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Dominican Prospect League Scout Day

 



Tuesday, March 20
3/22/2012 1:04:33 AM

Today was the final day on the long journey for the players of the Dominican Prospect League. While the energy and enthusiasm with which the DPL players have shown throughout their stay continued to be present, there were signs of fatigue. Which makes some of the performances all the more impressive.

The day began with several players running the 60-yard dash. These times were all recorded on a hand-held stopwatch:

6.34- OF Gustavo Cabrera
6.72- MIF Yancarlos Baez
6.78- MIF Lugo Octavis
6.87- MIF Felix Suarez
6.88- OF Jose Pujols
6.94- MIF Richard Urena
6.94- OF Natanael Delgado
7.09- OF Ronny Carvajal

The 6.34 time Cabrera posted is exceptional. Seeing it understandably will leave many skeptical. Let me first add that I checked with two other scouts standing nearby, one of whom had the exact same time, the other was within several one-hundreths of a second. Cabrera did begin the 60 running with his shoulders square, while players who run the 60 yard dash at a Perfect Game showcase are required to begin turned sideways, simulating running from first to second on a stolen base. Even if you factor that advantage in and adjust his time as high as a 6.50, that is still incredibly rare for a 16 year old player. It comes as no surprise that Cabrera steals bases during games at will.

After watching the workouts over the past few days my curiousity finally got the best of me, and having already taken thorough notes  on the defensive actions of the players, I grabbed my radar gun and went behind the fence on the left field foul line to get throwing velocities of the outfielders on throws to third base. The two that stood out the most were Gustavo Cabrera (90) and Luis Barrera (89). It should also be noted that many US players attending a showcase throw for the radar gun rather than simulating actual game action, and while this is accounted for in the scouting notes and reflected in their overall evaluation, the raw workout numbers are often skewed higher as a result. These players were not throwing for the radar gun, they were their legitimate game throws. There were a few outfielders who I was unable to get velocities for, and I am especially diappointed to have missed out on Ronny Carvajal and Jose Pujols.

Though as per usual, the most impressive part of the DPL defensive workout was the fluid actions of the middle infielders. Richard Urena, Frandy De la Rosa, and Amaurys Minier continued to dazzle with their high level athleticism. These three stood out amongst an impressive group on the final day when fatigue should have become a factor.

Game highlights:

-We got a second look at LHP Kelyn Jose (currently eligible to sign). On Monday he touched 92 once and was extremely wild but his arm speed and strength was very impressive. He had a better outting today. When Jose gets his momentum through his delivery and finishes his pitches he can locate to the bottom of the strike zone and generates 90-92 mph velocity, which he did more frequently today than Monday. The secondary stuff was still quite raw, but his strong athletic body and long loose arm action with plus arm strength is an incredibly rare combination. I talked with one international scout from a MLB club today about rumors of Jose having touched 96 mph in the past, he noted that it seems realistic, though he has actually never it himself.

-RHP Alberto Uceta threw effectively today, giving right handed hitters a lot of trouble. He throws from a severe angle towards third base and creates significant cutting action on all of his pitches. His fastball sat 86-88 and his slider sat 78-79 with hard late break and deep sweeping action. Right handed hitters could not pick up the ball very well against him at all and his long loose arm action and 6-foot-2 170 pound frame give him additional projection.

-Yesterday Ben Collman noted that OF Jhonny Rodriguez "is a slightly built player who doesn’t have the present strength of many of his teammates. But he blasted a long home run to RCF over the 385 sign that seemed to surprise no one on the field but everyone behind the plate." Today Rodriguez, the youngest player on the field (will turn 16 years old on July 20) crushed a hard line drive that registered at 98 mph off the bat. At 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds he is highly projectable and looks especially young in the face. He doesn't yet standout on a pure physical standpoint, but over time he has a chance to overtake some of his more physical counterparts and develop into an elite player.

-OF/1B Emmanuel Tapia continued to show off his ability to drive the ball with serious authority from the left side of the plate, hammering two balls that registered at 94 mph off the bat. His short rotational swing generates good bat speed and his plus physical strength causes the ball to explode off the bat routinely.

Video of Tapia in BP:



-Immensely talented OF Gustavo Cabrera didn't get a chance to show much with the bat. He did however show patience that defies the stereotype of Dominican prospects, drawing four walks. His disappointment with not getting to show scouts his hitting tools (which are impressive by the way) was evident, though he should be commended for approaching his at-bats as he would in a real game, rather than changing his approach to show off for the scouts (who are well aware of his physical tools). He continued to wreak havoc on the bases, though he did get picked off in the first inning.

