Prior July 2nd Content
This is how I rank the top players in this class based on my in-person evaluations and input from scouts, not my prediction of who will get the highest bonus. As covered in the July 2nd Basics, players aren't eligible to sign until they turn 16, which for two of the below players isn't until August. Look out for a July 2nd notebook coming soon to expound on why I ranked some of the players the way I did, what I think of the class as a whole and coverage of a number of team-based story lines. For an explanation the new bonus pools, see July 2nd Basics and to see the amounts each team has to spend click here
I should add that for almost every player listed below, I'll reference negotiations or deals done months ago, all of which are technically illegal by MLB rules. This is treated the same as college/high school players having agents--technically illegal but as long as you don't flaunt the rules, no one gets punished as MLB has outlawed an essential part of the process.
The tool grades below are on the 20-80 scouting scale, where 45 is below average, 50 is average, 55 is above average, 60 is plus, 70 is plus-plus and 80 is all-time great. They are written in a present/future notation and the present hit tool is a peer grade, measuring how well they hit currently in games amongst age/talent similar players.
6. Yeltsin Gudino, SS, Venezuela
6'0/155, R/R, July 2 Age: 16.46, Trainer/Agent: Carlos Guillen
Tool Breakdown: Hit: 55/60, Power: 35/40, Run: 50/50, Field: 50/55, Throw: 50/50
Scouting Report: Gudino slowly grew on me at the two-day MLB Showcase in January. He isn't a slam-dunk shortstop but definitely has the skills to potentially stick there long-term while he has a very smooth swing but still needs to develop physically to gain more power to be an offensive factor. There's some projection and risk here, but Gudino is an average runner with an average arm and at this age, both of those can still improve as he develops, something you can't reasonably do with an 18-year-old player. Gudino has very good hands and actions and enough lateral quickness to project at shortstop, but wouldn't go further than second base if that doesn't work out. He has a very smooth, fluid swing and feel for the bat head with a sound swing and an all fields line drive approach. Gudino's current strength limits his power and it may never be average, but he should add some power before he reaches his ceiling. He can get out on his front foot in game situations at times, but his bat, overall smoothness and projection is what's attracting interest from clubs.
Predicted Team/Bonus: Toronto Blue Jays, $1.1 million
Actual Team/Bonus: Toronto Blue Jays, $1.29 million
7. Jesus Lopez, 2B, Nicaragua
5'11/160, B/R, July 2 Age: 16.74, Trainer/Agent: Wilfredo Blanco
Tool Breakdown: Hit: 55/60, Power: 40/45, Run: 40/40, Field: 45/50, Throw: 45/45
Scouting Report: Lopez is the top player this year not from the power countries of Venezuela and the Dominican Republic and some clubs didn't see him as much as a result. His calling card, like Gudino, is his advanced bat and change to play up the middle, but unlike Gudino, Lopez is a switch-hitter and has more current power. Lopez only started switch-hitting last year but scouts already believe in his bat speed, fluid cut from both sides and line drive all-fields approach. His power projects as average at best down the road with a frame that limits his power upside while Lopez's lateral quickness and arm are both not enough for shortstop. Lopez fits at second base defensively long-term and his advanced bat is the carrying tool here.
Predicted Team/Bonus: Houston Astros, $1.0 million
Actual Team/Bonus: Oakland Athletics, $950,000
8. Luis Encarnacion, LF, Dominican Republic
6'2/195, R/R, July 2 Age: 15.90 (Eligible to sign August 9th), Trainer/Agent: Juan Herrera
Tool Breakdown: Hit: 55/55, Power: 50/55, Run: 45/40, Field: 40/45, Throw: 45/45
Scouting Report: Encarnacion is one of the top power prospects in the class and also one of the youngest of the top prospects, just weeks away from being in next year's class. He shows current raw power and performs well against good pitching, so you'd think I'd be all in on Encarnacion as I'm normally higher than the industry on guys like this. The problem is that Encarnacion is a right-right left field/first base fit, doesn't have the size to project much more raw power, his swing is higher effort and gets uphill often. Encarnacion mostly plays third base now and his hands are alright but his arm is below average to fringy and his below average speed limits his quickness. His swing is fine but Encarnacion takes a steeper angle at the ball with some length to his swing and uppercut to his bat path. It's a mostly pull approach and his leg kick also contributes to a higher maintenance swing. The precocious power with some feel for hitting in games is good and allows Encarnacion to project as an everyday player, but I'm not as bullish as some on his upside.
