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The Alvarez video is from when I scouted his second appearance in front of scouts back in February, also the last open showcase for Dodgers IF Hector Olivera before he got $62.5 million. Alvarez wasn’t a big name in Cuba and never played in their top pro league. I heard rumors after his first appearance for scouts two weeks prior to my look that he hit 98 mph, but you take that type of buzz with a grain of salt in the international market. He hit 98 mph again in the outing I went to on one scout’s gun, hit 97 mph multiple times on every gun, sitting at 93-96 mph over his two innings. As you can see in the video (from his second inning when I moved down to get a closer look) the slider is plus and the changeup is surprisingly good, flashing 55, and Alvarez used it multiple times in two strike counts and against right-handed hitters. While the command isn’t all the way there yet, he’s only 18 with new velocity that he’s still adjusting to, while the delivery, arm, frame and athleticism are all solid to very good with some flashes of feel to pitch already.He projects as a starter, but the risk here is due to the uncertainty. Alvarez has been throwing this hard for less than a year, scouts haven't seen him go deep into games or face high end minor league hitters. Sometimes young arms with velo spiking develop injuries or simply can't command it and we haven't seen enough to know if this sort of thing will happen to Alvarez. He checks all the boxes for a pitcher of this age and you’d obviously like to see more than what scouts have seen, but that's the way this market works and Alvarez will get paid even with little track record. It would be an unnecessary risk to expose himself to, and teams would rather handle his throwing program themselves than have an agent do it. It’s too early to really know what he’s capable of, but the raw talent here is comparable to the top teenage arms in the world.The buzz is Alvarez already has a deal in place for $16 million with the Dodgers and this type of buzz is sometimes wrong, but very often ends up pegging the right team and the right general range for the bonus. The Dodgers' heaviest of hitters, president Andrew Friedman and VP Josh Byrnes were sitting about 20 feet behind me while I shot the video, were the highest-ranking scouts at the event and have already signed the other elite player that was on the field in Olivera. Alvarez projects as a potential frontline starter that would go in the top half of the first round in the domestic draft, but the uncertainty here is much higher than comparably-aged domestic prospects due to the lack of track record. After ten starts in pro ball, Alvarez could be one of the top pitching prospects in the world, or just another teenage pitcher with a talented arm and feel issues to sort out at the lower levels of the minors.
Martinez doesn't have as much experience playing center field as you'd expect for a 65 to 70 runner from Cuba that's played on some solid teams domestically and internationally. He played in the corners in deference to more experienced defenders and also played a good bit of first base in Cuba to save his arm, since he also pitched. Like most Cuban defectors, he's cleaned up his frame a bit since leaving the island and also added more speed and power. Martinez should be able to stick in center, but he just hasn't been seen playing the position in many games recently, though he has enough arm for right field if for some reason he needs to slide to a corner. There's power for 15-18 homers, but it'll likely play lower than that with his more contact-focused approach; most scouts I spoke with hanging a 50 on his bat and a 45 on his game power (12-15 homers), easily projecting him as an everyday player if he sticks in center as expected. It isn't the most electric, toolsy Cuban prospect in recent memory, but it's roughly comparable to Red Sox OF Rusney Castillo, with less raw power. Martinez is a good bit younger than Castillo and will get far less due to some uncertainty about his skills and the limits of the international pools. The Dodgers and Giants have shown the most interest after Martinez's camp decided to wait for the next signing period, though it sounds like the Yankees made an attempt to sign him at the end of the last period.
Fox played last season at American Heritage high school in Delray Beach, FL, on the same team as 2015 draft prospect SS Jonathan India. Fox played at the PG National and East Coast Pro showcases last summer to get exposure for the 2015 draft and there were rumbling he may transfer so he could get regular innings in the spring at shortstop as India was more polished at the position. Fox ended up moving back to his native Bahamas last summer and registered to become a July 2nd prospect instead of a draft prospect, a designation that MLB is very wary of allowing as other prospects have tried it in the past in an effort to get more money, but Fox's Bahamian roots convinced MLB to allow him to become and international prospect eligible to sign starting on July 2nd.Fox was smaller last summer, around 6'1/160 and ran 6.5 or lower in the 60 (at least 70 speed), but his arm was a little shy for shortstop and while he had contact skills, he had little power. Since moving back to the Bahams, Fox gew an inch, added about 15 lbs. or muscle and is still an easy plus runner, but now with more pop and arm strength. The contact skills are still there and scouts would start him at shortstop in pro ball, though some thing his actions aren't quite good enough to stick and think he'll end up in center field. Second base is also possible, but he'll play shortstop for at least a few years in the minors with upside to be an everyday player at any up-the-middle position. Fox likely wouldn't have gotten more than $2-3 million in the draft but projects to get double that on July 2nd, with the Dodgers the most aggressive suitor, but the Giants, Padres and Rangers are all in the final mix as well.
