2019-20 MLB International Reviews: Colorado Rockies
The Rockies signed one of the top shortstops from the Dominican Republic this year, rounding out their class with a group of instinctive position players and strike-throwing pitchers.
Dominican shortstop Adael Amador signed with the Rockies for $1.5 million on July 2. Amador, 16, has a good balance of solid tools and game skills with an impressive track record of hitting. He won a gold medal with the Dominican Republic in August 2017 at the COPABE 15U Pan American Championship, where he made the all-tournament team by hitting .500 (12-for-24) on a roster of mostly 2018 players. He played last year in the U-15 World Cup in Panama, where he batted .391/.533/.565 with seven walks and three strikeouts in 30 plate appearances. Amador (6-foot-0,160 pounds) doesn't have the pure speed or quick-twitch athleticism like some of the other top shortstops in the class, but he's an advanced hitter with a fairly clean swing from both sides of the plate. It's a simple, compact swing with good balance. He recognizes pitches well and has good plate discipline for his age, which combined with his bat control leads to a low strikeout rate. He adjusts when he gets to two-strike counts, but Amador's approach is to try to drive the ball for extra-base damage. His power has ticked up over the past year, going from mostly doubles pop to now being able to drive the ball over the fence, both in batting practice and games. With his strong hands, bat speed and some physical projection remaining, Amador should develop at least average power. Amador was a below-average runner when many teams were scouting him as an amateur, but that tool has ticked up to average. He has a chance to stay at shortstop, though some scouts expected him to move off the position, and he will likely see time at both shortstop and second base this year. He reacts well off the bat and shows good defensive instincts with a quick exchange to an average arm that flashes better on occasion. The Rockies don't have a team in the Rookie-level Arizona League and typically have started all their Latin American signings in the Dominican Summer League, but Amador is advanced enough that he might go straight to the short-season Northwest League. He trained with Cristian Pimentel.
The Rockies also acquired one of the best lefthanded power bats in the class when they signed 16-year-old Cuban outfielder Yanquiel Fernandez for $295,000. A strong, physical 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Fernandez has a chance to hit in the middle of a lineup if everything clicks, with an easy swing and big power. It's a loose, handsy stroke from the left side with good leverage, with Fernandez having the strength and bat speed to launch balls out of the park with plus raw power. He shows hitting instincts and a good approach for his age, recognizing offspeed stuff and staying within the strike zone. He already hangs in well against lefties and does a good job of using the whole field. He's a student of the game and it shows in the little things like his intelligence on the basepaths, though he's a limited runner and athlete who won't bring much defensive value in an outfield corner. He does have a huge arm though, earning plus grades with flashes of even better. Fernandez has trended up enough that he could end up making his debut in the United States as well.
Nelvis Ochoa is a 16-year-old Venezuelan righthander who signed with the Rockies on July 2. He's not that big (5-foot-11, 160 pounds, up a couple inches from where he was earlier in the scouting process) but he's a strike-thrower with a good mix of pitchability and stuff for his age, which has helped him perform well in games. When clubs scouted Ochoa as an amateur, he topped out around 90 mph, but he is up to 93 now. Despite his smaller stature, his arm speed and youth suggest he could eventually be in the mid 90s or higher at some point. Ochoa throws his fastball for strikes and has the ability to manipulate two secondary pitches, including a power curveball and a changeup. He trained at the 5J Baseball Academy.
After Amador, 16-year-old Mexican righthander Victor Juarez got the next highest bonus in Colorado's class, signing for $500,000. Juarez, who was with the Tijuana Toros, is 6 feet, 175 pounds and stands out for his ability to throw strikes with a three-pitch mix. He's not overpowering—he threw in the upper 80s before signing and reaches 90 mph now—but there's more physical projection left for him to potentially sit in the low 90s eventually. Juarez mixes his offspeed pitches in liberally, landing his curveball and changeup in the zone well for his age, with a good delivery, poise and pitchability relative to his peers.
Dominican lefthander Albert Pacheco signed with the Rockies for $400,000. Pacheco, 17, is 6 feet, 175 pounds and has seen his fastball tick up slightly since July 2, going from 90 mph when he signed to 92 mph by the end of Tricky League. Pacheco has little effort in his delivery and stands out for his strike-throwing ability with a strong fastball/changeup combination. His changeup already flashes as a solid-average pitch, and with his ability to fill the strike zone, it's a skill set that should lead to early success in pro ball. He throws a breaking ball as well that needs to improve to catch up to the rest of his arsenal. Pacheco trained with the Mejia Top 10 program and El Niche.
