Draft : : State Preview
Thursday, May 31, 2012

State Preview: Puerto Rico

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players as ranked in Perfect Game's state-by-state scouting lists.

Contributing: Allan Simpson

Puerto Rico State-by-State List
2011 Puerto Rico Overview

Puerto Rico Overview:
History-Making Year in Works for Puerto Rico

This should be a historic draft year for Puerto Rico as it will likely result in the highest-ever pick from the island in shortstop Carlos Correa, and the highest-ever pitcher drafted in either righthander Jose Orlando Berrios or Edwin Diaz.

The supremely-talented Correa is assured of going in the top 6-7 picks, and is even a candidate to go first overall as has worked out for the Houston Astros, who hold the top pick. Few would be surprised if that development were to occur, just as few would be surprised if as many as four Puerto Ricans are selected on the first day of the draft (encompassing the first 60 picks), with shortstop Jesmuel Valentin Diaz the logical player added to the afore-mentioned trio.

The talent inflow from Puerto Rico this year hardly ends with those four as there are at least four more players that have realistic chances of being picked within the top 5-6 rounds. In 2011, three Puerto Ricans were selected in the top five rounds.

The dramatic spike in Puerto Rican talent comes at an ironic time in the evolution of the draft, especially with new draft rules in place this year that may have far-reaching implications for international players.

Puerto Ricans have never been particularly happy that Major League Baseball took the step in 1990 to include the Commonwealth with the rest of the United States (and Canada in 1991) in having its players be part of a restrictive draft process, instead of having the freedom to sign on the open market as international free agents, like other Caribbean nations, as had previously been the case.

Some Puerto Ricans who have remained close to the baseball scene have even cited the draft as one of the causes in what is perceived as a decline in the popularity of the sport on the island, especially from its heyday in the ‘60s to ‘80s.

With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that has numerous draft implications, however, it seems inevitable that there will be some sort of universal international draft in place by as soon as 2014 that would incorporate players from other Caribbean hotbeds such as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. There has been much discussion that Puerto Rico’s young prospects would be included in that draft, rather than the current domestic draft, a concept influential baseball officials in Puerto Rico seem amenable to.

A sidebar of note relative to the current Puerto Rican crop has been the emergence of a strong second option for those players who may not have the physical tools to move immediately to professional baseball in the U.S., but could develop those tools with more work and time. At least five Puerto Ricans in this draft class have signed college commitments with Alabama State, and all seem to be the type of player who would strongly benefit from three or four years of college baseball, an option that has been all too infrequently unavailable to Puerto Rican players in the past.

Alabama State is coached by Mervyl Melendez, a Puerto Rican native who established strong ties to Puerto Rico while coaching for 12 years at Florida’s Bethune-Cookman College, but has apparently become even more aggressive in his pursuit of talent from the island, in his second year at his new school.

Puerto Rico in a nutshell:

Premium front-line talent.
WEAKNESS: Lefthanded pitching.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 5.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Eduardo Rivera, of, Adolfina de Puig HS, Toa Baja.
Rivera was a virtual unknown, even among Puerto Rican scouts, at the beginning of the spring season, and there have even been whispers that one big-league team may have been hiding him out with the goal of slipping him through to the draft sight unseen at major scouting events. That won’t happen now as word of Rivera’s blinding speed leaked out and he was included among other elite Puerto Rican prospects in the Excellence Games in early May. Rivera ran the 60 in a lightning-fast 6.3 seconds at that event and comparisons were immediately made to another former Puerto Rican speedster, Reymond Fuentes, a 2009 first-round pick of the Boston Red Sox. The attending Major League Scouting Bureau immediately slapped an OFP grade of 56 (on a scale of 20 to 80) on Rivera, the second-highest ranking of any player in the 2012 Puerto Rican draft class behind star shortstop Carlos Correa (58). While Rivera’s skills are raw and his resume too short to be drafted where that grade might normally imply, Rivera generated enough interest to have a strong chance of going inside the first five rounds.

