and hit .170/.262/.245 in 147 at-bats. At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, Martinez is a righthanded hitter with similar tools to Guerrero, but he’s also still learning to translate those tools to game situations and will likely repeat the DSL.
Before Roenis Elias left Cuba, he pitched for Guantanamo in Cuba’s top league, Serie Nacional. Elias, now 23, had a rough year in his final season in 2009-10, posting a 7.14 ERA in 63 innings with only a bit more strikeouts (53) than walks (49) while giving up 10 home runs. The Mariners saw a crafty 6-foot-2, 180-pound lefty who knew how to pitch and signed him for $350,000 in May. After a tune-up in Rookie ball, Elias went to low Class A Clinton, where in seven starts in had a 5.45 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 18 walks in 36 innings. His stuff isn’t overpowering, so he’ll have to prove himself in 2012.
The Mariners are always active in Europe, where they found third baseman Alex Liddi and the late Greg Halman. Some scouts said last year wasn’t an especially great one in Europe, but the Mariners paid the top three bonuses in 2011 to players in Europe, depending on how you classify one of those players, Ugueth Urbina Jr. A 17-year-old righthander, Urbina is the son of former big league closer Ugueth Urbina, who spent the majority of his big league career (1995-2005) with the Expos and led the National League in saves in 1999 as a 25-year-old. The father has been in prison since 2007 serving a 14-year prison sentence after being convicted on two accounts of attempted murder, which contributed to some scouts’ concerns about his son. Urbina Jr. and his older brother Juan, an 18-year-old lefthander who signed with the Mets for $1.2 million in 2009, were both born in Venezuela. While Juan Urbina signed out of Venezuela, Ugueth Urbina Jr. moved to Spain with his mother within the last couple of years and had a stint at the MLB European academy. He signed with the Mariners for $150,000 in November, then returned to Venezuela and pitched briefly in the Liga Paralela. At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Urbina has a good body and a loose arm to project potential above-average velocity on his fastball in the future, but his slider and changeup both have a ways to go.
The biggest bonus for a European player last year went to righthander Lars Huijerfrom the Netherlands, who signed for $170,000 in June. Huijer, 18, had been in the MLB European academy since age 14, played in the World Youth Championships in Taiwan in 2009 and the World Junior Championships in Thunder Bay, Ontario in 2010 and for the Hoofddorp Pioneers in Honkbal Hoofdklasse, the top pro league in the Netherlands, in 2010-11. Huijer has a big, projectable frame at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, though his older brother Swen, a Red Sox righthander signed in 2008, is even taller at 6-foot-9. Lars Huijer pitched briefly last year in the Arizona League, where he had a 5.40 ERA in 15 innings with nine walks and two strikeouts. Scouts liked Huijer’s frame, arm speed and potential for more velocity on a fastball that topped out at 87-88 mph upon signing but ranged from 86-90 last summer in Arizona. He hasn’t faced much high-caliber competition yet, but he throws strikes well for his age and size. He threw a big curveball in the high-60s as an amateur but now works with a slider and a changeup, both of which are still raw.
Seattle also signed German righthander Daniel Thieben in November for $100,000. Thieben, 18, pitched at the European Junior Championships last July in Gijon, Spain, where he pitched in three games and allowed seven runs in 10 innings with eight hits, six walks and eight strikeouts. At the World Cup in Panama in October, Thieben was the youngest player on the German national team that also featured Twins outfielder Max Kepler and Reds first baseman Donald Lutz. Thieben pitched sparingly in the tournament, though he managed to get thrown into the fire when he got called in from the bullpen against Cuba. Thieben faced Alfredo Despaigne, Yulieski Gourriel and Jose Abreu—three of the best hitters in the world not in MLB, all of whom have won MVP awards in Cuba—and gave up three singles before exiting. At 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, Thieben is a raw arm but the Mariners like his size and projection.
Top signing: OF Leonys Martin, Cuba, $5 million bonus, $15.6 million major league deal.
July 2 eligible seven- and six-figure signings: OF Nomar Mazara (Dominican Republic), Ronald Guzman (Dominican Republic), LHP Yohander Mendez (Venezuela), Pedro Payano (Dominican Republic), RHP Jeily Arias (Dominican Republic), OF Eduard Pinto (Venezuela), SS Crisford Adames (Dominican Republic), RHP Kevin Sosa (Venezuela).
Other six-figure signings: SS Rougned Odor (Venezuela), OF Anderson Jesus (Dominican Republic), LHP Nerfy Nunez (Dominican Republic).
