A Talented Trio

Leading up to the 2007 MLB amateur draft, there were three Puerto Rican players considered to be head-and-shoulders above their fellow country men in terms of potential: Reynaldo Navarro, Neftali Soto, and Angel Morales. All three players were chosen in the third round and were considered raw but talented. Let’s see how each one fared during the 2008 season.

Reynaldo Navarro, Shortstop, Arizona Diamondbacks
Navarro, 18, got off to a slow start after turning pro in 2007 by hitting .250/.274/.283 in 212 Rookie ball at-bats. He returned to the same league in 2008 and has improved, albeit slowly. He produced a line of .262/.334/.379 with 17 stolen bases in 256 at-bats. After walking just six times last season, Navarro has improved his patience by walking 25 times in 2008. The switch hitter needs to improve his swing from the left-hand side as he hit just .212 against right-handers, compared to .377 against southpaws. Right now, defence is his strong suit as a slick-fielding shortstop with range and actions. His arm strength is average.

Neftali Soto, Third baseman, Cincinnati Reds
Originally a shortstop, Soto was immediately converted to third base by the Reds. In his debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2007, he got off to a fast start and hit .303/.355/.454 in 40 games. The Reds were cautious with Soto in 2008 and he began the year in Rookie ball again where he hit .388/.423/.746 in 15 games. Soto, 19, was promoted to A-ball and hit .333/.352/.502 with six homers in 201 at-bats. The knock on him, though, is his lack of patience. In 103 pro games, Soto has walked just 22 times. Regardless, he is an intriguing prospect and has shown a lot of improvement in a short period of time. Reds fans need to start talking about this guy.

Angel Morales, Outfielder, Minnesota Twins
Morales’ bat was considered to be his weakest tool coming into the draft. He still struggles with consistency but no one expected him to hit with this kind of power, especially so soon. Morales had a decent debut by hitting .256/.357/.405 in 121 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League in 2007. He was held back for short-season ball again in 2008 but was promoted to a league that features more college players and Morales exploded with 15 homers in 183 at-bats. His overall line is .301/.413/.623 with 26 walks and a disturbing 72 strikeouts. Morales is going to have to swing-and-miss a lot less if he is going to maintain his average at higher levels. The right-handed batter is also hitting just .135 against southpaws, but that should improve as he sees more of them. Defensively, Morales is a solid center fielder.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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