2020-21 MLB International Reviews: Cincinnati Reds
A lot of the top international signings for the Reds in recent years have been Cuban players. Their 2020 class took a different approach, targeting the more traditional 16-year-old players from the Dominican Republic to form a deep class with a mix of different player types and skill sets.
Top Of The Class
Dominican outfielder Ariel Almonte is 6-foot-4, 190 pounds with a short stroke for his size, an advanced approach for his age and power that projects to be plus once he fills out. Scouts highest on Almonte saw him hit well in games with the ability to pick up spin, stay within the strike zone and draw walks. Almonte is able to generate backspin on balls from gap to gap in batting practice, with a flatter swing path in games and a chance for more extra-base damage once he understands which pitches to drive and lift in favorable counts. Almonte is a corner outfielder with below-average speed and an above-average arm for right field, with most of his value driven from what he does in the batter's box. He trained with German.
Another Dominican outfielder the Reds signed, Malvin Valdez, isn't as refined as a hitter compared to Almonte, but he has some of the best raw tools in the class. He's 6-foot-2, 175 pounds and would probably be an elite wide receiver recruit if he grew up in the United States. He's a quick-burst, explosive athlete with the building blocks to develop into a high-level defender in center field, including a pair of 70-grade tools in his speed and arm strength. Valdez has good bat speed and at least average raw power that could improve to plus when he adds more strength to his lean, athletic frame. Those raw tools all stick out quickly in a workout setting, but Valdez's game skills and instincts still need to catch up, particularly with his ability to recognize breaking balls. Valdez trained with Rudy Santin.
Names To Know
Carlos Jorge, SS, Dominican Republic: For a mid-range signing, Jorge could end up one of better bargains of the 2020 class. He was an athletic but small, light-framed shortstop early on in the scouting process who has been trending up. He's still on the smaller end at around 5-foot-9, but he's added some wiry strength and is a quick-twitch athlete with plus-plus speed. He has hit well in games with a simple, direct stroke without much wasted movement, leading to frequent contact with some lift and the ability to put a surprising charge into the ball for his size. Jorge has the actions and athleticism to stay in the middle infield and a solid arm, with a chance he ends up flipping over to second base. He has some similarities Vidal Brujan, a Top 100 prospect with the Rays and another 5-foot-9, speedy middle infielder with a high contact rate. Jorge and Malvin Valdez trained together in the same program with Rudy Santin.
Brayan Rijo, OF, Dominican Republic: Rijo, who trained with Niche, has a slender 6-foot frame with 55 speed and an average arm from center field that could get tick up. He has a lean, high-waist frame and has shown solid bat-to-ball skills, albeit up-and-down game performance, with getting stronger his biggest developmental need right now.
Luis Reyes, 3B, Venezuela: Reyes is an offensive-minded player with a strong, heavy build at around 5-foot-11, 195 pounds and hits well in games. He's a patient hitter who drops the bat head on plane into the hitting zone early and has a knack for barreling the ball for hard contact against live pitching with a chance for future plus power. Reyes has the hands and average arm that should fit at third base, and while he has worked to maintain his athleticism and improve his lateral mobility over the past year, there's risk he could outgrow the position and go to first base. Reyes trained with Henderson Martinez.
Jose Serrano, SS, Venezuela: Serrano stands out more in games than he does in a workout. He doesn't have one plus tool, but he's a well-rounded, instinctive player who has hit well in games and has shown good body control with a nose for the ball at shortstop, though with his body type he might end up getting big enough where he moves to third base. Serrano trained with Andres Veliz.
Venezuelan shortstop Leonardo Balcazar continued to trend up last year when in-person scouting was shut down. He's a true shortstop with good hands and footwork, slightly above-average speed and a plus arm to make throws from deep in the hole. At the plate he has shown solid bat-to-ball skills for his age with a line-drive approach and gap power. Balcazar trained with Wilmer Becerra.