|Jorge De Jesus||RHP||R/R||6'0||205||01/17/92||DSL|
|Abel De Los Santos||RHP||R/R||6'2||180||11/21/92||DNP|
1) Ruben Sierra goes down to the Dominican.
The Rangers' sixth-round selection in last summer's draft, Sierra, Jr. played last season at the rookie-level Arizona League, hitting .202 with three doubles and 47 strikeouts in 109 at-bats.
The Puerto Rico native was regarded as a toolsy-but-raw prospect out of high school, and the results from his debut summer reflected that. Sierra can be impressive in batting practice––flashing some raw power––but he had struggled to catch up to live pitching in game action.
The 6-foot-2, 172-pound lefty also has some athleticism to go with good speed and a strong arm. He profiles as a corner outfielder down the line, though he has also proven to be raw in terms of route-running and reading the ball off the bat.
Sierra was in Arizona for Spring Training, but he was sent to the club's complex in the Dominican Republic during Extended Spring Training, and he's currently playing in the DSL. Through 53 at-bats this season, he is batting .208 with three extra-base hits, seven walks, and 18 strikeouts.
The 19-year-old's raw talent commanded a $125,000 bonus last year, but he is just that––raw. Sierra may need three total years of short-season ball to refine his skills, and only time will tell whether he can realize his potential.
2) Jorge Alfaro, too.
Alfaro made waves when he earned the highest bonus for any Colombian-born player, signing for $1.3 million this past January. The Rangers quickly moved Alfaro behind the plate because of his thick body and strong arm, and he'll be learning the many nuances of the position over the next few seasons.
In his first Spring Training this year, Alfaro flashed impressive present strength for a 16-year-old, consistently driving balls with authority in batting practice. He got some early playing time at Extended Spring Training before suffering a hand injury, causing him to sit out much of the first half.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound prospect began taking batting practice again during the first week of June, and he was sent to the Dominican Republic shortly after the club drafted catcher Kellin Deglan in the first round of the MLB Draft––presumably to give both players regular playing time.
Only time will tell whether Alfaro will spend the rest of the summer in the DSL, but regardless of who he's playing for, it'll be interesting to follow his progress. In four games thus far [three at DH and one behind the plate], Alfaro is 4-for-16 with no walks and five strikeouts.
3) Juan Grullon returns.
The 20-year-old southpaw dominated the Dominican Summer League for two years before posting a 3.51 earned-run average in 25.2 innings with the AZL Rangers last season. However, he didn't attend Spring Training in the U.S. this year, remaining at the club's Dominican complex for unspecified reasons [though it isn't a visa issue].
Grullon is off to a strong start––as one would expect––for the DSL Rangers this year, yielding only one earned run in his first 11.1 innings, walking zero and striking out 14.
The 6-foot-0, 185-pound hurler isn't overpowering, but he has a decent feel for pitching with an upper-80s fastball [touching 90 on occasion], a slider, and a changeup. He tossed five strong innings in his last outing and––depending on the circumstances––could be a candidate to pitch in Arizona or even Spokane later this summer.
1) How will high-profile signees David Perez and Victor Payano perform in their debut season?
There are a number of similarities with Perez and Payano. They were regarded as two of the top Dominican pitching prospects leading up to last year's July 2 international signing period. And when other teams backed off, the Rangers were able to sign both for relative bargains.
Perez and Payano are both 17-year-old Dominican Republic natives [born two months part], and both have long, fast arms with projectable 6-foot-5 frames. While the pitchers have plenty of maturing to do physically, DSL Rangers manager Kenny Holmberg recently stated in an interview that Payano––the more lean of the two––has been a leader in strength and conditioning work.
The Rangers inked Perez over a month after the signing period began, getting him for a reported $425,000. According to then-DSL Rangers manager Jayce Tingler, teams backed off Perez as he went through a dead-arm period, but his velocity returned and the Rangers jumped on him.
The right-hander attended Fall Instructional League after last season, and he threw his fastball in the upper-80s with a slurvy upper-70s breaking ball. Perez throws strikes and has the potential for overpowering stuff down the line.
The club also got Payano from the bargain bin, signing him for a $75,000 bonus in February. He initially agreed to terms with Boston for $900,000 on the July 2 signing date, but shoulder concerns arose during the physical, causing the team to back off.