I’ve written about Guerrero a good bit in the past and not just because of his name; he’s arguably the top prospect 16-year-old in this year’s class. I say arguably because, at this age, it’s almost impossible to get a unanimous opinion from scouts on anyone and it should probably always be that way, given the uncertainty. The first thing fans ask me about Guerrero is if he had his dad’s arm and right now, he doesn’t. It ranges from fringy to solid average by the day, but he’s still going to add a good bit of weight and it’ll likely improve, so I’ll project him in right field.Guerrero ran a 7.25 in the 60 at the showcase where I saw him in February, which is 40-45 speed on the 20-80 scale, and he showed above average to plus bat speed and power, which likely end up at the top end of that range at maturity. He didn’t perform very well in the two games I saw, but I’m told he’s looked much better in terms of game hitting performance in the past. Guerrero’s draw is big bat speed, big power and physical projection, along with the bat control and feel to hit to tap into those skills in games.
Javier is the kind of player you typically see near the top of July 2nd bonus lists. He’s a 6’0, lanky shortstop with easy actions and an above average arm with an ability to stick at the position. Javier ran a 7.01 in the 60 in February a 50 run time on the 20-80 scale, but he’s the type of kid who will probably gain a step in the next few years; Royals SS Raul Mondesi is an example of similar prospect who gained a couple steps after he signed. Javier ran a 6.76 for me in October, so 55 speed is clearly in the tank already.Javier flashes average raw power that may even be a tick better than that depending how his body develops and he flashes some ability to show that tool in games. In the first half of the video, from last month, Javier was just okay offensively, getting off balance and swinging and missing more than expected. In the second half of the video, from October, Javier is more relaxed with better timing. While his mechanics still aren’t perfect, his feel for hitting took over when his hitting actions were more compact. This isn’t to say that Javier is trending down, just pointing out how one bad event could change a scout’s projection if he didn’t have history with the player. This type of variance is common with young players and is fixable.Javier is widely believed to have a deal with the Twins for $4.0 million, which I believe would be the highest July 2nd bonus of all-time for a shortstop.
Gimenez is the poster child in this year's class for the benefits (from the club side) of identifying, scouting and locking up prospects early. Due to some governmental issues, it's been harder recently for foreign scouts (i.e. decision makers in most cases) to get in the country, so some of those players that don't come to showcases or move outright to the Dominican are at a disadvantage. The Mets locked onto Gimenez early in the process, got a good price in the low 7 figures and he's developed nicely since then to be one of the top players in the class. One scout said he a less electric version of A's shortstop Franklin Barreto, in that he has an uncanny ability to square up the ball, can run and play shortstop but doesn't have much power. Barreto has a couple notches more speed, more arm strength and more electricity in his bat (and is even smaller), but GImenez has all the indicators at a young age that he'll be the next savvy and toolsy Venezuelan shortstop to become a top prospect.
Taveras is universally appreciated by scouts for his broad skill base that would be coveted in any July 2nd class. Prospects with more subtle skills, or those with much of their value tied into contact, speed and defense are more appreciated now than in the past due to more games being played on the circuit than before. Taveras is a classic prospect that has good size (6'1 and projectable), even at 15/16 he has the projectable curremt above average to plus speed to profile in center field, a smooth cut from both sides of the plate that shows up in games and the chance for at least average raw power. He's the centerpiece of the Rangers international efforts this year and is expected to get around $3 million.
