International Reviews: Arizona Diamondbacks
Top signing: OF Richard Caraballo, Venezuela, $225,000. Total signings: 55.
The Diamondbacks’ decision to sign Cuban righthander Yoan Lopez has proven costly. Lopez signed for $8.26 million in January 2015, putting the Diamondbacks over their 2014-15 bonus pool. Lopez has struggled in the minors, while the Diamondbacks as a penalty for exceeding their pool were unable to sign any player subject to the pools for more than $300,000 in the 2015-16 or 2016-17 signing period. Expect them to be more aggressive to secure top talent this year when the 2017-18 period opens on July 2.
Arizona gave $225,000 to 16-year-old Venezuelan center fielder Richard Caraballo in July from Dennis Leonett. Caraballo’s tools improved throughout the signing process and he has become a well-rounded player. At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Caraballo is athletic with above-average speed and arm strength. He has the ability to play center field right now, though depending how his body develops, it’s possible he could end up in right field. Caraballo shows a sound swing from the right side with a line-drive approach and gap power, but with his strength projection, he could grow into average or better power.
Sandy Martinez racked up 611 plate appearances over eight seasons as a catcher in the major leagues from 1995-2004, spending most of his career with the Blue Jays and Cubs, including 1998 when he caught Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game. His son, Sandy Martinez Jr., is also a Dominican catcher who signed with the Diamondbacks for $225,000 on July 2. Martinez, 16, has a big frame (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and has a chance to be a power-hitting catcher from the right side of the plate. Martinez has a strong arm, though despite his father’s pedigree, Martinez will need to work to bring along his receiving and blocking. Martinez trained with Christian Batista, known as “Niche.”
The Diamondbacks signed 17-year-old Dominican center fielder Ismael Jaime for $225,000 on July 2. Jaime is a 6-foot, 180-pound lefty who drew the Diamondbacks’ attention for his defense, swing and all-around baseball instincts. He’s a plus runner with good range in center field. In the box, the Diamondbacks saw a short swing with a lot of contact and the ability to use the whole field with gap power. Eduardo Herrera, who signed for $150,000 in July, is a defensive-minded catcher from Venezuela. Herrera, 17, is on the smaller side (5-foot-9, 155 pounds), with his above-average arm his best tool. He’s a smart player who fields his position well and is a switch-hitter, but his bat will need time to catch up to his glove.
Dominican outfielder Yordani Santana signed with the Diamondbacks for $110,000 on July 2. At 17, Santana is a huge, physical frame (6-foot-5, 200 pounds) with a chance to hit for big power. A corner outfielder, Santana flashes above-average raw power in batting practice, though he will have to make adjustments to cut down on swing-and-miss for the power to show up with more frequency when he faces live pitching. The Diamondbacks signed 17-year-old Venezuelan righthander Jose Martinez for $100,000 on July 2. He’s 6-foot-1, 175 pounds with good arm strength, reaching the low-90s. He’s still learning how to control where it’s going and become more pitcher than thrower as he tries to pick up his secondary stuff.
Dominican outfielder Rafael Jimenez signed for $100,000 in August. Jimenez, 17, has an extra-large frame at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds and stands out for his power. Jimenez is a lefthanded hitter who can hit the ball over the fence to all fields. He’s likely to start his career as a corner outfielder, though he’s so big that first base could be in his future.
Ezequiel de la Cruz is an 18-year-old Dominican lefty the Diamondbacks signed for $100,000 in October. He was one of the most promising arms the organization added out of Latin American last year. De la Cruz is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds and was touching 91 mph when he signed and has since climbed to 93, with the physical projection to throw in the mid-90s. He projects as a starter because he has feel for a three-pitch mix, including a sharp-breaking curveball that gets swing-and-miss and a changeup with good action. The Diamondbacks were also one of the most aggressive teams in baseball last year signing players from Mexico.
One of their signings was 22-year-old righthander Carlos Bustamante, a 6-foot, 190-pound reliever from Puebla who has reached 95 mph, complementing his fastball with a splitter, slider and changeup. He posted a 4.24 ERA in 51 innings with 39 strikeouts and 19 walks last year in the Mexican League.
Miguel Aguilar, 25, is a 25-year-old lefty reliever who pitched for Yucatan and had a 2.08 ERA with a 31-13 K-BB mark in 30.1 innings last season. He pitches off a low-90s fastball with a changeup, slider and curveball in his repertoire.
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Among younger Mexican signings, the Diamondbacks added 20-year-old outfielder Bryan Araiza, who played for Mexico in the U-23 World Cup. After signing, Araiza played for Missoula in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, batting .254/.323/.364 in 32 games. He’s 6-foot-2, 190 pounds with a sound swing from the right side and a chance to grow more than his present gap power once he gets stronger, with solid-average defense in right field. Prior to July 2 during the 2015-16 signing period, the Diamondbacks also signed Francis Beriguete last year in January for $140,000. Beriguete, an 18-year-old Dominican lefthander, didn’t pitch much in the Dominican Summer League in 2016 due to an issue with his shoulder, but he has reached the low-90s, with the Diamondbacks liking his fastball command and feel for his curveball when he signed.