Where to begin? Even setting aside the big league contract and $5 million bonus the Rangers gave Cuban center fielder Leonys Martin, no team came close to the Rangers in terms of international amateur spending. With an estimated bonus expenditure of $12.83 million last year, the Rangers spent more than twice as much on international amateurs than 25 of the 29 other teams in the league did. Of all the money teams spent collectively on international amateurs, the Rangers alone accounted for around 14 percent in the market.
The Rangers’ most expensive amateur signing last year was Nomar Mazara, whose $4.95 million bonus was the highest ever for an international amateur. How Mazara was able to command that much money is a mystery (as detailed here). He did show big-time raw power when he was 15, but several teams said his raw power was limited to batting practice sessions because of his high maintenance lefty swing, exaggerated leg kick and swing-for-the-fences approach that resulted in a high number of strikeouts. Mazara, 16, is around 6-foot-4, 185 pounds with room to add another 30 or so pounds to his frame. He’s not a particularly great athlete or runner and has a decent arm, so the Rangers will play him in right field and hope he remains there. Mazara is from Santo Domingo and trained with Ivan Noboa, who trained two other Rangers signings last year as well (more on them later).
It’s difficult to find any team that had Mazara as the No. 1 player on its board, but plenty of organizations considered Ronald Guzman (video) either the top player or the best hitter available last year in Latin America. The Rangers signed Guzman for $3.45 million on July 2, the third-highest international amateur bonus ever behind Mazara and Athletics righthander Michael Ynoa. Guzman is a 17-year-old from La Vega who trained with Eddy Robles and played in the Dominican Prospect League. He played in the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program with Mazara and helped deliver the Dominican Republic its first RBI championship in August 2010 at a tournament in Jupiter, Fla. After winning the RBI title, Guzman also played in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field later that month. Guzman’s older brother, Edward, was an outfielder and a pitcher in the Mets farm system from 2007-09.
Signed at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, Guzman drew attention for his bat. While many young players with Guzman’s size struggle to put the bat to the ball, Guzman makes plenty of contact with a smooth, easy swing that’s repeatable and finishes with good extension. One scout said Guzman’s swing reminded him of Rafael Palmeiro’s. Guzman’s swing takes a good path to the ball and stays in the hitting zone, and while he can his stroke can get long at times because of his length, he’s shown the ability to stay inside the ball well for someone his size. His stance was a little hunched over as an amateur, but that’s correctable. He has a great approach to hitting, stays up the middle of the field and possesses an advanced knowledge of the strike zone. His head stays locked in when he swings, which helps him recognize pitches and pass on balls off the plate, so he has the potential to be a high on-base guy. Some scouts had concerns about Guzman’s bat speed and said he had trouble at times turning on good fastballs, but his bat has gotten quicker since he’s added strength and is now up to 210 pounds. The additional muscle will help Guzman’s power, which he flashed during BP (he won the DPL home run derby in January) but didn’t show as much in games, though he always made plenty of contact and those line drives may start to carry out of the park. With his size, he has the potential for above-average raw power.
There were plenty of scouts who liked Guzman’s bat, but he’ll also have to hit a ton because there’s not much else he’s going to bring to the table. He’s not athletic, he’s not much of a runner in terms of speed or grace and his arm is also below-average. Guzman showcased as an outfielder as an amateur, but he’s expected to get 80-90 percent of his reps at first base, with some possibility that he’ll play left field every now and then. He has good flexibility, but he has a long ways to go to learn the position. If anyone can get the most out of his talent, it should be Guzman, as scouts rave about his makeup, aptitude and work ethic. He comes from a well-educated family (his father runs his own business and his mother is a nurse) and Guzman already has graduated from high school, where he studied English and has taken quickly to the language. He may start in the Arizona League, but there’s a chance the Rangers could jump him to short-season Spokane like they’ve done with a few of their more advanced young Latin American prospects in recent years.
The Rangers’ third seven-figure bonus on July 2 went to Venezuelan lefthander Yohander Mendez, who signed for $1.5 million. The amount came as a surprise to several scouts given Mendez’s present fastball, but scouts said there were ingredients to like with his size, delivery and projection. Mendez, a 17-year-old who trained with Luis Blasini, has a long, skinny build (6-foot-3, 160 pounds) and a smooth, easy delivery with excellent arm action, all of which scream projection. His fastball last spring was 83-86 mph, but before July 2 it ranged from 85-89 mph and he throws it for strikes. He could throw at least in the low-90s once he fills out, but for now it’s still a projection fastball. At the time he signed, Rangers Venezuelan lefty Martin Perez ($580,000 in 2007) had some similarities to Mendez in terms of stuff, though Perez was shorter, stronger and threw his breaking ball with more power at the time. That should come with physical maturity for Mendez, who has shown feel to spin his breaking ball and solid action on his changeup. Mendez came down with an elbow strain after signing, so he didn’t participate in the team’s instructional league in Arizona or the Dominican republic. He’s still working his way back from that and likely will try to get some innings in the DSL, where the Rangers figure to take it slow as they try to build up his body for a player whose greatest need may be simply calories.
