With June rapidly approaching, we’re now less than a week away from the start of the Dominican Summer League, with Grand Junction and Boise then beginning play on June 15th. This year, the Rockies have added a second DSL team, emphasizing depth of talent in the international market. There are a number of names to watch this year, with a large group likely to make their stateside debuts. There is significant depth up the middle, with a number of intriguing young shortstops. With limited information available on the 16 and 17-year-olds that populate so much of this list, scouting reports can quickly become outdated, but I’ll do my best to shed some light on the names to watch this summer using signing day scouting reports, any available updates, and videos that have been provided since and a bit of scouting the stat line.
The expected graduates
I’m expecting a large group to come stateside this year, including a couple of injury holdouts from last season. This list is in order of confidence of coming stateside this summer. There will likely be a couple of additional bullpen arms and bench bats, but I’m trying to capture the bigger names here.
Daniel Montano, OF
Montano was the headliner of the Rockies’ 2015 class, receiving a franchise-record $2 million bonus. After selling out for power a bit in his 2016 debut, Montano settled in last year, reducing his strikeout rate and improving his average and OBP, at the expense of his ISO. Montano has spent time in center field after seeing his speed tick up after signing, though his long-term home is likely at a corner position. His tools are average to above-average across the board, with no standout plus tools.
Cristopher Navarro, SS
Signed as a physically underdeveloped shortstop with intriguing projection, Navarro has started to realize his potential with physical mature and improved strength. Navarro has the athleticism, actions and arm strength to stick at shortstop long-term, and reports from this spring indicate he’s starting to drive the ball with more authority at the plate. While he will never be a power hitter, Navarro projects as a solid contact hitter who can drive the ball into the gaps occasionally.
Alfredo Garcia, LHP
Garcia received one of the larger bonuses for an international pitcher in the 2016 class after the Rockies convinced him to delay his signing for a year. Garcia demonstrated strong command as a 17 year old, earning a spot on Baseball America’s DSL all-prospect team. He sits in the low-90’s and flashes a plus curveball, but has the frame to add velocity in the future. With the recent update from Ryan Schoppe that Garcia was with Grand Junction after the conclusion of last year’s DSL season, it is a safe bet that Garcia will be with the team this year.
Wander Cabrera, LHP
Cabrera came to the organization in the Rex Brothers trade, making a strong debut in the DSL in 2016. He was expected to make his stateside debut last year, until being shelved by injury. If healthy, he should make the move this year.
Enrique Saldana, SS
Part of the 2015 class with Montano and Navarro, Enrique Saldana is another shortstop who was in need of physical development when signed. He did demonstrate some pop in his 2016 DSL debut, but injury cut short his 2017 season. Rather than send him for a third round of DSL ball, expect the organization to challenge Saldana with an assignment to Grand Junction.
Eris Filpo, RHP
Another 2015 signee, Filpo was signed as a 6’3”, 170 lb developmental prospect. After being utilized in a bullpen role in 2016, he emerged as a starter last season, posting a 2.86 ERA with matching FIP. He struck out 9.53 batters per 9 innings, walking 3.18 per 9.
Eddy Diaz, SS
Diaz is the most recent signee on this list, having signed July 2, 2017 as the Rockies first Cuban signee. Diaz was 17 when signed, so he was able to report to the DSL immediately, excelling in 36 games of action. Diaz posted a .311/.403/.424 triple slash, good for a 143 wRC+, and stole 30 bases in 36 attempts. His game is built on contact ability and plus-plus speed, which I have seen reported as fast as 6.2 seconds in the 60.
Yolki Pena, OF
Yolki Pena is a personal favorite, with a reputation for top-notch bat to ball skills. Pena demonstrated a strong understanding of the strike zone last year, striking out in only 13.1% of PA’s, while walking 15.4% of the time. His overall .302/.411/.387 line was good for a 138 wRC+ and his contact profile should allow the organization to challenge him with an assignment to Grand Junction.
Anderson Bido, RHP
A late addition to the 2016 class, Bido emerged as one of the top starters on last year’s team, throwing 41 innings and posting a 2.85 ERA, 3.02 FIP and 4.33 K/BB ratio. Bido was 18 when he signed, and it would not be a surprise to see the now 19 year old Bido assigned to Grand Junction.