-The physically imposing Alvaro Castillo took the mound again today, at 6-foot-6 and 195 pound he is still growing into his body. He lacks coordination in his delivery but also creates heavy sink on his 82-84 mph fastball. The velocity doesn't excite, but it's important to keep in mind that he's a 16 year old who is still learning to carry his momentum through his delivery and generates the velocity almost entirely on pure arm strength. His release point is closer to the plate allowing his fastball to play up a touch, and he was a ground ball machine in today's outing. His breaking ball is a big and deep 73 mph two-plane bender.

-We got one final look at RHP Bryan Munoz. It is difficult to convey Munoz's true talent, which will likely allow a club to get him at a better value than they ought to be able to. He's a physically mature 6-foot right hander, who again topped out at 90 mph. But he not only knows how to pitch, he executes extremely well for a 16 year old. His fastball shows hard tailing action with plus sink and he locates it to either side of the plate. He mixes his pitches well and has a power breaking ball in the upper 70s that occasionally sneaks north of 80 mph. His changeup is not as polished as his fastball-breaking ball combo but is advanced for his age. He may lack the high ceiling of some of the other pitchers in the group, but if you were to pick one pitcher from the group the Dominican Prospect League sent to Arizona as the safest bet to someday reach the Major Leagues, Munoz is the obvious choice.

I believe that I speak on behalf of the entire Perfect Game staff that has had the privilege of watching this talented group of players from the Dominican Prospect League when I say that this has truly been a pleasure. The DPL is a first class organization.

We will have full in-depth writeups on each prospect available on the Perfect Game website in the next few days.

TG
 
3/21/2012 3:35:33 PM

-Monday’s DPL workout at Peoria Sports Complex was one of the most well run I have been a part of. David Rawnsley touched on the great tempo of the workout in his blogs from Florida and it really is fun to watch with every player (and coach) knowing exactly where they should be and running around at all times.

-Travel team coaches can learn a lot from watching Brian Mejia and Ulises Cabrera run the crisp workout, but also from their interaction with the scouts in attendance. Ulises shakes every scouts hand, asks them how they’ve been and thanks them for attending. Also, he handed every scout a roster and made sure they knew exactly who every player was. This is a breath of fresh air after attending tournaments with completely wrong rosters with some players not even listed, with other scouts and college coaches scrambling to figure out who the players on the field were.

-I really gained a better appreciation of the DPL team with a full batting practice, workout and game Monday, rather than trying to get a feel for players based on just a 9 inning game where players only batted once or twice and might not have had a play in the field.

-Batting practice highlights were numerous with multiple players driving balls all over the park, including 15-20 homers, not an easy task with the 340-385-410 dimensions at Padres Field 1.

-If I had to choose, the two most impressive BPs were Nathanael Javier and Amaurys Minier. Javier is a right-handed batter with lots of strength. He has by far the best plate coverage of any of the players and his bat is in the strike zone for a long time. His swing is quick with smooth and easy bat speed. He had a “wow” BP, especially on his third round when he cut it loose. He launched three homers with easy far over the left field wall with almost no effort. To say the ball jumps off his bat is overused in scouting and really doesn’t do Javier justice. I’m not sure if it leaps, bounds, hop, or springs off his bat, but it is quite impressive. Amaurys Minier is a switch hitter who is very good from both sides, but really stands out from the left side with a short swing with lots of bat speed. Minier has great bat control and he squares up balls with easy, driving them all over the park. He also has big pull pop and can easily hit the ball 400+ feet. He isn’t quite as quick or easy from the right side but still crushes every pitch he sees.

Here is video of Javier from Tuesday



One of the biggest mechanical differences between the DPL players and the players attending a PG showcase is the deep, strong load employed by about 90% of the DPL players. They start their hands in different places but nearly every one of them is deep and low with their hands right before firing them forward. This is a big difference from the no load, handsy swings that a lot of US players the same age use. While these players are undoubtedly more physically talented, that even the 6’0, 170 pound middle infielders are driving the ball to the wall consistently.

-A few other players that really stood out in BP: Felix Suarez, a 6’1 175 pound SS with an easy swing, loose bat speed, crushing two homers and showing big pull pop.

Gustavo Cabrera, is the prospect that gets the most buzz with his overall tool set. He is a little raw at the plate but is very aggressive and his hit tool is very big, with hard contact and big, big power potential. His loose, easy bat speed is really a sight to behold

Here is video of Cabrera from Tuesday



Leury Vargas is a bit on an anomaly, a Dominican first base prospect. He is a physical specimen listed at 6’3, 210 which is a couple inches and 10-15 pounds on the conservative side as he towers over the other players. He was the youngest position player on the team and doesn’t turn 16 until August 30. He doesn’t have the deep load that others do, as he stays very short to the ball with very quick and strong hands/wrists. His power is evident with a lot more to come.