Predicted Team/Bonus: Philadelphia Phillies, $1.1 million
Actual Team/Bonus: Unsigned, Eligible To Sign On August 9th
9. Marcos Diplan, RHP, Dominican Republic
5'11/160, R/R, July 2 Age: 16.79, Trainer/Agent: Luis Polonia
Tool Breakdown: Fastball: 50/55, Curveball: 50/55, Changeup: 45/50, Command: 45/50
Scouting Report: Despite his small stature, Diplan consistently shows power stuff in heavily-scouted appearances. In a January MLB Showcase in the Dominican Republic, Diplan dominated with a 90-92 mph fastball that hit 93 and a 73-76 mph curveball (the early part of the above video, where he's facing #2 July 2nd prospect 3B Rafael Devers). Due to his size, his fastball doesn't have a lot of plane and he throws a four-seam fastball without a lot of life, so the velocity is doing the heavy lifting here. His curveball is a traditional one with 11-to-5 tilt, often with hard late bite and he will occasionally throw an 81-82 mph changeup with some sink and fade that shows average potential. In a March outing in Kissimmee, Diplan was overthrowing some and sat 91-93 hitting 94 mph with a curveball that wasn't quite as sharp. Diplan has the best current stuff in the class and while he doesn't have projection, he does normally have very good command. He is under control with limited effort to his delivery with a clean arm action, well-balanced delivery and well-synced hip and shoulder torque. He's a good athlete and these things all bode well for his health, the biggest factor in determining his ultimate upside, but his size will make you pause when saying his stuff and feel make him likely to hit his #3/4 starter ceiling.
Predicted Team/Bonus: Texas Rangers, $1.0 million
Actual Team/Bonus: Texas Rangers, $1.3 million
10. Carlos Hiciano, SS, Dominican Republic
6'2/175, R/R, July 2 Age: 16.68, Trainer/Agent: Decarte Corporan
Tool Breakdown: Hit: 45/50, Power: 45/50, Run: 60/55, Field: 45/50, Throw: 55/55
Scouting Report: Hiciano is one of the better athletes in this class, running a 6.63 60-yard in January with the chance for five average or better tools and play shortstop long-term. That said, there are some concerns on the bat and the ultimate landing spot defensively. If he can't stay at short, second base and center field are both solid fits but Hiciano should be sent out at shortstop as his hands and body control are good and his feet and arm are good enough to possibly fit. He also has some projection in his longer frame, so his power could be average or close to it (15 homers annually or so) at maturity and there is bat speed, strength and some feel to hit in games. Hiciano loads his hands a little too high and cocks the bat around his head, making a long path to the ball for a guy that should focus, at this point in his development, in making consistent contact and keeping it simple. He hit for me in games with gap power but there is a little stiffness that needs to be worked out. As a plus runner that can stick up the middle with no below average tools, there's considerable upside here if the hit tool continues making progress.
Predicted Team/Bonus: Washington Nationals, $900,000
Predicted Team/Bonus: Oakland Athletics, $750,000
For reports on the other prospects in the top 32, see the top prospect predicted/actual bonus/team projections.
Reports On Other Prospects Outside of the Top 32
Joan Mauricio, SS, Dominican Republic (Video)
Status: Signed with Astros for $600,000
Scouting Report: The skinny 6'1, 150 pound shortstop plays in the International Prospect League and is an example of an athlete that could add strength and speed as he matures. The shortstop actions are there and some bat speed is present, so he could become a much better prospect if his body develops more.
Nestor Tejada, CF, Venezuela (Video)
Status: Signed with Astros
Scouting Report: The smallish 5'10, 180 pound center fielder is a super productive bat with advanced feel for his line drive stroke. He doesn't have much power or projection so his above average speed gives him a chance to profile in center field but he doesn't have much margin for error.
Jeferson Mejia, RHP, Dominican Republic
Status: Signed with Cubs for $850,000
Scouting Report: 6'7, 230 pound righty was July 2nd eligible last year before some identity issues that now have him aged at 18. Mejia slowly filled out his 6'7 frame and he now consistently sits in the low 90's. Mejia also has a changeup that's above average at times and a usable curveball that could be average. As usual with guys his size there's a little bit of awkwardness and body control issues at times, but that can sometimes improve as with physical maturity.
Yohan Matos, C, Dominican Republic
Status: Signed with Cubs
Scouting Report: 6'0, 175 pound catcher is a catch-and-throw guy with good arm strength and a linear bat path. He has a line drive approach at the plate with below average raw power.
