2014-15 International Reviews: Los Angeles Dodgers
Top signing: OF Romer Cuadrado, Venezuela, $750,000.
Six-figure signings: OF Felix Osorio (Dominican Republic), C Keibert Ruiz (Venezuela), OF Jhoan Calderon (Dominican Republic), SS Frank Sanchez (Dominican Republic).
Total signings: 22.
When vice president of international scouting Bob Engle and Latin American coordinator Patrick Guerrero were in charge of Seattle's international operations, they showed a proclivity for spending big money on large, physical corner outfielders, like Hersin Martinez, Phillips Castillo, Guillermo Pimentel and Gabby Guerrero. In their second full year with the Dodgers, they made their biggest investments in more tall but raw corner outfielders.
Their biggest bonus went to Venezuelan outfielder Romer Cuadrado, who signed for $750,000 on July 2. Cuadrado, 17, has an extra-large frame (6-foot-4, 185 pounds) with ample room to add weight and strength. He has projectable power that should continue to increase once that strength comes, but he's still green as a hitter, so he will have to smooth out his righthanded swing and get more at-bats (starting in the Dominican Summer League) to improve his pitch recognition and cut down on his swing-and-miss. Cuadrado is fairly athletic for his size with around average speed and should have the arm strength for right field. He trained with Pablo Leal.
Felix Osorio became eligible to sign out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, but he waited until July 2 last year to sign with the Dodgers for $205,000 after training with Aldo Marrero and Diogenes Nunez (known as "Tite"). Osorio's rawness was evident in the DSL, where ht hit .143/.225/.209 with 24 strikeouts in 103 plate appearances. Osorio, 18, is 6-foot-4, 195 pounds with more projection than polish. He's athletic for his size with power potential and a righthanded swing that's geared for lift, though his game hitting and overaggressive approach have a ways to go. He didn't show a big arm before he signed but the Dodgers put him in right field last year and will keep him there.
Dominican outfielder Jhoan Calderon is even more physical than Cuadrado and Osorio, with a strong, imposing build at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. Calderon, 17, is another raw righthanded hitter whose bat will need time, but he has the strength to do damage when he does connect and has flashed average to above-average speed, though with his build he projects best as a corner outfielder. He trained with Franklin Ferreira and played in the Dominican Prospect League.
When Venezuelan catcher Keibert Ruiz turned 16 on July 20 last year, he signed with the Dodgers for $140,000. Ruiz is one of the younger players in the 2014 signing class but he's an advanced defensive catcher for his age. He receives well with good hands, quick feet and he has an average arm with good throwing mechanics and a quick release. At 6 feet, 165 pounds, Ruiz is a switch-hitter without much impact in his bat yet, with more line drives than thump at this point. Ruiz trained with Carlos Guillen.
Dominican shortstop Frank Sanchez had a good reference when he signed with the Dodgers for $125,000 in November--he's the nephew of Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe. Sanchez only turned 16 on Aug. 25, making him a week away from being a 2015-eligible player, so he's still fairly raw. He's 6-foot-3, 170 pounds (in other words, he looks nothing like Uribe does now) and impressed the Dodgers with his righthanded swing and athleticism, with the speed to potentially play center field if he needs to move off shortstop.
The Dodgers paid just $60,000 on July 2 for Jefrey Soffront, but he could be a sleeper in the class. He's a 16-year-old an offensive-minded shortstop from the Dominican Republic with a chance to hit and with solid power from the right side, though he might end up at second or third base if he outgrows his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame. Nicaraguan lefthander Leonardo Crawford, a $47,500 sign on July 2, is another intriguing low-dollar acquisition. Crawford, a 17-year-old who's 6 feet, 180 pounds, impressed the Dodgers with his control and feel for pitching with an upper-80s fastball.
In addition to signing Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena, the Dodgers also signed two Cuban players in 2014. One of them was 27-year-old lefthander Yasmany Hernandez, who was signed as a throw-in for $100,000 along with Arruebarrena. The other was Yadir Drake, a 24-year-old righthanded hitter who signed for $100,000 in August. Drake played sparingly in two seasons in Cuba for Matanzas, though he hasn't played since the 2009-10 campaign. Although Drake signed as an outfielder, he's built more like a catcher (6 feet, 200 pounds) and played behind the plate in Cuba, so the Dodgers' plan is to put him back there.