Ten International Players to Watch

For those that don’t follow the players who have yet to come stateside,I figured I’d give a brief description of the players I think are the ones to watch.This isn’t necessarily a top ten list as I left off some players who are performing well in favor of higher priced kids,or ones who had more favorable scouting reports. As always with players in the DSL/VSL you take what they’re doing with a grain of salt because they’re so young and so far away from the majors.

1. Willy Garcia, 17 year old, OF, DSL - His stats are definitely not the best but I started with him because of his $280 K bonus being the 2nd highest of any current player who hasn’t reached the states,and the fact he played in the Dominican Prospect League (DPL) which is reserved for eighty players among the best of the unsigned talent in the country. He has good size at 6′ 3″, a projectable frame and a chance to be a five tool player. As of right now he’s holding his own in the DSL as one of the youngest players on the team, hitting .278 and already has eight outfield assists.

2. Jodaneli Carvajal, 18 year old, SS/2B, DSL - Like Garcia, he’s also a little higher on this list than he should be and it’s based on his 350k bonus he received two years ago, which is still the 2nd highest the Pirates have given out to a foreign amateur player. He’s on the small side at just 5′ 9″ so the power will be late to develop if it ever does (he was described as a line drive hitter), but he has very good speed and is already a plus defender. He’s hitting .305 so far, forty-six points higher than last year in the DSL, but his other numbers haven’t improved as much and after going 17-17 in steals last year, he’s already been caught eight times this year. Signed as a shortstop he has just begun to play the position regularly.

3. Alen Hanson, 17 year old, 3B/2B, DSL - Hanson is a switch-hitting infielder hitting .329 so far in his first DSL season. He’s played both 3B and 2B but is a natural 2B and hasn’t made an error there in 21 games so far. He hits well from both sides of the plate, a line drive hitter who uses the whole field and his speed is above average. Based on the scouting report alone he would be much lower on the list but the stats are there already at a young age.

4. Jose Ozuna, 17 year old, OF, VSL - With eight homers, Jose is the league leader in the VSL, a league where no team has hit 30 homers yet. He’s a 6′ 2″, 212lb outfielder in his first pro season, and in this minor league system he’s a rare young hitter with power. Another good sign is that he has 14 doubles already, 3rd most in the league, which is a good indicator of future power.

5. Isaac Sanchez, 17 year old, RHP, DSL - One of the newer players in the system, Sanchez just officially signed recently for $180 K and has made two flawless appearances, striking out three in three innings. He’s 6′ 2″ and throws his fastball 89-92 with his best pitch being a big breaking curveball. Isaac also throws a changeup which he has good command of already. He played in the DPL, the 2nd of three players the Pirates have signed from the league this year.

6. Miguel De Aza, 17 year old, OF, signed for 2011 - Miguel is the only player on the list who hasn’t played yet so he’s being ranked solely on his bonus ($150 K), the fact he was good enough to play in the DPL, and the scouting reports which describe him as having 5 tool potential with an above average arm and running speed. De Aza is 6′ 0″ lefty,has what is described as a very athletic body and he already makes great contact using the whole field when he hits.

7. Yhonatan Herrand, 18 year old, RHP, DSL - The results aren’t there yet early in his first year but he has two big things going for him. First his size,6′ 5″ and 230 pounds, are numbers not often seen in the DSL, and second,his fastball reaches 95 mph already. He signed for $185 K in May and just recently made his first pro start going 5 innings with just one earned run allowed after making seven relief appearances.

8. Orlando Castro, 18 year old, LHP, VSL - Dubbed by me as “the Little Lefty from Honduras” Castro is one of the more interesting foreign players right now. Honduras isn’t exactly a baseball prospect hotbed, but before signing Castro first dominated players in his own age group there, then was moved up to tougher competition and dominated there as well. So what happens when he reaches the VSL which is a huge jump from where he was? In 11 games and 47 innings he has an 0.96 ERA holding opponents to a .176 BAA with no homers. On July 3rd he pitched 6 no hit innings. The only reason I don’t have him higher is his mid-80’s fastball when signed, but being a young kid from an underdeveloped country for baseball, I’m sure he could (or has already) add MPH on all of his pitches.

9. Maximo Rivera, 17 year old, SS/3B, DSL - After a rough start to his first season, Maximo has been hitting well in July (.290) although his playing time has been limited. He received the highest bonus last year at $165 K and was described as a potential above average shortstop who will hit for power. He was also said to be raw but all the tools were there so we probably won’t see the real Rivera until next season.

10. Luis Urena, 17 year old, OF, DSL - You may look at his stats and think I lost my mind but I had to include him based on his scouting report alone. Urena was described as a future five tool player with his power, arm and speed being plus tools. He obviously hasn’t shown that yet, hitting just .190 with just one walk and tons of strikeouts, but with a scouting report like that you have to remember he’s still just 17 and a first year player in the DSL who missed a few weeks midseason. At 6′ 5″ (Along with the huge Kelly Aponte) he’s the tallest position player on either of the foreign league rosters. One bright spot is in 34 at-bats with runners in scoring position, Luis is hitting .294 which is almost three times higher than his average with the bases empty.

11-15. Five players I left off who could’ve been on the list include Porfirio Lopez who has stats to be top three, but didn’t make it based on size, age and the fact he wasn’t moved up after a great season last year, which usually means the velocity isnt there but the breaking pitches are advanced. Carlos Esqueda is hitting .339 in the VSL, but his problems are he’s just 5′ 8″ 135lb, hasn’t hit for any power and doesn’t take walks. Slammin’ Sammy Gonzalez, DSL all-star this year who is hitting .372, 2nd in the DSL, but at 21 his age weighs heavily against him. Arquimedes Lorenzo,a 19 year old DSL pitcher who has been inconsistent this year, but is said to have above average stuff,reaching 92 with his fastball. Robertson Valdez,who just hasn’t played enough or shown anything when he has, but he’s said to have good power already when he signed last year for $150 K in July.

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John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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