Cruz's profile has raised in 2015 as he's progressed offensively, but what got him on the radar in 2014 was his easy plus to plus plus speed, steady glove and some feel to hit. Some scouts are wondering if there's much in Cruz's bat, but there's some size and gap power and he already knows how to use his speed at the plate. His running times have also improved, with some scouts thinking he'll be a true 80 runner within anothe year or two, a somewhat common phenomena for the toolsy shorstop types when they're 15/16, Royals prospect Raul Mondesi or Braves 2B Jose Peraza being a few recent examples. Cruz brings top of the scale speed, solid offensive skills and a chance to play shorstop, but there's also a shot he ends up at second base or center field eventually, though he'll get every shot to stick at short and it's still early.
Guerrero is the nephew of Vladimir Guerrero, cousin of Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and the two July 2nd prospects train together under Wilton Guerrero in the Dominican. The Mets went hard after Vlad Jr. but ultimately pulled out when the price got too high and ended up gettign arguably the best 1-2 punch of prospects in this year's class with Andres Gimenez. Guerrero has some of the same actions and swing mechanics as last year's top player, Brewers SS Gilbert Lara, and, like Lara, also projects to move to third base eventually, but will play shortstop for the time being. Guerrero isn't explosive like Lara, who has 65-70 raw power and comparable bat speed, while Guerrero is more above average in both regards, though Guerrero has a much more under-control swing, so his offensive profile is more hit over power right now, though he should tap into that power more often in pro ball as he matures.
Vargas has raked at both events I've seen him in and is an even more extreme version of Pache as a projectable athlete with some tools and some funk to his swing that really hits in events. He's similar to recent Orioles first rounder Ryan Mountcastle in this sense, but it's even more rare to find a prospect in the July 2 market with everyday tools and big performances in games. Vargas' speed is his only before average tool and he likely settles at third base, but he's a solid shortstop for now until he fills out his frame a bit more. Some of the more savvy teams that were out of money for spending it early in the period on verbal deals or are in the penalty due to last year told me Vargas would've been their target if they had the money this year; he was still on the market in late February and would've gotten more money if there were more teams with money to spend early in 2015.
Pache was a huge standout player at the heavily-scouted MLB showcase in the Dominican in February. He didn't swing and miss in about a dozen swings (a rarity for the event) and made consistent loud contact while also displaying his above average speed and projectable power. Rumor is the Braves got on him hard especially after this event and I was also at this event, so I buy the upside here, even if the swing is a little unique. Pache has a chance to stick in center field, but at this age and body type, it's hard to predict the differnce between 50 and 55 and 60 speed at maturity, so you're buying more the well-rounded skillset than a particular position at this point.
Heredia is one of the more interesting prospects in this class. He’s a maturely-built, athletic kid with plus foot speed, bat speed and raw power, along with a solid average arm. He has some feel to hit in games and, as evidenced from the long video above, I’ve seen him a good bit. It’s an easy multi-million dollar package and some scouts see a little crudeness as the plate, but agree the tools are elite and, at this age, you can’t be too picky about game performance.I heard Heredia tied to the Cubs in October, but it wasn’t a done deal. I’ve been hearing him most with the Dodgers in 2015 and that was a curious situation pre-Moncada signing, with most scouts assuming the Dodgers would sign Moncada, taking them out of play for the top 2015 July 2nd prospects. With the Dodgers 'decision to forego signing Moncada they are expected to go completely crazy this year and Heredia is expected to sign for $2.5 million.When I wrote Heredia up in October, I cautioned against assuming he was older than 15/16 just because he physically looked more mature than that age. My argument is if LeBron or Shaq were Dominican, no one would ever believe their age, but standout athletes sometimes have huge ability at a young age; that’s what makes them standout athletes. There's an American high school player (Ronald Washington) that's the same age as Heredia with the same tools, but some scouts were wary enough of this concern that the focused on other players at the top of the July 2 market. International scouting directors don't get in much trouble for giving money to a bad player once, but they do catch flack for signing a guy that ends up being older, especially if he looked older, so they're incentivized to play it safe in situations like these. Heredia having some trouble making contact in games with a higher maitenance swing gives them another excuse.
Guzman is a favorite of international scouts who will likely end up signing for less on July 2nd than he would've gotten if all the players were free agents again now and no one had a deal. Guzman is a below average runner but does everything else well, making loud contact from the left side and showing an advanced glove with advanced instincts and top notch makeup. The Royals are believed to have a deal with him in the low 7 figures.
