International Reviews: Arizona Diamondbacks
Top signing: OF Jesus Munoz and Esmerlin Gonzalez, Dominican Republic, $300,000 each.
Total signings: 48.
It was surprising when the Diamondbacks signed Cuban righthander Yoan Lopez for an $8.26 million last year in January, for a few reasons. Lopez had a good arm, but wasn’t considered a premium prospect, and by signing him, the Diamondbacks went over their 2014-15 bonus pool. That meant they would be in the penalty box for two years unable to sign any pool-eligible players for more than $300,000 beginning last year on July 2, which meant a big sacrifice for a team that had the biggest 2015-16 bonus pool in baseball at $5,393,900. Up until that point, they were viewed as the heavy favorites to sign players for July 2 in the $1 million territory, deals that obviously never came to fruition given their penalty.
While the Diamondbacks did trade away some of their pool space, they still signed eight players to six-figure deals, including 17-year-old Dominican outfielder Jesus Munoz for $300,000 on July 2. Munoz, 17, has a skinny 6-foot-, 160-pound frame, impressing the Diamondbacks with his ability to hit from the left side with the speed and athleticism to play center field. He has gap power now, which should increase as he gets stronger. He’s a plus runner with good range and a strong arm in the outfield. Munoz trained with Amauris Nina and played in the International Prospect League.
The Diamondbacks also signed Esmerlin Gonzalez for $300,000 out of the Dominican Republic. Gonzalez, who played in the IPL and trained with Juan Herrera, is an 18-year-old who was eligible to sign in 2014 but went unsigned until last year. At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Gonzalez, had had been switch-hitting with uneven game performance, but now is exclusively a lefthanded hitter, with the Diamondbacks drawn to him for his bat with gap power. He’s an average runner with a strong arm but didn’t look comfortable at shortstop, he’s mostly going to play center and left field with some time possibly at second base this year in the Dominican Summer League. Arizona’s No. 13 prospect is Wei-Chieh Huang, a righthander who pitched in low Class A Kane County last year and signed with them out of Taiwan for $450,000 in 2014.
The Diamondbacks signed another righthander from Taiwan last year, giving 20-year-old Kai-Wei Lin a $250,000 bonus in July. Lin isn’t as advanced of a prospect as Huang, relying more on pitchability than stuff. He’s 5-foot-11, 165 pounds with an 88-92 mph fastball, fringy to average breaking stuff and a changeup as well. Lin throws strikes and has to rely on keeping hitters off balance rather than being able to overpower anyone.
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The 2019 first-rounder out of high school had already improved his stuff and physicality at January instructional league.
Jasrado Chisholm is an 18-year-old shortstop from the Bahamas who signed for $200,000 in July. He’s a half brother of Lucius Fox, the shortstop who signed with the Giants for $6 million last year. Chisholm is a little older than the traditional July 2 signings, so he’s already in Arizona for spring training and should stay there for the Rookie-level Arizona League or possibly head to Rookie-level Missoula for the Pioneer League. The Diamondbacks liked his instincts, speed, hands and defense at shortstop, along with his lefthanded bat with gap power from his 5-foot-11, 165-pound frame.
Dominican righthander Carlos de la Cruz, 17, signed for $150,000 on July 2 after training with Jose Hasim. De la Cruz is a projectable 6-foot-4, 180 pounds with a quick arm. With a lot of room to add weight, he could potentially add a fastball that’s up to 93 mph and become a power arm, with his curveball more advanced than his changeup.
Another Dominican righthander, Bryan Ozuna, is already a power arm, touching 97 mph already when he signed for $125,000 in July. Ozuna is older though, having turned 22 in March, 16. He’s a sturdy 6-foot-1, 215 pounds with a big fastball but needs to work on his breaking ball and his command. Ozuna was with Alfredo Arias.
The Diamondbacks also signed 18-year-old Dominican righthander Geraldo Sanchez for $115,000 on July 2. He has a compact frame at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds with heavy action on his 88-92 mph fastball. Sanchez impressed the Diamondbacks with his feel for his curveball and changeup as well as his ability to command his pitches for his age, so he has a chance to start in the AZL.
In September, the Diamondbacks signed 22-year-old Cuban outfielder Pedro Marquez for $160,000. Marquez played sparingly for Cienfuegos in Serie Nacional, batting .313/.370/.493 in 21 games split over two seasons. When Marquez played in Cuba’s 18U national league in 2012, he hit just .240/.303/.310 in 142 plate appearances with nine walks, 17 strikeouts, no home runs and two stolen bases in five attempts. The Diamondbacks saw a switch-hitter with athleticism and plus speed and solid power in a 5-foot-11, 190-pound center fielder.