Image credit: Thomas Sosa (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)
Identifying future breakout prospects using stats in the Dominican Summer League and domestic complex leagues more often than not proves to be a fool’s errand. Physically mature hitters take advantage of less advanced pitching at lower levels and can put up eye-catching numbers that don’t necessarily translate to success when they matriculate to full-season levels.
However, with growing access to minor league statcast data through sources, we’ve begun to refine our ability to identify worthy follows and targets at the minor league’s lowest levels. In 2021, my first season with access to advanced data, I identified a pair of standout complex league hitters with outlier underlying hitting traits. Those two players were the Rockies’ Adael Amador and, at the time, a young power-hitting infielder in the Guardians’ system named Junior Caminero.
The process of looking for outlier combinations of contact, approach and power has proved fruitful, even when auditing the complex leagues. In today’s article, we’ll look to identify players who share similar traits to both Caminero and Amador at the same level.
First, let’s establish a baseline of what we’re looking for.
2021 MiLB Statcast Data
|Player||P||Team||PA||Avg EV||90% EV||Max EV||Cont%||zCont%||Chase|
|Junior Caminero||SS||DSL CLE Red||171||89.9||103.9||110||78.70%||84%||29%|
|Adael Amador||SS||ACL Rockies||200||87.9||103.7||107.3||79.90%||86%||22%|
To identify similar players, we need to set a baseline of performance across a variety of metrics. In order to perform this exercise properly, we need to blend contact, power and approach.
Our baseline benchmarks are as follows:
- Contact rate above 75%
- 90th Percentile Exit Velocity above 102 mph
- An average exit velocity above 86 mph
- A chase rate below 30%
This blend of metrics gives us a similar baseline to both Amador and Caminero, while providing some wiggle room. The sample sizes we are working with are small, and a couple of well-struck balls in play can make a large difference.
Finally, we need to narrow the field down to players 18 years of age or younger. With the accelerated paths for domestic-aged players, I haven’t excluded players who appeared at a full-season level.
Rookie Ball Qualifiers
Thomas Sosa, OF, Orioles: Sosa was signed by the Orioles out of the Dominican Republic in January of 2022 for $400,000. After debuting in the Dominican Summer League in 2022, with a well below–average showing, Sosa took a sizable step forward in 2023. He hit .290/.385/.492 in the Florida Complex League and ranked 20th overall in our FCL rankings. Sosa shows the most high-end power of the group (104.3 mph 90% – 110 mph max EV), while displaying strong contact skills and an ability to do damage in-zone.
Jesus Baez, SS, Mets: Baez ranked 15th on the Florida Complex League Top 20 despite hitting .210/.306/.333 over 160 plate appearances. He shows a strong combination of consistent power, high-end power projection and strong plate skills. Outside a .245 batting average on balls in play and some scout notes on fringy swing decisions, nothing within Baez’s profile explains his poor batting average this season. From a pure metrical perspective, Baez is as strong a candidate as any of blossoming into an impact hitter.
Jose Rodriguez, OF, Twins: After an All-Star showing in the Dominican Summer League in 2022, big things were expected of Rodriguez in his stateside debut. While 2023 wasn’t an awful showing, it was a disappointment based on expectations. Rodriguez hit .262/.325/.412 with 6 home runs over 49 games. While his surface level stats are just okay, his underlying data shows a young player with potential for plus power with above-average bat-to-ball skills.
Waner Luciano, SS, Astros: The infielder won the Astros’ Complex Player of the Year award after he finished tied for second in the Florida Complex League in home runs. Despite the accolades, Luciano showed impressive underlying data to back his performance. He shows impressive power overall with potential for plus game power at peak. He showed strong in-zone contact numbers with a lower chase rate, mitigating some of the swing and miss concerns raised by his overall contact rate. With a strong performance (110 wRC+) in his stateside debut and good underlying metrics, Luciano is a good name to follow over the next few seasons.
Lisbel Diaz, OF, Giants: One of two Giants players included in this list, Diaz is a physical teenager who signed this July. He went 3-for-4 with two home runs, driving in 8 RBIs in his professional debut. Over the final 22 games of the Dominican Summer League season, Diaz hit .312/.386/.455 with three home runs and 10 Ks to 7 Bb over 88 plate appearances. Diaz shows bat speed, with plus power potential, above-average contact skills and a physicality rarely seen in teenagers.
