No team has been more aggressive on the international market the last two years than the Braves.
Yet the under-the-radar signing of Dominican outfielder Randy Ventura in February 2015 could be as beneficial as any recent acquisition.
The 19-year-old jumped to an impressive start at low Class A Rome this season by hitting .359/.419/.397 in 22 April games. His combination of speed, feel for the game and ability to put the ball in play has caught the eye of the South Atlantic League.
The switch-hitting Ventura has attracted comparisons with second baseman Ozzie Albies for his quick-twitch skills and the electricity he brings to the field.
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Ventura is spending most of his time this season in right field but has the ability to play anywhere in the garden. He possesses excellent range and first-step quickness as well as plus arm strength with excellent carry on his throws.
Offensively, he generates comparisons with Martin Prado from long-term members of the organization because of the “magic wand” he wields at the plate. Ventura’s plus speed makes every ground ball a challenge for infielders, while his outstanding hand-eye coordination and plate discipline led to 68 career walks versus 73 strikeouts.
Once on base, Ventura creates havoc with his ability to read pitchers. He stole 55 bags in the Dominican Summer League in 2015 and this year succeeded on 13 of his first 14 tries.
Ventura can drive the ball and should produce near-average power as his body matures. Once that occurs, he has a chance to move quickly through the system.
“Randy has very good instincts on the bases and he’s swinging the bat well after missing time last season with a hamate injury,” farm director Dave Trembley said. “He’s been a nice addition to the rest of the young players we have in the system.”
— Bill Ballew is a writer based in North Carolina