Roni Tapia, 3B, Dominican Republic (Video)
Status: Signed with Twins for $550,000
Scouting Report: The 6'3, 175 pound third baseman has some projection to his frame and flashes average raw power to the middle of the field with possibly more to come. His hitting mechanics are just okay as he frequently bars his front arm and he has a solid average arm that could fit in right field if things don't work out at third base, where his below average speed limits his defensive upside
Junior Soto, LF, Dominican Republic
Status: Signed with Indians for $600,000
Scouting Report: The lanky 6'2, 180 pound left fielder didn't wow me in January, showing a fringy arm, below average speed and below average raw power that had some projection due to his size and bat speed. He's progressed and filled out his frame some since then, showing some everyday left fielder tools.
Ali Sanchez, C, Venezuela
Status: Signed with Mets for $690,000
Scouting Report: The 6'0, 180 pound backstop shows a solid base of skills but doesn't have a standout tool. Sanchez is a solid defender with a solid average arm and feel for contact in games from a line drive stroke but has below average power.
Yeffry DeAza, SS, Dominican Republic
Status: Signed with Mets for $475,000
Scouting Report: The skinny 5'11, 160 pound shortstop fits better at second base or, more likely third base, with an average arm, average speed and good hands. He has a high maintenance swing with a high leg kick and cocked bat that holds him back in games but DeAza will flash good raw power to his pull side.
Onil Pena, C, Dominican Republic
Status: Signed with Mariners for $385,000
Scouting Report: The 6'1, 175 pound backstop has a big stride/leg kick and some small mechanical issues to work out but has fluidity to his swing and the potential for average raw power with feel to all fields. He's a below average runner with a solid average arm but needs some work behind the plate, so third base or right field could be his ultimate fit defensively.
Ronald Rosario, OF, Dominican Republic (Video)
Status: Signed with Mariners for $350,000
Scouting Report: The lanky 6'2, 180 pound outfielder has very long limbs that create leverage for raw power but also add length to his swing, which gives his trouble making contact in games. Rosario is a below average runner with an above average arm that fits in right field and he flashes average raw power, mostly to his pull side, with projection for more. Rosario has a loose approach at the plate and some mechanical adjustments to make that could improve his contact ability, like getting too far out on his front foot and loading his hands too high, giving him a longer bat path.
Luis Asuncion, OF, Dominican Republic (Video)
Status: Signed with Padres for $350,000
Scouting Report: The lanky 6'3, 170 pound outfielder is similar to Rosario as a long-limbed corner outfielder with power potential and a right field arm. Asuncion is a superior prospect for me, as he shows a notch more current raw power with still more projection and slightly more arm strength. Asuncion showed some progress hitting in games throughout the spring and some feel to go the other way, although his hitting mechanics are a little awkward in his setup.
Edison Lantigua, OF, Dominican Republic
Status: Signed with Pirates for $275,000
Scouting Report: The 6'1, 170 pound outfielder has a solid line drive swing and hits the ball to the middle of the field with a little pop. He can get pull conscious and at times will drop his hands late in his swing, too. Lantigua's fringy speed and arm strength make him a likely left fielder.
Nicolas Pierre, LF, Dominican Republic
Status: Signed with Brewers for $800,000
Scouting Report: The lanky 6'3, 170 pound center fielder is a projectable athlete that shows above average speed and an average arm, so as he fills out, he could fit in any of the three outfield positions. He's more of a gap-to-gap power guy now but his power will increase as he adds strength and his line drive stoke helps him make contact now in game situations. Pierre played in the International Prospect League this year.
Rafelin Lorenzo, C, Dominican Republic (Video)
Status: Signed with Rays for $250,000
Scouting Report: The 6'1, 195 pound backstop has an awkward setup into a line drive stroke that can turn into an uppercut at times, though he has bat speed and solid gap power with feel to all fields. His best tool is his above average arm and Lorenzo moves well enough to give him a chance to stick behind the plate long-term.
Mikey Edie, OF, Venezuela (Video)
Status: Signed with Giants
Scouting Report: The 6'0, 165 pound outfielder has above average run and throw tools along with a loose right-handed cut with above average bat speed. The problem with Edie is that he's still a bit of a tweener defensively and his swing has some mechanical issues: a high leg kick and a very high and deep hand load. He has a chance to hit 10-12 homers with added strength but that may never come though Edie has a track record of hitting in games. There was a rumor Edie has a deal before July 2nd with the Giants for $200,000, but his bonus hasn't been confirmed since he signed.