Back in late June, I delivered a list of players to watch in the Dominican Summer League for the Diamondbacks. Based largely on hype and bonus size, I keyed in on those who were expected to be the team’s best players. Nearly two months later, we have over 60 games to look at and it’s a great time, before the season wraps up, to check in on the DSL D-backs. In addition to updating you on the players’ performance, I’ll also include the context I wrote back in June.
Let me just start by acknowledging the necessary caveats. 60 games isn’t a lot to look at, especially for pitchers who’ve only made a handful of appearances. Also, acknowledging performance from a statistical standpoint is incredibly dangerous, and perhaps this most applies to 16 and 17-year old Latin American prospects. I don’t, however, have an international travel budget (sponsor me?) to witness these guys up close and personal, so I’ve combed the internet for reports and taken a close look at what performances they have had thus far. It’s all we’ve got at this point and it’ll have to suffice for now.
Now, let’s proceed to the players themselves.
Francis Martinez, OF (6/28/97)
Context from June: in a world where signing bonuses often equate to pedigree, Martinez received the second-largest bonus of last year’s international class. The 6’4″ outfielder has tools scouts can dream on. The size, speed and power all project as above average and while he’ll likely get a chance to play some center field, Martinez projects as a right fielder with a plus arm and range. He received a $350,000 bonus on July 2, 2013. Big kids often mean big swings and it’s something that the staff will have to coach up, but the profile is very promising.
August Check-in: Martinez leads the team in home runs with nine, which wasn’t unforeseen. As noted above, he has the profile to do just that. He’s played primarily in right field as projected, and with the length, there’s been some swing and miss to his game. His 26% strikeout rate isn’t terrible considering the power, but it’s also perhaps a tick higher than one would like to see. There’s plenty of time to coach his swing, however, so it’s premature to worry. Encouragingly, he’s walking 13% of the time, and given the control issues a lot of young pitchers face, he should be walking this often. He’s yet to steal a base and maybe speed on the bases will never be part of his game.
Trending: slightly upwards
Oswaldo Garcia, C (11/28/95)
June Context: during the 2012 signing period, Garcia signed the biggest deal of any Columbian prospect, getting $430,000 from Arizona. He’s a big target behind the plate with a strong arm and plus power at the dish. He’ll have to refine his catching abilities from a defensive standpoint as it’s still relatively new to him, but there’s hope that he sticks. If he doesn’t, he has the arm for third base or perhaps right field.
August Check-in: making his second pass throught the DSL, Garcia is the team’s primary catcher. He’s presumably got a lot to learn in terms of handling a pitching staff and playing defense at the game’s toughest defensive position. The bat hasn’t stepped forward in his second stint as one might have hoped, however. The former pitcher is struggling to hit, although as his 14% strikeout rate would indicate that he’s making plenty of contact. He has just nine extra-base hits in 206 plate appearances and is triple-slashing a measly .214/.307/.297. Still, at his age, this isn’t a huge concern, although it’s not encouraging either.
Trending: slightly downward
Jose Ordaz, OF (8/11/96)
June Context: Ordaz was the youngest player signed during the 2012 international signing period and got his career started last season at just 16-years old. The 6’1″ lefty struggled in his first go around in the DSL and is back there again for 2014. He has a chance to stay in center field defensively and is more of a solid player than a standout one, but keep his age in mind. He’s still incredibly young for his league, so patience is the game plan here.
August Check-in: after scuffling at the plate in his debut season, Ordaz has stepped up in his second DSL trial. After slashing .198/.263/.246 last season in 44 games, he’s hitting .282/.352/.331 this season. An athletic center fielder, he’s shown virtually no power, but he’s been a threat on the bases stealing 15 bags this season. He’s cut his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate, showing that he’s learning the strike zone and how to select pitches that are worthy of a swing. He’s still young for his league, but the growth is very encouraging.
Josue Herrera, 2B/SS (2/3/97)
June Context: Herrera is the son of an international scout by the same name, who has signed Starling Marte among others. He received a $150,000 signing bonus as part of deal that helped Arizona secure Francis Martinez (above). On the international market, anything goes and the package deal to land Martinez is surely a sign of how badly the D-backs wanted the outfielder. Herrera, on the other hand, is likely headed to second base long term and isn’t an exciting prospect by the sounds of things, although his backstory is quite intriguing.
