The players below are ranked based on their projected signing bonuses, not necessarily their future talent levels. While those two should theoretically align, teams often have extremely different views and place wildly different values on 15- and 16-year-old players scouted in Latin America. That distinction is important enough to repeat: The rankings are based not on talent, but on a forecast of the market. They are not Baseball America’s rankings of the top 33 players in Latin America. Think of them more along the lines of our mock draft than our predraft Top 200 rankings.
The players at the top of the class have established their position fairly well. After the top dozen or so players, there could be significant variance in how much players sign for. There will undoubtedly be other less-known players who pop up and sign for top dollars as well. With reports of possibly half of the 40 Dominican players who had to register with Major League Baseball having failed their drug tests and MLB having still not completed its age and identity investigations, a player ranked below could suddenly see his value plummet if something comes up during his background check. These rankings are our best forecast of the market, based on conversations with scouts throughout the industry.
1. ESTEILON PEGUERO, SS DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 185
Peguero, a 16-year-old from Bani, trains with Enrique Soto and has been shown at showcases for La Academia and in games at the Dominican Prospect League. There are some scouts who have called Peguero the top hitter available in this year’s July 2 class, as he’s shown the ability to hit in game situations against live pitching. Peguero has a quick bat, good pitch recognition for his age and a sound swing. Peguero does have a late trigger that can give him problems against good fastballs on the inner half, but once he gets his hands through he’s able to whip his bat through the zone with an excellent finish. Peguero isn’t a power hitter, but he’s able to drive the ball into the gaps and should grow into more power down the road. While Peguero’s bat is his carrying tool, he’s just an average runner and does not project to stick at shortstop. He will likely move to third base or second base, where some scouts believe he could become a solid defender. The Mariners and Rangers have both shown interest in Peguero, and some believe the Rangers are the favorite. On January 19, the Rangers signed a catcher represented by Soto, Jorge Alfaro from Colombia, for $1.3 million. That same day, the Rangers also signed Soto’s son, 25-year-old third baseman Lee Soto, who signed with the Blue Jays for a high six-figure bonus in 2005 but was released after the 2008 season after hitting .201/.248/.293 in four seasons of Rookie and short-season ball.
2. LUIS HEREDIA, RHP MEXICO
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 180
Heredia is the top pitcher on some teams’ boards, though he is in a bit of an usual situation. Heredia, who is from Mazatlan, has already signed his rights away to Veracruz of the Mexican League, which means that teams wishing to sign Heredia will be negotiating directly with Veracruz, which would then transfer Heredia’s rights to a major league club. Under this type of transfer, the Mexican League team typically keeps 75 percent of the bonus while the player receives the other 25 percent. Heredia, whose father Hector reached Triple-A with the Dodgers in the late 1980s and was a longtime Mexican League pitcher, has been on the radar for some teams for the last three years, though he won’t be able to sign until he turns 16 on Aug. 16. For a 15-year-old, Heredia has an excellent fastball that sits at 88-91 mph with good life and has touched 92. With his youth, loose arm and wiry 6-foot-5 frame, Heredia should be able to hit the mid-90s has he fills out, and he already has shown good control of his fastball. Scouts are mixed on Heredia’s secondary pitches. His low-70s curveball shows good rotation at times, though it still needs work, and he has flashed a changeup. Some scouts have also seen him throw a slider, though at his age he hasn’t thrown too many breaking balls. The Blue Jays and Pirates appear to be making the strongest charge for Heredia, whose bonus could end up somewhere around $2.8 million, possibly higher.
3. ADONIS CARDONA, RHP VENEZUELA
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 180
The top pitcher in Venezuela is Cardona, a powerful righthander with a projectable body and an excellent fastball. Cardona, 16, has a quick arm that delivers fastballs at 88-91 mph, touching 93. He should have at least a plus fastball when he’s done filling out and should be able to hit the mid-90s down the road. He also shows some feel for a changeup. Cardona’s curveball shows good depth at times, though several scouts have expressed concerns about it and have called it a present below-average pitch. Cardona is still refining his feel for pitching, and his mechanics also give some scouts reservations. Cardona has strong ties to the Blue Jays, who are expected to sign him on Friday for around $2.8 million, which would break Padres righthander Adys Portillo’s $2 million record for a Venezuelan pitcher set two years ago.
