2021-22 International Reviews: Arizona D-backs

Image credit: Abdias de la Cruz

The D-backs came away with a diverse mix of talent in their latest international signing class, with several players who took off later in the scouting process. 

Top Of The Class

Early on, Dominican shortstop Abdias de la Cruz stood out for his athleticism and ultra-projectable, lanky frame at shortstop reminiscent of Mets shortstop Ronny Mauricio. Later in the process, de la Cruz got stronger and his tools continued to trend up. He’s still a wiry, athletic shortstop, now up to 6-foot-3, 180 pounds. If he keeps growing, there’s a chance he ends up moving off the position, but for now he has the tools, athleticism and body control to develop there. His speed has improved to where he’s now a plus runner, moving well to both sides and coming in on the ball with a solid-average arm. De la Cruz has long arms and it shows up with some length in his righthanded swing, but he generally swings at strikes and makes contact when he does swing, with flashes of power now that could jump significantly once he fills out.  

Dominican shortstop Yerald Nin trained in the program run by his father, former scout Sandy Nin, and his baseball upbringing is evident in the way he moves in the batter’s box. Had he been born two weeks later, Nin wouldn’t have been eligible to sign until the following year, so he will play nearly all of the Dominican Summer League season at 16. At 6 feet, 170 pounds, Nin has a sweet lefty stroke, keeping his weight back and staying balanced through his swing. It’s quiet, compact, adjustable and under control with good path through the hitting zone, which along with his approach leads to plenty of contact in games. Nin manipulates the barrel well to work gap to gap with a hit-over-power profile. Nin should play somewhere in the middle infield, where he has soft hands, above-average speed and an average arm, though he’s more of an offensive-oriented player.

Names To Know

Ruben Santana, 3B, Dominican Republic: At 6 feet, 190 pounds, Santana is a tooled-up third baseman with big raw power from the right side. He’s an aggressive hitter, which can sometimes get him into trouble, but when he connects he has the strength and bat speed to backspin the ball out of the park to all fields with plus raw power. There’s explosiveness to his game that shows up with plus speed as well, although that tool might back up. He handles himself well at third base, too, with an arm that earns 60 to 70 grades on the 20-80 scale.

Abel Fuerte, RHP, Dominican Republic: Fuerte develop into one of the elite pitching prospects available in this class. He’s 6-foot-2, 175 pounds and has already reached 95 mph, with the projection for more in the tank. More so than just raw velocity, Fuerte stands out for his ability to throw strikes from a relatively easy delivery and mix in a pair of secondary pitches—his slider and changeup—that both flash swing-and-miss traits. That all adds up to a starter profile for an arrow-up prospect.

Andy Encarnacion, OF, Dominican Republic: Encarnacion has the tools and athleticism to stick at a premium position in center field, with plus speed, a plus arm and a chance to develop into a plus defender. He’s 6-foot-1, 160 pounds with fast hands that help him buggy-whip the barrel through the zone quickly, though adding strength to his slender frame will be critical for him long term.

Jansel Luis, SS, Dominican Republic: Luis comes from a baseball family. He’s a cousin of former big league infielder Pedro Ciriaco and the younger brother of Audy Ciriaco, who reached Triple-A. Luis has also shot up from around 5-foot-10 when teams were scouting him to closer to 6-foot-2, 180 pounds now. He’s a switch-hitter with good feel for hitting and fast hand speed that helps him sting the ball for surprising power and a chance for more to come. Luis has the athleticism, arm strength and hands that should allow him to stay in the middle infield, whether it’s at shortstop or second base.

Sleeper Watch

Venezuelan shortstop Cristofer Torin is 5-foot-10 and doesn’t have the same physical upside as others, but he’s a hard-nosed, instinctive player who has performed well in games, both offensively and defensively. Torin has shown good feel for hitting with quick hands, occasional power and plus speed with the hands to play in the dirt. 

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