2016-17 International Reviews: Los Angeles Dodgers
Top 2016-17 signing: SS Albert Suarez, Dominican Republic, $300,000.
Total signings: 34.
During the 2015-16 signing period, the Dodgers invested around $97 million between signing bonuses and tax money on international prospects subject to the bonus pools. Much of that money went toward signing three Cuban players--righthander Yadier Alvarez, outfielder Yusniel Diaz and second baseman Omar Estevez--and doesn't include the six-year, $30 million deal they gave Cuban righthander Yaisel Sierra, who was exempt from the pools. Not long after that signing period opened, the Dodgers also fired vice president of international scouting Bob Engle, Latin American scouting coordinator Patrick Guerrero and the majority of their international scouting staff.
In the organization's first year (2016-17) under the international direction of Ismael Cruz, the Dodgers were under the penalty and couldn't sign anyone for more than $300,000. Since the 2016-17 signing period opened, they gave a $300,000 bonus to one player, 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Albert Suarez, on July 2. Suarez is a true shortstop and one of the best defenders at the position in the 2016 class. Though small and frail at 5-foot-11, 150 pounds, Suarez doesn't have the physicality of fellow Dodgers shortstop Ronny Brito but he is a more polished fielder, with excellent hands and footwork, quick reactions and good instincts. He's a smart player with average speed and an average arm that could become plus once he gets stronger and already plays up because of his quick release. The question mark on Suarez is his bat, largely because he has so little strength right now. He has a smooth lefty stroke with good hitting mechanics and makes a lot of contact but with little damage, as he's a spray hitter with minimal power. Suarez will never be a power hitter, but his physical development the next few years will be important for his offensive game to progress. Suarez trained with Juan Rodriguez.
The Dodgers gave six figures to two other players last year once the 2016-17 signing period opened, including $130,000 for Dominican shortstop Luis Diaz in August out of Wilton Guerrero's program. Diaz, 17, is 5-foot-11, 170 pounds with the opposite skill set of Suarez, standing out more for his physical strength, bat and chance to develop average raw power. He's an offensive-minded player who will split time between shortstop and third base this year, likely fitting best at third base. He has a plus arm but will need to focus on his range and footwork.
In August the Dodgers also signed 17-year-old Venezuelan righthander Aldry Acosta for $120,000. He shows starter ingredients with a big frame (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) and feel for three pitches. His fastball has good sink and has touched 93, while his slider is a potential out pitch and he shows ability to manipulate a changeup at times when he keeps the ball down.
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Before the clock expired on their near $100 million signing class of 2015-16, the Dodgers made several other signings, most notably Cuban outfielder/first baseman Yordan Alvarez for $2 million when the signing period closed on June 15. Alvarez never played a game for the Dodgers though, as they quickly traded him to the Astros two weeks later for righthander Josh Fields.
Last year in February, the Dodgers signed Mexican righthander Oscar Arzaga for $300,000. Unlike the overwhelming majority of players major league teams sign from Mexico, Arzaga was not with a Mexican League team, instead signing out of the academy run by Edgar Gonzalez, the brother of Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. After signing, Arzaga went to the Rookie-level Arizona League and posted a 4.00 ERA and a 26-16 K-BB mark in 36 innings. Arzaga, 18, is 6-foot-4, 200 pounds with broad shoulders and a power arm, touching the low-90s when he signed but having since reaching 96 mph. His feel for pitching isn't as advanced as some of the top pitching prospects who have come from Mexico in recent years, so he's still honing his command and defining his secondary pitches, with his changeup more advanced than his breaking ball.
Another $300,000 signing, 18-year-old Dominican righthander Dalwyn Lantigua, is the nephew of Pablo Lantigua, the former Red Sox scout who trained him. After signing in April, the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Lantigua posted a 3.34 ERA in 29 2/3 innings with 18 strikeouts and 13 walks as a reliever in the Dominican Summer League. The Dodgers liked his fastball/slider combination, with his fastball up to 92 mph, and a chance he could transition to a starting role next year having had more time to get acclimated to the organization.
Carlos Alejo, another Dominican righthander signed for $300,000 in April, has already seen his stock increase. Alejo, 17, signed at 6-foot-1, 165 pounds with a heavy fastball that touched 93 mph. Since then, his velocity has climbed to reach 98. Alejo has a quick arm and is a good athlete who has shown feel for an upper-70s breaking ball, but he's still learning to maintain his body control in his delivery and become more than just a hard thrower. Alejo had a 4.50 ERA with 19 strikeouts and 10 walks in 24 innings mostly in relief last year in the DSL. He trained with Chiqui Mejia.
Just before the DSL season started in May, the Dodgers added 19-year-old Dominican lefty Jose Hernandez, who trained with Javier Rodriguez, for $200,000. He had a 6.75 ERA and an 11-8 K-BB mark in 9 1/3 innings in the DSL, but the Dodgers liked Hernandez's ability to throw strikes with a fastball up to 92 mph and a tight slider from a 6-foot-3, 170-pound build