4. RENATO NUNEZ, 3B VENEZUELA
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 175
Nunez, who trains with Ciro Barios, stood out with his bat on the Venezuelan team in August at the World Youth Championship in Taiwan. For some scouts, he has the most advanced bat in Venezuela in terms of his ability to hit for both average and power. He has a sound swing and can drive the ball out of the park with plus power. Nunez, 16, is a good athlete, though not all scouts believe he’ll be able to stay at third base. Some scouts have brought up the idea of putting him behind the plate, though he will likely sign as a third baseman. Oakland is believed to be the frontrunner for Nunez, who should be a lock for a seven-figure bonus and could receive in excess of $2 million.
5. ESKARLIN VAZQUEZ, RF DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 200
Vazquez, who is from Puerto Plata, is represented by Rob Plummer and trains with Moreno Tejada, the same pair that worked with Twins $3.15 million shortstop Miguel Sano last year. Vazquez has a long, projectable body and above-average raw power. He generates his power with a natural swing with easy whip that helps him generate loft. He isn’t a great runner and will have to play in an outfield corner, but his arm is at least a plus tool and will allow him to play right field. It’s not clear where Vazquez will sign, but he has drawn strong interest from a few teams, including the Giants.
6. PHILLIPS CASTILLO, CF DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 175
Castillo, 16, is an offensive-oriented prospect who stands out for his wiry, projectable frame and his potential at the plate. He has good bat speed, above-average raw power and can crush pitches down in the strike zone. He swings hard and has shown the ability to handle breaking balls, though he does have a small hitch in his swing where he drops his hands slightly. It should be correctable with professional instruction. Timed at 6.9 seconds in the 60-yard dash, Castillo is an average runner with an average arm, so he’ll be limited to a corner outfield position, likely left field. The Mariners have been tied to Castillo for a possible $2 million signing bonus, though some believe it could even be a tick higher.
7. VICMAL DE LA CRUZ, CF DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: L-L Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 170
De la Cruz, 16, works out at La Academia and trains with Raul Valera, who is more commonly known in the Dominican baseball community as “Banana.” De la Cruz is undersized and already physically mature, but he has a powerfully built frame, good athleticism and several tools that grade out as plus. He’s a plus to plus-plus runner who has been timed as fast as 6.5 seconds in the 60-yard dash. He has good bat speed and strength, which allows him to drive the ball for plus power when he connects with a fastball. De la Cruz is an aggressive hitter—sometimes too aggressive—who can get pull-conscious and collapse on his back side at times. With his speed and above-average arm, de la Cruz could become a quality center fielder, though like his offensive game, his routes to the ball could still use refinement.
8. ROUGNED ODOR, SS VENEZUELA
B-T: L-R Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 155
Odor (pronounced “Oh-Door”), the 16-year-old nephew of Indians high Class A Kinston hitting coach Rouglas Odor, trains with Miguel Nava and has played on Venezuelan youth national teams for years, most recently starring at the World Youth Championship in Taiwan last August. It’s hard to find a better pure swing anywhere in Venezuela. It’s short, quick and compact. Unlike many Latin American prospects who stand out more in batting practice and showcase environments, Odor separates himself in game situations with his instincts, savvy and approach at the plate. Odor has good plate discipline for his age and shows a willingness to work the count. While Odor’s size is a concern for some scouts, others have said he’s shown surprising pop for his size and could hit 15-20 home runs per year if he adds strength to his thin frame. Odor doesn’t have flashy tools, as he’s an average runner with an arm that grades out around average, though it can be wild at times. Odor does have good hands, but many scouts believe he will ultimately end up at second base. Odor might not sign immediately on July 2, but he has drawn strong interest from the Yankees and Blue Jays, while some believe the Reds or the Rangers could also get involved.
9. WILMER ROMERO, CF DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 185
Romero, a 16-year-old from Santo Domingo, trains with Alberto Arias (who in the past has worked with Engel Beltre and Juan Duran) and practices at the La Academia complex. This year’s class might not have any true five-tool talents, but Romero is as close to that label as anyone. He has a projectable, athletic frame with plus speed, a plus arm and plus raw power. His power can play in games at times, though some scouts still see him as raw, and at times he tries to do too much at the plate, causing him to pull off the ball rather than keeping his head locked in. While Romero seems to be one of the top talents on the market, he was not among the 40 Dominican players who had to register with Major League Baseball prior to the signing period, so he will still have to complete that process before MLB approves his contract. He has drawn interest from the Yankees.
