Image credit: (Photo by Tom DiPace)
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 2018-19 signings: 16
With former international director Albert Gonzalez leaving to become an assistant general manager for the Royals after the 2017 season, the Marlins went through their first July 2 under international director Fernando Seguignol and their new ownership group. Miami’s biggest signings didn’t come on July 2, as they never ended up signing Cuban righthander Sandy Gaston, but instead in October signed Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa for $5.25 million and his 17-year-old brother, outfielder Victor Mesa Jr., for $1 million. We have a full scouting report on Victor Victor here, where he ranks as the organization’s No. 2 prospect, with more detail on his background in this story as well.
A lefthanded hitter, Mesa Jr. played in Cuba’s national 15U league in 2016, batting .365/.471/.522 with just five strikeouts in 148 plate appearances, then after the season won a gold medal for Cuba at the U-15 World Cup in Japan. In 2017, Mesa Jr. hit .381/.470/.504 with four strikeouts in 132 plate appearances as a 15-year-old in Cuba’s 18U league, then after the season played for Cuba at the U-18 World Cup in Thunder Bay, Canada. That was the last time most scouts got to see Mesa Jr. play until his open showcase at Marlins Park the month he signed. During his final year in Cuba, Mesa Jr. in 2018 hit .440/.560/.677 in 125 plate appearances with 24 walks and 15 strikeouts, leading the league in batting average, on-base and slugging percentage.
In Cuba, Mesa Jr. lacked strength, leading to a loopier lefthanded stroke, but as he’s gotten stronger (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) he has improved his bat speed and has better torque in his swing. He has good hand-eye coordination and doesn’t swing and miss much, hitting line drives around the field with gap power, and he impressed the Marlins with his eye for the strike zone. There’s loft in his swing, so more power could come once he starts to incorporate his lower half more into his swing, but he might never be a big power threat. Mesa doesn’t have his brother’s quick-twitch athleticism, speed or arm strength. He might move around all three outfield positions early in his career, though his defensive tools fit best in a corner. Mesa Jr. is in the United States now and will probably debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
When the 2018-19 signing period opened on July 2, Miami’s biggest bonus at the time went to Dominican center fielder Yoelvis Sanchez, who got $400,000. He’s a 16-year-old lefty who plays calm and under control, with a sound swing and a patient hitting approach. Sanchez is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, so he has the frame to hold strength, though he stands out more now for his plate discipline and his speed than his power. He’s a plus runner who projects to stick in center field, where he covers ground well with good instincts and angles to the ball.
Cristhian Rodriguez is a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop the Marlins signed on July 2. A lanky 6-foot-2, 160 pounds, Rodriguez stood out for his defense. For a skinny, gangly player, Rodriguez has impressive body control at shortstop and good defensive actions, with soft hands and a plus arm despite his lack of strength. Rodriguez fields his position well, but he will need to get stronger for his righthanded bat to come around. Rodriguez trained with Leonardo Zeron.
Dominican shortstop Isaac De Leon, 17, signed with the Marlins for $275,000 on July 2. At 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, De Leon has hit well in games from the right side. He’s an aggressive hitter but lets the ball travel deep into the hitting zone, squaring balls up for quality contact with hard line drives to all fields. De Leon is more of a sound, reliable shortstop than a flashy one, making the routine plays with secure hands, giving him a chance to stay at the position depending how big he gets.
Ene Leon, who trained with Daniel Lopez, is a 17-year-old Venezuelan catcher the Marlins signed on July 2. Leon stood out for his defense and intangibles behind the plate that scouts and managers love to have in a catcher. He’s a smart player and a vocal leader behind the plate who works well with pitchers. He blocks balls and receives well for his age and has a strong arm as well. At 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, Leon’s defense is ahead of his righthanded bat, as he can get pull happy with a line-drive approach and doubles pop.
The Marlins paid $200,000 to sign 17-year-old Dominican center fielder Jhonny Melenciano from the Mejia Top 10 program on July 2. He’s 6 feet, 155 pounds with a speed-and-defense profile. He’s a high-energy player and 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, with his arm improving from a 40 to a solid-average tool. Melenciano stood out more for his speed and athleticism than his lefthanded hitting ability as an amateur. He got caught up in tryout mode trying to yank balls, so staying with a more level, all-fields approach would help him make better use of his skill set.
Maycold Leon, who signed in July, is a Venezuelan lefty with advanced touch and feel for a 16-year-old. He’s 6-foot-1, 160 pounds with two good secondary pitches, starting with an above-average curveball with tight spin. Leon has a promising changeup as well, and he throws strikes with his fastball to both sides of the plate. He’s not overpowering, but his fastball has grown from mostly sitting in the mid-80s to now getting more consistently in the upper 80s, with the projection to be regularly in the low 90s soon. Leon trained with Aarom Baldiris.
Two pitchers from Panama received six-figure bonuses last year. One of them was Luis Lopez, a 17-year-old righthander the Marlins signed for $150,000 on July 2. He’s a prolific strike-thrower, pounding his fastball to both sides of the strike zone. He has a tall, athletic and slender build (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) with a fastball that has steadily grown from the mid-80s upon signing to more recently bumping 90 mph. His go-to secondary pitch is his changeup, an advanced pitch for his age, and he mixes in a curveball, cutter and sinker as well.
In January last year, during the 2017-18 signing period, the Marlins signed 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Carlos Romero. At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Romero is a defense-first player whose hands and feet work well in the field, but he will need to clean up his swing to get more out of his offensive game after hitting .192/.287/.232 in 39 games in the Dominican Summer League last year.
One lower-dollar player to keep an eye on is 18-year-old Dominican righthander Jorge Mercedes, who became eligible to sign in 2017 but signed with the Marlins on July 2 last year for $90,000. He’s 6-foot-3, 185 pounds and was touching 90 mph when he signed, with easy arm action and good extension. After signing, Mercedes added strength and velocity, with his fastball now touching 95 mph, primarily working off a fastball/slider combination.
See also: 2017-18 Marlins International Review
See also: 2016-17 Marlins International Review
See also: 2015-16 Marlins International Review (Notable prospect Edward Cabrera)
See also: 2014-15 Marlins International Review
See also: 2013-14 Marlins International Review
See also: 2012-13 Marlins International Review
See also: 2011-12 NL East International Review