Unlike the other teams in the system, it is much harder to put together a top ten prospect list for the Dominican Summer League. There is very little to go on besides the season stats, signing information and scouting reports that are few and far between. You base a lot on performance, where the players actually played on the field, and the player’s age, both at the present time and when they signed. For the most part, if a kid signs at age 19 or later, he isn’t a prospect. If he is playing shortstop or center field at 17-18 years old, that is usually a good sign.
The list below is by no means a top ten list, it is ten players who I think have the best chance at going far in the system. For that reason, you won’t see players like Luis Santos, Ulises Montilla or Christopher DeLeon, who put up strong numbers, but they were on the old side. A common occurrence in this league among pitchers is an older player dominating with good off-speed stuff, but without the fastball to advance far. There are other players not on this list, such as Luis Rico ($280,000) and Yunior Aquiles, that signed six figure bonuses, and they are still young, but the results are not there. Then you have Mervin Del Rosario, older player, high bonus, throws 93 MPH, but results were just okay with low strikeout numbers.
Ten Prospects to Watch
1. Julio De La Cruz – He was the Pirates main target during this season’s July 2nd signing period. He signed for $700,000 as soon as the signings started. De La Cruz is just 16 years old and described as an athletic third baseman, who makes good contact with average power. At 6′ 1″ 190lbs, he has room to grow and add power. They see him sticking at third base due to his athleticism and strong arm. He could open next season in the GCL if the last two years are any indication. Pirates top three signings from 2010-11 — Luis Heredia, Elvis Escobar and Harold Ramirez — all skipped the DSL.
2. Michael De La Cruz – Within a week or signing Julio, the Pirates signed another De La Cruz (no relation) to the same $700,000 bonus. This one is a 16-year-old outfielder with five tool potential. Michael is already good size at 6′ 0″ 175lbs and has above average speed, with strong defense at a young age, that has room to improve. He is a lefty line drive hitter that they think could hit twenty homers in a season. He is another possibility of skipping to the GCL.
3. Maximo Rivera – In 2009, Rivera signed for $165,000, the second highest bonus behind Jose Ozuna, who was with West Virginia this year making a name for himself. Rivera was a shortstop when signed, described as having a possible 40 home run potential. In 2010, he showed none of that, and then the beginning of 2011 was more of the same. During the second half of last year, something clicked and he began to hit for power. This season, the power almost disappeared, in fact it did during the second half. Despite that power loss, he still put up great numbers this season, hitting .367 with a .902 OPS and a surprising 34 stolen bases. He should go to the GCL next year as a twenty year old and will likely play a corner position, infield or outfield. If he can regain power, combined with his high average and speed, he could be one to really watch next season.
4. Yoel Gonzalez – This list is top heavy with new signings, partially due to the fact the top signings recently have skipped right over the DSL. Gonzalez signed for $350,000 on his sixteenth birthday, just over a month ago. He is described already as a mature catcher, with quickness behind the plate, good fundamentals, good size and a strong arm with clean action. His hitting isn’t as advanced yet, but he uses the whole field and has room to add power.
5. Richard Mitchell – Mitchell signed last year, on his sixteenth birthday, for $170,000. Prior to signing, he was already hitting 91 MPH. He was described as raw with his breaking pitches, so going into the year there wasn’t high expectations for him. The 6′ 2″ 185lb righty, ended up making 14 appearances with mixed results. The amount of action he saw was a good sign and the stats he put up were very similar to what Luis Heredia did at the same age last year in the GCL. He should return to the DSL as he looks to work on his secondary pitches.
6. Danny Arribas – Arribas signed for $110,000 in 2011. He was born in the U.S., grew up playing in the Netherlands and went to the DSL last year to play. His first season did not go well, hitting just .200 in 48 games. He is a versatile player, who can catch, play third base or first base. Arribas returned to the DSL this season and started off very slow, then went on a tear once July started. He finished the season batting .308 with 15 doubles, playing more games and getting more plate appearances than any other DSL Pirates player. He should see plenty of time in the GCL next year.
7. Oderman Rocha – Based on performance alone, he would’ve been ranked second only to Rivera. Rocha is a 19-year-old, 6′ 3″ righty, who did everything you could ask for from a pitcher. He had a huge groundball rate (2.54), kept the ball in the ballpark (one homer in three years), throws strikes and can put away batters when he isn’t getting them to ground out. His drawback is an odd one on the surface, he did all the same things last year as well, but wasn’t moved up to the GCL. That could mean that he is one of those pitchers with the excellent breaking stuff, because you usually wouldn’t hold back a second year pitcher, that put in a lot of work (54.2 IP) and had terrific results. I expect him to move to the GCL next year and from there we will get a better idea whether he is legit.
8. Leandro Rodriguez- In his first season after signing last year out of the Dominican Prospect League for $80,000, Rodriguez showed good/solid numbers across the board. He was dominating in July, then didn’t pitch for two weeks, before finishing the season as a reliever, so a slight injury may have derailed him at his peak. He had a decent groundball rate, showed excellent control and was tough to hit, with a .227 BAA. Rodriguez is a 19-year-old 6′ 3″ RHP.
9.Pablo Reyes – Reyes was an unknown going into this season, but he definitely put himself on the map with a solid all-around season. As mentioned above, it is a good sign when an 18-year-old plays shortstop all the time and along with the higher bonus player, Carlos Ozuna, they were the two main shortstops in the DSL for the Pirates. Reyes was not only the better fielder of the two, he was also a better hitter and was better on the bases. Reyes had just 12 strikeouts all year, with 23 walks and he went 18-for-25 in stolen bases attempts. He hit 18 doubles, a sign of power potential in the DSL and his fielding percentage was 23 points high than Ozuna, who just missed this list. The two players are similar size and Reyes is two months younger. It is possible Ozuna may be the better of the two players in the long run, but Reyes got the best of him this year.
10. Adrian De Aza – He didn’t get on here due to his stats, he is rated in the top ten players to watch due to his scouting report, which labeled him as an athletic five tool outfielder, which two plus tools, throwing arm and speed. De Aza played in the Dominican Prospect League prior to signing for $150,000 in July of 2010. He hit .240 this year with 15 extra base hits, finishing the season strong. His other numbers were not good, just four steals in eight attempts and he played right field most of the season, with more errors than assists. He will be twenty next season, so it is possible he could move up to the GCL.
Ten Others to Watch
(Listed alphabetically, with position/current age): Gustavo Barrios,2B/18, Omar Basulto, P/19, Adrian Grullon,P/20, Christian Henriquez, P/20, Johan Herrera, 3B/17, Carlos Munoz, 1B/18, Carlos Ozuna, SS/19, Jesus Paredes, P/19 Cesilio Pimentel, P/19, Tito Polo, OF/18, Julio Vivas, P/18