10. ARIEL OVANDO, LF DOMINICAN REPUBLIC B-T:
L-L Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 180
Ovando (also referred to by some scouts as Ogando) trains with Carlos Guzman, a prominent Dominican trainer who in recent years has worked with Padres $900,000 third baseman Duanel Jones and Cardinals $1.3 million third baseman Roberto de la Cruz. At 16, Ovando is one of the most physically impressive hitters on the market, a long-framed 16-year-old with a projectable frame and plus to plus-plus raw power thanks to his size, strength and bat speed. Ovando can draw attention in batting practice and his hit well for some teams against live pitching, but his set-up has a good amount of extraneous movement and his size gives him a long swing, which causes him to swing and miss and get tied up against pitches in on his hands. Ovando’s potential is in his bat, as he doesn’t run or throw well, which means he’s limited to left field or first base.
11. HUMBERTO ARTEAGA, SS VENEZUELA
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 160
Arteaga was not a high-profile player for many clubs, but reports from several scouts in Latin America this week are that the Royals are expected to sign him for a bonus of around $1 million. Arteaga is a smart player with a skinny, projectable body, though he isn’t a great runner. Scouts have said he stands out more for his defensive tools—especially his soft hands—than for his bat, though he has experience playing in international competitions.
12. JOSE TORRES, RHP COLOMBIA
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 175
Torres is Colombia’s top pitching prospect and arguably the country’s top prospect overall this year. Torres, 16, has a skinny, projectable frame and a loose arm. His fastball has reached 90 mph and sits around 86-89, and he could have a plus fastball as he continues to fill out. Torres also mixes in a curveball that shows promise when he’s able to stay on top of the ball. Torres is expected to sign with the Mariners for a bonus of around $800,000.
13. YORMAN GARCIA, CF VENEZUELA
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 175
A center fielder from Caracas, Garcia stands out for his outstanding speed, athleticism and projectable body. He’s one of the best pure athletes in the 2010 class, a 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale who has been timed as fast as 6.5 seconds in the 60-yard dash. He has a decent arm and has the tools to be a quality defender in center field. Garcia has a slender 6-foot-2 build, and some scouts have said his bat will need work. The Cubs and Mariners have been linked to Garcia, who could be in line for a high six-figure bonus, though the Diamondbacks could also get involved.
14. GABRIEL CENAS, 3B VENEZUELA
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 175
Ceñas, a 16-year-old from Maracaibo, trains with Carlos Rios, who had previously served as the Yankees international scouting director. Ceñas’ calling card is his bat, as he shows good feel for putting the barrel to the baseball, though he’s still growing into his power. He is a fringe-average runner with a plus arm who has been linked to the Blue Jays for a bonus of around $700,000.
15. ELVIS SANCHEZ, 3B DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 195
Sanchez, who is from La Romana, is one of the best power hitters in Latin America. After traveling to the United States in October for the World Wood Bat Championship in Jupiter, Fla., Sanchez has worked out for teams in the U.S. this spring and made an impression in front of a hoard of scouts at the La Academia complex on June 15 by hitting a home run into the wind over the left-center field fence. He has plus to plus-plus raw power that comes from his strength and bat speed, though his stroke can get long and he has a tendency to try to muscle-up the ball with his swing. Sanchez will have to keep his conditioning in check, and several scouts believe he will ultimately move to first base. He does have a plus arm. The Pirates and Mets have been linked to Sanchez, while the Astros and Giants have also shown interest.
16. ANGEL MEJIAS, LHP VENEZUELA
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190
Mejias, who trains with Ciro Barrios, played with Nunez and Odor at the World Youth Championship in Taiwan in August. Mejias made the start in both of Venezuela’s games against Cuba, with mixed results. He throws his fastball in the high 80s. With his youth and arm speed he could have a plus fastball down the road, though his secondary pitches get mixed reviews. The Reds and Blue Jays are among the teams to have shown interest in Mejias, whom some scouts have said they’ve had trouble getting a chance to see recently.
17. YOEL ARAUJO, CF DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 180
Araujo, 16, is one of the better athletes available. Some scouts believe he has the ability to stay in center field based on his above-average speed, though others believe he will move to a corner, where his arm would likely limit him to left field. At the plate, Araujo shows a good eye and the ability to work the count, though he’s still ironing out his hitting mechanics.
18. JORDI CALDERON, 3B VENEZUELA
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 175
A third baseman from Bobures, Calderon has several tools that grade out as average to above-average. He’s a good athlete with a projectable body and plus raw power. He stands out at the plate for his power, and while his swing can get long on occassion, he has shown some scouts the ability to hit in game situations. Calderon is an above-average runner with a solid-average arm. Some scouts believe he could catch, while others think he will end up in the outfield, where his arm would allow him to play right field. He’ll likely begin his career at third base. The Mariners are expected to sign Calderon for around $500,000.