In the interview linked above, Holmberg stated there have been no health issues since Payano signed with the Rangers. The 6-foot-5, 185-pound southpaw has a live arm, with a fastball that already touches 90 mph. He has allowed 12 runs while walking 11 in his first 12 professional innings, but Payano's raw talent is excellent, and he could prove to be a major bargain.
2) How advanced [or raw] is Guy Edmonds?
The Rangers signed their first Australian-born position player when they got Edmonds for approximately $150,000 [according to reports] this past offseason. The Sydney native was scouted by Barry Holland and eventually signed by Rangers Director of Pacific Rim Operations Jim Colborn.
The 17-year-old has a deep background in rugby, as his father played professionally and Guy himself was regarded as a rugby prospect before ultimately choosing baseball as his future path.
Edmonds showcased his talents at last year's World Youth Baseball Championship in Taiwan, placing second in the event in home runs, second in hits, and third in runs batted in. His tournament All-Star-caliber performance was highlighted by a grand slam against the host Chinese Taipei squad.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound backstop didn't attend Spring Training, as he finished out his season with Canterbury Bankstown of the Sydney Major Leagues [playing alongside fellow Rangers farmhand Tim Stanford], batting .300 with 12 doubles, one triple, and one home run in 130 at-bats.
Edmonds reported to Extended Spring Training in Arizona for a short period before going to the Dominican. He has already earned a reputation as a high-energy player and is 10-for-29 [.345] to start his pro career in the DSL.
3) Is there still any hope for Esdras Abreu?
The outfielder practically began his professional career in the U.S., attending Fall Instructional League a few months after he signed in 2008, but he has remained in the Dominican Republic ever since.
Playing in the DSL last year, Abreu had disappointing numbers offensively, hitting just .203 with 11 doubles, three home runs, and 65 strikeouts in 158 at-bats.
The toolsy 6-foot-3, 185-pound prospect was once regarded as arguably the top outfielder in his Latin American class, but he signed for a reported $550,000 once scouts began to question his hit tool.
So far, Abreu has flashed some impressive raw power, but the hit tool has not developed. The 18-year-old product of San Pedro de Macoris [the city in which the Rangers' complex is based] remained in his native country during this past instructs and Spring Training, and he is just 7-for-36 [.194] with one walk and 19 strikeouts to start this season.
One to Watch
Chris Garia – Profar may have been arguably the club's biggest signing last season, but he wasn't the only high-dollar player player the Rangers landed from Curacao. They also got outfielder Chris Garia, who––like Profar––hails from Willemstad and played on the Little League World Series club.
The switch-hitting Garia is raw in terms of baseball skills, but he has tools, including excellent speed. Garia comes from a track background, and he has swiped seven bases in nine tries in his first 16 games this season.
Garia attended Fall Instructional League in the U.S. last year, but he remained in the Dominican Republic through Spring Training and extended this season. The 17-year-old is 10-for-41 [.244] with seven walks and seven strikeouts thus far.
• The Rangers had two Dominican Summer League clubs last year, but they whittled it down to one for this season. A high number of players graduated to the U.S. [15, to be exact] and a handful of others were cut.
• The only signees from the 2009 July 2 signing period to begin their official professional careers in the U.S. are highly-touted shortstops Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas.
• For the most part, every player at the Rangers' Dominican academy has appeared in a DSL game thus far. Though Emmanuel Solis hasn't been added to the roster yet, he is still in the organization. The former high-bonus third baseman was moved to the mound during instructs last season. He posted a career .212 average over four seasons at the DSL, AZL, and Spokane.
• After hitting just .114 in 48 games as an outfielder last season, 19-year-old Luis Cabrera has apparently moved to the mound. Now a right-handed pitcher, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Venezuela native surrendered three runs in one-third of an inning during his only appearance to date.
• Switch-hitting shortstop Luis Mendez is another promising player that flew under the radar because of Profar and Sardinas. The 17-year-old is hitting at the top of the order this year, starting his career by going 11-for-52 [.212] with seven walks and nine strikeouts.
• Left-hander Daniel De La Torre is rehabbing an arm injury at the club's complex in Arizona. The Mexico native was another July 2 get for the Rangers last year.
• The DSL Rangers are under new direction this season. Former Brewers farmhand and Florida native Kenny Holmberg takes over as manager after serving as an assistant coach last season. His father, Dennis Holmberg, is entering his ninth season as skipper of the short-season Auburn Doubledays of the Toronto organization. Former DSL Rangers manager Jayce Tingler will coach the rookie-level Arizona League club this season.