Venezuela has several intriguing arms, and one of those moving up teams' follow lists is Mauricio Silva, a 15-year-old Venezuelan righthander who already has one of the best fastballs in Latin America. Silva, who won't be able to sign until he turns 16 in late July, is 6-foot-2, 190 pounds and throws a lively fastball that reaches the low 90s and has touched 93 mph with heavy sink.
Silva throws a curveball and a changeup, with scouts mixed on the two pitches. He flashes a power curveball at times and shows inconsistent feel for the changeup. He's more filled out that some young Latin American arms, but his combination of youth and present stuff is among the best in Latin America.
Among the first tier of righthanders in Venezuela, scouts talk most about Sanchez, Silva and Antonio Senzatela, who has drawn interest from the Rockies. Senzatela, who is 6-foot-1, 175 pounds with broad shoulders, throws with downhill plane anywhere from 88-92 mph, touching 93. Senzatela has a loose arm and a solid delivery and is an advanced strike-thrower, though his breaking ball will need polish.
The best lefty in Latin America might be Venezuela's Yohander Mendez, who has been connected to the Rangers. Mendez has a long, lanky build, and the ball jumps out of his hand with a loose delivery. He throws in the mid- to high 80s, has touched 90 mph and shows feel for a changeup, though he's been hard for scouts to see recently.
Righthander Soid Marquez doesn't have the present stuff of Sanchez, Silva or Senzatela, but he's getting plenty of attention from scouts in Venezuela. Marquez, who is 6-foot-2, has a good delivery and an inconsistent fastball that's been anywhere from 85-89 mph. Scouts project more down the road. Marquez doesn't throw as hard as Senzatela, but he shows better feel for a breaking ball and has flashed feel for a changeup.
Jonathan Perez is another Venezuelan righthander who doesn't have overpowering present velocity but has a good delivery and a projectable body. Perez, 16, has an athletic 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame and has seen his fastball increase from the mid-80s to the high 80s this year. He has touched 90 mph, and his curveball and changeup need polish.
Carlos Rodriguez doesn't have as much projection as Mendez, but he is another lefthander drawing interest in Venezuela. Rodriguez's delivery isn't as clean as Mendez's, but he repeats it well to throw strikes and he stands out for his feel for pitching. Rodriguez throws around 86-89 mph, and he shows feel for a changeup and an inconsistent curveball.
While the Dominican Republic has a host of max-effort pitchers who can light up a radar gun, scouts don't like the arms there as much as those in Venezuela. The top prospect at this point is probably Miguel Gonzalez, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound righthander from La Vega. Gonzalez, a 16-year-old whose trainer is Raul Valera (known as Banana) and works out at La Academia, stands out for his feel for pitching. Gonzalez throws a fastball, curveball and changeup, and while he doesn't have a wipeout pitch or the most projectable body, he throws strikes and works efficiently off an 88-90 mph fastball that touches 91 with solid life.
Manuel Gonzalez, who plays in the International Prospect League and trains with Amaurys Nina along with top outfielder Elier Hernandez, has a more projectable 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame. Gonzalez, 16, was probably the top pitching prospect in the Dominican coming into the spring but hasn't progressed as scouts had hoped. He still has touched the low 90s at his best and projects as a power pitcher down the road, once he learns to incorporate his lower half into his delivery. He has a loose arm, is a strike thrower and uses a curveball and a changeup, with the changeup the more advanced of the two.
Scouts will always disagree about 16-year-old prospects in Latin America, but the names of three players come up consistently when scouts talk about the top players in this year's July 2 international signing class.
Among pitchers, Venezuelan righthander Victor Sanchez stands out for his power arm, plus slider and advanced feel for pitching. The two best position players in Latin America are Elier Hernandez and Ronald Guzman, a pair of 16-year-old Dominican outfielders.
Teams are split on whom they prefer, but it seems to mostly come down to the particular organization's scouting philosophy. Those who place a premium on athleticism, bat speed and raw tools prefer Hernandez. Scouts who like a more advanced swing and a more polished hitting approach side with Guzman.
"Hernandez isn't effortless, but he doesn't put as much effort into it (as Guzman)," said one Latin American director. "To me, Hernandez is the best guy. He just has a little rawness to him, some projection that you're banking on. It's not like the bat is that special, but he has a ton of tools. He's physically projectable and he makes contact."
Hernandez has drawn heavy interest from the Royals, while the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rangers are among the teams who have been linked to Guzman. Nomar Mazara, another high-profile Dominican corner outfielder, might have the most raw power in the Dominican Republic, but scouts have said his feel for hitting is well behind Guzman and Hernandez.
"Guzman has a really good approach, that's what stands out" an international scouting director said. "It's hard to grade, but with Guzman it's pretty evident. He stays up the middle, he can hit for some power, but nowhere near what Mazara showed or even Hernandez. He's a much more refined product."
Mazara is a wild card. He has tremendous raw power from the left side, but the emphasis is on raw, since most scouts surveyed don't consider him in the class of Guzman or Hernandez. Mazara, who is represented by Ivan Noboa, doesn't play in any of the top leagues in the Dominican Republic and has been showcased cautiously. Several teams have said they haven't been able to see Mazara play much in game situations (a red flag in itself), noting that Mazara will often take batting practice without facing live pitching. Those who have seen him play in games have strong reservations about his ability to make consistent contact. Still, some team will likely take a gamble on his power potential.
