2020-21 MLB International Reviews: Seattle Mariners
The most recent international signing class from the Mariners netted them one of the best hitters in the Dominican Republic and one of the top position players from Venezuela, along with a slew of projectable arms—including one of the best lefties available.
Top Of The Class
From an early age, Dominican third baseman Starlin Aguilar stood out as one of the best pure hitters in the 2020 class. Aguilar trained with Rudy Santin, whose program also produced Red Sox's third baseman Rafael Devers and Rays' shortstop Wander Franco, and Aguilar is another advanced hitter with a sweet lefthanded stroke. It's a fluid, compact swing with a tight turn and clean path, getting the barrel on plane early and staying through the hitting zone for a long time. He stays calm and balanced, staying through the ball well to hit to all fields with good game performance. He has plenty of bat speed too, driving balls out of the park now with the projection for future plus power, though he's still a hit-first player who happens to also have power. There's a lot to like with Aguilar in the batter's box, with a chance for a middle-of-the-order hitter, though his defensive future is murkier. He spent time as an amateur training at shortstop, but he's built like Devers and has already moved to third base. The dedication he's had over the past year to shed excess weight shows in his improved conditioning, something he's always going to have to monitor. Like Devers was at this age, Aguilar has a chance to stay at third base if his footwork and range improve, though there's some risk he could end up at first base.
Venezuelan outfielder Gabriel Gonzalez is a strong, burly outfielder (6 feet, 195 pounds) built along the line of Giants outfielder Heliot Ramos. He's physically mature for his age, combining strength, bat speed and leverage in his swing to generate easy power to all fields in batting practice. He does it against live pitching too, with a good track record of performance in games, both in terms of hitting and hitting for power. Gonzalez is more physically advanced than his peers, and with his aggressive approach and swing path, he may end up having more of a power-over-hit offensive profile, though he doesn't swing and miss excessively. Like Ramos, Gonzalez is more athletic and moves around better in the outfield than his body type suggests. He's an average runner with good defensive instincts for his age. That gives him a chance to develop as a center fielder, though most likely he will end up on a corner. Gonzalez trained at the Dream Team Baseball Academy and is represented by Wilfredo Polidor.
Names To Know
Luis Bolivar, OF, Venezuela: At 14, Bolivar was already a plus-plus runner with 60-yard dash times under 6.5 seconds. Now he's an 80 runner, an explosive athlete and will immediately be one of the fastest players in the minors. With a plus arm, he has the tools to be an elite defensive center fielder. Bolivar's offensive game remains very much a long-term project. He is starting to drive the ball with occasional over-the-fence power now, but he will need swing adjustments to put the ball in play more often. Bolivar trained with Javier Mendoza.
Juan Pinto, LHP, Venezuela: Pinto was one of the top lefthanders available in the 2020 international class. Over the last two years, he has grown three inches up to 6-foot-4 with a still lean, long frame and plenty of physical projection remaining, especially for one of the youngest players in the class who won't turn 17 until August. Pinto's best pitch is his curveball, one of the best breaking balls in the class with tight spin, sharp bite and good depth to miss bats. It flashes plus now and he does a good job of landing it in the strike zone for his age, with a changeup also in his repertoire that's just developing. Pinto is represented by Felix Olivo.
Victor Labrada, OF, Cuba: The Mariners completed their deal with Labrada, 21, after the current signing period opened this year. He's an athletic, 5-foot-9 center fielder with plus-plus speed who's still refining his defensive instincts. Labrada has a quick, compact stroke from the left side with a line-drive approach and gap power.
Roiber Talavera, RHP, Venezuela: Talavera has an array of positive projection indicators. He's an excellent athlete with physical projection left in his 6-foot-2 frame and a relatively easy, low-effort delivery. He has been up to 90 mph so far with a chance to add significant velocity, and he has shown good feel for spin on his curveball as well.
Gleiner Diaz, RHP, Venezuela: Diaz has a strong 6 foot build with a thick lower half and a big fastball for his age, reaching 93 mph now. He could eventually throw in the mid 90s, though his delivery has more of a reliever look. Diaz trained with Ivan Suarez.
Dominican righthander Aneury Lora is a deep projection arm with an extremely skinny 6-foot-1 frame. It's an unorthodox delivery, with long arm action and a crossfire mechanics, but he has surprising touch and feel, throwing strikes with a mid-to-upper-80s fastball that sneaks up on hitters because of his deception. Lora trained with William Valdez.