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July 10, 2014

2014 Futures Game Preview

Scouting the International Team

by Ron Shah

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Welcome to part one of a two-part series on scouting the players involved in this Sunday's Futures Game showcase of prospect talent. The US roster preview will follow on Friday.

Pitchers

Alfonso Alcantara, RHP, Angels (Low-A Burlington)
Alcantara shows a three-pitch mix, with his bread and butter a mid-90s fastball that possesses movement anywhere from 93 to 96 mph. The slider and changeup are both well behind in development, with the slider showing some promise but the changeup looking unplayable too often.

Jose Berrios, RHP, Twins (High-A Fort Myers)
Scouting Report (most recent)
Link
2014 Mid-Season Ranking No. 41
The Twins haven’t had much go their way this year, with injuries pumping the brakes on the development of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, but Berrios’ progression has been a welcome gain. The righty has an incredibly quick arm and can show three plus or better offerings in a given start. But most importantly, the odds are looking better and better that the 20-year-old can start, as he is holding his electric stuff and doing a better job of creating some downhill plane out of a small frame.

Edwin Escobar, LHP, Giants (Triple-A Fresno)
It has been a rough go for Escobar in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but he is missing bats. The southpaw offers an average fastball with a changeup, but still needs one of his other offerings to take a step forward. Even then, the 22-year-old doesn’t offer high upside, but he could be a backend starter with that arsenal paired with pitchability from the left side.

Domingo German, RHP, Marlins (Low-A Greensboro)
German is taking a step forward in 2014 in his first go at the South Atlantic League, and is showing the stuff to match the performance. The 21-year-old shows a plus fastball with life and a developing slider that could reach plus as well. His ultimate future could be in the bullpen, but there’s a chance the slower-developing German could stick in a starting rotation.

Tayron Guerrero, RHP, Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
The 23-year-old is a lanky 6-foot-8, but looks even taller when he’s on the mound. Guerrero generates mid-90s fastball velocity with incredible ease, leading me to believe there is more in the tank. The fastball plays up even more due to the incredibly steep downhill plane and ridiculous extension Guerrero creates. The slider is an upper-80s weapon with sharp break, but the fastball is the calling card.

Jorge Lopez, RHP, Brewers (High-A Brevard-County)
Scouting Report (most recent)
Link
Speaking of future relievers, Lopez seems to also be destined for the bullpen, but in a less impactful way than the aforementioned names. The fastball-curveball combination give Lopez a starter’s package to work off, but he hasn’t shown anything resembling a changeup thus far. Until then, he looks to be a good arm in the middle of a bullpen.

Francellis Montas, RHP, White Sox (High-A Winston-Salem)
Montas is a power pitcher, showing upper-90s velocity with effectiveness. It is difficult to see his high-effort delivery working in a starting rotation, so his future might ultimately be as a weapon in the back end of a bullpen. Regardless, Montas could develop as an impact arm in either role.

Enny Romero, LHP, Rays (Triple-A Durham)
Romero, who entered the season as Tampa Bay’s top prospect, will be making another appearance in the Futures Game. The southpaw shows a mid-90s fastball with a double-plus curveball, but the effectiveness can play down due to his loose command. There’s a chance he could stick in a rotation, but the below-average command and lack of an average changeup lead evaluators to believe his future is destined for the bullpen, where his stuff will play up in short bursts.

Luis Severino, RHP, Yankees (High-A Tampa)
2014 Mid-Season Ranking No. 48

Identified preseason as a prospect on the rise, Severino earned a mid-season promotion to High-A after a strong showing in the South Atlantic League to start the year. The 20-year-old has an electric arm, showing mid-90s fastball velocity while touching 97 mph at times. The righty will also show a slider and changeup that flash, giving him a three-pitch mix. The upside is there for a mid-rotation arm, though he lacks size.

Julio Urias, LHP, Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
Scouting Report (most recent)
Link
2014 Mid-Season Ranking No. 15
Urias doesn’t have much in the way of projection, but he offers an unmatched combination of present polish and stuff that just hasn’t been seen from a 17-year-old. There are some concerns about Urias’ body, but the stuff is sensational. He can pump the fastball up to 95 or 96 mph and show two forms of breaking balls and a quality changeup. At times, the southpaw will struggle finding his command, but again, we’re talking about a 17-year-old.

Catchers

Jorge Alfaro, C, Rangers (High-A Myrtle Beach)
2014 Mid-Season Ranking No. 25

Alfaro is something of an urban legend, as five-tool talents who have the work ethic and defensive chops to stick behind the plate are simply unheard of. Alfaro will post pop times under 1.85, showing a quick release that allows his true 80-grade arm strength to control the running game. He creates double-plus raw power from his 70-grade bat speed and incredible torque, but the utility plays a full grade lower than that during live games due to struggles with secondary offerings. He needs to improve on controlling the strike zone, but the tools-based profile is there for a dual threat first-division catcher with the chance for more.

