2012-13 International Reviews: San Francisco Giants
Top signing: OF Gustavo Cabrera, Dominican Republic, $1.3 million.
Six-figure signings: 3B Natanael Javier (Dominican Republic), RHP Michael Santos (Dominican Republic), OF Raiby Barias (Dominican Republic).
The Giants have paid two of the biggest bonuses ever to a pair of Dominican hitters in recent years, but they’re hoping their latest Dominican bonus baby turns out better then Angel Villalona ($2.1 million in 2006) or Rafael Rodriguez ($2.55 million in 2008). Last year on July 2 the Giants signed Dominican center fielder Gustavo Cabrera (video) for $1.3 million, getting a player with excellent tools but question marks on whether they will ever materialize in games.
Cabrera, who turned 17 last month, trained with Christian Batista (nicknamed “Niche”) and played in the Dominican Prospect League. In 2011, the La Romana native led the Dominican Republic to a junior division RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) World Series title at Target Field in Minnesota, winning MVP honors by going 2-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base in the championship game.
While scouts were divided on Mets $1.75 million Dominican shortstop Amed Rosario, there was a high level of consensus on Cabrera, both in terms of the standout tools and the hitting concerns. Cabrera was the best athlete and had the best raw tools of anyone in last year’s international signing class. At 6 feet, 190 pounds, Cabrera is at least a 70 runner, with some teams saying they clocked him as fast as 6.3 seconds in the 60-yard dash, which is uncanny for a 16-year-old. His quick first-step and outstanding speed give him excellent range in center field along with a solid-average arm. Cabrera is physically mature for his age and has a heavier body type, so he might lose a step, which is why some scouts thought he might end up a corner, but most scouts seemed to like him in center field and said he was a good defender there.
Cabrera has quick hands and very good bat speed, producing above-average raw power from the right side. Whether he will ever hit enough in games for his tools to translate was a widespread concern. He doesn’t have natural rhythm and balance at the plate and he needs to close up the holes in his long swing. Giants hitting coaches will have to work with him to improve his hitting mechanics and approach. As July 2 approached, he even had trouble making contact in batting practice. If the Giants can develop his bat, his tools give him a high ceiling, but it’s a high-risk profile that’s similar to outfielder Donavan Tate when the Padres drafted him out of high school with the third overall pick in 2009. Even though Cabrera was one of the top-paid players in Latin America last year, he’s ticketed to begin his career in the Dominican Summer League.
The Giants also paid $475,000 on July 2 for Natanael Javier (video), who played with Cabrera in the DPL. Javier trained with Basilio Vizcaino, who goes by the nickname “Cachaza.” Javier, who turned 17 in November, also has an older brother, Sony Javier, who spent three seasons playing in the DSL with the Blue Jays before getting released. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Javier flashed good raw power at times, but his hitting was inconsistent. He has a big frame and is only going to get bigger, so while there’s concern he might not stay at the position, the Giants project him to remain at third base.
In September the Giants signed Raiby Barias for $115,000 from Rafael Montero, the trainer known as “Expilman” who also had Rafael Rodriguez. Barias, a 17-year-old from Bani, is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds and showcased for teams mostly as a shortstop, but his footwork wasn’t ideal for the infield so he moved to the outfield as July 2 approached. His bat has been inconsistent, but he’s hit well for some teams. He’s not a great runner so he’ll be a corner outfielder, with the arm strength to play right field.
Last year in January, the Giants signed Dominican righthander Michael Santos for $250,000. His contract was approved at the end of May, but he didn’t play in the DSL, which the Giants said was because they wanted to take it slowly with him as he adds strength to his 6-foot-4, 170-pound frame. His fastball is close to average now and should be plus in the future once he gains weight. He also impressed the Giants with his feel for his curveball.