2019-20 MLB International Reviews: New York Mets
The Mets have overhauled their international scouting department over the past year. With former international scouting director Chris Becerra leaving to join the Red Sox international department after the 2018 season, the Mets hired Rafael Perez as their new director of international operations, overseeing international scouting and player development. Perez previously held that same title before leaving to work for the commissioner's office after the 2011 season.
They also lured away two highly regarded scouts from other clubs, getting Luis Marquez from the Dodgers as their new Latin American scouting director and Moises de la Mota from the Nationals as the club's new supervisor of Latin American scouting.
The most remarkable signing in the class is a pitcher, 6-foot-4, 200-pound Venezuelan righthander Robert Dominguez, who flew under the radar but has seen his stock skyrocket in the past six months. Dominguez, who turned 18 on Nov. 30, was eligible to sign in 2018, but he wasn't drawing much attention there. By this summer, he was throwing 93 mph and getting $10,000 offers (bonuses of $10,000 or less are exempt from the international bonus pools). He moved to the Dominican Republic and spent two months training there, making mechanical adjustments and getting stronger, to the point where his fastball jumped to 97 mph. He signed with the Mets, then at the end of Dominican instructional league, he reached 99 mph just before his 18th birthday.
By comparison, Dominguez's peer group in the United States is comprised of 2020 high school seniors. There are only two pitcher in the 2020 class who have reached 99 mph. One is Jared Jones, a righthander from La Mirada (Calif.) HS and the No. 22 prospect in the 2020 high school class. The other is Jared Kelley, a righthander from Texas and the No. 1 overall high school prospect for 2020. There's more than just pure velocity, and a lot less history and background with Dominguez compared to Kelley, Jones or other more heavily scouting prep arms like Masyn Winn (No. 18) or Alejandro Rosario (No. 19), each of whom have touched 98 mph.
That doesn't mean Dominguez is that level of pitcher, but his fastball stacks up among the best in the world for his age. He has a strong, durable frame and shows feel for a breaking ball with late diving action that flashes as an average pitch with a chance to be better and develop into a true out pitch, along with a below-average changeup he will need to bring up. Dominguez trained with Angel Valladares.
Alexander Ramirez, a Dominican outfielder, received the biggest bonus from the Mets this year, signing for $2.05 million. Ramirez, 16, has one of the best combinations of physicality, athleticism and raw tools in the class. He's tall and athletic (6-foot-3, 170 pounds), with high-end strength projection and plenty of room to add weight while still staying lean and agile for center field. He's a potential/power speed threat, with plus speed and an average arm that could still get stronger. As long as Ramirez doesn't get too big and retains his running ability, he should be able to stay up the middle as a physical center fielder.
Ramirez has good bat speed and can already take balls out to his pull side, with the physical projection to eventually grow into plus power. While Ramirez is tooled up, there was a split camp on how much he would eventually hit. The Mets liked his barrel control, but he's a long-armed hitter, with other clubs having concerns about the length in his swing and timing at the plate. Ramirez trained with El Niche.
Junior Tilien was a high-profile prospect who performed well in Dominican Prospect League games, though he ended up signing for less than initially anticipated when the Mets got him for $185,000. A 17-year-old Dominican shortstop, Tilien showed a knack for piling up hits and getting on base in games as an amateur, something that continued after signing during Tricky league and Dominican instructional league. He has good hand-eye coordination, showing the ability to put the ball in play even when he's off balance. He has a good approach for his age, staying inside the ball well to use the whole field and go with where the ball is pitched. He mostly has doubles power now but has the strength projection for grow into more power once he puts on weight. Tilien is an offensive-oriented player who a lot of scouts from other clubs expected would change positions and possibly move to the outfield, but the Mets were significantly higher on his defense and believe he can stay at the position. He will need more time for his defense to catch up, with average speed and an above-average arm that would fit on the left side of the infield. Tilien trained with Gary.
Eric Santana, another Dominican center fielder, signed with the Mets for $350,000 after training at the MC Academy. Santana, 17, is 6 feet, 180 pounds and has performed well in games from both sides of the plate. He has a knack for finding the barrel with a line-drive, all-fields hitting approach and gap power, with his pure hitting ability standing out more than his power. Santana isn't a burner, but his average speed plays up because of his defensive instincts, so he will develop as a center fielder with a below-average arm.
The Mets spent $335,000 to sign Yeral Martinez, a big outfielder (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) who trained with Luis Scheker in the Dominican Republic. Martinez, 17, has physicality and big lefthanded power as his calling card. He's athletic for his size, with average speed underway, but he projects to slow down in the next few years. He's still going to develop as a center fielder, but he fits better ultimately in a corner.
Dominican shortstop Victor Gonzalez, 17, signed with the Mets for $250,000 after training with Alberto Barjam. Gonzalez is a medium, slender build (5-foot-11, 155 pounds) and has a good chance to stay at shortstop. He's an average runner with a quick first step, covers ground well and has a strong arm for the position. Gonzalez has a solid bat from the right side for a shortstop with a line-drive approach, though he might never hit for much power.
The Mets added a few notable players for lower bonuses as well, including 17-year-old righthander Jose Acuña from Venezuela. He has a projectable build (6-foot-2, 175 pounds) and a promising three-pitch mix, with his stuff already trending up. Acuña signed on July 2 with a lively fastball that reached 91 mph, but at Dominican instructs his fastball climbed to 94. He shows feel for a curveball with good rotation and a changeup that's firm but has good movement, which along with his strike-throwing ability for his age gives him the makings of a starter profile.
Dominican shortstop Isnael Monegro, a 17-year-old cousin of Padres center fielder Manuel Margot, signed with the Mets for $125,000. Monegro is a skinny (6 feet, 150) kid with quick-twitch actions and athletic in the field and a plus arm. An average runner, Monegro has fast hands at the plate, though he will need to get stronger for his righthanded bat to develop.
Jostyn Almonte doesn't lack strength. He has a compact, stout build (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) with a lot of raw tools. A 16-year-old Dominican outfielder signed for $80,000, Almonte moves well for his size with plus speed underway, though with his build he might slow down, but he should at least develop as a center fielder, with an above-average arm that would fit in right field. Almonte has good bat speed and a chance to develop average raw power, though he's more tools than refined skills, so he will have to curb his swing-and-miss tendencies.
Prior to July 2, the Mets also gave $400,000 to Mexican catcher Fernando Villalobos right as the 2018-19 signing period closed in June. Villalobos, who was with the Mexico City Red Devils, signed after Major League Baseball ended its temporary ban on signing Mexican League players. Villalobos signed shortly after the Dominican Summer League season started, and after getting hit by a pitch on the hand, he never got on track during his 30 DSL games, hitting .195/.382/.232. He's 6 feet, 195 pounds with a simple, balanced swing from the left side, using the whole field with a line-drive approach and doubles power. Villalobos moves well for a catcher with fringe-average speed, but he's a former pitcher and third baseman who has only been focused on catching the last couple years, so his receiving and blocking are behind. His arm is an average tool.