Gabriel Estrada, RHP
Estrada is a mystery to me currently. After signing as a projectable 6’2” power arm, touching 94 mph, he had a very strong debut season in 2016. Estrada was then shelved with an unknown injury in 2017 and the last update I saw had him added to the Suspended List recently. If he is able to pitch this year, expect to see him in Grand Junction.
Aside from Garcia and Pena, the big signings from the 2016 class developed slowly, with most likely to return to the DSL this year. There are a few other interesting players likely to return this year (the catching trio of Bryant Quijada, Francisco Ortiz and Bernnie Alaniz, for example), but I just don’t have good scouting reports on them.
Diego Blanco, RHP
The power pitcher from the 2016 class, Blanco can run his fastball up to 94-95 currently. He was utilized in a bullpen role last year, where he was very effective, until his final appearance of the year, a start in which he threw 5 innings of one-hit, shutout ball. Blanco’s assignment is likely dependent on his future role. If the club views him as a bullpen piece long-term, there is little reason not to move him on to Grand Junction. Ultimately, I think he’ll repeat in the DSL in a starting role this year.
Yeikel Blandin, OF
The headline signee from the 2016 class, Blandin is a physically underdeveloped centerfielder who got off to a slow start in his professional debut. He did make adjustments as the season wore on, posting an overall line near league average over his last 48 games. Blandin’s game is based on speed, defense and contact skills, profiling as a potential leadoff hitting centerfielder, but physical development will be key to his future success.
Luis Noguera, LHP
Noguera was regarded as potentially the top left-handed pitcher in the 2016 international class, but bone spurs slowed his development and he was limited to 9.1 mostly ineffective innings last year. At his best, Noguera demonstrates strong pitchability, a low-90’s fastball with the frame to add more velocity, and has flashed the makings of a plus curve. A healthy Noguera should serve as one of the rotation headliners this season.
Helcris Olivarez, LHP
Olivarez auditioned as an OF before signing with the Rockies as a LHP. Olivarez is very young, even by DSL standards, and won’t turn 18 until August 8th. He has a projectable 6’2” frame and threw well out of the bullpen last year, striking out 9.55 per 9 innings and posting a 3.55 ERA and 2.87 FIP. Expect to see him in one of the DSL rotations this year.
As mentioned previously, we saw a shift in international strategy from the Rockies that began in the 2016-17 class and continued in the 2017-18 class. While the focus on depth of talent means that we won’t see a lot of headline signings of top 20 overall prospects, it doesn’t mean the organization is sacrificing present tools in their signees. In fact, I would argue that the 2017 class is the best I’ve seen, with fewer of the typical underdeveloped, high baseball IQ kids that the organization has targeted in the past. I’ll highlight a few of the names here, but keep in mind there were more than a dozen players receiving bonuses of 150k or more, most of them have the potential to make an impact on prospect lists in the future. For those who want in-depth reports on all of the significant signings, I would strongly encourage considering a Baseball America subscription, as Ben Badler does a great job in the international arena.
Ezequiel Tovar, SS
Tovar was the most highly-regarded of the Rockies’ recent signees by Baseball America, checking in at #22 on their top 50 list. He has a well-rounded game with high baseball IQ and a track record for performing in games. Tovar is an August birthday, so some of the other signees have nearly a year of physical development on him, but he has added strength since signing, with a tick up in his tools because of it.
Fadriel Cruz, IF
Cruz was another member of BA’s top 50, and the video shows an explosive athlete with a smooth left-handed stroke at the plate. He’s a plus runner, but profiles at 2b or CF long-term due to a lack of arm strength.
Luis de Avila, LHP
A Colombian signee, de Avila has extensive experience representing his county in international tournaments. At 5’11”, de Avila is small in stature, but has strong pitchability and has touched 90 mph with his fastball.
Gerard Ramos, OF
The video of Ramos shows a huge frame with wide shoulders and strong power potential. He will be limited to a corner defensively, so his future value is tied to his bat and physical development. The frame and power potential separate him from other recent Rockies signees, but he will need to make significant gains in strength to reach that potential.
Bladimir Restituyo, SS
Badler profiled Restituyo as one of 9 prospects whose profile has risen since signing. Restituyo signed for 200k, but may have the loudest tools of the Rockies shortstop class this year. He’ll be one to keep a close eye on.