2019-20 MLB International Reviews: Cleveland Indians
Pro scouts have taken notice of the Latin American prospects building up at the lower levels of Cleveland's farm system. Outfielder George Valera and shortstop Brayan Rocchio both ranked among the top prospects this year in the short-season New York-Penn League, while infielders Aaron Bracho and Jose Tena ranked in the Rookie-level Arizona League top 20 prospects. Shortstops Gabriel Rodriguez and Angel Martinez both made plenty of noise as well this year in the Dominican Summer League. This year's Indians international signing class was again heavy on instinctive, gamer types who hit well in games as amateurs.
Cleveland's top international signing in 2019 was Jose Pastrano, a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop who trained in the Dominican Republic with Banana and the younger brother of Athletics infielder Jose Pastrano, who spent the last two years in the Dominican Summer League. Pastrano stood out for his quickness, excellent athleticism and overall game awareness at a premium position. He's a plus runner who projects to stay at shortstop, where he has quick hands and feet, good body control and has shown flashes of above-average arm strength as well. Pastrano shows attributes to hit from both sides of the plate as well, though some clubs left wanting to see more performance from him as an amateur. He has a short, direct swing and good feel for the strike zone. He has good contact skills with a line-drive, all-fields approach and gap power. Pastrano isn't that big, but he does have the physical projection for more of those doubles to eventually climb over the fence, but his offensive profile will probably be tilted more toward his on-base ability over his power. He trained with Banana.
One of the top players in Panama this year was Luis Durango Jr., who signed for $500,000. Durango is the son of Luis Durango, a speedster who played in the Futures Game in 2009 and accumulated 74 plate appearances in the big leagues over three seasons for the Padres from 2009-11. Durango Jr. excelled in games playing in Panama. He was one of the top hitters in the country, earning a spot on Panama's U-15 World Cup team that won the silver medal on their home turf last year. He made the all-tournament team, batting .296/.472/.444 in 36 plate appearances. All that experience shows in Durango's baseball IQ and excellent instincts on both sides of the ball. With lean, athletic build (5-foot-10, 145 pounds), Durango is a high contact hitter from the left side with an advanced hitting approach for his age. He performed well as an amateur and continued to do so after signing in Tricky League. Durango doesn't project to be a big power threat, but his on-base skills and speed could potentially fit at the top of a lineup. He's a 70 runner, and it's conceivable Durango could get even faster once he gets stronger. His speed and instincts give him excellent range in center field, where he has a fringe-average arm that could tick up given his sound throwing mechanics. He trained with Jose Camarena.
The Indians signed 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Jose Devers for $450,000. Devers is a cousin of Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers and a younger brother of 19-year-old Marlins shortstop Jose Devers, who reached high Class A Jupiter this year. While Rafael is a mashing third baseman, the Indians' Jose Devers is more like his older brother, a skinny shortstop with a high baseball IQ, no surprise given that he comes from a baseball family. At 5-foot-9, 145 pounds, Devers lacks strength, but he has good actions and skills on both sides of the ball to build off once more strength comes as he gets older. Despite being behind many of his peers in terms of physical development, Devers has a fundamentally sound swing from the right side and excellent contact skills, with a knack for putting the ball in play even against higher velocity arms, spraying line drives to all fields without much power. An average runner, Devers has a chance to stick at shortstop, where he has quick feet, a springy first step, smooth actions and an average arm that could grade up once he gets stronger.
The Indians signed a group of Venezuelan outfielders on July 2, including Simon Rodriguez. Rodriguez, 17, has a smaller, slightly build frame (5-foot-9, 140 pounds) with good athleticism and plus speed to stay in center field. Rodriguez has good bat-to-ball skills from a sound lefty swing, using the whole field with a line-drive approach and limited power right now due to his lack of strength. He trained with Carlos Guillen.
Another Venezuelan outfielder the Indians signed, 16-year-old Erick Caripa, has more impact potential in his bat. He's 6-foot-1, 160 pounds with good strength projection, and has a chance to develop into a physical outfielder with righthanded power. Caripa has good bat speed and already shows the ability to drive the ball over the fence in BP, with a chance to develop above-average raw power, though it might some with some swing-and-miss. Caripa is an average runner with an average arm that has a chance to get stronger, so he's going to start his career in center field, though he might end up in right field.
Yu Chang Hits Way Onto Opening Day Roster
The Indians could not deny Chang a spot on the Opening Day roster after his performance in summer camp.
Angel Mendoza, a third notable Venezuelan outfielder the Indians added to their 2019 class, stood out for his offensive performance as an amateur. At a compact 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, Mendoza isn't that physical, but he's a lefty who has shown advanced feel for hitting for his age with a sound swing and good bat control, leading to a lot contact in games, including against high velocity pitching. Mendoza doesn't have much power, but he produces hard line drives in games. He might have enough defensive ability to stay in center field, though a move to the corner is possible and would put more demands on his power developing. Mendoza trained with Jhon Colon.
Dominican shortstop Maick Collado, 16, signed with the Indians for $200,000 after training with Fausto Garcia. Collado (5-foot-11, 160 pounds) impressed the Indians with his ability to hit in games from both sides of the plate, making consistent, quality contact with feel for the strike zone and a chance to grow into average power. Collado's offensive tools are ahead of his defense, with a chance to play either third or second base.
Angel Contreras is a 16-year-old Colombian shortstop the Indians signed or $160,000. His father, Angel Contreras, is the scouting supervisor for the Rays in Colombia, and that baseball background shows in Contreras' all-around baseball acumen. He's a smaller, compact infielder (5-foot-8, 150 pounds) who has quick actions, secure hands and a good exchange, though his pure speed is below-average and his arm might lead him to second base. Contreras is an instinctive player in the field and at the plate, where he shows good bat-to-ball skills from both sides with a line-drive approach and doubles power.
Venezuelan outfielder Juan Rodriguez, a Venezuelan outfielder the Indians signed on July 2, has changed his profile over the past year. He's a lean, wiry player who showed a sweet swing early on, but lacked strength to impact the ball. Leading up to July 2, Rodriguez got stronger and started to do more damage on contact, showing more power with leverage in his swing to go with his feel for hitting. He has a chance to play center field, though he might end up in a corner.
Juan Benjamin, a Dominican shortstop who got $100,000, is another athletic switch-hitter who has shown good contact skills in games. He has a quick, compact swing with a good approach for a 16-year-old, with a knack for the barrel and handling himself well against high velocity. His defensive actions will need work to stay at shortstop, but his athleticism fits in the middle of the diamond.