The Rangers signed Mazara out of Noboa’s program, which is also where they signed Dominican righthander Pedro Payano ($650,000) and shortstop Crisford Adames ($200,000) at the same time in July—a total package for Noboa’s players of $5.8 million. Payano and Adames were also both teammates with Mazara and Guzman on the RBI championship team. Payano is a 17-year-old who was born in New York and has family both in the United States and the Dominican Republic. He holds a U.S. passport but he grew up in the Dominican and lives in San Francisco de Macoris. He’s 6-foot-2 with a solid delivery, a fastball up to 91 mph, a slurvy curveball and a changeup. Adames, a 17-year-old from Santo Domingo, is the younger brother of Christhian Adames, a 20-year-old shortstop in the Rockies system who signed in 2007 and played in low Class A Asheville last year. At 6-foot, 160 pounds, Adames didn’t jump out to scouts with any standout tools, and he’ll have to get stronger and show more consistency at the plate to be able to impact the ball.
Righthander Jeily Arias turned 16 on July 20, then signed with the Rangers a week later for $500,000. Arias who is from Santo Domingo, worked out at La Academia and trained with Raul Valera, who is known as “Banana” in the DR. Valera also had Twins righthander Miguel Gonzalez ($650,000) last year, and while Gonzalez is more of a strike-thrower with feel, Arias has more size and power but also further to go to refine his game. Arias is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds with a thin build, big hands and a lively fastball that reaches 92 mph. The breaking ball and the changeup are both going to need work. His arm action is OK and the ball comes out of his hand well, but there’s some violence to the delivery. He’s athletic enough to make adjustments, which he’ll try to do this year in the DSL, but some scouts think his future is in the bullpen.
Rougned Odor was one of the top names in Venezuela for July 2, 2010, but teams were hesitant to pay him too much because of his 5-foot-9 frame, average speed and the fact that he’d likely move from shortstop to second base. The Rangers stayed on Odor, who trained with Miguel Nava, and signed him officially in January 2011 for $425,000, which already looks like a bargain. Odor’s bat was so advanced that the Rangers sent him to the short-season Northwest League, where he held his own as a 17-year-old and impressed scouts enough with his sweet lefty swing to rank as the Rangers’ No. 10 prospect. Odor’s full scouting report is available herein the Rangers Top 10.
Center fielder Eduard Pinto trained with Mendez in Blasini’s program, then signed with the Rangers on July 2 for $350,000. Pinto, a 17-year-old from Valencia, is an undersized 5-foot-9 lefty who has a knack for putting the bat to the ball. Pinto played winter ball in the Liga Paralela as a 15-year-old before signing and performed well, hitting .329/.396/.409 in 164 at-bats with more walks (19) than strikeouts (11) for Magallanes. Pinto even got into a game for the main Magallanes club, where Blasini is the general manager, as a defensive replacement. Pinto has a good idea of what he’s doing at the plate and sprays line drives to all fields, though he’ll never hit for much power. He models his game after Endy Chavez, though he’s not a burner and is more of a 50 to 55 runner on the 20-80 scale.
Venezuelan righthander Kevin Sosa signed for $155,000 in August after training with Ramon Garcia, a former big league pitcher with the White Sox, Astros and Brewers in the ’90s. Sosa, 17, has a skinny build (6-2, 185) with room to add strength and add to his 85-89 mph fastball, which he throws with good sink. His arm swing works well in the back and the ball comes out of his hand well from his high three-quarters arm slot with downhill action. He flashes feel for a changeup that has more potential than his breaking ball, a slow curve that he’ll need to learn to keep his elbow up on when he throws.
Outfielder Anderson Jesus, an 18-year-old from San Francisco de Macrois, signed for $150,000 in January 2011. At 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, Jesus has a raw righthanded bat and hit .260/.298/.361 in 169 at-bats last year in the DSL, where he figures to return this summer. He played all three outfield positions last year, but his fringy arm and speed may fit best in left field. Dominican lefthander Nerfy Nunez, a 19-year-old from Santo Domingo, signed for $100,000, then posted a 3.10 ERA in 41 innings with more walks (27) than strikeouts (22) in the DSL. Nunez is big (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and can throw his breaking ball for strikes, but he’s a raw arm with fringe stuff who will have to take a step forward this year.