19. EDWIN MORENO, OF DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 183
Moreno, 16, was considered one of the top prospects in the Dominican Republic, but a positive test for a steroid has clouded his status. He trains with Victor Baez, the same trainer who last year worked with Astros pitchers Edgar Ferreira and Enderson Franco. Moreno has a range of abilities on the baseball field both as a hitter and a fielder. With an advanced approach and plate discipline for his age, Moreno has a good understanding of how to work the count and shows feel for making contact, and his ability to drive the ball when he gets his pitch is continuing to come around. Some scouts say he might be an inch or two shorter than his listed height, and think his stocky frame will limit his projection and continue to get thicker with age. But for now Moreno is an above-average runner who has been timed around 6.8 seconds in the 60-yard dash by multiple teams. He has a good arm, though he will play a corner outfield position as a pro (most likely right field) and is still working to get better jumps. The Mets were believed to have interest in Moreno, who also performed well in front of the Reds as July 2 approached. After the positive drug test it’s not clear where he will sign or how it would affect his bonus, which had the potential to surpass $1 million.
20. ARGY RAGA, C VENEZUELA
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180
Some scouts haven’t seen much of Raga, but he has commanded more attention recently since moving from shortstop to catcher. Raga, who is from Caracas, has taken to the position quickly, showing good athleticism behind the plate, solid receiving skills and an average arm. At the plate, he has flashed solid power potential, though for some scouts his bat is going to have to catch up. The Red Sox have shown interest in Raga, but the Braves are expected to sign him for around $400,000 when he turns 16 in July.
21. ALBERTO TRIUNFEL, SS DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 160
Triunfel has been on the radar for several years because his brother is Mariners shortstop Carlos Triunfel, who signed with Seattle in 2006 for $1.3 million. Like his older brother, Alberto Triunfel is also represented by the Scott Boras Corp. and trains in Santo Domingo with Javier Rodriguez. Alberto and Carlos don’t have too many similarities on the baseball field. While Carlos was a stocky 16-year-old who stood out for his bat, Alberto is a thin-framed athlete who has a better chance to remain in the middle of the diamond. He moves around well at shortstop, showing good hands and actions with the ability to make the flashy play. Triunfel’s arm strength is fringe-average and he’s an average runner, so he might move to second base. The biggest concern is how much he will hit as he moves up the ladder, though reports from some scouts are that his hitting has improved as July 2 approached.
22. JOSE TOVAR, LHP VENEZUELA
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 170
Tovar is from Venezuela but has spent time pitching in the Dominican Republic, where he has caught the attention of teams with quality stuff and an advanced idea of how to pitch for his age. Tovar, 16, throws strikes with a clean delivery and a loose arm. His fastball sits in the mid- to high 80s and can touch 90 mph, and he’s shown feel for a curve and a changeup. Sources have connected Tovar to the Rockies.
23. PEDRO PEREZ, 3B COLOMBIA
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190
Some scouts see Perez as the top position prospect in Colombia, though he has recently moved to the Dominican Republic to train with Edgar Mercedes at his Born To Play academy. Perez is strong and his best tool is his power, though he’s still raw and has trouble tapping into his power in game situations. Perez throws well but isn’t fluid at third base and could end up moving off the position. Some scouts have talked about moving him behind the plate, though he will likely sign as a third baseman. The Mets showed the strongest interest in Perez prior to his move to the Dominican Republic, while the Astros and Royals could also get involved. He won’t be able to sign until he turns 16 in August.
24. YORMAN LANDA, RHP VENEZUELA
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 170
Landa doesn’t have the size of fellow Venezuelan pitchers like Cardona or Mejias, but his arm strength stacks up well against any pitcher in the 2010 class. Landa, who is from San Felipe, has seen his fastball jump from the high 80s to the low 90s, topping out at 92 mph. His athleticism helps him repeat his delivery and throw strikes, though he doesn’t have much deception in his delivery and his fastball can flatten out. Landa stands out for his fastball, though he could have average secondary stuff. Some teams have concerns about Landa’s size holding up in a starting role, but he does have a good feel for pitching for his age.