Another power-hitting corner outfielder drawing attention in the Dominican Republic is Franmil Reyes, 16-year-old from Palenque who trains with Basilio Vizcaino (known as Cachasa). Reyes, the MVP of the Dominican Prospect League's all-star game in January, has a massive frame at around 6-foot-4, 210 pounds and has some of the best raw power on the island. Scouts have said Reyes has looked good at the plate at times but has been inconsistent, showing better against fastballs than offspeed stuff. He's a below-average runner confined to left field, so whatever team signs him will be betting on his bat.
One of the more intriguing outfielders in Venezuela is Carlos Tocci, an extremely skinny but talented center fielder who will be able to sign once he turns 16 in August. Tocci, who trains with Pedro Castillo, raised his profile at an April showcase run by Major League Baseball. He's one of the fastest players in Venezuela, running the 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds. He has good instincts and is a contact-oriented hitter who uses the whole field, though he can get around the ball at times. At 6-foot-2, 150 pounds, Tocci's frame is underdeveloped, and his physical projection is a question mark for scouts. He should be able to get stronger, but with his narrow shoulders he isn't a lock to pack on too much more size. The Rockies and Phillies are among the teams believed to have interest in Tocci.
The Pirates have been linked to two center fielders, Colombia's Harold Ramirez (profiled here last week) and Venezuela's Elvis Escobar, both of whom are represented by Hugo Catrain and have played in the Dominican Republic. Escobar, 16, comes from one of the biggest baseball families on the planet, with more than a dozen relatives who've signed pro contracts. Escobar's father is Jose Escobar, who played 10 games in the big leagues with Cleveland in 1991. His brother is Giants lefthander Edwin Escobar, who signed with the Rangers three years ago for $350,000. His cousins include Kelvim Escobar, Alcides Escobar and Mariners righthander Vicente Campos, who has touched 100 mph and is making his U.S. debut this summer in the short-season Northwest League.
A 5-foot-9, 165-pound lefty, Escobar doesn't have as much physical projection as some of the top outfielders in this year's class, but he stands out for his baseball instincts and ability to hit in games. His power projects as average at best, but he has a nice line-drive swing. Escobar is around an average runner right now, but some scouts believe he could be a plus runner in time, with a 55 arm on the 20-80 scouting scale that could also become a 60 down the road.
Another lefthanded outfielder who stands out for his bat is Sanber Pimentel, who is from Santo Domingo and trains at La Academia in the Dominican Republic. Pimentel, 16, is the younger brother of Rangers outfielder Guillermo Pimentel (not to be confused with Mariners outfielder Guillermo Pimentel, who signed for $2 million two years ago). At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Pimentel's best tool is his bat. He has feel for hitting and the strength to hit for some pull power, though he doesn't project as a major home run threat. Pimentel has a good arm but he's a below-average runner with limited defensive potential, and some teams see him as a first baseman.
The Yankees, Rangers, Blue Jays, Athletics, and Padres watched Roberto Osuna throw in Mexico on Thursday, reports Roberto Espinoza of Vanguardia (link in Spanish). The Red Sox are also interested. Osuna turns 16 on July 2nd and is one of the top pitchers in the class.
Here's the write up on Osuna from earlier in the thread:
"The Pirates signed Mexican righthander Luis Heredia last year for $2.6 million, and scouts say that Mexico has another one of the top pitching prospects for July 2 this year. Righthander Roberto Osuna, the nephew of former big leaguer Antonio Osuna, doesn't turn 16 until July 2 but is already pitching in games for the Mexico Red Devils in the Mexican League. In 20 innings he has a 5.49 ERA with 12 strikeouts and 11 walks, but the numbers mean little, as he's facing hitters 10-20 years older than he is.
Listed at 6 feet, 198 pounds, Osuna isn't as projectable as Heredia, though he already throws harder than Heredia did at 15, and some scouts say he has more advanced feel for pitching. One scout said last year that Osuna was already touching 94 mph with his fastball, and while not every scout has seen him that high, scouts this year have seen him pitching anywhere from 88-94 mph. He shows an advanced curveball for his age and decent feel for his changeup."
ALl the best IFA players have signed - Jays did zilch.
Too bad - since Boston and Tampa have better farm systems than Toronto I thought the IFA would be the place we could leap frog above them.
Boston has a better farm - more money and better MLB talent. New York has MUCH better on field talent and can buy proven MLB all-stars at every position.
Not sure what we can do to combat those two clubs?
For what it's worth, Jason Parks of BP believes Roberto Osuna will sign with the Jays. It's now just a matter of negotiating a deal with the Mexican league that owns his rights.
And looking at the deal Luis Heredia got last year of $2.6MM, 75% of it went to the Mexican team that owned his rights. "Turns out 75 percent of Heredia's signing bonus, $1.95 million, went to the Veracruz Red Eagles, the Mexican League team that held his rights. They are now the Green Eagles. Luis got to keep the rest, about $650,000." Seems like highway robbery to me.