Oscar Aude, a $400,000 signing from the Dominican Republic, is a 16-year-old outfielder who trained in the same program as Amador and was teammates with him last year at the U-15 World Cup in Panama. Aude was at his best at that event, where he made the all-tournament team after batting .417/.484/.750 with two home runs in 31 plate appearances. Aude (6-foot-0, 175 pounds) has been more up-and-down with his performance since then, with periods of higher swing-and-miss. He's a below-average runner who will be a corner outfielder.
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Venezuelan infielder Esneider Gomez is an instinctive, savvy player the Rockies signed on July 2 from Hender Martinez's program. There's no tool Gomez has that is plus, but he's steady across the board with a high baseball IQ at 17. At around 6 feet, 180 pounds, Gomez is a line-drive hitter with gap power who doesn't swing and miss much. He squares up fastballs and breaking pitches, with a hit-over-power profile. Where Gomez ends up playing is a question, and he could end up moving around the field in a utility role. He trained as a shortstop, and while he has a solid-average arm with accuracy, good hands and instincts, his range is stretched thin there. Some scouts looked at Gomez's hands, arm, body type, intelligence and hard-nosed toughness and thought he could become a catcher. The Rockies did work him out behind the plate before signing him and he looked good there. But Gomez has improved his body and gotten a step faster to average speed since then, so he's going to develop as an infielder, though catching is still an intriguing option available to him.
Venezuelan shortstop Moises Paiva is small (5-foot-7, 150 pounds) but he was one of the more skillful players in the 2019 class. He's an instinctive player with a short, quick stroke from the right side, with a knack for barreling pitches from the right side. He's mostly a line-drive hitter but can put a surprising charge into the ball for his size with occasional home run power to his pull side. He has average speed and arm strength with a chance to stick at shortstop, though he might end up at second base. Paiva trained with Francisco Ortiz.
Elisandro Alcantara is a tooled-up center fielder who signed with the Rockies for $225,000 out of the Dominican Republic. At 6 feet, 175 pounds, Alcantara's hitting is still raw, but he's a quick-twitch athlete with plus speed, a plus arm and good actions in the outfield and good bat speed and power potential from the right side of the plate.
A couple of pitchers the Rockies signed out of Venezuela include righthanders Angel Jimenez and Jose Barcenas. Jimenez, who signed when he turned 16 on July 4, is a 6-foot-2, 190 pound hurler physical projection to add to a fastball that has reached 91 mph. He's a strike-thrower with a curveball and changeup in his three-pitch mix. Barcenas (6 feet, 180 pounds) is a 17-year-old whose best pitch is his curveball. He throws in the upper-80s, with Jimenez having better pitchability at this point.
Three Dominican arms from the Rockies class include righthanders Bladimir Lopez, Ismael Luciano and Wilny Moron. Lopez (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) signed for $160,000 on his 16th birthday on July 31, so he will pitch most of his first season as a 16-year-old in 2020. He has a chance to have a huge fastball, up to 92 mph already with the potential to eventually throw in the mid-to-upper 90s. The fastball is Lopez's main weapon, so he's going to have to develop his secondary stuff to remain a starter. Luciano is the 16-year-old brother of Giants shortstop Marco Luciano and signed for $150,000. He's 6 feet, 170 pounds with smooth arm action and an easy delivery he repeats well to throw strikes, a fastball up to 90 mph and a curveball and changeup rounding out his three-pitch mix. Moron was an eligible pitcher the Rockies signed at 18 for $150,000, so his stuff is more advanced, with a fastball that has reached 96 mph. The rest of his pitches are still raw, so he might end up a reliever, but he's already in the mid 90s with a chance to throw harder.
The sleeper of the Rockies' class is 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Adrian Pinto, who is 5-foot-6, 155 pounds but has loud tools and stands out in games because of his pure hitting ability. He's small but he has a strong, compact build and makes a ton of contact against live pitching, striking out only once during Tricky League. He has a compact, explosive swing with good hand-eye coordination and feel for the strike zone, giving him a chance to be a high on-base threat. He probably won't be a big power threat, but he attacks the ball and has surprising juice, with the ability to hit the ball out of the park already. He's not light on tools either, with 70 speed and a 60 arm that should play somewhere in the middle of the diamond, possibly at second base.