2018-19 International Reviews: Arizona D-backs
This is part of Ben Badler's 2018-19 International Reviews series chronicling all the moves made by teams on the international market over the prior year. To see all 30 teams, click here.
Total 2018 (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2018) signings: 58
Arizona's top international signing last year was Alvin Guzman, a 17-year-old center fielder from the Dominican Republic who got $1.85 million on July 2 after training with Alfredo Arias. Guzman stood out for his athleticism, defense at a premium position and physical upside for his tools to jump once he gets stronger. He's 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, with a high waist on a thin, lean build. He's a fast-burst athlete with plus speed, gliding around center field with good defensive instincts. His best tool is his arm, which is at least a plus tool and tickles a 70 on the 20-80 scale, giving him the attributes of a potentially plus defender. A righthanded hitter, Guzman isn't raw at the plate, but he's not a pure hitter either. He lacks strength right now, so he tends to get quick with his front hip and lunges out early trying to yank balls to generate power, which throws off his timing. Getting stronger could help him hold better hitting position and improve his balance. When he's in sync and trusts his hands, he hits hard line drives around the park with occasional home run power to his pull side. Guzman went to Arizona for instructional league last year, although he's expected to debut this year in the Dominican Summer League.
Shumpei Yoshikawa is a 24-year-old Japanese righthander the D-Backs signed for $650,000 and counts against their 2018-19 international bonus pool. He pitched in the Japanese industrial leagues. He's 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, throws strikes with a low-90s fastball and keeps hitters off balance with an above-average changeup, mixing in a solid slider and an occasional curveball as well.
The D-backs also signed one of the top Venezuelan pitchers in the 2018 class, righthander Abraham Calzadilla. He projects as a starter with good arm action, an easy delivery and an advanced mix of stuff and pitchability for a 17-year-old. At 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, Calzadilla is an athletic pitcher with the body control to repeat his delivery well, throwing a lot of strikes with his fastball to both sides of the plate. He sits at 88-91 mph and has reached 92 mph, with mid-90s velocity likely in his future once he adds strength. Calzadilla could develop three average or better pitches. His curveball is already an average pitch with plus potential, generating awkward swings from hitters with good depth and tight spin. Calzadilla's curveball is his best secondary weapon, but he also shows feel for a promising, low-80s changeup that should improve once he starts throwing it more. Calzadilla trained with Robert Perez.
One of the top lefties in the 2018 class, Diomede Sierra signed with the D-backs out of the Dominican Republic for $425,000 on July 2 after training in the Mejia Top 10 program. Sierra, 17, is a lean, 6-foot-2, 170 pounds and stood out for his athleticism and fast arm. His fastball ranges from 88-93 mph, with the arm speed and physical projection to throw in the mid-90s eventually. Sierra's fastball is his best pitch, but he throws a slider that flashes average now and has a chance to tick up. He's primarily a fastball/slider pitcher, so developing a changeup will be important to give him a third pitch. He throws across his body and recoils at the finish of his delivery, with some bullpen risk in his profile, but Sierra's athleticism helps him repeat his mechanics to be a solid strike-thrower for his age.
Venezuelan shortstop Luis Rubio signed with the D-backs on July 2. Rubio is a hard-nosed player who stood out in games more than in workouts, with experience representing his country in the 2017 COPABE 15U Pan American Championship in Cartagena, Colombia. He's 5-foot-10, 155 pounds and hit well in games in Venezuela from the right side of the plate with a line-drive approach and gap power. Rubio doesn't have the quickness or explosion of other shortstops in the class, with a below-average arm that's probably better suited for second base, but he's a fundamentally sound defender with good hands and instincts. He trained with Vampirin.
Cristian Estrella, 17, is a lefthanded outfielder from the Dominican Republic who the D-backs signed for $300,000 on July 2. He's 6-foot-1, 175 pounds and was one of the most advanced hitters Arizona signed last year, with a loose, easy swing and a chance to grow into power once he gets stronger. He's an offensive-oriented player who projects as a corner outfielder. Estrella trained with Alfredo Arias.
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Dominican shortstop Teofilo Mendez, 17, signed with the D-backs for $200,000 on July 2 after training with Ezequiel. Mendez hit well while playing in the Dominican Prospect League, showing a quick swing with good hand-eye coordination from the right side. At 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Mendez showed sneaky pop on occasion, including a home run in a game when the DPL went to Florida in October 2017. An average runner, Mendez will need to clean up his defensive actions, profiling as a potentially offensive-minded second baseman.
Jeferson Espinal, who trained in the Mejia Top 10 program, is a 16-year-old, lefthanded outfielder from the Dominican Republic who got $200,000 on July 2. At 6 feet, 180 pounds, Espinal is an outstanding athlete with burner speed, a 70 runner who has a chance to be a plus defender in center field. He's mostly a speed and defense player right now whose bat will need time to catch up.
Another defensive-oriented player, 16-year-old Venezuelan catcher Ricardo Caldalera, signed with the D-backs on July 2 after training with Josxier Barrios. He has a good build (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) and athleticism for a catcher, handling himself well behind the plate with a plus arm.
Dairon Cuevas, 16, is a Dominican shortstop the D-backs signed for $125,000 on July 2. He has an athletic, projectable frame (6-foot-1, 155 pounds) and endears himself to coaches with his hard-nosed, hyper-competitive mentality. He's an average runner with soft hands and good defensive actions. Cuevas signed as a switch-hitter, but at Dominican instructional league he dropped the lefty swing to focus on hitting righthanded exclusively.
One under-the-radar player the D-backs added to their class last year was Daniel Torres, a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop who signed on July 2. Torres didn't have a high profile training in Venezuela, but he has a promising combination of hitting ability, tools and all-around instincts for the game. He's 5-foot-9, 150 pounds with a short, compact swing from the right side and was Arizona's top offensive performer in the Tricky League, an informal league for July 2 signings. Torres doesn't have much power, but he has good bat-to-ball skills with a line-drive approach. He's also a plus runner with a 55-60 arm and good hands, giving him a good chance to stick at shortstop.