Ortiz is a prospect of extremes. He is 16 years old, has present 70 raw power, he’s listed at 6’2/260 and ran the same 7.25 in the 60 as Guerrero, but may be even quicker than the 40-pounds-lighter Guerrero once underway. I didn’t have the camera out, but, in one of the games, Ortiz hit a triple over the center fielder’s head and, going from first to third, he looked about an average runner, which is kinda unbelievable given the other information I just told you.Ortiz’s arm is average and he has that looseness to his actions at the plate that tell you he’s more than just the stiff slugger most guys this size are. Like Guerrero, Ortiz wasn’t quite himself at the MLB event, with the huge stadium full of hundreds of scouts likely contributing. Ortiz whiffed on more than a few sliders out of the zone, which he’ll need to clean up, but he more than showed flashes of elite ability.A scout recently told me that he saw Cecil Fielder when he was 16 years old and people don’t realize how athletic he was back then: the scout saw him reverse dunk at that age. I don’t know if Ortiz can do that, but he’s got some of the same athletic indicators. One scout pointed out a lot of similarities with Jesus Montero and noted that the size and slower first step means every ounce of value comes from the bat, which is very hard to peg this far in advance. The consensus in the scouting community is that Ortiz has or will have a deal with the Phillies and that the bonus starts with a four, with my latest info pegging it at $4.2 million. Some teams have Ortiz valued at about half that price due to the contact concerns, but 10 years from now, Ortiz will either be a good player or a bad one, not a good/bad value or an over/underpay.
One scout compared Brito to J.P. Crawford, but meant it as the amateur verion of Crawford, who lasted until the 16th pick in 2013 for a reason. Brito is also an above average to plus runner, fielder and thrower that can stick at shortstop comofortable and also has a bigger frame for the position that gives him a little more pop than usual. The question with Brito, and with Crawford as an amateur, is about his swing and how much offensive impact there will be. Obviously, Crawford has answered this question as well and as quickly as anyone could expect, but that's the obvious best case scenario for this type of prospect. The Dodgers are believed to have have a deal with Brito for $2 million.
Celestino is rare because he's a righty hitter and lefty thrower and also because he's a standout defender already despite only being an average runner. He has some pop and feel to hit, but there's still some uncertainty about his offensive impact.
Matias is the typical quick-twitch Dominican outfielder that lands in the highest bonuses each year. He has a big, present plus arm that could get even better with maturity. He's also an above average runner that projects for above average power and flashes above average bat speed. The questions about him revolve around his feel to hit in games, which then impacts the power he can show in games, and if he'll gain or lose a step as he matures, which would dictate a center field or right field fit.
Seijas is the victim of big bonus expectations that eventually cratered when the available money was largely spent. He's expected to settle for a high six figure bonus with the Cardinals and is a smaller righty with some effort to his delivery, but consistently shows three average or better pitches with good feel for his craft. There isn't much margin for error for him to turn into a league average starter, but he's by far the most advanced of any arm in this class and he's so young that he doesn't need physical projection to improve by a good bit.
Opinions very on Ademan based on how open minded scouts are about what a 16-year-old kid getting a premium bonus should look like. Ademan looks like he'll make a lot of contact and play shortstop, but with little to no power or physical projection and without elite footspeed, the upside is very limited. This type of player is getting more attention in recent years, as the same thing is happening in the draft and in the majors. If Ademan hits his upside, he's a potential low-end everyday shortstop, and he's a surer bet to do that than most in this class, but there's very little margin for error.
Soto is a protoypical projection right fielder, with some muscle to add, projectable above average power, enough arm for right field, below average speed and enough feel to hit to tap into his power at times already.
Sung played in both the Little League World Series, hitting a home run in Championship game defeat and in the 2013 IBAF Under-18 World Cup, where he faced a U.S. team that included first rounders LHP Brady Aiken (Indians), RHP Jack Flaherty (Cardinals), LHP Justus Sheffield (Indians), RHP Luis Ortiz (Rangers), SS Cole Tucker (Pirates) and likely 2017 first round pick C J.J. Schwarz (University of Florida). Sung has average stuff, usually sitting around 90, and a maxed-out frame, but some feel for pitching. Scouts tend to agree that he isn't quite as good at the same stage as Cubs RHP Jen-Ho Tseng, another product of Korea whom they signed in their last international spending spree in 2013 for $1.625 million. Rumors are Sung will get as much as $1.5 million and the Cubs are the favorite, but the Rangers were also in the mix late in the process.