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Top 2018 International Prospects At The MLB Showcase: Outfielders, Pitchers

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San Pedro de Macoris, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC—Several of the top 2018 international prospects from the Dominican Republic participated in the Major League Baseball Dominican national showcase on Nov. 1-2.

After watching the event in person and speaking with international scouts who have followed the players, below are reports and videos on the notable outfielders and pitchers at the event, as well as which teams are linked to them. Baseball America subscribers can also read reports and watch videos on the top 2018 shortstop prospects at the showcase.

Alvin Guzman (6-1, 165, R-R)

Guzman, a 16-year-old who trains with Alfredo Arias, jumps out immediately for his lively, athletic frame. He has good bat speed and hits hard line drives all over the field in batting practice. He’s not a pure hitter—his hips leak open early and there is some swing and miss to his game—but his athleticism should help him make adjustments. In games, he went 1-for-5 and was hit by a pitch. Guzman showed average speed underway and good defensive instincts. He made three good plays in the outfield, including a diving catch charging a ball in right field and a leaping catch going back on a ball in left. Guzman has a plus arm and it could improve even more once he gains weight. The Diamondbacks are the favorites to land Guzman.

Eduardo Lopez (5-10, 160, B-R)

Lopez went 0-for-4 with two walks, but he looked like one of the more advanced hitters and all-around players at the showcase. Lopez is a 15-year-old with a simple, fluid swing from both sides of the plate. He has a medium frame, and he drove the ball well with hard line drives and quality contact even on his outs. He used the whole field, showed good bat-to-ball skills and strike-zone judgement. Lopez displayed good defensive instincts too, although his speed and arm strength are fringy. His overall profile has similarities to Rangers outfielder Miguel Aparicio. The Red Sox are linked to Lopez, who trains with Aldo Marrero.

Jose de la Cruz (6-0, 195, R-R)

De la Cruz is a 15-year-old with a strong frame and a fast bat. He hits with an open stance, and while his hand path can get sweepy at times, it’s usually direct to the ball and he drove the ball over the fence to his pull side during BP. De la Cruz didn’t get any hits (0-for-3 with two walks and a strikeout), but he showed a selective approach by not expanding the strike zone. De la Cruz showed average speed in the 60-yard dash and had one of the best arms at the showcase, both in terms of strength and accuracy. He also showed good instincts in the outfield with quick jumps off the bat. De la Cruz, who trains with Niche, is connected to the Tigers.

Freddy Valdez (6-3, 209, R-R)

Valdez sticks out immediately because of his size. He’s a big, physical corner outfielder whose best tool is his raw power. It’s a power-over-hit profile, with an aggressive swing and pull approach, which costs him balance at times. In games, he went 1-for-6 with a strikeout. Valdez is a below-average runner who needs to improve his mobility tracking down balls in the outfield. Valdez has a strong arm that fits in right field, but as a 15-year-old with his size, there’s some risk he could go to first base. If he does, he would give his infielders a big target. He looked adept at scooping balls out of the dirt when he was there during infield. The Mets are the favorites to sign Valdez, who trains with Luis Mejia.

Erys Bautista (6-0, 240, B-R)

Bautista is strong and stocky, built along the lines of Mets first baseman Dominic Smith. His BP was choppy and inconsistent—the bat even flew out of his hands on one swing—and he hooked a lot of balls foul. In games (where it counts), Bautista looked better, going 2-for-5 with two doubles and a strikeout. Bautista stayed within the strike zone and drove the ball well to all fields, with hard contact even on his outs. Bautista has left field defensive tools between his below-average speed and arm strength. He’s a 16-year-old who runs well enough now to play the outfield, though there’s some risk he could end up going to first base. Bautista trains with Jaime Ramos and is linked to the Brewers.

