Beyond The Top 50: The DSL Dozen

When FutureBacks.com debuts its top 50 list on January 1st, those rankings will only feature Arizona Diamondbacks prospects that have played in the United States. Here we rank the organization's top 12 international prospects, each of whom could find themselves listed in the 2010 edition of the FutureBacks Fifty.

Why don't we include international players on the FutureBacks Fifty?  Several reasons.  The competition in the Dominican Summer League varies, with 20-something studs often feasting on neophyte 16-year olds.  Truthfully, we don't know how old these players actually are, which can also skew our view of them.  Some of these players will never make it to the United States because of legal issues, and many that do will not be able to cope with the culture shock and language barriers that await them there.

Perhaps most importantly, we haven't seen these players perform for ourselves, and only have the word of a few scouts and front office personnel to go by, along with the aforementioned unreliable statistics they have complied in an unbalanced league.

But we feel that it's important to mention these players and analyze them the best we can, since some of the Diamondbacks' top prospects in recent years have surfaced from international waters.  Many of these prospects have been parlayed into major league talent via trades.  Carlos Gonzalez was the top prospect involved in the Dan Haren deal.  The slick-fielding Alberto Gonzalez helped bring Randy Johnson back to the desert, while Emilio Bonifacio netted Jon RauchMiguel Montero is the Diamondback currently mentioned the most in trade talks.  All of these prospects were international signings. 

Tony Pena, Alexander Romero, and Leo Rosales each figure into the Diamondbacks' 2008 plans.  They all began their careers overseas, although only Pena originated from the Diamondbacks organization.

So who is the next Tony Pena?  Do the Diamondbacks have any international players interesting enough to bring back major trade value?  Behold the FutureBacks.com DSL Dozen and find out.

Note:  Each players age is listed as of January 1st, 2009.

1. Antonio Sepulveda - SS Age 17 - 5'9" 150 lb

In terms of both raw speed and infield throwing arm strength, Antonio Sepulveda is unequalled in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.  The switch-hitting Sepulveda held his own in the DSL as a 16-year old, posting a .349 OBP with 10 steals in 42 games.  His swing isn't great, but all he needs to do is work the count and put the ball on the ground to utilize his plus-plus speed and get on base.  Sepulveda allegedly turns 17 on New Year's Eve.  Even if he's actually a little older than that, Sepulveda rates as one of the most exciting prospects in the entire organization.

Minor league field coordinator Jack Howell named Sepulveda the Most Improved Position Player during the fall Instructional League.

2. Enrique Burgos - RHP Age 18 - 6'4" 200 lb

This big Panamanian went 2-0 with a 3.92 ERA in 10 starts this summer.  A hard thrower with a lot of life on his fastball, Burgos compliments that plus-offering with an excellent changeup and a good over-the-top curveball at times.  The biggest issue with Burgos is his command, but he improved his mechanics during his Instructional League invite and should be better going forward.  He already speaks some English, which will help his learning curve.

Burgos came away with Howell's Most Improved Pitcher Award after Instructs.

3. Ender Inciarte - CF Age 18 - (height and weight not available)

Inciarte batted .300 for the Diamondbacks/Reds and swiped 22 bases in 28 attempts.  He has a fantastic left-handed swing and is willing to draw a walk to help set the table.  Patrolling centerfield with gusto, Inciarte gunned down five baserunners this year while making only two errors.  His .985 fielding percentage was most remarkable for a 17-year old who covers as much ground as he does.  Inciarte closely resembles top Diamondbacks prospect Evan Frey, whom we named the organizational Position Player of the Year.

Fittingly, Inciarte was the DSL Diamondbacks/Reds Position Player of the Year as awarded here at FutureBacks.com.

4. Raywilly Gomez - 3B/C Age 18 - 5'11" 170 lb

Gomez led the DSL Diamondbacks in seven offensive categories, but had all kinds of problems getting the ball to first base from the hot corner.  His 29 total errors at the hot corner led to an atrocious .858 fielding percentage there.  Gomez got invited to Instructs and tried to learn the catcher position.  For some reason, he took to it well, throwing to the bases with both strength and some accuracy from the new vantage point.  Although he does not ever project to hit for much power, Gomez should do well enough in batting average and on base percentage to make him an asset even if he can only play catcher adequately.

