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2020-21 MLB International Reviews: Chicago Cubs

Cristian Hernandez Cubs

The top two pitching prospects in the Cubs' farm system are homegrown international signings from the Dominican Republic led by lefthander Brailyn Marquez, the No. 1 prospect in the organization. Now after drafting Ed Howard with their first-round pick in the 2020 draft to give them the top high school shortstop in the country, the Cubs added the top shortstop from the Dominican Republic in the 2020 international class, giving them a prospect with a chance to be one of the most impactful players the Cubs have ever signed from Latin America.

Top Of The Class

Several international scouts considered Dominican shortstop Cristian Hernandez to be the best player available in the 2020 international class. He has enormous upside, with the offensive ability to develop into an impact hitter in the middle of the lineup and the defensive skills that could keep him at shortstop. Hernandez is 6-foot-2, 165 pounds with elite swing mechanics that have stood out for years while training in the Mejia Top 10 program. He generates excellent bat speed, gets on plane early and stays through the hitting zone for a long time. Hernandez has a knack for manipulating the bat head, enabling him to barrel pitches in all parts of the strike zone and drive the ball well to all fields. He has performed well in games and showed big power for his age early on during batting practice, with that power translating more now against live pitching. Hernandez needs little effort to generate that power, which flashes plus and should grade higher once he fills out his lean, athletic frame. He could develop into a plus or better hitter with a chance for 30-plus home runs. Early on, some scouts questioned whether Hernandez would eventually outgrow shortstop. Instead, he has enhanced his athleticism, speed and defensive ability over the last couple of years. He's now at least a plus runner underway, moving well to both sides at shortstop with the range, hands and instincts to stay there. He can throw from different angles with a plus arm that could bump up a grade once he gets stronger. Hernandez is still 17 and like everyone else in the 2020 class needs to be tested in pro games, but he has a chance to develop into a premium player.

After signing Ronnier Quintero in 2019, the Cubs added another promising Venezuelan catcher in their 2020 class with Moises Ballesteros, who trained with Alvaro Diaz. Ballesteros grew up playing a lot of baseball, including at the U-12 World Cup in Taiwan in 2015 when he hit cleanup as the youngest player on the Venezuelan team. Ballesteros consistently performed well in games in Venezuela, managing his at-bats well for his age with a selective approach and good bat control from the left side. His contact skills and plate discipline give him the foundation for strong on-base skills for a catcher, and when he connects it's often for hard contact. He can drive the ball for extra-base damage now with occasional over-the-fence shots and a chance to grow into average power. Ballesteros has a stout, blocky that gives some scouts concerns and about his future physical projection. He has a strong upper body but will need to work to stay on top of his conditioning and maintain his mobility behind the plate. Ballesteros is an offensive-minded catcher who needs more work with his blocking and receiving, though he is surprisingly quick behind the plate getting rid of the ball with a strong arm and pop times into the 1.9s in games.

Names To Know

Daniel Ferreira, OF, Dominican Republic: Ferreira could end up one of the better mid-range signings in the 2020 class. At 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, Ferreira isn't that big, but he's able to generate impressive power with good bat speed from his strong, compact frame. He has a good track record of performing in games too from a sound righthanded stroke with good rhythm and balance. Ferreira is a solid-average runner who may lose a step as he fills out, with a near-average arm and a likely corner outfield profile. He trained at the Elite Baseball Camp.

Gabriel Agrazal, RHP, Panama: Agrazal pitched for Panama in the U-15 World Cup in 2018 when he was 14, winning a silver medal at the tournament in his home country. He has pitched well in games in Panama, showing advanced pitchability for his age. At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Agrazal threw in the mid-to-upper 80s last year and doesn't project as a power arm, but he's an athletic strike-thrower with three pitches to project as a starter. He changes speed well with a curveball and a changeup, landing his curveball for strikes well for his age with a chance for that to develop into an above-average pitch.

Oferman Hernandez, OF, Dominican Republic: Hernandez is a 6-foot-1, 175-pound lefthanded hitter who has grown into a lot more strength and physicality over the last couple of years. Scouts highest on Hernandez liked his offensive upside with a chance to hit for power with a swing geared to hit the ball in the air. He projects as a corner outfielder with the arm strength for right field. Hernandez trained with Eddy Fontana.

Pedro Ramirez, SS, Venezuela: Ramirez is an athletic shortstop with plus-plus speed who could stick at shortstop or take advantage of his wheels in center field. He's an instinctive player who could rack up stolen bases and a switch-hitter with a line-drive approach and gap power. Ramirez and Moises Ballesteros trained together with Alvaro Diaz.

Raino Coran, OF, Curacao: Players in Curacao don't typically have trainers the way kids from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela do, but Coran spent time working with Braves infielder Ozzie Albies at home. He's an athletic, physical outfielder with a chance to hit for power.

Kenneddy Delgado, RHP, Venezuela: Delgado is a 6-foot righthander who reaches the low-90s now with a quick arm and a chance to grow into mid-90s velocity. He's a good strike-thrower for his age with feel for both a curveball and a changeup to give him a starter's pitch mix. Delgado trained with Henderson Martinez.

Sleeper Watch

Dominican righthander Joel Sierra is the 19-year-old brother of Diomede Sierra, a power-armed lefty in the D-backs system who made his pro debut in the 2019 Dominican Summer League. Joel Sierra has a strong build (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) with good arm action and a fastball that has been up to 97 mph. He throws a curveball that's inconsistent but has power up to the low-80s and is further along than his firm changeup. Sierra trained in the Mejia Top 10 program.

Cristian Hernandez (Bill Mitchell)

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