July 2nd Links
I saw a good bit of Dominican SS Pedro Gonzalez last week, a combined four days of the MLB and IPL events and he definitely stood out. He was listed at 6'4/160 and 6'3/175 on the two rosters, but after standing next to him, it's clear he's 6'5 and that's my biggest concern. The list of successful 6'5 big league infielders is short for a few reasons, and the list of 6'5 hitters in general isn't long, either.
That fact keeps my optimism from getting out of hand, but the tools are for real and Gonzalez is a seven figure talent. As you can see above, he's very projectable and smooth at the plate with a level, handy swing with above average bat speed. He doesn't have much power right now (40 on the 20-80 scale), but you can project it a notch or two with physical development. Gonzalez's level path and advanced body control and balance give his extra long arms a chance to make more contact than you'd expect.
I saw 2 BP sessions and 10 plate appearances over the 4 days with 5 groundouts, a line out, a pop out, a double and 2 strikeouts. It may not sounds that inspiring, but there wasn't a lot of contact being made this week and Gonzalez is the type of player that should be improving over time, as many of the top players in the class are compact types that don't really have an excuse. He consistently put the ball in play and showed some feel for bat head and strike zone, so there's something to work with here--he's not just an intriguing athlete with no game skills.
Gonzalez ran 7.08 and 7.09 at the two events in the 60 and should actually speed up a bit in the next few years as he continues to grow into his frame (and possibly slow down again after that); he looked like an above average runner once he got going. Defensively, he has the tools to stick at shortstop (solid-average arm, smooth actions, good footwork), but, as mentioned above, his size gives me some concern. The precedent for infielders at this size is basically the best players in the game (Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Machado) and it isn't clear Rodriguez is that kind of player (though they weren't extensively scouted at 15 and 16).
In talking with scouts this week, I had Gonzalez evaluated in the $1.0-2.0 million range but the rumor is his representation is shooting for $3.0 million or more with $2.0 million already expected to be there in a wide-open bidding. It doesn't hurt that Gonzalez speaks very good English, a factor that helped St. Thomas-born, Dominican-trained RF Micker Zapata get $1.4 million from the White Sox last year (Zapata podcast interview). A number of the clubs with the bonus pool to pay that kind of bonus haven't committed to a top player yet, so the universality of his talent and projection could play in Gonzalez' favor and possibly spur a bidding war.
Venezuelan OF Jonathan Amundaray is one the players that grew on me this week as his tools weren't obviously jumping off the field at me. He has a handsy, arm-only swing but also has above average bat speed, advanced feel for the bat head and a level path conducive to lots of hard contact. It's hard to judge his power potential due to his mechanics and approach at the plate, but he should develop enough for low double digit homers.
Amundaray would need to hit for average and/or offer some defensive value in that case. I think he's a high probability, bat-first outfield tweener off of this look. He ran a 7.15 in the 60 and has a good stride, but doesn't look to be quick enough to play center field. Amundaray is another one of the widely-rumored Yankee verbal deals, with this one allegedly for $1.5 million.
That bonus struck me as a little rich, but a couple international scouts said they didn't think it was that much more than they'd pay to get a high probability bat with some athleticism. Like with the other Yankees' rumored OF target Juan De Leon, whether this bonus is perceived as a bit of an overpay or not, Amundaray is clearly at least a high six figure type of guy, so with the kind of money the Yankees are spending, the exact amount isn't that important.
Dominican SS Chris Torres is a switch-hitting shortstop with some feel to hit and a chance to stick at the position long-term, which is more than enough to get scouts excited in this market. Torres ran a 6.90 in the 60 (above average speed) and showed smooth actions and an average arm at short, enough to project as major league average at the position. He didn't flash much power from the right side in BP, but is stronger from the left side, with enough to pop to hit mistake pitches out of the yard.
Like Amundaray, none of the tools jump off the field at you, but the combination of a good shortstop with some speed, some pop and hits from both sides quickly becomes one of the better hitting prospects in the July 2nd crop. Like Amundaray, Torres is another heavily-rumored Yankee verbal deal, with the number supposedly $1.0 million. This is perceived in the industry as a solid value with a number of similar but lesser shortstops likely getting something close to this bonus on July 2nd.