Jose Pujols had the most impressive bolt of the day, driving a homer just to the left of dead center 415-420 feet away. He may be the most projectable of all the players and has massive power potential. Luis Urena is more noted for his speed and quick actions at SS but took a very good BP from the left side showing lots of bat quickness and pop to the opposite field.

Miguel Munoz is an Alfonso Soriano clone. Same body, same swing same actions. He is raw but has a ton of power in his frame. He hit three BP homeruns with ease and showed lightning quick bat speed.

Here is video of Munoz from Tuesday



-Outfield workout standouts were Ronny Carvajal, Jose Pujols, and Gustavo Cabrera. All showed athleticism and easy arm speed. Pujols might have the best raw arm strength of the three, but Cabrera release is so quick and his accuracy so good that it grades a little above right now.

-Infield standouts were Richard Urena, Lugo Octavis, and Yancarlos Baez were the standout defenders. Baez is all projection and doesn’t have the quick hands and actions of the other two, but does have a huge toolset to dream on. Urena has the total package of quickness, feel, and arm strength. Everything is easy for Octavis, his hands are very good and he excels turning the double play.

Nathaneal Javier showed big arm strength across the diamond from third base and clean hands and actions.

Game Highlights

-While the toolsy, projectable players listed above dominated the workout, an easily overlooked player made a few of the biggest plays during the game. OF Jhonny Rodriguez, a July 1996 birthday, is a slightly built player who doesn’t have the present strength of many of his teammates. But he blasted a long home run to RCF over the 385 sign that seemed to surprise no one on the field but everyone behind the plate. His swing is smooth and easy and he showed accuracy and arm strength, throwing out the speedy Cabrera trying to score on a single to left field.

-Cabrera was seemingly on base the whole time, easily swiping bases. He was 3.25 on a stolen base in the first inning.

-Amaurys Minier followed up his BP performance by going the other way with a tough outside fastball, showing the plate coverage and the ability to adjust to pitch location. He can flat out rake.

-Yoel Gonzalez followed up his Sunday performance by again showing top notch catch and throw skills behind the plate. He was consistently 1.95 in between innings, the lowest at 1.91, also showing pop and quickness in his bat.

-In a late inning at bat Natanael Delgado had a 1-2 count when Canadaian LHP Matt Fisher (a few pitchers on the Langley Blaze threw in the game) just missed the upper half of the strike zone with a hanging curveball. When Fisher came back with the exact same pitch at 2-2, Delgado pounced on it, crushing a long, high homerun that bounced off the right field foul pole.

-Frandy Delarosa led off for the Blue team and his left-handed bat is very quick and his hands and arm play very well at SS.

-Ronny Carvajal is the most polished defender in the outfield with lots of range and instincts, his long strides cover a lot of ground in center field and his arm strength is plus.

-Jose Pujols had another wow moment, but one that not may recognize. Swinging at the first pitch, he threw his hands at an outside fastball and popped it up down the left field lin. The ball picked up a hangtime of 6.54, an impressive number for a player swinging from his heels, but almost unthinkable on a pitch that Pujols didn’t even but a good swing on.

-While not quite as interesting as the position players a couple of highly projectable right-handers took the mound with Winder Novas and Crucitio Mieses both sitting 83-84. Novas was up to 86, Mieses topped at 85. Neither showed much of a feel for off-speed pitches, but Novas has easy arm action, the ball coming out of his very well. He is in line for a big velo jump in the next year or two.

BC 
Monday, March 19
3/20/2012 1:31:27 AM

The DPL Scout Day Sunday at the Los Angeles Angels complex was cancelled after the states of Iowa and Arizona swapped mid March weather conditions for a few days. While the PG offices in Cedar Rapids were enjoying 70 degree weather and sunshine, the spring training complexes in the Desert were treated with rainy, 50 degree temps with hail being reported in Scottsdale.

The weather was chilly but the rain held off on Monday morning for the DPL vs. Langley Blaze (British Columbia) game. Sunday’s rain did prevent the teams from taking BP and infield on the field.

Watching BP and infield provides a good framework for what to watch for in a game and identifies players with standout tools and impact bat speed that might not be able to be displayed in a 9 inning game.

The task was a bit tougher Monday as both the DPL and Blaze shuffled players and positions, giving most of their players at least one at bat (which was quite a task for the coaches as each roster totals around 25 position players).

Tomorrow’s DPL Blue vs. DPL Red with full batting practice and infield will give a clearer picture of many of the prospects mentioned, but here are some standout and observations from Monday.

-LHP Kelyn Jose (eligible to sign) was the standout, a long loose lefty who sat 87-89, but touched a few 91s and a 92. He was 74-76 with his curveball. It had depth but not much hard spin and the few splits he threw were buried. Smooth, loose, easy arm action, the velocity and Jose’s young build make him extremely interesting.