August Check-in: unfortunately, Herrera has dealt with injuries in his debut season, notching just 16 games. He’s moved over to second base already, which was acknowledged back in June as a possibility. In 16 games, he’s collected just seven hits, but I’m encouraged by his plate discipline as he’s walked 11 times against just seven strikeouts. Without more data to look at, we’ll have to reserve much judgement on the 17-year old who’s ceiling was never thought to be all that high in the first place.
Trending: holding steady
Luis Madero, RHP (4/15/97)
June Context: the 6’3″ righty from Venezuela commanded a hefty bonus of $160,000 when the D-backs inked him at last year’s deadline. He’s noted for having good feel and command for his age, with more velocity to come. He’s already touching 92 with his heat, but that could very well change as he fills out is 175-pound frame and adds strength through professional coaching and weights routines. He’s a live arm with room to grow.
August Check-in: the 17-year old righty has perhaps been the most impressive pitcher for the DSL D-backs. In 66 innings he’s allowed just 46 hits, proving a tough customer on the mound. Better yet, he’s striking out over 10 batters per nine innings while walking just under three. His K:BB ratio supports the June profile as a pitcher with advanced command as most DSL hitters just don’t see much polish from opposing pitchers. Madero, however, appears to know what he’s doing, posting a 2.70 ERA and 2.65 FIP over 13 starts. It’ll be fun to see him stateside in 2015.
Trending: strongly upwards
Jose Lopez, OF (12/15/96)
June Context: the 6’0 outfielder looks like a lock stay in center field, although he lacks the size to really grow into something powerful. Still, scouts have been impressed with his athleticism and, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America, he has plus speed, a strong arm and the chance to hit for average. He could become a leadoff or number two type of hitter down the road as the power isn’t expected to become anything more than fringe average.
August Check-in: Lopez isn’t a regular starter, but is receive regular playing time in center field. After 30 games, he’s underwhelming at the plate, hitting .160/.346/.198. No power was predicted and so far that’s been the case as only two of his 13 hits have gone for extra bases (one double and one triple). He’s 4-4 in steals but again, it’s a pretty limited sample. Lopez is striking out nearly 26% of the time while walking in over 17% of his plate appearances. The walks are nice, but the swing and miss might be concerning for a guy with no power. Just an “okay” prospect coming into the season, he’s done nothing to change that so far.
Trending: slightly downward
Rafael Santana, OF (10/24/95)
June Context: the 6’2″, 185-pound outfielder is older than the others listed and signed for only $25,000, yet has drawn some interest. He has a plus arm, plus speed and some pop in the bat, so Santana appears to be a worthwhile gamble.
August Check-in: older than some of the competition, Santana is doing his best to dominate those younger than him. The 19-year old is hitting .278/.436/.357 over 43 games. He’s without a homer and nearly 80% of his hits have been singles, but he’s getting on base at a fantastic clip. Santana’s walking over 17% of the time while striking out at the same clip. He’s also stolen nine bags, although he’s been thrown out four times. For 25K, he’s not disappointed and continues to be an interesting player to watch.
Trending: holding steady
Off the Radar: a couple of players who didn’t make the initial list have stood out. They’re acknowledged below.
- 18-year old righy Merkis Montero had an excellent 12 starts for the DSL D-backs before he was promoted to the Arizona Rookie League last week. In 70 innings, he had a 2.43 FIP while striking out nearly nine batters per nine innings and walking just over one.
- Yeison Santana has also been impressive despite his slight frame, with similar strikeout and walk numbers as Montero above. He’s posted a 2.76 FIP in in 53 innings over 11 starts. The right-handed Dominican is just 17.
- Second baseman Didimo Bracho has been an absolute terror on the bases for the D-backs. He’s stolen 36 bases (although he’s been thrown out 13 times) in 58 games. He hasn’t hit a ton, but he’s gotten on base at a good clip thanks to a healthy 12% walk rate.
We’ll be sure to do a full team recap at the conclusion of the minor league season, but it’s clear that the Diamondbacks have some exciting names playing in the DSL. While these kids are a long ways off, this is where a strong number of big league careers begin, making it well worth our time to keep up with player developments.
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