The Dominican Summer League (DSL) is beginning action on Saturday and the other short season leagues are only a couple of weeks away, so it’s time to take a look at some of the DSL Rockies prospects to watch this summer.
While information on the 17 and 18 year old prospects who populate the DSL rosters is difficult to come by, I’m going to try to give an overview of who to keep an eye on this year, as well as potential graduates who will come stateside to Grand Junction or Boise.
The scouting reports are a combination of signing day scouting reports, tidbits that have been posted since, any available video, and simply scouting the stat line. All projected graduates are my best guesses based on information available, and I have varying confidence in the accuracy of these predictions.
Listed in order of confidence that they will come stateside this summer
Wander Cabrera, LHP
The top signing in the Cubs penalized 2014 class, Cabrera was the return in the Rex Brothers trade. He has the potential for average to above average velocity, particularly for a lefty, though he needs to continue to improve his command. After two strong seasons in the DSL, expect the 19 year old to make his stateside debut this season.
Jeffri Ocando, RHP
A late signing in last year’s class, Ocando has the look of a $10,000 signing bonus bargain early in his career. Ocando has seen his velocity increase since joining the organization and pounds the strike zone with quality stuff, striking out 11.35/9 last season, while walking only 1 batter in 23 innings. Ocando may be the best current prospect in the academy and is expected to join the GJ Rockies after a short DSL cameo. As a May 1999 birthday, Ocando will be even younger than most newly drafted HS prospects.
Hidekel Gonzalez, C
Gonzalez has lived up to his signing day reputation as a strong offensive catcher, posting a 130 wRC+ in 2015, then topping it with a 153 mark last season. After honing his skills behind the plate in the DSL for 3 seasons, Gonzalez should be ready to help a strong group of pitchers make the transition stateside. As an added bonus, Gonzalez is English-speaking, an important skill for a young catcher.
Daniel Montano, OF
Montano holds the record for biggest bonus given to an international prospect by the Rockies, signing for $2 million in 2015. Originally considered a tweener, Montano saw both his speed and power improve after signing, growing into a true CF prospect.
Montano had a strong debut last year, demonstrating good power (.199 ISO) and patience (11.1% BB rate) on his way to a 121 wRC+. The overall line was depressed by a .271 BABIP, which ranked in the bottom 5 of the team despite his ability to hit the ball hard. The last comments I heard from Zach Wilson were non-committal on his 2017 assignment, but he has the talent to make it worthwhile to challenge him with an assignment to GJ, potentially setting up a very intriguing 2018 Asheville OF featuring Montano and Pedro Gonzalez.
Jorge Oviedo, LHP
The good news is that Oviedo has posted ERA’s of 2.49, 2.59 and 1.05 in his three DSL seasons, with decent K/9 rates to go with it. The bad news is he signed throwing mid-80’s without much room for projection and has been moved to a bullpen role before even graduating the DSL. He has the track record to get a shot in GJ or Boise this season, likely in a bullpen role.
Shael Mendoza, IF
Another late bargain signing in last year’s class, Mendoza’s standout skill is his speed, which is regarded as plus-plus or better. Mendoza didn’t stand out at the plate last year, with a wRC+ of 89, but as an older international prospect who is already 20, I would expect the organization to challenge him and see if his speed can carry him to prospect status.
Anderson Amarista, RHP
One of the top pitchers in the 2015 international class, Amarista signed for $600,000 last year. He didn’t disappoint in his debut season, though he was outperformed by less-heralded teammates Ocando and Gabriel Estrada. Known for his curveball, he also has some projectability with the fastball.
Enrique Saldano, SS
Signed for a $500,000 bonus as a physically underdeveloped prospect last year, Saldana posted a strong 119 wRC+ and .169 ISO. While his 7.4% BB rate and 22.8% K rate don’t raise any serious flags at his age, there is some room to improve his plate discipline. That, along with physical development, will be key in determining his assignment this summer. Saldano’s physical tools are fringy for the shortstop position, but if they tick up with added strength, he may be able to stick at the position long-term and justify an aggressive assignment to Grand Junction in the short term.
Gabriel Estrada, RHP
Estrada was signed for $360,000 in the 2015 class as a projectable righty and has a fastball that he can run up into the mid-90’s. He struggled in international showcases leading up to his signing, likely depressing his value, but excelled in the DSL last season. Estrada struck out over a batter an inning, and generally threw strikes, posting a 3.23 K/BB ratio. His 2.45/2.52/2.96 ERA/FIP/xFIP were second only to Jeffri Ocando among the promising young starters. While I think Estrada is deserving of a promotion to GJ this year, there simply may not be room with Ocando, Cabrera and Amarista likely ahead of him in line. I’m guessing the organization finds a rotation spot for him in the Pioneer League, with Cabrera possibly jumping to Boise. There is room to be patient with Estrada if desired, as he turns 18 only days before the start of the DSL season.