Here is video of Jose from Monday.



-When looking at Jose and the other DPL prospects, context is a thing to always remember. Jose is an elder statesmen on the team, one of the three players of the team who is eligible to sign. He doesn’t turn 17 until May 19th, so when looking at him one has to think of him as a high school sophomore, or a player participating in the 16u WWBA or Junior National Showcase, which is a bit of a change after scouting 2012 draft prospects for much of the week.

-RHP Bryan Munoz (eligible to sign) got the start for the DPL All-Stars and pitched very effectively. He didn't allow a single ball to leave the infield until the fourth inning. Munoz topped out at 90 mph and showed good command to both sides of the plate working consistently at 88-89 with good pitchability, breaking three bats in his highly effective outing. His curveball showed hard spin and good depth that registered as high as 81 mph, though it was at its best at 79. He also worked in an occasional low 80s changeup up to 83 mph. Munoz changes his arm slot at times, but generally throws from a high 3/4 slot with a loose whippy live arm. His delivery, size and feel for pitching are reminiscent of Cincinnati Reds prospect Daniel Corcino, a 21 year old Dominican native who has established himself as a legitimate prospect after a strong showing at Low-A Dayton of the Midwest League in 2011.

-A couple swings in the cage is not nearly enough to get a feel for a player’s offensive ability, but the player whose bat speed stood out for me was Amaurys Minier a switch hitter with easy bat speed from both sides. I like him a little more from the left side as he has more bat speed and loft. He has active hands with a bit of rock and roll with hands pre-swing and uses it to generate the big time bat speed. He has such wrist strength and bat control that he should be able to adjust to off-speed pitches even with that approach.

-OF Gustavo Cabrera had an unproductive day at the plate, but he flashed highly impressive tools nonetheless. Cabrera's strong athletic body and quick twitch movements all around were impressive, but it was his plus-plus raw bat speed that made him a true standout. Quality pitching from the Langley Blaze kept him off balance and he didn't square up anything in game action, but the off-balance popups he hit were towering, suggesting that when he does square the ball up that it will explode off of his bat.

-Miguel Munoz approach and swing reminded me of former WWBA and National Showcase standout Eric Arce. Both players have most of their strength in their lower half and use a deep load and very quick hands to turn on pitches on the inner half. Munoz has some of the most usable present power on the squad. -The big bolt of the game a double of the base of the left field wall by C Richard Nunez (eligible to sign). He has a lean, active body with strength and his hit tool is very strong at present with a smooth swing and some of the best balance of any DPL prospect.

-Yoel Gonzalez relieved Nunez behind the plate in the later innings and showed very good defensive ability with quick feet, feel for receiving and arm strength.

-Two infield defenders stand out with SS Richard Urena and Yancarlos Baez showing lots of athleticism and top of the line tools on defense. Urena is very quick twitch and covers ground in a hurry, he doesn’t have the long, lean build of Baez but has loose arm action and easy arm strength. Baez is what you would envision a 16 year old Dominican SS to be: long, lean, loose, very projectable and smooth. Baez isn’t there yet but with additional foot quickness and arm strength has the tools.

-Alberto Sanchez has a chance to be special at the plate. One of the youngest players on the roster, he has a smooth easy swing with lots of bat speed. He isn’t quite as projectable as some of his teammates but has strength and lean muscularity. He current swing lends itself to fly balls to right-center field, some of which probably carry for doubles but many that get run down. Once he pulls the ball with authority and continues to uses the whole field, watch out.

-The two bodies that stand out are Ronny Carvajal and Jose Pujols. Carvajal is long with a high waist and present strength, the 2012 prospect he brought to mind body wise was George Washington OF Fernelys Sanchez. Pujols oozes with potential, long and lean with bat speed and loose and easy everything. Projecting these players 5-10 years down the line is the name of the game, but Pujols is the one player I would love to throw in a time capsule and jump to 2017 when he is 21 as his body and tools could make him one the top prospects in the game.

-A couple of other comps that came to mind on Monday: Emmanuel Tapia’s left-handed swing brought to mind longtime 1B Randall Simon and Natanael Delgado has some Alfonso Soriano in his game. Same body type (albeit a bit smaller), but the same long levers. The ball really jumps off his bat.

-In a game that saw a couple of pitchers around 90 it is rare to see three stars and a circle around a player whose fastball sat 82-84. But Alvaro Castillo, stands 6’6, 195 with strength throughout, is very loose, arm works very well, and is seemingly playing catch at 82-84. Another scout and I both commented that it looked as if he was throwing in the upper 80s with ease during warm-ups, only to see him below 85 during his stint. Projecting a pitcher to gain more than 3-5 mph is a tough to do, but I see the possibility of Castillo adding 8-10 mph to be almost probable.

