2014 Dominican Summer League Top 20 Prospects
Dominican Summer League Top 20
With our International Reviews, we have scouting reports on every player who signed for at least $100,000 last year, plus other notable signings, for a total of around 250 player reports in all.
Most of those players have yet to make their pro debuts yet. When they do get on the field, most of them will begin their careers in either the Dominican Summer League or the four-team Venezuelan Summer League, though a handful of the biggest signings will jump straight to a Rookie-level complex league in the United States.
The size of a player's signing bonus has never mattered much to me, certainly not compared with what the player does on the field and the reports we get on them from scouts. Several of the players who were in the DSL or VSL last year already have separated themselves as prospects–some of whom signed for big bonuses, some for very little--with their tools and performance on the field. For players in pro ball, the DSL and VSL are as far removed as it gets from the big leagues, but even at this level, future big leaguers and future Top 100 Prospects will often separate themselves. On past lists, we have highlighted Xander Bogaerts, Miguel Castro and Carlos Martinez, as well as current Top 100 Prospects Jorge Alfaro, Orlando Arcia, Dilson Herrera and Manuel Margot.
History shows that, at least for hitters, performance matters. It's not that every player who hits well in the DSL is going to go on to major league success, but it's a red flag if a player struggles to hit against his peers at the lowest level of the minors. The DSL had a handful of good defensive shortstops, including Garvis Lara (Marlins), Adrian Valerio (Pirates) and Julio Garcia (Angels), but for now we will wait to see if their bats can catch up to their gloves. For pitchers, performance is less important. A teenager can go from throwing 92 mph to 97 and completely change his projection. Most pitchers at that level are still defining their breaking balls and just learning how to throw a changeup, so pitchers can often emerge from under the radar to get to the big leagues.
One notable player this list does not include is Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers. Technically, Devers qualifies for this list, but he also came to the Gulf Coast League last year and ranked as the league's No. 1 prospect, and he's already the No. 99 prospect in baseball. Obviously Devers was the best player who came through the DSL last year, and I could write about him here, but there's not much new to say that we haven't written before, so I think there's more value in writing about other players.
The list is in alphabetical order, with ages as of today.
Kelvin Beltre, ss, Giants
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
The best players the Giants have signed out of Latin America lately have been pitchers, but Beltre could change that. He trained with Alfredo Arias (who also had Giants lefty Adalberto Mejia) and was San Francisco's top international signing in 2013 for $650,000 on July 2, and he's one of the more exciting Latin American position players the Giants have acquired in recent years. Beltre showed promising signs at the plate in the first three weeks of the DSL, but he injured his right hamstring. The Giants tried to bring him back slowly as a DH, but he tweaked it again and was limited to just 22 games last year. He has good bat speed and a line-drive approach, showing surprising power last year in his pro debut. He didn't hit for a high average in a small sample size but has the bat-to-ball skills and exit speed off his bat to hit for average and solid power, with a patient approach to draw walks. Beltre is a high-energy player who's still learning to play under control at shortstop, where he will be given the chance to stick, though there's a chance he could move off to third or second base. He's an average runner with an above-average arm.
Sandy Brito, rhp, Rays
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
Tampa Bay snapped up a pair of power arms for low bonuses in the Dominican Republic last year. For $64,000 in March, they signed 6-foot-3 righthander Diego Castillo, who throws 90-96 mph and had a solid debut in the DSL Rays' bullpen. While Castillo turned 21 in January, Brito is younger and has even bigger stuff. Signed for $68,000 in December 2013, Brito was throwing 88-93 mph at the time, but with a projectable body and long arms that portended more velocity in the tank. That spike came on quickly, with Brito cranking his fastball as high as 98 mph last summer. His hard low-80s curveball gives him a second pitch that can miss bats, but Brito's feel for his craft was fairly raw when he signed. He has to learn to corral his newfound stuff and walk fewer batters to become more of a pitcher than a thrower, but the pure stuff is there if the control clicks.
Lewin Diaz, 1b, Twins
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
Diaz as a high-profile prospect on the international market in 2013, when he trained with William Valdez, and the Twins made him their biggest signing of year by giving him $1.4 million on July 2. Diaz has an extra-large, imposing frame. He already has a heavy body type and should look like David Ortiz or current Twins first baseman Kennys Vargas when he's done filling out. Diaz's size, strength and bat speed help him generate plus raw power. He has a sound swing, solid plate patience for his age and good bat-to-ball skills, with a willingness to use the opposite field. Before Diaz signed, scouts often noted that he had trouble tapping into his power against live pitching and turned into a singles hitter in games. That wasn't the case in his pro debut, when he hit five home runs and racked up 13 doubles. Toning down some of the pre-pitch hand movement that contributed to him getting tied up helped him. As Diaz continues to find the right balance between putting the ball in play and driving it for power, he could blow up when it all clicks. Diaz played the outfield as an amateur but the Twins immediately moved him to first base. He's not much of a runner, thrower or athlete, but the Twins like what they've seen from Diaz's defense at first base, where he has solid hands and gives his infielders a big target.
