Update On The Market
My week in the Dominican will be six days total, three separate two-day scouting events scheduled back-to-back-to-back so stateside executives can see the most players in a short trip before the American baseball season gets started.
As I've mentioned in some recent articles and tweets, the July 2nd landscape is changing. The spending limits MLB has imposed are forcing clubs to make the most of their fixed budget by locking up top targets even earlier than usual. I make a point of not reporting these verbal agreements as done deals since they aren't binding and sometimes fall apart for various reasons, but they typically stick about 90% of the time, so I trust the intel.
Estimates vary from scout to scout, but the consensus seems to be that about 10 notable players in this year's class have deals done and won't be in the Dominican this week. There are another 10 players or so that appear have deals done, but are on rosters for games this week and may or may not show. This could swing the caliber of talent we'll see this week somewhat dramatically, but many of the top hitters and most of the pitchers are still on the market and playing this week.
The first event of the six day stretch is a two-day workout of players from the Dominican Prospect League. The DPL was the first league to form to give scouts and players more organized games against strong competition. This not only gives clubs more information to work with on their evaluations, but upended the old system where it was often hard for lower-budgeted clubs to get looks at top players as agents only showed their players to clubs that had a history of paying top dollar.
The DPL has enough players that not all of them will play both days of the event, so it was a challenge for me to get good looks at every player today as two fields were going at all times and I had my head on a swivel trying to keep up. There weren't any notable July 2nd arms throwing today (the league had two last year in Mayky Perez/Padres/$600K and Marcos Diplan/Rangers/$1.5M), so I focused on the bats. Both today and tomorrow's DPL events were held at the Yankees' complex in Boca Chica.
The hallmarks of the DPL are well-run games and workouts with every player in uniform playing and nearly every player on the field eventually signing a pro contract. This keeps the level of competition high, but obviously some top bats may shy away from that type of challenge. There were a bunch of solid $100-300K bonus type players on the field, but I'll try to focus on the bigger money players.
As I mentioned above, I got quick and incomplete looks on most players, but was able to pinpoint a half dozen or so standout hitters that should draw at least mid-six-figure bonuses, if not more. SS Elwin Tejeda stood out the most to me today; the lanky 6'2/160 shortstop could outgrow the position but has a slight enough build I think he could stay there for awhile. He's not a blazing runner but he didn't run all out today and these kids are young enough that they still add speed with normal physical maturity. The separator here is the bat, as Tejeda already has sound mechanics with a direct path, good bat speed and some feel for contact. He hit a double over the center fielder's head in the game and reminds me of a more physical version of the Blue Jays top July 2nd signing last year, seven figure Venezuelan SS Yeltsin Gudino.
OF Bryan Pena has some of the best bat speed and raw power in today's group, is left-handed and has plenty of projection to offer with a live 6'4/195 frame. His high leg kick and pull-happy BP approach need to be toned-down and his physical length could present some long-term contact issues. That said, clubs keep paying this type of player and the tools are for real, so Pena could challenge Tejeda for the top bonus from this group.
Other players that stood out included 3B Gabriel Corporan, who is among the youngest of the top prospects from today and won't be eligible to sign until his 16th birthday on August 11th; he gets attention for his live body and above average bat speed. OF Estarling Cordero (another youngster that can't sign until July 21st) has a massive 6'5/200 frame and the raw power potential to match, but needs to shorten up his swing in games.
CF Israel Felix has above average bat speed and a center field profile while C Ismerlin Mota was the best of the backstops with a loose line drive strike. Two more young players from today's group, OF Juan Araujo (June 24th birthday) and SS Ricardo Baez (August 28th) also stood out today with a good mix of tools. It's worth noting that C Johandro Alfaro, the little brother of Rangers top prospect C Jorge Alfaro, also played today and will definitely sign a pro contract, though isn't quite as good as the players mentioned above. I'll post videos of most of these players when I get back to the States with more reliable internet.
I can already hear Yankee fans asking if I saw any of their rumored high dollar bats today and the answer is "not yet." Sources tell me that at least a few and maybe all of the half dozen or so of the high-end hitters the Yankees are targeting will be at the MLB showcase at the stadium in San Pedro de Macoris. That event is in the middle of the week (Wednesday and Thursday), with the International Prospect League having their two-day event Friday and Saturday at the Yankees' complex. As I understand it, most of the top-end players that have agreed to deals early are hitters, so basically all the top arms are still on the market and should be pitching later in the week.