-While not as toolsy as the DPL Team the Langley Blaze has a strong team of the top players from British Columbia.

-Their standout prospect from Monday is a Montanan, CF Justin Black, who, due to his state’s lack of high school baseball is traveling with the Blaze this spring. A Nebraska commit. Black has added a good amount of strength to his frame since the summer but was able to maintain his best tool, his impact speed. He stroked a line drive single to left field, and after the ball was misplayed by the RF, scooted all the way around the bases with ease, inducing some chatter from behind home plate. His speed also plays in CF and his arm is solid average and also plays at the position.

-Catcher Tyler O’Neill is a defensive catcher with strength, popping consistent sub 2.00s in between innings. If O’Neill can get his throws online he will be very tough to run on.

-Two SS/3B with similar builds and skills sets are Jesse Hodges and Greg Rodgers who both currently play SS, profile at 3B and have loose athleticism. Rodgers currently a bit ahead with his bat and Hodges with the glove.

-Mitchell Robinson looks the part of a D1 catcher with well proportioned strength and athleticism. He is raw with his swing actions but does have a line drive plane and strength.

-Jordan Ramirez had the best swing of the day for Langley, ripping a triple to right-center field and putting up a good run as he sped around the bags. He is a solidly build athlete who runs well for his size and has strength in his bat.

-Langley starter 2013 RHP Brock Dykxhoorn (Goderich, ON) was similarly raw like many of the high upside DPL prospects. But on the few pitches where he stayed tall in his delivery and drove the ball downhill he flashed signs of what may come. His potential to consistently generate downhill leverage with his highly projectable pitcher's frame to utilize his raw arm strength give him upside. His tendency to collapse his backside led to his delivery becoming rotational often but he still managed to stay around the strike zone well in spite of his balance and timing issues.

--BC/TG 
Wednesday, March 14
3/14/2012 3:38:05 PM

The Dominican Prospect League players matched off against each other early this afternoon at the Yankees minor league complex. 

The pitchers the Yankees choose to have throw against the young Dominicans were of a markedly more impressive talent level than those the Red Sox choose to throw yesterday (another victory for the Yankees in the endless battle against the Red Sox).  Specifically, most could throw either a change up or curveball for a strike and didn't hesitate to do so once they figured out they were facing 15 and 16 year old hitters who weren't used to seeing that level of stuff. 

So the game went along very briskly, with plenty of strike outs.

A couple of hitters really stood out, though.  SS Richard Urena had two hits, including driving a double over the left fielder's head to score a run.  Urena has had five or six quality at bats over the last two days and been really impressive as a hitter.  He also made a nice far ranging play up the middle today to get an out at first base.

The DPL guys have been telling me that left handed hitting OF/1B Luis Barrera is one of the top hitters in this class since late January and I'm finally starting to buy into it.  Barrera hits the ball hard a couple of times a game regardless of the quality of pitching and regardless of whether it is right or left handed pitching.  He's not very toolsy but he has that left handed bat tool, which could take him far.

A couple of hitters showed mature two-strike approaches, which stood out.  C Deivy Gullon drove in a runner from third base with a ground ball on an 0-2 pitch after being completely overmatched the first two pitches and shortened up his swing impressively.  3B Alberto Sanchez did the same thing and was rewarded with a run scoring double down the right field line.  A number of other hitters didn't make the adjustment and realistically couldn't have been expected to.  You almost wanted to call out "Hey, next pitch is a curveball in the dirt, DON'T SWING!", but they wouldn't have understood the English anyway.

The DPL players have another game tomorrow at the Phillies complex, then are taking the red eye out to Arizona tomorrow night.  We'll pick up the coverage from there.

Flight's about to leave Tampa, adios amigos!
 
Tuesday, March 13
3/14/2012 5:59:12 AM

The DPL prospects are broken down into two pretty equal teams, Red and Blue.  They took a full round of batting practice in the Stadium, followed by a quick In/Out and then played an 8 inning game.

Any time any player regardless of age takes batting practice at Fenway Park or "Fenway South", The Wall is obviously going to be a focal point.  My younger brother plays in a over 40 league in the Northeast and they got to play a game at Fenway a few years ago.  The first thing he said, before I even asked, was "I hit a ball off The Wall in BP!"

So there was much hooting and hollering by the players and some fist bumps behind the cage when 3B Nathanael Javier hit the first towering shot over The Wall during BP.  It was the first of many, with Wendell Rijo, Jose Pujols and Delvy Grullon also hitting notable or multiple bombs.

The Red Sox provided all but two of the pitchers for the game and they were an interesting mix of prospects and likely release candidates.  It meant that some of the innings were cut short when pitchers reached a pitch limit but the DPL organizers really appreciated the Red Sox working with them so well in this aspect of the game.