Marcos Diplan, rhp, Brewers
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
When the Rangers went over their bonus pool in 2013-14, one of their key signings was Diplan, who got $1.3 million on July 2 after training with former big league outfielder Luis Polonia and standing out for many teams as the best pitcher In Latin America in 2013. He pitched well in his pro debut, ranking sixth in the league in ERA and helping lead the DSL Rangers to a championship. In January, he became the rare DSL player obtained in a trade when the Rangers sent him along with shortstop Luis Sardinas and righthander Corey Knebel to the Brewers to acquire Yovani Gallardo, with the Brewers having scouted Diplan extensively as an amateur and seeing him pitch again last year in the DSL. Diplan isn't very big, but he has a quick arm and good feel for his secondary pitches. He pitches around 88-93 mph, touches 94-95 and shows flashes of an above-average curveball and a potentially average changeup, mixing his stuff well to keep hitters off balance. Diplan was able to have success in the DSL because of his repertoire, but he needs to throw more strikes. He has herky-jerky mechanics that he doesn't repeat consistently and leads to his wildness, but he has the athleticism and intelligence that should help him make those adjustments. The Rangers had considered having him skip the Rookie-level Arizona League and go to the short-season Northwest League, but the Brewers will wait and see on where they will send him this summer.
Gerson Garabito, rhp, Royals
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2012.
The Royals have brought several pitching prospects through their academy in the Dominican Republic, most of whom were low-investment signings. Yordano Ventura has become a frontline starter and Kelvin Herrera is throwing triple-digit heat in the back of the bullpen, while Miguel Almonte and Pedro Fernandez are top 30 prospects in the farm system. The next one to keep an eye on is Garabito, who signed for $50,000 in September 2012. Garabito improved in his second year in the DSL, showing a quick arm from a conventionally undersized but strong frame. Garabito throws anywhere from 90-95 mph, then backs up his fastball with a curveball that flashes plus and can be a swing-and-miss pitch. He has a changeup too but it's still behind his other two pitches. Garabito's control isn't as good as Ventura's or Herrera's at the same age, so he has to repeat his delivery more often to cut down on his walks and improve his command. His battery mate, Colombian catcher Meibrys Viloria (the cousin of Rockies pitcher and DSL/VSL Top 20 prospect Erick Julio), also stood out as a prospect for his bat when he arrived in the league after opening the year in the Rookie-level Appalachian League.
Erick Julio, rhp, Rockies
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 175. Signed: Colombia, 2013.
Colorado's two big international signings from 2013 played in the DSL last year. One was Carlos Herrera, a Venezuelan shortstop they signed for $1.2 million. He's a quick-twitch athlete with a compact swing and plus speed, but he missed six months last year when he pulled a hamstring. He only played part of the DSL season and wasn't at 100 percent, which hurt his numbers, though he has breakout potential. Julio, who signed for $700,000, looked excellent in his pro debut, showing the poise and polish that helped him stand out as an amateur in Colombia. He's a smart pitcher with good feel for his craft, using his athleticism to help him repeat his delivery and aggressively pound the strike zone. He has average stuff across the board right now but all three pitches show the makings of potential plus offerings in the future. He topped out at 91 mph when he signed and now throws 88-93 mph. WIth his lean, wiry body, there's still lots of room to add strength and keep adding velocity. He throws a sharp downer curveball with good depth and has feel for a solid changeup as well. The Rockies are the most patient organization in baseball when it comes to bringing their players over to the United States, so Julio will likely follow the Antonio Senzatela plan of starting 2015 back in the DSL with a good chance to come over during the season, likely to the Rookie-level Pioneer League.