Sergio Campana (6-1, 165, R-R)

When the Dominican Prospect League went to Joliet, Ill. this summer, Campana ran well and looked good in BP, then went 0-for-6 with five strikeouts. After that trip, Campana played in the COPABE 15U Pan American Championship in Colombia. There, he hit .364 (8-for-22) with two home runs, three walks and just two strikeouts. Campana’s true talent level is likely somewhere in the middle, as he’s generally performed well in games even with some strikeouts. Campana is a center fielder with a lean, athletic frame and plus speed. He went 3-for-6 with a triple and a strikeout at the MLB showcase, showing good bat speed and a line-drive approach. The Rockies are the favorites to sign Campana, who trains with Banana.

Eduarqui Fernandez (6-2, 175, R-R)

Fernandez didn’t have one standout tool, but he was solid in several phases of the game. Fernandez has a tendency to drag the bat a bit, creating a sweepy swing path, but he made hard contact in BP and went 3-for-5 with a triple, a hit by pitch and a strikeout. He has a projectable frame with a tick above-average speed and, while he lost one ball in the sun, otherwise showed solid instincts in the outfield. The Brewers are the frontrunners for Fernandez, who trains with Jaime Ramos.

Jeremy de la Rosa (5-11, 191, L-L)

De la Rosa had trouble making quality contact in BP, hooking several balls foul. In games, however, he went 3-for-5 with two triples, a walk, a strikeout and a hit by pitch, with one of the triples coming against a breaking ball he pulled over the head of the right fielder. De la Rosa, 15, showed a tick above-average speed in the 60-yard dash that also translated going home to first as well, with enough speed and athleticism to go out as a center fielder. De la Rosa trains at the Quality Baseball Academy.

PITCHERS

Pitching is always more difficult to project among 15- and 16-year-old amateur prospects in the Dominican Republic. Teams back that belief with their actions, since nearly all of the players who receive $1 million or more are position players. While most pitchers at this showcase were throwing mid-to-upper 80s fastballs and required significant long-range projection, these three pitchers separated themselves from the pack at the event.

Starlyn Castillo, rhp (5-11, 203, R-R)

Castillo, who started the first game of the showcase, is expected to land a bonus north of $1 million next year and will likely be the top-paid pitcher in the market, though the emergence of Cuban righthander Osiel Rodriguez could change that. Castillo has a strong frame with a thick lower half, so while he’s relatively filled out already for a 15-year-old, he has some of the best present stuff in the class. At the MLB showcase, batters went 1-for-8 against Castillo, who struck out three, hit one batter and didn’t walk anyone. Castillo’s fastball parked at 91 mph and reached 93. He has topped out a tick higher than that in previous outings. He mixed in a solid slider for his age in the low-80s and generally threw strikes. The Phillies are the frontunners for Casitllo, who trains with Luis Mejia.

Fernando Ortega, rhp (6-4, 161, R-R)

Ortega started the showcase struggling with his control. After getting a groundout to third base to start his day, he walked three straight hitters. Then he settled in, getting a flyout to center field followed by three straight strikeouts to end his outing, including shortstops Alejandro Pie and Noelvi Marte back-to-back. In all, Ortega was arguably the most impressive pitcher of the group, with a lot of arrows pointing in the right direction. He has a tall, underdeveloped frame. Once Ortega gets stronger, that should help him repeat his delivery better to throw more strikes. At 16, Ortega already throws 87-91 mph. Given his arm speed and plenty of room to add weight to his frame, Ortega should gain more velocity over the next few years. Ortega’s secondary pitches also stuck out. His best offspeed weapon was his curveball, a swing-and-miss pitch in the mid-70s with sharp break and good shape. His changeup was inconsistent but he showed feel for that pitch too, getting a swing-and-miss on it against righthanded-hitting Agustin Ramirez. The Phillies are the favorites to sign Ortega, who trains with Chapita.

Diomedes Sierra, lhp (6-0, 161, L-L)

It’s hard to find lefthanded pitching in the Dominican Republic, which was evident at the MLB showcase with only one other lefty there besides Sierra. A 16-year-old who trains with Luis Mejia, Sierra showed promising signs in his brief outing. Sierra is an athletic lefty who threw 88-91 mph with hard recoil when he finishes his delivery. His slider was a solid but inconsistent pitch, at its most effective when he threw it to freeze lefthanded-hitting Jeremy de la Rosa for a called strikeout. The Padres are linked to Sierra.

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