2018-19 International Reviews: Cleveland Indians
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: 33
The top international prospect the Indians added last year was Gabriel Rodriguez, a 17-year-old shortstop from Venezuela who signed on July 2 after training with Javier Mendoza. Rodriguez is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds and was one of the most advanced hitters in the 2018 class. A baseball rat, Rodriguez compiled an impressive track record of hitting in games as an amateur, including as the shortstop for Venezuela's COPABE 15U Pan American Championships team in Colombia in 2017. He recognizes pitches well, controls the strike zone and has a knack for barreling balls with a short swing from the right side. It's a simple stroke with good balance and bat speed, helping him square up high-end velocity. He has an advanced, all-fields approach, makes consistent hard contact and could develop into a plus hitter. As Rodriguez has gotten stronger, that has helped him hold his posture better in his swing, with his power growing to near average and potential 20-plus home run pop in the future. Rodriguez's best tool is his bat, with his future position still in question, as a lot of scouts expected him to move to third base. His hands, instincts, arm and body control all fit at shortstop, but Rodriguez is a fringe-average runner whose first-step quickness and range will have to get better to stay at the position. Some of it will probably depend on how Rodriguez develops physically, which so far has been a positive sign.
The Indians paid $1.25 million to sign 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Junior Sanquintin on July 2. Sanquintin likely changes positions soon, but he has excellent bat speed from both sides of the plate. There's strength in his swing to drive the ball out of the park in batting practice, with the physical projection (6 feet, 185 pounds) to develop plus raw power. The Indians saw Sanquintin hit well in games as an amateur, though other clubs saw an aggressive approach that will need to become more selective, with a high swing-and-miss rate on pitches in and out of the strike zone. Sanquintin's value is in what he brings offensively, as he's still a rough defender. A lot of clubs projected him as a future corner outfielder, though he has made progress defensively with a chance to play third base with more work. Sanquintin trained with Wilkin Ramirez and Jaime Ramos.
Jesus Lara, a 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop who trained in the same program as Rodriguez, signed with the Indians on July 2. He has a smaller, compact build (5-foot-8, 150 pounds) and consistently performed at a high level in games as an amateur. He's continued to hit well against live pitching since signing, using his hands well in his righthanded swing with great barrel control with low strikeouts. Lara has a hit-over-power profile, but he has good bat speed and can drive the ball into the gaps. Lara's bat is his carrying tool, and while he has quick actions and a chance to stay at shortstop, a lot of scouts felt his range and fringe-average arm would fit better at second base.
Dominican outfielder Sterling Romero signed with the Indians for $650,000 on July 2 after training with Mon. He's a slender (5-foot-10, 150 pounds) lefthanded outfielder with 60 or better speed and a near average arm, projecting as a true center fielder. Romero impressed the Indians with his speed, athleticism and contact skills. He doesn't project to have much power, though as he's gained strength he's gone from a slap hitter to starting to put more balls in the gaps.
The Indians signed 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Angel Martinez for $500,000 on July 2. Martinez is the son of Sandy Martinez, who spent parts of eight seasons in the big leagues as a catcher, mostly with the Blue Jays and Cubs, and is now the Dominican Summer League manager and Dominican field coordinator for the Nationals. Angel's older brother, Sandy Martinez Jr., is an 18-year-old catcher with the D-backs who played in the Arizona League last year. No surprise, Angel's baseball savvy on the field is well beyond his years. Other shortstops in the class have more quick-twitch explosion, but Martinez is a fundamentally sound player in all areas. He has good strike-zone judgment and a simple stroke from both sides, making frequent contact and spraying line drives to all fields with doubles power. A 45 runner, Martinez is a steady defender with a good internal clock and a solid-average arm, though his range may be better suited at second base. Martinez trained with Niche.
Jose Baez, the younger brother of Indians infielder Jose Ramirez, signed with Cleveland for $200,000. Baez turned 16 on Aug. 30, so had he been born two days later, he would have been a 2019 player. Instead, Baez signed soon after he became eligible and will play all year as a 16-year-old. While his older brother has a more stout, compact build, Baez has a lankier build at 5-foot-9, 145 pounds and a good swing from both sides of the plate. Baez is behind some of the bigger-dollar signings in the class in terms of physical strength, but his baseball bloodlines show in his overall game savvy and awareness on the field. His has soft hands at shortstop, though he might end up moving around to second or third base. Baez trained with Mon.
The Indians have a couple of notable lower-dollar signings to keep an eye on. One is Dayan Frias, a 16-year-old Colombian shortstop who trained with Orlando Cabrera and landed an $80,000 bonus on July 2. He's small (5-foot-7, 140 pounds) so he's behind his peers in terms of strength, but he's a savvy, high-baseball IQ player with excellent hands at shortstop and a sound swing path from both sides of the plate with a knack for putting the ball in play.
Another sleeper, Henyer Gomez, is a Dominican shortstop who turned 16 on Aug. 26 and signed soon after for $40,000 after training with Quico Pena. Gomez is another smaller-framed (5-foot-7, 145 pounds) switch-hitter with a similar profile to Frias, a good athlete who stands out more for his feel for the game than his raw tools.
2019 MiLB Best Tools
As voted on by minor league managers and their coaching staffs, here are the players with the best tools in each minor league in 2019.
See also: 2017-18 Indians International Review (Notable prospects George Valera, Bryan Rocchio, Aaron Bracho)
See also: 2016-17 Indians International Review (Notable prospect Carlos Vargas)
See also: 2015-16 Indians International Review (Notable prospect Luis Oviedo)
See also: 2014-15 Indians International Review (Notable prospect Oscar Gonzalez)
See also: 2013-2014 Indians International Review (Notable prospect Yu Chang, Willi Castro)
See also: 2012-13 Indians International Review (Notable prospect Francisco Mejia)
See also: 2011-12 AL Central International Review