Edison Lantigua, of, Pirates
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
When the Pirates signed Lantigua last year right after July 2 for $275,000, they were drawn to his swing and natural hitting instincts, and he came as advertised in his pro debut in the DSL. Lantigua, who trained with Joan Cid, has a sweet lefty swing, using his hands well and keeping the barrel on plane with the ball to make frequent contact. He recognizes pitches well for his age, staying calm in the box and rarely getting caught off balance out front. He's a line-drive hitter who does a good job of using the middle of the field. He's mostly a doubles hitter with gap power right now, but he has the frame where more home run sock could come in a few years. The bat is Lantigua's calling card, but his defensive tools have already picked up. When Lantigua signed, his below-average speed and arm strength figured to limit him to left field. Now he's a 45 runner, and while he's never going to be a speedster, he could get a tick faster. His arm has increased from a 40 to a 50, so the Pirates have started using him in right field this offseason after playing him in left field during the DSL.
Jose Martinez, rhp, Twins
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Signed: Venezuela, 2013.
When the Twins signed Martinez for $340,000 in August 2013, he had good size on his lean, athletic frame with long arms and quick arm speed. He topped out in the upper-80s and his secondary pitches were still in their infancy, but he already threw strikes and the physical indicators were there for him to start throwing harder. That's exactly what happened last year, as Martinez saw his velocity spike, his offspeed pitches improved and he filled up the strike zone in an excellent first pro season. Martinez now sits in the low-90s and touches 94 mph. He's still fairly skinny, so there might be a few more ticks left on his fastball. Just as encouraging was the development of Martinez's breaking ball, a slider that flashes above-average potential. His slider is ahead of his changeup, but he's starting to show feel for his changeup to give him the three-pitch mix of a starter. Martinez locates his stuff well and keeps the ball down in the zone, which helps him get groundballs. With his slim build, the Twins will be careful to bring him along slowly.
Yohan Matos, c, Cubs
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 175. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
The Cubs have had a lot of talent come through their academy team in the DSL, with Starlin Castro, Arismendy Alcantara and Welington Castillo all 25-man roster players who passed through the league. They had another prospect prospect there last year in Matos, who signed for $270,000 on July 2, 2013, then showed exciting offensive potential in the DSL. Matos' bat was his calling card when he signed, and he showed that last year by making consistent contact with a good hitting approach for his age, although he's still learning to use the opposite field more often. Matos had gap power when he signed but he's a hard worker who was able to get stronger quickly, which helped increase the exit speed off his bat and led to six home runs in the DSL. Matos has a chance to be an offensive-minded catcher with a good OBP and power for the position. He had only been catching for a couple of years before he signed, but his defense is starting to come along. He's athletic for a catcher and has a plus arm, which helped him erase 43 percent of basestealers. His receiving and game-calling will need more time, but he has the attributes to stick behind the plate.
|2014||Cubs 1 (DSL)||.289||53||194||36||56||9||4||6||39||26||47||7||.378||.469|
Joan Mauricio, ss, Astros
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 168. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
Houston's biggest international bonus in 2013 went to Mauricio, who signed for $600,000 that year on July 2. Mauricio was a skinny kid who could put a surprising charge into the ball from both sides of the plate during BP and had smooth shortstop actions. Other teams had reservations about his bat, but the Astros believed in his contact skills. The had him drop switch-hitting to hit exclusively lefthanded, and Mauricio rewarded their belief in him with a strong DSL season. Mauricio puts together quality at-bats with good pitch recognition for his age. Mauricio weighed about 145 pounds when he was showcasing for teams, got up to 160 by the time he signed and has slowly but steadily bumped up to 168 pounds now. He's still skinny but he's always been able to sting the ball well for his size with good bat speed and loft. Mauricio struggled when he came over to the GCL at the end of the year, but he was gassed at that point. The Astros shut him down from all baseball activities during instructional league and had him focus on getting physically stronger for the demands of a full season. Mauricio's hands and feet work well at shortstop, where he has a good internal clock and projects to stick at the position with improved agility and body control. After getting his feet wet in the GCL last year, Mauricio is advanced enough that he could move up to the Rookie-level Appalachian League or the short-season New York-Penn League.
