International Reviews: Boston Red Sox
Total 2017 signings: 57.
Top 2017-18 signing: C Daniel Flores, Venezuela, $3.3 million.
The death of Daniel Flores in November due to complications from cancer treatment was shocking and devastating. Flores was 17 years old, a switch-hitting catcher who had signed just four months earlier as the centerpiece of Boston’s international signing class. Flores was the top-ranked 2017 player from Venezuela and No. 2 prospect overall, with some clubs considering him the best international prospect last year. The baseball community mourned and honored Flores with moments of silence throughout events in Latin America, and the Red Sox plan to commemorate Flores this year during the Dominican Summer League season.
Danny Diaz, one of the top hitters in the 2017 class, signed with the Red Sox out of Venezuela for $1.6 million on July 2. Diaz trained with Jose Montero as a shortstop, then upon signing immediately moved to third base. At 17, Diaz is a strong, physical 6-foot-3, 220 pounds with a promising combination of hitting ability and power from the right side. Having added strength since signing, Diaz now has above-average raw power and has driven the ball over the batter’s eye in center field during batting practice. While a lot of power hitters at his age have trouble translating it against live pitching, Diaz stands out for his ability to hit in games. He’s a calm, balanced hitter, and while there are times his swing gets big trying to show off his power, he makes frequent contact, squaring up both fastballs and breaking pitches and driving the ball to all fields. He manages his at-bats well, with a good understanding of the strike zone and a two-strike approach.
For his size, Diaz is surprisingly mobile. He has a plus arm and his hands work well at third base. He’s still smoothing out his footwork and there is risk that he gets so big that he outgrows the position and has to go to first base, but as long as he stays on top of his conditioning he should be able to handle third base. The Red Sox generally start all of their Latin American signings in the DSL, which is where Diaz and the rest of the 2017 class will debut this year.
The Red Sox, one of the most aggressive teams in Venezuela, signed 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Antoni Flores for $1.4 million on July 2. While other clubs saw a larger gap between Diaz and Flores, the Red Sox viewed Flores as one of the better hitters available. Flores has gained 10 pounds since signing (6-foot-1, 170 pounds), with wide shoulders and plenty of space to fill out his skinny frame. The Red Sox viewed Flores as an advanced righthanded hitter who took quality at-bats, controlled the strike zone with a patient approach and had the barrel control to put the ball in play at a high clip, hitting line drives to all fields. Other clubs didn’t see as much game contact or bat speed and thought he would fit best toward the bottom of the order. Flores has gap power, with the ball starting to carry better off his bat with strength gains since signing, but he doesn’t project to have for much thump. As an amateur, Flores had solid actions at shortstop, but he was a below-average runner who several scouts felt wasn’t quick enough to remain at shortstop. He’s now an average runner and has made progress with his defense, using his lower half better to be lighter on his feet and play more under control. Flores trained with Henderson Martinez and Jose Ovispo.
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Nelfy Abreu is a speedy, 17-year-old switch-hitter from the Dominican Republic who signed with the Red Sox for $450,000 on July 2. At 5-foot-10, 150 pounds, Abreu is a smaller player with plus speed who will spend time at shortstop, second base and center field. While his defense might be stretched thin to play shortstop regularly, he’s an athletic player with good game savvy for his age. Abreu is a slap hitter who lacks strength and has minimal power, but he has solid contact skills to put the ball in play and rely on his speed.
The Red Sox signed 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Denny Daza for $250,000 on July 2. Daza is physically underdeveloped (5-foot-11, 160 pounds) but consistently hits well in games. A righthanded hitter, Daza has a short stride, quick hands and a compact, direct swing with clean path to the ball. He has good plate coverage and great feel for hitting the ball where it’s pitched, staying through the ball well to lace line drives all around the field. Daza has good bat speed but doesn’t have the strength right now for more than doubles power. An offensive-minded player with the potential to hit toward the top of the lineup, Daza will develop as a shortstop, where his feet work well, but his arm and speed are fringy and he could end up a better fit at second base. He trained with Emiro Barboza.
Another offensive-oriented shortstop from Venezuela, 17-year-old Wilker Vargas signed with the Red Sox for $175,000 on July 2. He has a smaller build (5-foot-10, 150 pounds) and a clean lefthanded swing. He’s a smart hitter with a good approach who has performed well in games, with mostly singles and doubles. Vargas is a fringy runner with an average arm who is probably best suited at second base.
Beyond their top handful of signings, the Red Sox added a big collection of players for bonuses of $10,000 (signings of $10,000 or less exempt from the international bonus pools), with plenty of rosters space to fill after being banned from international signings during the 2016-17 period. One of those $10,000 players is Alexander Montero, a 20-year-old righthander signed on July 2. He pitched immediately in the DSL, where he posted a 4.11 ERA with a 15-6 K-BB mark in 15.1 innings. Montero is 6-foot-3, 180 pounds with a fastball up to 92 mph and a slider that can get slurvy at times but that he shows feel for manipulating.
The Red Sox also gave $10,000 to 17-year-old Dominican center fielder Gilberto Jimenez in August. A good athlete with a limited baseball background, Jimenez has made fast progress over the past year. At 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, Jimenez is a plus runner who projects to stick in center field. A righthanded hitter when he signed, Jimenez is now a switch-hitter whose aptitude and athleticism has helped him make quick adjustments. He’s a line-drive hitter with gap power who made a strong impression with his performance at Dominican instructional league.