25. VICENTE LUPO, LF VENEZUELA
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 180
Lupo, who is from Barquisimeto and trains with Jose Montero, played well at the World Youth Championship in Taiwan in August and has developed into one of the top power hitters available from Venezuela. Lupo has plus to plus-plus raw power with good bat speed and strength, especially in his forearms. His power is evident in batting practice, and while he has hit well for some teams in games, others have said he has trouble against live pitching because of his free-swinging approach. Lupo’s bat will have to carry him because his size, speed and arm strength will likely limit him to left field. The Royals have shown interest in Lupo, but he is expected to sign with the Mets for a six-figure bonus.
26. ANTONIO GONZALEZ, SS DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: B-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 170
Gonzalez, a 16-year-old from Bani, trains with Rafael Montero, the prominent trainer whose past players include Rafael Rodriguez, who signed with the Giants for $2.55 million two years ago. Gonzalez is an instinctive player who should stick in the middle of the infield. He doesn’t have great size or power, but he does have a solid swing and has drawn interest from a few teams, including the Cardinals.
27. GERONIMO FRANZUA, LHP DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 170
One of the best high-dollar Dominican signings of all time is Francisco Liriano, but there is rarely much elite lefthanded pitching in the Dominican Republic. This year is no exception, though Franzua has drawn attention for his power fastball from the left side. One of the country’s more visible pitchers thanks to his time in the Dominican Prospect League, he pitches from 87-89 mph and touches 90-91. He flashes a solid changeup for his age, though his breaking ball needs work and he’s learning to throw strikes with greater frequency.
28. RONNY MEJIAS, SS VENEZUELA
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 175
Mejias, who is from Zulia, has one of the best swings in Latin America. Some scouts believe his lefthanded stroke is more advanced than his righthanded swing, but they’re both quick, compact and fundamentally sound. Mejias is an above-average runner who has been timed at 6.8 seconds in the 60-yard dash, but where he ends up playing in the field is still up in the air. Even teams that like his bat don’t seem to believe he has the range or actions to stick at shortstop, so he will likely move to second or third base. He might also move to the outfield, where with an average arm he would probably play left field.
29. CHRISTOPHER TAMAREZ, SS DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 175
One of the better athletes in Latin America is Tamarez, who plays in the Dominican Prospect League. He hit well in the league but some scouts say he stands out more for his tools and projectable, wiry body. Tamarez, 16, runs well and has a solid-average arm, and while he’s still cleaning up his defense he has a chance to remain at shortstop. He also has potential at the plate and has the size to project for average power as he fills out.
30. LUIS ABAD, RHP DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 160
The record for a Latin American bonus belongs to a Dominican righthander—Oakland’s Michael Ynoa, who signed for $4.25 million in ’08—but Dominican arms typically don’t fetch the top bonuses. Pitching was down last year, and there don’t seem to be many premium arms in the country again this year. One of the more interesting righthanders is Abad, a skinny 16-year-old from Boca Chica who trains at La Academia. Abad has the type of frame that could lead to a few more ticks in his fastball down the road, as he current sits around 88-90 mph and can hit 91. He works mostly off his fastball, but he’ll also mix in a curveball as well as an occasional changeup.
31. FELIX JORGE, RHP DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 150
As June approached, scouts in the Dominican Republic talked about Jorge (previously referred to as Jorge Feliz) as possibly the top righthander in the country. More recent reports from multiple scouts were that his velocity has dipped (along with his potential price tag) into the mid-80s. Feliz, who is from Santiago, has shown a loose arm and a skinny frame that projects to help him add to his fastball, which at his best was regularly hitting the low 90s. He’s also shown good feel for a curveball for his age.
32. JAVIER PIMENTEL, SS DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 160
Pimentel is a skinny shortstop with a projectable body who has shown good hands and arm in the field. He’s a solid-average runner. He isn’t a huge threat at the plate right now, but he could grow into more power as he fills out his lanky body. The Yankees are among the teams that have been connected to Pimentel.
33. ANDERSON GONZALEZ, SS VENEZUELA
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 160
Gonzalez, a 15-year-old from Barquisimeto who trains with Jose Montero, stands out from other shortstops in this year’s July 2 class with his ability to stick in the middle of the diamond. Gonzalez has the potential to be quality defender with excellent hands. An average runner who has been timed at 7.0 seconds in the 60-yard dash, Gonzalez has an average arm, though his arm action isn’t classic for the position. With a slender 6-foot-2 build, he has a projectable frame but doesn’t have much present power. He doesn’t stand out in batting practice and some scouts wonder whether he will hit enough to be an everyday player in the big leagues, but others have been more comfortable with what Gonzalez has shown against live pitching. The Phillies have shown strong interest in Gonzalez, though he won’t be able to sign until he turns 16 in late July.