The first pitcher out on the mound, ironically, was 2007 3rd round pick Brock Huntzinger.  Huntzinger participated in numerous WWBA events in the mid 2000's with the Indiana Mustangs, including the 2006 WWBA World Championships in Jupiter.  Huntzinger, who pitched in AA in 2011, showed almost the exact same stuff as he did as a teenager, topping out at 91 with his fastball with an upper 70's slider and 80 mph change up.  Of course, he probably isn't quite up to speed yet with his arm strength this early in spring training.

One Red Sox prospect who definitely was up to speed was RHP Francellis Montas.  A Dominican, Montas is listed as turning 19 years old next month and being 6-4/190.  The eye ball test said that he was 6-3/230 and looked a bit older.  The radar gun test said that all his pitches from the wind up were 97-98 mph.  Word was that Montas has touched 101 mph before, which is very believable.  SS Felix Suarez doubled off a 98 mph Montas fastball, although it was a opposite field bloop that landed on the right field line.  But a double against 98 mph is something no matter where it lands and how softly it's hit!

Some game notes:

--  Along with hitting a monsterous BP home run over the wall way out near where it ends in centerfield, Pujols swung the bat well in games.  He jumped on one change up out over the plate and crushed a line drive to centerfield that was caught but registered 97 mph off the bat.

--  Wendall Rijo was outstanding.  He took the best BP out of any player and also had the defensive play of the game at shortstop, ranging far up the middle and making a quick release to get a runner at first base.  He also provided a scare in the final inning when he twisted his knee trying to avoid a rundown tag between second and third base.  It looked bad initially but he walked off under his own power under the watchful eye of the Red Sox trainer and word after the game was that he was fine.

--  3B Alberto Sanchez swung the bat very well in the games and I will have to up my grade on him.  He's a bigger, more physical player than most of the other DPL players and it showed in his game approach.  He crushed one ball into the left field corner for a double and singled sharply to left his next time up.

--  Scouts were clearly there to look at Gustavo Cabrera in game action.  One thing they got to see was his speed.  Cabrera walked twice and was also inserted into the game once as a pinch runner for a player who'd been hit by a pitch.  He stole 5 bases, most of the "no contest" variety, and was clearly going to take any opportunity he got.

-- Big left handed hitting 15 year old 1B Leury Vargas (6-3/210) showed a very mature approach at the plate, lining hard line drive singles over the shortstop's head his first two times at the plate.  The first was off Brock Huntzinger, the second off former Houston Heat RHP Jacob Dahlstrand, who was 90-92 with his fastball.

-- C Yoel Gonzalez is one of the youngest players on the team and is overshadowed a bit by top prospect catcher Delvy Grullon but he showed very well today for a 15 year old both offensively and defensively.  He handled Montas with little problem and had a string of quality at bats.  One thing Gonzalez discovered, though, is that catching 90 mph sinkers, courtesy of former TCU right hander Tyler Lockwood, isn't very easy.  Gonzalez has probably never caught that  type of pitch before and Lockwood's sinker was really exploding downwards at times.  Gonzalez snow coned so many balls that he had to go to the dugout for another mitt when the webbing got loose.

--  The DPL staff and I have debated the relative merits and prospect standing of shortstops Yancarlos Baez and Richard Urena both in the Dominican and again here in Florida.  Urena had the big edge today with the bat, with three quality plate appearances:  a well earned walk that featured multiple foul balls, a hard single off an 88 mph fastball and a hard ground out to first base where he pull his hands in on an inside fastball very well.

--  RHP Novas Winder was impressive on the mound for the Dominicans.  The 6-1/165 Winder just turned 16 last week (i.e. he would be a 2014 player in the US) and was 85-88 with his fastball, with his best bolts coming from the stretch.  He also showed some pitchability, mixing in a curveball, a slider and a pretty good change up.







 
3/14/2012 5:19:08 AM

The Dominican Prospect League prospects bussed down to Fort Myers Tuesday to play at the Red Sox brand new jetBlue Park (aka "Fenway South" on some signs around the complex).

The Red Sox, of course, are no longer using City of Palms Park and the 5-Plex that have become familiar to so many WWBA/BCS players and parents over the last decade.  The moved into their new complex out by the airport this spring and not surprisingly it is nothing short of spectacular.

The stadium dimensions are a replica of Fenway Park, complete with "The Wall" in left field, the left field fence scoreboard, Pesky's Corner in right field, the right centerfield bullpen, etc.  The only compromise is that The Wall actually is 310 feet from home plate as is indicated on the fence, whereas the Fenway Park version is somewhere between 280 and 290 feet in reality. 

Perfect Game will be using the minor league fields at the new complex beginning this May for WWBA and BCS events and we've been promised that we will have access to jetBlue Park for select championship games and such.  That will be a spectacular experience for some fortunate players/teams, especially if a team from the Northeast happens to qualify for such a game.
 
