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Draft Focus: Alexis Pantojas

Draft : : Prospect Scouting Reports
David Rawnsley        
Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Every weekday leading up to the 2014 MLB Draft, Perfect Game will be providing a scouting profile on a notable draft-eligible prospect.  Stay tuned to Perfect Game and be sure to visit the Draft Page for all of the latest info and reports pertaining to the draft.

Alexis Pantojas Perfect Game profile

Position:  SS
Height:  6-0
Weight:  160
Bats/Throws:  L-R
Birthdate: Jan. 18, 1996
High School:  Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
City, State:  Vega Alta, Puerto Rico
Travel Team: Team Mizuno Puerto Rico
Commitment:  Alabama State
Projected Draft Round:  3-4

If there is one player in the 2014 draft class that I think may be under-evaluated by the consensus of professional scouts as I read it, it would be the top Puerto Rican prospect, shortstop Alexis Pantojas (pronounced pan-Toe-haas).

That has not always been the case. When Edwin Rodriguez, Pantojas’ coach at Team Mizuno Puerto Rico and Perfect Game’s main connection on the island, told me at the 2013 World Showcase that Pantojas was the top Puerto Rican in his class, I was skeptical. He was thin to the point of being weak, and while he had good actions at shortstop, they weren’t really quick-twitch actions.

I’ve seen Pantojas on perhaps eight different days since then. As usual, Rodriguez was right about his players.

One thing that perhaps makes scouts hesitate on Pantojas is his slender, high waisted build. He has a narrow whippet-like bone structure that will never add much weight, but he has definitely added strength and a measure of relative bulk in the last year plus. Pantojas was originally listed at 148 pounds at his first Perfect Game event and is likely up to 160-165 pounds now. The accompanying strength has made a huge difference across the board in Pantojas’ skills and tools.

The quick-twitch that was lacking from Pantojas in January of 2013 is now his biggest attribute. His swing from the left side used to be defensive and rotational, the classic contact swing one is forced to utilize when one simply isn’t strong enough to drive and accelerate the barrel through the zone. Pantojas has evolved into a slashing hitter with legitimate doubles and triples power and the ability to really drive the ball hard with his extremely quick hands and high level barrel to ball skills. The difference in his swing and bat speed is evident both in batting practice and in games, where he has been a base hit machine at Perfect Game events.

Once Pantojas drives a ball down either line or into either gap – he is a true slasher with no preference to where he hits the ball – he is a blur out of the box. His best 60-yard dash time is 6.49 seconds at the 2013 Caribbean Showcase, but his speed plays up on the bases due to his quick exit from the box and his fast running motor. It’s very easy to imagine him leading professional leagues in triples, as it seems that he’s thinking about third base the moment the ball comes off his barrel.

Pantojas’ motor and desire is something worth emphasizing. He is a 'first to the ball park, last to leave' type player in Perfect Game’s experience. He’s high energy in all his actions on the field and carries himself like a ballplayer at all times. His maturity and self image in this area stands out.

The same athletic quickness Pantojas has shown offensively is evident in his defensive play at shortstop. He has outstanding range to both sides and is especially adept at the charging play and quick flip to first base. His arm strength grades out in the above average to plus category on the professional scale, not quite the cannon that Nick Gordon has, but more than playable at the big league level and capable of making the deep throw from the hole. If there is a small flaw in Pantojas’ defensive skill set it’s a tendency to let his hands get hard on routine plays, a common tendency in young talented infielders.

In this scout’s opinion, the three top defensive middle infielders in the 2014 high school class are Pantojas, Gordon and Milton Ramos. All three played on the same team at the 2014 PG World Showcase, which was just fun. If I had to rank the trio in a couple of key areas I would have them like this:

Arm Strength: Gordon, Pantojas, Ramos
Hands: Ramos, Pantojas, Gordon
Range: Gordon, Pantojas, Ramos
Creativity: Gordon, Ramos, Pantojas
Hit Tool: Gordon, Pantojas, Ramos

Nick Gordon could easily go among the first 10 overall picks on June 5 and deservedly so. Milton Ramos is talked about as a potential compensation round or second round selection, based primarily on the brilliance of his glove at a premium position.

I personally think that Alexis Pantojas is every bit of Ramos’ equal as an overall shortstop prospect and mean absolutely no disrespect to Ramos in saying so. I would be very surprised if any scouting director agreed with me come draft time, but I will be watching and remembering down the road as they evolve in their professional careers.

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