June 30, 2015
Some Projection Left
The Top J2 Prospects
Over the past few years, the international free agent market has become more and more popular, thanks in large part to a little known invention called the internet that’s given easier access to players who were thousands of miles away. It’s an imperfect process—all scouting is—but we’re getting more and more information, and it’s made the July 2nd process a lot more fun to follow.
And while there’s much more volatility in these classes than the MLB Draft offers, the talent is always intriguing, and the 2015 edition has a chance to go down as one of the more talented groups we’ve seen.
“It’s a good group,” an NL West international director told me. “There’s more quality bats in this year’s group than 2013 and 2014 had combined, and it’s especially loaded up the middle. The one issue I have is the lack of upper-echelon pitching, but we always find diamonds in the rough there. Hitting is much more difficult, and this could be a special group.
After watching some video and talking to some international scouts and advisors, here’s a look at the top 12 international prospects likely to sign during the J2 period—broken down by group—with some potential landing spots for those players as well.
Group One: Potential All-Stars
1. Eddy Martinez, CF, Cuba
At the plate, Martinez already shows solid to above-average power from the right side, and with a projectable body there’s a great chance that power develops into plus. He’s a smart hitter who has shown the ability to hit the ball hard to all parts of the field, and while you shouldn’t expect the right-handed hitter to compete for batting titles, there’s reason to believe he can be a .270 to .280 hitter who draws his share of walks as his approach improves. He’s a plus-plus runner and one who could steal 30 to 40 bases a year.
Martinez is impressive with the bat, but where he could become a star is with the glove. He needs to improve his routes—like most young outfielders who are relatively new to center—but that outstanding speed along with plus instincts and a 60 throwing arm give him a chance to be a plus defender, maybe even plus-plus.
It’s all very raw, but Martinez has star potential, with above-average starting center fielder a more realistic possibility.
Possible landing spots: Dodgers, Giants, Yankees
2. Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Cuba
Alvarez’s arm strength is impressive, and the Matanzas native has already touched 98 mph with his fastball, sitting more comfortably in the 91-94 range. He’ also show two above-average secondary offerings in his change and slider, with the slider flashing plus with hard tilt and the change offering deception from arm speed and some late fade.
Possible landing spots: Dodgers
Group Two: Above-Average Regulars
3. Lucius Fox, SS, Bahamas
At the plate, Fox’s swing is geared for contact from both sides of the plate, and his excellent hand-eye coordination and strong wrists give him the ability to shoot the ball to all parts of the field. His small frame and lack of leverage means he will never put up big power totals, but he’s strong enough to put the ball into the gaps, and his plus-plus speed makes everything hit into said gap a chance for a double or triple.
Where Fox really impresses however is with the glove, as Fox is as natural a shortstop as you’ll see for someone who turns 18 on July 2nd. The arm strength is above average, and it plays up because Fox has excellent footwork that allows him to get plenty of zip on his throws, and his athleticism allows him to make plays to his left and right. Assuming he doesn’t add significant weight, he’s a lock to stay up the middle, and shortstop is the most likely landing spot.
Possible landing spots: Dodgers, Giants, Padres
4. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr; OF, Dominican Republic
Guerrero’s carrying tool is his power, and the right-handed hitting outfielder has plenty of it thanks to plus bat speed, a strong lower half, and a swing that has plenty of natural loft. He has more patience than the senior Guerrero, but he also gets rave review for his “bad-ball” hitting skills, and he’ll use the entire field.
Where Vlad, Jr. differs from dad is the defensive profile. He’s a poor athlete, and the arm strength is below average, meaning he’ll have to play left field, and he won’t win any Fielding Bible Awards there, either. Still, the bat could play wherever, and if there’s anyone in this class who can hit .300 with 30 homers in a season, it’s Guerrero.
Possible landing spots: Blue Jays
Group Three: Potential Regulars
5. Seuly Matias, OF, Dominican Republic
Possible landing spots: Royals
6. Wander Javier, SS, Dominican Republic
At the plate, Javier has plus bat speed and when he makes contact the ball explodes off of the bat, but there are serious balance issues here, and the length of his swing adds a good deal of swing-and-miss. He’s also less likely to stick at shortstop than Fox, though he does have a chance to stay there thanks to a strong throwing arm and above-average athleticism. There’s a lot of risk here, but there’s also a chance for three 60 tools when everything is said and done.
Possible landing spots: Twins
7. Starling Heredia, OF, Dominican Republic
When he’s at his best, Heredia will show plus power from the right side, and his plus bat speed along with good bat-to-barrel skills give him a chance to have two 60 tools offensively. Unfortunately, those same tools do not show up against live competition, as the 16-year-old Heredia gets extremely pull-happy and tries to yank every pitch out of the ballpark. He’s a hard worker with average speed and a plus arm, so there’s reason to believe he can be an above-average outfielder in right, and a team could try him at center.
Possible landing spots: Dodgers
8. Derian Cruz, SS/OF, Dominican Republic
What Cruz lacks in polish, he makes up for in athleticism. He’s already a plus-plus runner, and as he gets stronger there’s reason to believe he’ll possess 80 speed. That athleticism gives him a chance to be a leadoff hitter—especially once he starts receiving day-to-day instruction—but it’ll be years before we see him make his big-league debut.
Possible landing spot: Braves, Dodgers
9. Jhailyn Ortiz, OF/1B, Dominican Republic
Ortiz is massive—listed at 260 pounds—and that frame, along with his ability to transfer that weight, gives him the ability to hit tape-measure shots to all parts of the field. The concerns come from whether or not he can hit for average, as Ortiz is extremely aggressive with a long enough swing to project high strikeout totals.
Despite his weight, Ortiz does have a chance to play in the outfield—and his throwing arm is plus—but the lack of speed makes first base more likely. The power plays there, but he’ll have to shorten the stroke to hit enough to play every day at the not-so-hot corner.
Possible landing spot: Phillies
Group Four: The 45 Player
10. Andres Gimenez, SS, Venezuela
Possible landing spot: Mets
11. Yonathan Perlaza,SS, Venezuela
Possible landing spot: Cubs
12. Gilberto Celestino, OF, Dominican Republic
Possible landing spot: Astros