Monday, March 12
3/12/2012 8:07:26 PM

There is at least one player on the DPL travel team who has very good reason to be very sad, if not angry, at the new international signing rules:  OF Gustavo Cabrera.

As of July 2, 2012, teams will be limited to spending $2.9M total over the course of the next year on international signings.  I haven't talked to anyone on the international scene about how they anticipate teams will separate out that money but my guess is that it would be surprising to see any one player get over $1.2M to $1.5M.

The Texas Rangers spent over $20M on international signings over the last year according to published reports and that doesn't even include Japanese RHP Yu Darvish or the unapproved $4.5M bonus offered to OF Jairo Beras.  If Beras' contract would be approved, they would have a $12M+ outfield of Beras, Roman Mendez ($5M) and Ronald Guzman ($3.3M) just from 2011 signings out of the Dominican Republic.

Cabrera just turned 16 in late January and has phenomenal physical ability.  He runs 6.6 on gravel tracks, hand timed (which is probably about 6.35 on turf laser timed), has a future plus arm and has as much bat speed at the same age as a Justin Upton-type prospect.  In fact, comparing him to Upton wouldn't be unfair.

I asked the DPL guys how Cabrera compared to the three big Rangers signs.  The response was interesting.

"The pro scouts really want to sign that big, tall pojectable player (all three of the Ranger signs are 6-4 or taller and sound like future Giancarlo Stanton type prospects) who they can project that huge power from.  But for me, Cabrera is just as good if not better than those guys.  Not only does he have the same type of power right now, he's a premium position guy who can play centerfield.  That has huge value.  I hope they would value Cabrera the same way but it's kind of a not realistic to even talk about anymore."

Indeed, it's not realistic.  Cabrera could have easily been looking at a $3M to $4M payday on July 2 under the old rules.  It's not hard to imagine 3B Amaurys Minier from this group generating the same type of interest.  Now they will be looking at maybe 30% of that amount.  That's a huge drop.

Mad or sad won't change it, though.
 
3/12/2012 6:46:29 PM

From what I saw in the Dominican Republic six weeks ago, the position players are well ahead of the pitchers in terms of development.  That's only to be expected with 15 and 16 year olds, especially when the pitchers have significantly less access to game experience and coaching than they have in the United States.

Also as a general rule, you will rarely see a Dominican pitcher with any real polish to his breaking ball or change up.  This is, again, a function of lack of game experience and coaching.  So when you are evaluating a Dominican pitcher you are looking at body and arm action and athleticism/projection and the rawest ability to spin the ball and maintain some semblance of a consistent release point and arm speed.

As the pitcher's will be throwing in games over the next 10 days, seven threw bullpens today, while tomorrow's pitchers didn't throw at all.  It was very surprising to me that I was the only scout in the whole group who had a radar gun out.  There's no harm in at least seeing what someone throws in a bullpen!

The big pitching prospect from the DPL group is in the unique and enviable position of being eligible to sign right now (all but two other of the group aren't eligible to sign until July 2, under the new draft rules).  Kelyn Jose is a 6-4/190 left hander who touched 94 (96 on one gun) six weeks ago but was so raw with his off speed stuff that he was better off not trying to throw them in public.  He's improved tremendously after having coaching for the first time in his life since.  He sat 91-92 in his bullpen and while his curveball wasn't exciting, the progress he had made with it was.  Velocity comes very easy for him and he can throw his fastball for strikes.  If he was in the United States he'd be a high school junior southpaw topping out in the mid 90's.  Easy to figure out where that type gets drafted.

Another LHP, 6-2/170 Beinvenido Morales, worked in the 87-89 mph range with a quick, compact arm action.  Morales is 15 years old and won't turn 16 until late June.

RHP Bryan Munoz has a very solid and mature 6-0/187 body and is more polished and physically mature than the rest of the Dominican pitchers.  He was 88-90 with his fastball and showed occasional tight downer bite on an upper 70's slider.


 
3/12/2012 6:23:44 PM

The question came up a few times today if PG was going to post reports on all the Dominican prospects traveling to Florida and Arizona.  The answer is a definite Yes.  I'll be writing PG style reports with PG grades at the end of the week as I will have seen  most of these players play over a six day period, twice in the Dominican Republic in late January and four times here in Florida.

I will also be writing blogs on today's workout impressions, plus impressions from the games against Red Sox minor leaguers tomorrow and Yankees minor leaguers on Wednesday.

When the DPL prospects move on to Arizona later in the week, Perfect Game will have Jeff Dahn and Todd Gold on hand to scout and write about those games and workouts as well.

