2012-13 International Reviews: Atlanta Braves
Top signing: RHP Yeralf Torres, Venezuela, $550,000.
Six-figure signings: OF Kelvin Estevez (Dominican Republic), RHP Gabriel Henry (Panama), OF Juan Reyes (Dominican Republic), LHP Felix Falcon (Dominican Republic), LHP Jhon Martinez (Venezuela), OF Ledernin Tejada (Dominican Republic).
Notable Cuban signings: OF Alejandro Piloto, LHP Adrian Rivero.
The Braves have added a promising group of international players to the lower levels of the system in recent years, including righthander Mauricio Cabrera, shortstop Jose Peraza and lefthander Luis Merejo. The next Latin American arm in that wave could be 17-year-old Yeralf Torres (video), a Venezuelan righthander signed for $550,000 on July 2. Torres, who is from Barquisimeto and trained with Jose Montero, is 6-foot-1, 165 pounds with some drop-and-drive to his delivery. Torres should be a power pitcher. He threw an explosive 89-93 mph fastball before signing and topped out at 95 this winter. He throws a mid-70s curveball with three-quarters break and has good movement on his 78-82 mph changeup, with the curveball the more advanced offering right now. Some scouts liked Torres’ strike-throwing ability, though others said he get out of control at times. He’ll begin his career in the Dominican Summer League.
The Braves signed two Dominican players from Carlos Paulino on July 2, including Kelvin Estevez for $300,000. Estevez, a 17-year-old from Bani, looks bigger than his listed 6-foot-1, 170 pounds. He split time between third base and the corner outfield spots, but the Braves signed him to play the outfield. He’s an aggressive righthanded hitter with good bat speed and average raw power. He has average speed and a 55 arm.
Lefthander Felix Falcon, a 17-year-old who signed for $135,000, also trained with Paulino. Falcon became eligible to sign in 2011, although with his August 1995 date of birth, he’s essentially the same age as most players who became eligible to sign last year. Falcon’s fastball rose from the mid-80s to the high-80s and topped out at 92 mph with good running life. He’s a big-bodied 6-foot-2, 200 pounds with a three-quarters type of curveball who’s still learning a third pitch.
Under the watch of Luis Ortiz, the Braves have been one of the most successful teams in Panama, where they’ve signed righthander Randall Delgado and catcher Christian Bethancourt. Last year on July 2 they signed righthander Gabriel Henry out of Panama for $255,000. Henry, who turned 17 in November, is 6-foot-3, 180 pounds and was throwing 85-87 mph early in the year but increased his velocity to the low-90s. He doesn’t have a changeup yet but his curveball is his separating pitch, a potential above-average weapon with good depth and rotation.
Juan Reyes, who signed for $150,000 in October, is a lefthanded Dominican outfielder with good bat control. Reyes, 17, is a compact 5-foot-10 sparkplug who slashes the ball around the field. He can occasionally pull one out of the park, but his game will rely more on his ability to hit line drives and use his plus speed. He’s already an advanced bunter for his age and experience level. Reyes has the tools to be a good defender in center field with his speed and a strong arm.
Ledernin Tejada, another Dominican outfielder signed last year, landed a $100,000 bonus in July. Tejada, a 16-year-old righthanded hitter, stands out for his size (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) and power potential. His swing generates natural loft and he finishes with good extension. He’s an average runner who will slow down and projects as a corner outfielder with a fringy arm.
Venezuelan lefthander Jhon Martinez became eligible to sign in 2011, but he signed last year in July for $110,000. Martinez is 6-foot-2, 185 pounds with a live arm and drops down to a low three-quarters slot. He has above-average arm strength already, sitting in the low-90s and topping out at 94. The rest of his game is still fairly raw, as he’s trying to tighten his slurvy breaking ball, develop a third pitch and throw more strikes.
Atlanta also awarded six-figure bonuses to a pair of Cuban players last year. Center fielder Alejandro Piloto, a 20-year-old signed for $125,000 in June, was a teammate of Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler in Cuba’s 18U league for La Havana in 2009 and 2010. Piloto, who played briefly in the DSL last year, is 6 feet, 185 pounds with good bat-to-ball ability from the right side, power mostly to the alleys and slightly above-average speed.
Adrian Rivero, a 21-year-old Cuban lefty signed for $100,000 in June, pitched 27 2/3 innings in the DSL, posting a 3.58 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 14 walks. At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Rivero’s fastball scrapes the low-90s at times along with a solid curveball and changeup.