2018-19 International Reviews: Colorado Rockies
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: 39
Warming Bernabel is a 16-year-old third baseman the Rockies signed out of the Dominican Republic for $900,000 on July 2 after training with Mon. He's an offensive-minded player who some scouts considered one of the top hitters in the 2018 class. Bernabel sets up with a wide base, no stride and takes a short, handsy swing from the right side. He has discerning approach at the plate, swinging at good pitches with the patience to draw walks to get on base. Bernabel handles fastballs well and has the pitch recognition skills to identify offspeed pitches too. As an amateur, Bernabel showed mostly doubles power, but added strength has helped him start to drive the ball with more impact. If he's able to generate more separation and torque in his swing, more power could come down the road. Bernabel worked out for clubs as a shortstop, but the Rockies moved him to third base. He's a below-average runner whose range fits better at third base, where he has the reactions, arm strength and offensive potential to fit.
Another Dominican shortstop, Pedro Mota also signed with the Rockies for $900,000 on July 2. While Bernabel stood out more for his hitting acumen and baseball IQ, Mota, 17, has a more explosive tool set, albeit without as much polish. At 6-foot-1, 160 pounds, Mota is a wiry strong, quick-twitch athlete whose speed and arm strength are both plus. He has the tools, athleticism and hands to play shortstop, although his skill set would fit in center field as well. Like a lot of bouncy young shortstops, Mota can play out of control at times, both in the field and at the plate, though he should be able to slow things down with experience. He's a righthanded hitter with a fast bat and gap power, with the bat speed and strength projection for those doubles to turn into more over-the-fence power in the next few years. Mota trained with Aguila.
A third Dominican shortstop key to Colorado's 2018-19 signing class, Juan Guerrero got $650,000 on July 2 after training with Juan Rodriguez and Policar. Guerrero looks a bit unorthodox in the batter's box and in the field, but he consistently hit well in games as an amateur and has continued to do so since signing. He's 6-foot-1, 160 pounds with a knack for barreling balls. He doesn't stand out in batting practice for huge power or the most conventional swing, but against live pitching, he has good rhythm and timing with the bat control and plate coverage to consistently find the sweet spot. He has a line-drive, all-fields approach and makes adjustments with two strikes, showing a solid sense of the strike zone for his age. A slightly above-average runner, Guerrero has the power to pull a ball out of the park occasionally, with the bat speed and strength projection for average or better power in the future. Some scouts liked Guerrero's chances to stay at shortstop, where he has a strong arm, good instincts and athleticism, looking better in games than he does in a workout environment relative to smoother, more fluid shortstops his age. Other scouts thought he would fit better at second base or possibly third, with center field another backup option if he retains his speed, but he should get a lot of opportunity to develop first as a middle infielder.
The Rockies signed 17-year-old Venezuelan righthander Ronald Pereira on July 2. Pereira is 6-foot-2, 160 pounds, a projectable frame that should help him add to an 86-90 mph fastball once he puts on weight. Pereira stood out more for his physical projection than his present pure stuff, with a fairly easy delivery and feel for throwing strikes with all three of his pitches, including a solid curveball and changeup for his age. Pereira trained with Alexi Quiroz.
The Rockies signed Dominican outfielder Mishael Deson for $350,000 when he turned 16 on July 7. Deson stood out for his physical upside and chance to stay in center field. He's added about 15 pounds since signing and is now up to 6-foot-3, 170 pounds. He still has a lanky frame, with a lot of space to fill out and a chance for his tools to jump once that happens. He glides around center field with easy actions and average speed. It's tricky to project players getting faster, but given Deson's youth, running gait and physical projection, some scouts think he could run plus in the future. Deson isn't a polished hitter, but he has the strength projection to hit for big power if everything clicks, with Deson already flashing home run juice in games.
Colorado also gave $350,000 to Michael James, a 17-year-old Dominican shortstop, on July 2. He's an athletic, 5-foot-11, 170 pounds with plus speed, soft hands and smooth defense at shortstop. Some scouts think he has the tools for shortstop, though some think his defensive actions around the bag would fit better at second base. He's a lefthanded hitter with a sound swing and an approached geared toward hitting line drives around the field with doubles pop, showing more thump in games than he does in batting practice. James trained with Luis Scheker.
Adael Amador, Yanquiel Fernandez Add To Growing Strength Of Rockies Farm System
Ever so quietly, a steady stream of talent is making its way up the lower levels of the Rockies system.
Another shortstop, Aiverson Rodriguez signed with the Rockies on July 2 after training with Jose Bellorin in Venezuela. Rodriguez, who turned 17 yesterday, stood out more for his instincts and game savvy than his raw tools. He's 6 feet, 170 pounds and played all over the field, playing fundamentally sound baseball in all areas of the game, with a line-drive stroke and gap power from the right side. Given his size, intelligence and solid arm strength, some scouts thought Rodriguez would be a catching conversion candidate, though he's going to play this year as a shortstop.
Angel Chivilli, who signed for $200,000 shortly after turning 16 at the end of July, is a Dominican righthander trending up. He has a projectable, athletic build (6-foot-2, 165 pounds) with an easy delivery and a loose, quick arm. Signed as a prolific strike-thrower with an 86-90 mph fastball, Chivilli has been up to 92 mph since then, with the projection indicators of a pitcher who could eventually reach the upper 90s. His changeup is advanced for his age and is ahead of his curveball, which morphs into a slider-like pitch at times. Chivilli trained with El Niche.
Venezuelan righthander Yeferson Pantoja, 17, signed with the Rockies on July 2. He's tall and lanky at 6-foot-3, 165 pounds, throwing 86-89 mph with a changeup that's ahead of his curveball. He's a projection arm who could throw harder once he gains weight, since right now he's physically behind other pitchers his age in terms of strength.
One smaller signing to keep an eye on is Venezuelan righthander Manuel Oliveras, who joined the Rockies in July. Oliveras, 17, signed at 5-foot-11, 145 pounds, filling the strike zone with good pitchability despite a lack of strength. Since signing, he's grown an inch or two, gotten stronger and has seen his stuff level up, throwing 88-91 mph with the arm speed suggesting there's more velocity coming. He throws a curveball and a changeup that he repeats his delivery on to disguise them well and land them in the zone.