So keep checking back daily for more scouting information.  I can guarantee you something right now, too.  A significant number of these young Dominican prospects are going to play in the Major Leagues, they have those kind of tools and they seem to really know how to play the game.
 
3/12/2012 6:17:36 PM

The 34 players from the Dominican Prospect League held an open workout for scouts today at the Toronto Blue Jays minor league complex in Dunedin, Florida.  The workout was attended by about 45-50 scouts, not including myself, Ben Ford and Brad Clement from Perfect Game.

Interestingly, both Ben and the DPL vans went to the Blue Jays Big League stadium and fields first and had to get new directions to the minor league complex.  The two are separated in a similar way as the Red Sox 5-Plex and City of Palms Park are in Fort Myers.  Rookie mistakes.....

I'll tell you what, these guys can make a workout fly.  If you think a Perfect Game showcase runs smoothly and on time, you need to watch one of these DPL workouts.  Uli Cabrera told me that they had this group together for three days before they left the Dominican Republic and that they practiced the workout routine and what everyone (including their 7 coaches) was to do at each point.  It's choreographed and it leaves you hustling as a scout to be in the right position if you're position sensitive like I am.  The players (remember, these are 15 and 16 year olds) are enthusiastic and hustle everywhere with military discipline and enthusiasm.

While Brad and I were waiting around for everyone to get to the right place, we did get to watch two Blue Jays minor league intrasquad games being played and saw Iowa natives Kellen Sweeney (fly out) and Derek Loveless (K) come to bat.  We also saw Blue Jays 2011 Comp Round pick RHP Kevin Comer throw an inning and he looked outstanding. 

 
3/12/2012 6:54:33 AM

Ben Ford and I had the pleasure of meeting up with Louisville Slugger's Chuck Schupp yesterday.  I'm not sure of Chuck's exact title with Louisville but it is probably something like "Director of Major League Baseball Operations".  He was there, near the end of his annual Spring Training swing, to see the two directors/founders of the Dominican Prospect League, Brian Mejia and Ulises Cabrera, who both used to work under him for Louisville Slugger.

As I remarked to Ben, if there was a Hall of Fame for people that no one outside the game have ever heard of but who are part of its fabric, Chuck would be a first ballot Hall of Famer.  He has been working with Louisville since 1984 and knows practically everyone in professional baseball, from future Hall of Fame players to assistant clubbies and traveling secretaries.  The amount of equipment he's moved into professional baseball player's hands in the form of bats and gloves and helmets looks like Cy Young's 511 wins in relation to what any other salesman have moved.

I wouldn't doubt that he knows more players than the Peter Gammons and Buster Olney's of the world.

I first met Chuck around 1990-91 ordering minor league supplies for the Astros organization.  Ben remembers Chuck giving him a glove in the Yankees clubhouse even though he was signed with a rival glove company.  He says he still has the glove somewhere at home.

Lots of good stories were told.  My grandfather was the director of college football sales with McGregor Sporting Goods back in the 50's and 60's when McGregor was huge.  Chuck reminds me of him in many ways


 
3/12/2012 6:34:16 AM

The international scouting community was shocked two weeks ago when the Texas Rangers signed Dominican outfielder Jairo Beras to a $4.5M bonus.  They weren't shocked that the Rangers would hand out that sort of money, as Texas is the most prolific spender on the international market right now. 

What was shocking, and has since turned into a full scale controversy, is that Beras had previously presented his birthdate as December 25, 1995, which wouldn't make him eligible to sign until July 2, 2012.  The Rangers were essentially signing a player that the other 29 teams thought wasn't eligible to sign.

The signing is further impacted by the new international signing rules that go into effect on July 2.  After that date, all teams have a the same amount of money to spend over the next calendar year on non-draft eligible international players:   $2.9M.  Thus no player will be able to get a bonus close to $4.5M.

Major League Baseball has since launched an investigation and will not approve the signing until the investigation is complete.

I was with the group from the Dominican Prospect League yesterday afternoon in a private workout and was told this story about what actually happened and what caused the Rangers to believe Beras was eligible to sign.

In looking into Beras' background, the Rangers discovered that his father was a Nicaraguan who played in Dominican Summer League (undisclosed for what organization) in 1994 and then returned to Nicaragua.  They did the math and figured that there was no way that Beras' actual birthdate could be December 25, 1995 as purported.  They dug further into the infamously imperfect Dominican record system and found paperwork substantiating an earlier birthdate that would make Beras 17 years old and eligible to sign immediately.  So they made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

The Rangers, of course, had no obligation to share this information with anyone else in baseball until after the fact under the current rules.

If that story is indeed true, and I have no reason to doubt it considering the source, it would seem as if the Rangers just outworked everyone else.  That doesn't mean that Major League Baseball will approve the signing.  But is does mean that all the criticism the Rangers have endured since should be tempered a bit.