Image credit: Leodalis De Vries signs on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024.
A little more than 48 hours after Leodalis De Vries officially signed with the Padres, he’s now also officially a Top 100 prospect.
It’s a high ranking for 17-year-old shortstop who has yet to debut in professional baseball, but both the industry praise for De Vries and the track record of the top prospect coming out of the Dominican Republic or Venezuela in a given class has been impressive.
De Vries, who signed with the Padres for $4.2 million out of the Dominican Republic when the international signing period opened on Jan. 15, is a talented switch-hitter with a compact, adjustable swing and an innate feel for the barrel. He consistently finds the sweet spot, showing an advanced approach for his age to be able to control the strike zone with a low miss rate, squaring up both fastballs and offspeed stuff. Some players with those contact skills are spray hitters who don’t do much extra-base damage, but De Vries has shown power as well, power that translates in games. He could stick at shortstop, though if he ends up having to move to second or third base, he has the offensive upside to project as an above-average regular at those spots as well if everything clicks for him.
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That’s all exciting to dream on, but there’s a lot more risk with De Vries than there is with a player who has a longer track record at higher levels of the minor leagues. De Vries is the most talented player in the class, but there are players who sign seven-figure bonuses who never make it to Double-A. De Vries’ polish for his age makes him lower risk relative to other players his age, but any 17-year-old with no pro track record is high risk in a broader context of minor league prospects.
So let’s look at the track record of the No. 1 international prospect going back the last decade. To keep it consistent, we will set aside Cuban players, who we ranked separately some years because there were so many, often older players who didn’t fit with the typical 16-year-old prospects from other Latin American countries.
These were the top-ranked players from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela in their class from 2013 through 2019:
2019: Jasson Dominguez
2018: Marco Luciano
2017: Wander Franco
2016: Kevin Maitan
2015: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
2014: Adrian Rondon
2013: Eloy Jimenez
Five of those seven players are big leaguers. Franco’s future is in doubt, but he and Guerrero both played like stars in their early 20s. Jimenez hit .267/.315/.513 with 31 home runs as a 22-year-old rookie and is a career .275/.324/.487 hitter with a 118 OPS+ through five seasons, though his defensive limitations have hampered his value. Luciano and Dominguez both made their major league debuts in 2023 and both are Top 100 prospects, with Luciano the No. 2 prospect for the Giants and Dominguez No. 1 for the Yankees. Rondon and Maitan have been complete busts.
For the last three signing classes, we lined players up by expected bonus amount rather than talent, but these would be the three best players in the class on talent at the time, and the bonuses basically reflect that as well.
2023: Ethan Salas
2022: Roderick Arias
2021: Cristian Hernandez
One year after signing, Salas is already a top 10 prospect in baseball. Arias joins him in the Top 100. Hernandez was in the Top 100 soon after he signed, and while he’s still a Top 30 prospect in the Cubs system, the forecast for his future isn’t as bright as it was a couple years ago.
Some of these players are still prospects and even the big leaguers are still young, but looking at the outcomes of the top international prospect in a class, that’s a strong track record. Stronger than I would have expected it to be if I had to make a prediction back in 2013, back before we had all this data to inform our decision on how to rank De Vries, considering these are all players who were 16 or 17 when they signed.
Now that we do have this history to look back on, and knowing De Vries talent level, should he be a Top 100 prospect right now?
By the time we get to the back of the Top 100, there are still good prospects, but they all have their weaknesses and limitations. One spot behind De Vries is Mariners outfielder Lazaro Montes, who has a couple years of track record in pro ball and gigantic raw power, but he’s also still in the lower levels, has holes in his swing, and is at best a corner outfielder who might end up at first base or DH. The No. 93 prospect is Orioles lefthander D.L. Hall, who has pitched in the big leagues, does have high-end stuff, but is also 25 with a long track record of control issues with his value capped as a likely reliever.
In weighing everything, De Vries belongs in this group of prospects.