Jose Grullart, OF
Grullart is something of an under the radar prospect who wasn’t one of the big bonus 2015 signings and hasn’t been mentioned by the national writers, yet he posted a solid 110 wRC+ as a 16-17 year old in the DSL. Grullart is the youngest of that 2015 class and won’t turn 18 until June 21. He posted a solid 10% BB rate and .130 ISO last season and should be a regular in a very strong DSL outfield this season.
Javier Guevara, C
Javier Guevara signed in the 2014 class for $350,000 with a reputation as a strong competitor and defensive catcher. Since signing, he posted a 101 wRC+ in 2015 and 112 wRC+ in 2016, with walk rates close to 10%. He has yet to demonstrate a lot of power and his greatest value to the organization this year may be as a “veteran” influence behind the plate for a promising young DSL staff. I expect Guevara to take the same route as Hidekel Gonzalez, spending 3 years in the DSL before making his stateside debut for Grand Junction next season.
Ever Moya, LHP
A personal favorite, Moya is a projectable lefty who was overshadowed by the quartet of higher profile arms last year. Nevertheless, the Rockies saw enough in the 6’4”, 150lb Moya to put him in the rotation from day 1 and he started all 11 games he appeared in. While he wasn’t overpowering, Moya held his own, striking out 7.44 batters per 9 innings and posting a 3.58 ERA. He has a chance to develop well above average velocity as he continues to fill out his frame and I expect him to be a key figure in this year’s rotation. As with several members of the 2015 class, Moya is a May 1999 birthday, so he was young even by DSL standards last season.
Cristopher Navarro, SS
Navarro received a $450,000 bonus in 2015, joining Saldana to form an intriguing middle infield last year. Navarro posted a solid 7.5% walk rate and 19.5% strikeout rate, but managed only 4 extra base hits, with a .026 ISO dragging down his overall line. If the physical development comes, and it should considering he doesn’t turn 18 until June 14th, Navarro has the potential to stick at short and has some upside with the bat. He should be the everyday DSL shortstop this year and is one to watch.
The Newcomers – 2016-17 signing period signees
Yeikel Blandin, OF
Blandin received the biggest bonus of the Rockies’ 2016 class and was a top 25 prospect overall last year, per BA. His strengths are his speed, line-drive swing and contact ability. Blandin played well in U15 events and he should be ready to step in and play CF and bat leadoff for the DSL Rockies this season.
Yolki Pena, OF
When Pena’s $600,000 bonus was announced last July, a training video surfaced that showed a kid who made consistent solid contact in a BP setting. The scouting reports support the observations from the video and Pena is one of my favorite prospects in this year’s class. He should man a corner OF spot this season, though there’s a chance he could grow into a potential center fielder if his speed ticks up as he adds strength to his lower half.
Diego Blanco, RHP
Blanco is the power arm of the 3 big pitching signings last year, though there are questions about whether his delivery may serve him best in a bullpen role in the future. For now, the Rockies should give him every chance to stick in the rotation.
Enrique Castillo, RHP
While not as highly regarded as the other arms in his class, Castillo has the advanced pitchability the Rockies like and enough raw stuff to keep an eye on. He has a chance to take the 5th or 6th spot in the rotation.
Alfredo Jose Garcia, LHP
Originally eligible to sign in the 2015 class, Garcia was something of an unknown until a strong showing in a Perfect Game showcase event. The Rockies liked him enough to offer Garcia a $900,000 bonus to delay his signing until July 2, 2016. Garcia has begun filling out his frame and may have added a bit to the 92-mph fastball he flashed in that PG showcase. He also showed a good feel for a curveball. After delaying his signing for a year, Garcia is older than the rest of the 2016 class and should be a leader in the DSL rotation.
Luis Noguera, LHP
Noguera checked in at #17 (#2 pitcher) on BA’s top 50 international prospects list last year and was widely considered the top lefthander in last year’s class. As with most pitchers the Rockies sign, Noguera is a pitchability over velocity signing, though he was reported to be topping out at 91 mph before signing, with the projectable frame to develop above average velocity in the future. Noguera did have some arm problems that kept him out of the DSL instructs last fall, but should be ready to go this year. His health will be worth monitoring going forward, however.
There will likely be more players coming over in bench or bullpen roles, but I’m trying to capture the true potential prospects. Feel free to post any questions on specific players below.