Jose Medina, of, Indians
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
The Indians had two promising prospects in their DSL outfield. One was Gabriel Mejia, who signed as a shortstop with an above-average arm but moved to center field to take advantage of his 80 speed. He blew away the pack by leading the DSL with 72 stolen bases in 70 games, nearly twice as many steals as the second-place finisher, who had 37. He doesn't know how to read pitchers yet (he also led the league by getting caught 20 times), just stealing bases on pure speed. Mejia tied for the league in walks and showed solid contact skills, mostly putting the ball on the ground to use his wheels with minimal power. Mejia shared an outfield with Medina, who has one of the more unusual signing stories in the game. Eva Dolan, the wife of Indians owner Larry Dolan and mother of chairman Paul Dolan, has a religious foundation in the Dominican Republic. Medina's uncle is a priest for the Catholic church in the Dominican Republic, and through the uncle, Eva Dolan recommended the Indians scouts watch Medina. The Indians' scouts liked what they saw and signed Medina for $20,000 in September 2013. It turned out Dolan helped the team find a real prospect, as Medina made a strong impression with a big year in the DSL. Medina has a good hitting approach, working the count to put together quality at-bats and using the whole field with a high contact rate. He hits the ball hard, shows occasional home run power and tied for third in the league in doubles. With his strong frame, continued physical maturity should turn more of those doubles into home runs. Medina has a good bat and it will have to carry him, since his below-average speed and 45 arm fit best in left field.
Johan Mieses, of, Dodgers
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
The Dodgers sign Mieses for just $40,000 at the end of May right as the 2013 DSL season was starting. He didn't get to start playing that year until August, so he only got into 16 games that year. Returning to the league last year, Mieses immediately stood out as one of the best prospects in the league and a potential bargain for the organization, with a chance for five average or better tools. Mieses has a solid swing and offensive approach, putting the ball in play with loft for a good balance of hitting and power, with slightly above-average raw power. Mieses was a prolific and efficient basestealer with 29 steals in 32 attempts. He's not a true burner, with average speed but good savvy picking his spots and reading pitchers for his age. Mieses spent most of his time in center field but also played right field. He has a chance to stick in center field, with an above-average arm that already is the best in the Dodgers' farm system. In just 53 games he recorded 11 assists, tied for third in the league among outfielder.
Carlos Perez, c, White Sox
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 160. Signed: Venezuela, 2014.
This could get a little confusing. Perez is the younger brother of Angels Triple-A catcher Carlos Perez, who originally signed with the Blue Jays when Marco Paddy, who now runs the White Sox's Latin American scouting, was in charge in Toronto. The younger Perez signed last year for $50,000 after training with his oldest brother, who is also named Carlos Perez, and is a former catcher himself who played in the minors leagues for the Cubs from 2005-08. The youngest Perez brother has an impressive bat and is more advanced than the middle brother was when he signed because he's a better athlete with more strength and catching experience. Perez hit well in his pro debut thanks to a loose, fluid swing with good balance and barrel awareness. He has a knack for centering the baseball and rarely mis-hits a ball, using the whole field with a good hitting approach. Perez is still is growing into his body and the extra-base thump didn't show up in games last year, but there's loft in his swing and he should rack up a lot of doubles with a chance for 8-12 home runs in the future. While his middle brother was an outfielder who converted to catching, Perez came in as a catcher and is already an advanced receiver for his age with an average arm.
|2014||White Sox (DSL)||.305||31||95||10||29||2||0||0||9||7||7||2||.356||.326|
Nicolas Pierre, of, Brewers
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
Pierre was one of the top prospects for July 2 in 2013 when he signed for $800,000 after training with Negro Chal (known as “Aguila") and Nelson Montes de Oca. He's still fairly raw but had a solid debut and showed promising in-game power for a young player. A high-energy player with a tall, wiry frame, Pierre is an explosive athlete with plus speed, getting good jumps off the bat to play a quality center field. Pierre has a lot of room to add size and strength, but with his athleticism and clean running gait, he has a chance to maintain his speed and stick in center field. He has a promising power-speed combination if it all comes together. He cranked six home runs last year, with a quick swing that has loft and leverage. He's still learning to develop a good hitting approach, as he's prone to expanding the strike zone and is a pull-oriented hitter. The game power is unusual for his age, especially for a player at a premium position, with an offensive profile of power over pure hitting and OBP. There's a chance he even jumps to Rookie-level Helena this year, though the Rookie-level Arizona League would be a more typical next step.
Victor Robles, of, Nationals
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
Robles was Washington's second-biggest international signing in 2013, when he signed for $225,000 on July 2. He was an exciting player with a lot of tools, but he's elevated his prospect status by showing he can also perform in games. Robles is an explosive athlete with premium tools. His speed and arm strength are both 70 tools, so he has all the ingredients to be a plus defender in center field. Robles showed a sound hitting approach with good pitch recognition for his age and made contact at a high rate last year. He has good bat speed and emerging power that's already showing up in games, with the speed to leg out triples and be a basestealing threat. Robles is a high-energy player who plays the game with intensity, and there are times when he can try to do too much, but his tools and ability to translate those tools into the game are already beyond his years.