Carlos Concepcion, OF, Giants: The second Giants hitter on this list is Concepcion. The outfielder signed out of Dominican Republic this past January for $147,500. He was lauded in the Giants International Review for his power, and that held true in his professional debut. Concepcion hit .291/.368/.436 with 4 home runs over 33 games with strong underlying metrics. His exit velocity data is standout across the board with an average, 90th percentile and max all 4-5 mph above the average for his age and level. Concepcion showed advanced plate skills and bat-to-ball ability for a power-hitting teenager.
|Josue De Paula||CF||Low-A||LAD||18||340||86.1||102.4||109.9||76.4%||83.6%||19.10%|
Colt Emerson, SS, Mariners: One of the post-draft standouts of the 2023 high school class, Emerson has an outstanding combination of bat-to-ball skills, approach and power projection. Showing not only consistent power, but also strong contact skills that allowed Emerson to flourish immediately in pro-ball. He dominated the Arizona Complex League for eight games before seeing promotion to Low-A Modesto, where he joined the Nuts for their championship run. Emerson is one of the biggest helium names coming out of the second half of 2023.
Michael Arroyo, SS, Mariners: One of our top breakout picks this preseason, Arroyo hit the ground running in his stateside debut. Arroyo went 7-for-11 over four Arizona Complex League games before seeing promotion to Low-A Modesto on June 13th. Arroyo hit .234/.389/.373 with the Nuts, but showed well in flashes throughout the summer. He shows solid plate skills with above-average power projection. He showed a low chase rate with solidly average contact rates as an 18-year-old fresh off the complex.
Josue De Paula, OF, Dodgers: De Paula is arguably our favorite breakout pick coming into 2023, as he made all three of our writers’ breakout teams. De Paula is a skilled hitter with more power projection to come. The 18-year-old outfielder skipped the domestic complex level entirely and made his stateside debut with Low-A Rancho Cucamonga on May 30th. De Paula started out on bad footing, as he went 3-for-26 over his first seven games. After a difficult first week, De Paula hit .301 with a .408 on-base percentage. He showed a high walk rate and low strikeout rate, but his power left something to be desired. He shows some solid high-end raw power for his game and level, but is yet to fully tap into it in games.
Cam Collier, 3B, Reds: The Reds’ top pick in the 2022 draft, Collier reclassified from the 2023 class to the 2022 class, graduated high school early and enrolled at Chipola (Fla.) JC. He showed advanced bat-to-ball skills, a discerning eye at the plate and power projection. All of that held true in his full-season debut, as Collier showcased strong underlying power, while rarely missing strikes. His swing is not yet optimized for pullside flyball contact, but his exit velocity data points to plus power projection.
Roderick Arias, SS, Yankees: One of the biggest name on the complexes the past few seasons, Arias shows impressive exit velocity data (87.5 mph Avg – 103.5 mph 90% EV) and a low chase rate. However, his 67.9% contact rate eliminates him qualifying within the set perimeters.
John Cruz, OF, Yankees: Another standout from a loaded FCL Yankees squad, Cruz finished tied for second in the FCL in home runs with 10, as he hit .294/.376/.531 over 48 games. Cruz misses qualifying for the set perimeters due to his 72.6% contact rate and his 100.8 mph 90th percentile EV. Perhaps this is a mistake, as Cruz’s EVs and rates are all above-average for his age and level.
Eduardo Quintero, OF, Dodgers: The 17-year-old outfielder stood out among his peers in 2023, ranking second in batting average and third in slugging among Dominican Summer League players 18 years of age or younger. Quintero’s 180 wRC+ ranked third among all players in the 2023 DSL and first among players 18 or younger. He meets the contact and chase rate criteria easily, but misses on power projection due to his 101 mph 90th percentile EV.
Jeffry Rosa, OF, Mets: A 19-year-old power hitter, Rosa led the DSL in home runs and shows excellent exit velocity data. He misses the list due to a below-average contact rate of 68.8%. Few players at the complex level can match Rosa’s power, as his 105.9 mph 90th percentile exit velocity is elite for a teenager.
Robert Calaz, OF, Rockies: The Rockies’ outfielder is by far the closest just miss, as he missed qualifying by less than two percentage points in contact rate. Calaz’s exit velocity data is outstanding with a 89 mph average exit velocity as a 17-year-old, and an eye-popping 107 mph 90th percentile exit velocity. Despite his big power, Calaz rarely misses in-zone with an 83.2% contact rate.