2021-22 International Reviews: Cincinnati Reds
Perhaps the biggest breakout prospect in the minors last year was Elly De La Cruz, who signed with the Reds for $65,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2018. Their 2020-21 international signing class that opened on Jan. 15, 2021 has yielded strong early returns as well, with good showings in the Dominican Summer League last year from shortstops Carlos Jorge and Leonardo Balcazar and outfielder Ariel Almonte. They followed that up this year with what looks like another strong group, led by the best Venezuelan prospect the Reds have signed in several years.
Top Of The Class
Venezuelan shortstop Ricardo Cabrera stood out early on in the international scouting process, when as a 2021 prospect he was performing at a high level against 2020 and 2019 players. For some scouts, Cabrera was the best Venezuelan prospect signed this year, a player with some similarities to Gleyber Torres. He's a well-rounded, relatively complete player for his age with a chance for five average or better tools. He's an advanced hitter with an all-fields approach and an innate knack for barreling the ball in games from a swing that's short, quick and direct to the ball. As he's gotten stronger, his power has started to emerge as well, with Cabrera getting to it naturally rather than having to get pull-happy and sell out for power. It's still mostly gap shots now, but with a chance to develop average or better power at maturity. Cabrera is athletic and a plus runner now, though that tool might back up as he fills out. He has a chance to stick at shortstop, but he has the plus arm and offensive profile to handle third base as well if necessary.
The Reds continued their aggressive push into Venezuela for this class by signing Anthuan Valencia, who wasn't as famous as some others since he came from a smaller program and didn't showcase outside of Venezuela but developed into one of the country's top shortstops. He's a slick, athletic defender at shortstop who is light on his feet with soft hands, an average arm and a knack for making the flashy play. A high-energy player, Valencia has gotten stronger and faster over the past year, going from an average runner to at least plus speed now. He has been a steady in-game performer, staying within himself to work the middle of the field with a line-drive approach and occasional sneaky pull shots, though power will probably never be a big part of his game.
Names To Know
Esmith Pineda, OF, Panama: One of the top players this year from Panama, Pineda is an offensive-driven corner outfielder who has represented Panama in multiple international tournaments going back to the Little League World Series. He stands out for his hitting ability and strength projection to develop future plus raw power, slotting in right field with fringe-average speed and a plus arm.
Jesus Correa, SS, Colombia: A switch-hitting shortstop, Correa grew up playing soccer before focusing on baseball within the last five years. His soccer background is evident in the way he moves his feet at shortstop, where he has soft hands and a 45 arm that could still tick up. His strength gains have trended in the right direction, helping him deliver a little more impact at the plate, though he's more of a line-drive hitter with a simple swing and approach to stay through the middle of the field.
Adrian Reyes, OF, Dominican Republic: A corner outfielder, Reyes is a switch-hitter who has hit well in games with big power potential from both sides of the plate. He has a plus arm, too, and should fit in right field.
Yosmerky Lantigua, RHP, Dominican Republic: Lantigua was an athletic outfielder converted to pitching, so he's relatively new on the mound. So far it looks good, with his athleticism aiding the transition and good mechanics that help him throw strikes with a fastball that has been up to 93 mph, along with a three-quarters type curveball and a changeup.
Nelfry Payano, RHP, Dominican Republic: Payano is another athletic former position player who moved from shortstop to the mound around two years ago. He has a smaller, strong frame at 5-foot-10 with a fastball that has reached 93 mph and good feel for a breaking ball.
Along with Lantigua and Payano from the right side, the Reds brought in a pair of intriguing lefthanders in Edwin Cervantes from Mexico and Ben Walmsley from Australia. Cervantes has increased his velocity from 84-87 mph six months ago up to 86-89 mph now, with a chance to be sitting in the low 90s once he fills out his slender 6-foot-3, 160-pound frame. His pitchability is advanced for his age with a good delivery that helps him throw strikes, along with flashes of a potential average breaking ball. Walmsley has a more compact 5-foot-10 frame with some funkiness to his mechanics, a fastball up to 91 mph and a slider that could be an average or better future pitch.