Orlando Romero, rhp, Rays
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Signed: Venezuela, 2013.
The Rays went into the maximum penalty range during the inaugural year of the bonus pools in 2012-13, which meant they weren't allowed to sign anyone for more than $250,000 during the 2013-14 signing period. So they went to their limit to sign Romero for $250,000 from Ricardo Petit when the 2013-14 period opened in July. At the time, Romero had a projectable, wide-shouldered frame with a fastball that sat 88-92 mph and touched 93. Fourth months later, Romero went to pitch the Liga Paralela, and his velocity spiked to 93-95 mph and peaking at 97. Romero maintained that same velocity last year in the VSL, then came over to the GCL for a few appearances at the end of the season after making a strong impression on team officials. Between his fastball and a hard curveball into the low-80s, Romero has power stuff, but he's still learning to harness his relatively newfound velocity. He has a solid delivery for his age, so his pitchability and command could come around to allow him to remain a starter as he moves up.
Ali Sanchez, c, Mets
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 175. Signed: Venezuela, 2013.
After Dominican outfielder Ricardo Cespedes, the second-biggest signing for the Mets in 2013 was Sanchez, who got $690,000 that year on July 2 after training with Yhonson Lopez. Sanchez had plenty of experience behind the plate when he signed and stood out for his advanced catch-and-throw skills, which he showed by throwing out 51 percent of basestealers in the DSL. He doesn't have a cannon, with a 45 to 50 arm on the 20-80 scale, but his extremely quick release makes it play up a grade, with a chance for more arm strength coming. He has soft hands, good footwork and is an advanced receiver for his age. He's a calm, cerebral player with a high baseball IQ and a knack for slowing the game down, both behind the plate and in the batter's box. Sanchez entered pro ball with a contact-oriented swing, keeping his hands inside with an inside-out approach, but some scouts were skeptical of his bat. He had his hands set up low and would drag the barrel through the zone, working the ball the opposite way, but Mets coaches helped him get his hands higher. That adjustment has allowed him to whip the bat head through the zone and get extension, which has helped him start to pull the ball with more authority. He had a strong year at the plate, making consistent contact with a patient approach and occasional power, with a chance to grow into a 10-15 home run threat in the future.
Vicente Sanchez, of, Astros
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
For the last two years, the Astros have had the biggest international bonus pool of any team in baseball, which has helped inject a promising layer of young Latin American talent into the lower levels of the system. They didn't need any financial advantages to sign Sanchez last year in February, paying just $62,500 to add a player who has quickly become one of the most exciting prospects they have signed in that span. Sanchez, who trained with Negro Chal (known as “Aguila"), is a talented hitter with a sweet lefty swing, showing good bat speed and a clean swing path. He's a smart hitter with an advanced approach, maintaining rhythm and balance at the plate with good plate discipline and bat-to-ball skills. Sanchez isn't tall, but he has a strong, wiry frame. The ball jumps off his bat with good exit speed and surprising over-the-fence pop, with nearly as many home runs (5) as doubles and triples combined (6). Sanchez isn't a burner but he's an athletic center fielder with solid-average speed and a tick below-average arm. With his bat, he has a chance to progress quickly through the system.
|2014||Astros Orange (DSL)||.281||32||121||30||34||3||3||5||30||22||23||7||.390||.479|
Luis Terrero, of/2b, Rangers
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2012.
After signing with the Rangers for $75,000 in August 2012 from La Academia, Terrero had a steady debut in the DSL in 2013. Repeating the league last season, Terrero showed promising improvements, both in his performance (he ranked fourth in the DSL in batting average) and his tools that have come along with more physical maturity. Terrero has a strong, compact frame along the lines of Juan Uribe, which makes his speed all the more surprising. He was an average runner when he signed but is now showing plus speed, which makes him a stolen-base threat. His offensive approach took a step forward last year as he put together quality at-bats with solid plate discipline for his age, although with minimal game power right now. Terrero is an offensive-minded player who's still in search of a position. Terrero signed as a shortstop and in 2013 he spent most of his time there and at third base. Last year the Rangers mostly had him in left field, but he saw time at second base as well. In a perfect-world scenario he would be able to bring his defense along to stay in the infield, either at second base or probably third base. In some ways he's similar to a righthanded version of Odubel Herrera, the bat-first player the Rangers signed out of Venezuela in 2008 who is now in Philadelphia after the Phillies kept him as a Rule 5 draft pick.
|2014||Rangers 2 (DSL)||.333||11||45||8||15||4||1||0||3||4||2||2||.423||.467|
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