WILD CARD: Jorge Fernandez, of, Colegio Hector Urdaneta, Ceiba.
The 6-foot-4, 180-pound Fernandez has shown so much improvement this spring, and has such a diverse set of tools and skills, that it is difficult to pin down exactly where he should line up in this draft class. A former catcher who was converted full-time to the outfield only this spring, Fernandez shows flashes that he can handle center field in the long term, but may be pushed to right field at some point as he gets stronger. Fernandez, a switch-hitter, is also just on the cusp of developing the kind of power, especially from the left side, that would enable him to profile well in right field but would make him an even more-coveted prospect as a center fielder. There is enough mixed opinion among scouts on Fernandez’ worth that he could range from being the third Puerto Rican position player off the board, just behind shortstop Jesmuel Valentin Diaz, or could go as low as the fifth such player drafted.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Puerto Rico Connection:
Bryan De la Rosa, c, Olympic Heights HS, Boca Raton, Fla./Bucky Dent Baseball Academy (Grew up/lives in Toa Alta).
Top 2013 Prospect: Yan Hernandez, ss, Carlos Beltran Academy, San Lorenzo.
Top 2014 Prospect: No established prospect.


Draft History:
Ramon Castro, c, Rivera HS, Vega Baja (1994, Astros/1st round, 17th pick).
2006 Draft: Hector Correa, rhp, Lorenzo Coballes Gandia HS, Hatillo (Marlins/4th round).
2007 Draft: Reynaldo Navarro, ss, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Diamondbacks/3rd round).
2008 Draft: Javier Rodriguez, of, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Mets/2nd round).
2009 Draft: Reymond Fuentes, of, Fernando Callejo HS, Manati (Red Sox/1st round, 28th pick).
2010 Draft: Eddie Rosario, of, Rafael Lopez Landon HS, Guayama (Twins/4th round).
2011 Draft: Jorge Lopez, rhp, Academia de Milagrosa, Cayey (Twins/2nd round).


College Players Drafted/Signed:
Junior College Players Drafted/Signed: 1/1.
High School Players Drafted/Signed: 13/9.


Best Athlete:
Carlos Correa, ss, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.
Best Hitter: Jesmuel Valentin Diaz, ss, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.
Best Power: Carlos Correa, ss, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.
Best Speed: Eduardo Rivera, of, Adolfina de Puig HS, Toa Baja.
Best Defender: Carlos Correa, ss, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.
Best Velocity: Edwin Diaz, rhp, Naguabo HS.
Best Breaking Stuff: Jose Orlando Berrios, rhp, Papa Juan 23 HS, Bayamon.
Best Command: Jose Orlando Berrios, rhp, Papa Juan 23 HS, Bayamon.


(Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)

1. CARLOS CORREA, ss, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Santa Isabel
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Correa has received so much exposure over the last 18 months that he has practically been assured of breaking the existing record for the highest drafted Puerto Rican on record. That mark is currently held by catcher Ramon Castro, the 17th overall pick in 1994, and the gifted Correa should not only blow past that mark but he remained on the short list of candidates to be the first pick overall on the eve of the draft. After being named the first Perfect Game All-American from Puerto Rico last summer, leading to his participation in the prestigious PG All-American Classic in San Diego, and receiving the award for the top defensive player in the 2012 class that coincides with that event, Correa has only improved his game even further this spring, especially with the bat, which now grades out as advanced a tool as any player in the current high-school class. The biggest talking point among scouts concerning Correa’s overall game is the speculation on whether he will remain at shortstop over the long haul, given his extreme arm strength and athleticism, especially as his frame fills out. Though he ran the 60 in 6.69 seconds at the recent Excellence Games in Puerto Rico, there is ongoing concern that he may eventually slow down and be forced to move over to third base. The potential of Correa’s power playing in the middle of the field, though, makes him the highest-ceiling player in the draft and will likely prompt the team that drafts him to keep him at shortstop for as long as possible. A point less discussed is that Correa, a University of Miami recruit, is a 4.0 student who speaks English fluently. He is also well-traveled and comfortable in the United States, something that will benefit him immediately when he enters professional baseball.

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