Gomez won the FutureBacks.com Position Player of the Year Award for the DSL Diamondbacks.

5. Sammy De Los Santos - RHP Age 19 - (height and weight not available)

De Los Santos is apparently Spanish for Gibson, because Sammy de Los Santos compiled a miniscule 1.12 ERA last year, fanning 49 batters while walking just nine. He has good stuff and good command, knows what he's doing on the mound, and should star for one of the D-backs' Short-Season affiliates next year.

De Los Santos easily outperformed any other Diamondbacks international pitching prospect last year.  He won the FutureBacks.com Position Player of the Year Award for the DSL Diamondbacks hands down.

6. Jae Yun Kim - C Age 18 - 6'1" 190 lb

Kim, of course, did not play in the Dominican Summer League, but he is certainly a top international prospect for the Diamondbacks.  He represents the first major Korean signing in the organization since Byung-Hyun Kim (no relation) back in 1999. An exceptional thrower and receiver, Kim still needs to refine his swing, improve his English, and learn how to call a game.  He has the size and athleticism to succeed, and he appears to also have the desire and intelligence necessary to translate his raw tools into baseball skills.

View Kim's full prospect profile

7. Yiomar Camacho - RHP Age 18 6'1" 172 lb

Camacho held DSL hitters to a .220 batting average in 2008, but his 27 walks in 53.1 innings was a bit high. He tops out at 91 miles per hour, throws a decent changeup, and has the best curveball among Diamondbacks DSL prospects.  If he can improve his command, this Venezuelan could develop into a dominant major league reliever.  If he can also refine his changeup, he even has a chance to become an impact starter.

8. Jose Jose - RF Age 18 - (height and weight not available)

The Diamondbacks spent $150,000 on signing Jose Squared, and the returns so far have been minimal.  While his six home runs led all DSL Diamondbacks prospects, he struck out in more than half of his at-bats, which understandably led to a .179 batting average.  His left-handed swing is long, although the ball really does jump off his bat on the rare occasion that he does connect.  He is clueless both on the bases and in the field, as evidenced by his 17% success rate stealing and .901 fielding percentage.  Jose has a large frame and a strong throwing arm to go with above average speed, but he is a long way away from harnessing his natural tools into anything productive on the field.

9. Danny Leon - RHP Age 19 -  6'5" 180 lb

A converted outfielder, Danny Leon is picking up the fine art of pitching quickly. The tall right-hander posted a 2.25 ERA in 32 DSL innings in 2008.  He can regularly hit 90-91 on the gun, and has a decent feel for his breaking ball given his extreme inexperience throwing it.  It's very early to project Leon, but his size and arm strength give him a decent shot at blossoming into a big league reliever.

10. Astolfo Inciarte - OF/1B Age 20 - 5'8" 170 lb

Astolfo Inciarte was batting .322 for the DSL Diamondbacks before joining his younger brother, Ender, on the DSL Diamondbacks/Reds.  He batted just .260 there and began spending more time at first base than in the outfield.  He's a good natural hitter, but will not hit for enough power to play left field or first base, which are the positions that he is best equipped to man.

Inciarte appeared in the FutureBacks Power Rankings throughout the summer.

11. Gerson Montilla - 2B Age 19 - 5'10" 168 lb

Montilla only hit .249 for the DSL Diamondbacks and has no power to speak of, but posted a .343 OBP, making him less of an offensive liability. On the other side of the ball, Montilla is easily the best defender among the DSL Diamondbacks' infielders.  He posted an unbelievable .985 fielding percentage at second base, his natural position.  The Diamondbacks will train Montilla at shortstop to better utilize his defensive prowess; his bat would likely be a liability anywhere else.

12. Gustavo Martinez - RHP Age 18 - 6'2" 162 lb

Martinez posted a 3.62 ERA in 49.2 DSL innings last year. He has a good curveball and a serviceable changeup, but will need to improve his velocity to truly be considered a prospect.  His fastball does not quite reach 90, which is giving him problems striking out DSL hitters.  If he can't put them away, he's going to have a lot of trouble with advanced minor league bats.

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