2021-22 International Reviews: Cleveland Guardians
International signings have played a key role in the Guardians building a deep farm system. Shortstop Brayan Rocchio and outfielder George Valera are both Top 100 prospects, while shortstops Angel Martinez and Jose Tena are on the verge of entering the organization's Top 10 prospects. Their most recent class has another group of instinctive, high-contact hitters joining the farm system.
Top Of The Class
Jackson Chourio was Milwaukee's big-ticket international signing in Jan. 2021, had an impressive pro debut in the Dominican Summer League and finished 2021 as the No. 10 prospect in the Brewers system. His brother, Jaison Chourio, is another athletic, well-rounded center fielder, with the Guardians making Jaison their top international signing in this class. Chourio has a promising mix of tools, skills, athleticism and physical projection. He has a lean, wiry build with plus speed, easy actions and good instincts in center field. With his body type and strength projection, there's a chance Chourio's speed and average arm strength could tick up as he gets stronger, but he already has the range to handle center field. At the plate, Chourio recognizes pitches well and makes frequent contact with good feel for the barrel from both sides of the plate. While some scouts think it's likely to stay a hit-over-power approach, others see the leverage in his swing and strength projection remaining to develop into a power/speed threat.
Venezuelan catcher Victor Izturis is the nephew of former major league infielders Cesar and Maicer Izturis. His baseball bloodlines and upbringing are evident in the way he plays the game, from his instincts to his comfort in the batter's box. He has a short, simple lefthanded swing with good plate discipline and feel for hitting. His swing mechanics are advanced for his age, with the way he's able to generate separation and rotation in his swing, producing a high contact rate in games while lacing the ball from gap to gap. Izturis should stick behind the plate, too, with his defense progressing as he's gotten stronger and more reps behind the plate. He has the flexibility to get himself into good receiving positions, showing good hands, improved footwork and an arm that has ticked up to around average now that he's added more strength.
Names To Know
Rafael Ramirez Jr., SS, Dominican Republic: Ramirez is another Guardians prospect with big league bloodlines. A bilingual speaker born in New Jersey and raised in the Dominican Republic, Ramirez is the son of former major league shortstop Rafael Ramirez, and it shows that he's from a baseball family. He's on the younger end of the class with an advanced feel for hitting for his age. Ramirez has good bat control to make contact at a high rate with a smooth, mechanically sound swing from the left side. It's a hit-over-power profile now, but there could be significant power gains later now that he's starting to grow into his body, with the leverage in his slight uphill path to drive the ball in the air from gap to gap. Ramirez should develop as a shortstop, though there's a chance he ends up at third base long term.
Yanki Jean-Baptiste, SS, Dominican Republic: Jean-Baptiste has some of the better raw tools among this year's Guardians signings. He's a strongly-built 5-foot-11 infielder with fast, whippy bat speed from both sides of the plate to drive the ball for damage when he makes contact, though he's not as advanced as a pure hitter. He has big arm strength for the left side of the diamond and soft hands, with a chance given his physicality that he might end up outgrowing shortstop for another spot in the infield.
Yorfran John, SS, Venezuela: John has been an arrow-up player, fitting the mold of a lot of recent Guardians international signings as an instinctive player with good contact skills. He's a switch-hitter with an accurate barrel, putting a lot of balls in play with gap power. John doesn't have explosive tools, but they have started to trend up as he's added more strength to his 5-foot-10 frame. He's more steady than flashy in the field, playing under control with a good internal clock and the ability to throw accurately from different angles.
Alberto Mendez, SS, Venezuela: At 5-foot-9, 145 pounds, Mendez has a smaller frame and needs to get stronger, but he's a lefthanded hitter with a high contact rate and a line-drive approach geared to stay through the middle of the field. He's a scrappy player who should move around between shortstop, second and third base.
Pedro Hernandez stayed mostly under the radar as a shortstop from Panama listed at 5-foot-7. He's small but starting to get stronger and the type of player scouts appreciate the more they see him play. Hernandez is a righthanded hitter with good bat-to-ball skills, game performance and instinctual feel for the game that shows up both at the plate and at shortstop.