Christian Bethancourt, C, Braves (Triple-A Gwinnett)*
Similarly to Alfaro, Bethancourt possesses 80-grade arm strength that plays to its fullest in the catch-and-throw game with a quick and accurate release. He moves well, especially for a catcher, and shows raw power in batting practice. The floor is that of a backup catcher or second-division regular, considering the current crop of backstops. But Bethancourt can hit once the bright lights are turned on, and could be a first-division talent.

Christian Vasquez, C, Red Sox (Triple-A Pawtucket)
Vasquez, who is replacing Bethancourt on the roster, brings similar skills to the table. The 23-year-old is surefire catcher, showing defensive chops that very few others can. The arm is a double-plus weapon with arm strength and a quick release, but he’s more than just an excellent backstop in the catch-and-throw game. Vasquez shows skills working with pitchers and a plus glove behind the plate.

Infielders

Javier Baez, SS, Cubs (Triple-A Iowa)
Scouting Report (most recent)
Link
2014 Mid-Season Ranking No. 5
Without trying to sound like a broken record, Baez possesses a ceiling that is arguably the highest in baseball. The bat speed is otherworldly and he could stick at shortstop in the short-term. Even if a positional change is inevitable, players with 80-grade raw power aren’t put together on the prospect assembly line. However, his lofty ceiling comes with an equally high dosage of risk due to his hyper-aggressive approach and swing.

Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (High-A Lancaster) *
Scouting Report (most recent)
Link
2014 Mid-Season Ranking No. 2
Correa possesses one of the highest ceilings in the minor leagues, as the aggregate of tools promise a franchise-changing talent. The hit tool should reach at least plus while the patient approach will allow Correa to post high on-base rates. The raw power is plus, but could reach double-plus once he improves on his ability to lift baseballs using his leverage. Some have questioned Correa’s ability to stick at shortstop for the long term due to his large frame, but the likeliness he can stay there continues to increase. The 19-year-old is a quick-twitch athlete with a 70-grade arm, and is showing he can get stronger while maintaining his looseness and athleticism.

Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
Scouting Report (most recent)
Link
Franco entered the season as Philadelphia’s top prospect, but his stock has plummeted. The 21-year-old is struggling in Triple-A, currently proving correct those who questioned his ability to hit against better competition. While the 21-year-old is still young with huge power potential, this is a significant blow to his overall ceiling, which was already limited due to his future as a first baseman.

Rosell Herrera, SS, Rockies (High-A Modesto)
Herrera hasn’t hit much in the California League this season while sharing time with fellow teammate Trevor Story at shortstop. The 21-year-old offers average tools across the board, but his range is limited due to fringe-average speed. He’ll be the primary shortstop now that Story has been promoted up a level.

Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (Double-A Akron)
Scouting Report (most recent)
Link
2014 Mid-Season Ranking No. 4
Lindor is a shortstop all the way, offering silky smooth defense with strong range and excellent fluidity at the position. If Lindor just hits his safe floor of an everyday shortstop, he will have tremendous value. But he is more than just that. At the plate, Lindor has a very quick bat in a swing that is clean and short to the ball. The approach can be labeled professional, and he should post high on-base rates because of his ability to control the strike zone.

Renato Nunez, 3B, Athletics (High-A Stockton)
Given his age and statistics, Nunez is performing favorably when compared to similar players in past seasons. The 20-year-old is having a fine season with his plus power potential showing up in games. While Nunez is a third baseman, but his future might ultimately end up at the other infield corner due to below-average range.

Jose Peraza, 2B, Braves (Double-A Mississippi)
Peraza offers considerable upside in all three phases of the game, though there is more pressure on the bat now that the organization has him playing second base rather than shortstop. He is an advanced player for his age, and a very good athlete who show double-plus speed on the bases with excellent range at an up-the-middle position. The power potential is limited, but there isn’t much else Peraza can’t do. He figured to move quickly, and he is doing just that, recently earning a promotion to Double-A.

Jose Rondon, SS, Angels (High-A Inland Empire)
Rondon will be replacing Correa, who recently suffered a season-ending injury, on the roster. He is a smooth-fielding shortstop who can certainly stick at the position, though the arm strength is just average at best. I do have questions as to how much power Rondon can hit for, given the limited leverage in his swing and his lack of strength. But you can dream on his excellent hand-eye coordination at the plate to see a potential plus hitter who can play an up-the-middle position.

Kennys Vargas, 1B, Twins (Double-A New Britain)
Vargas is a first baseman all the way, so he is going to need to hit and hit for power if he wants to be a contributor at the big-league level. So far this season, he’s done just that, showing a much improved approach at the plate, from both a mental and a physical standpoint. He’s a big man with a big body that creates tremendous raw power, so he should have one of the more entertaining batting practice sessions at the Futures Game.

Outfielders

Dariel Alvarez, OF, Orioles (Double-A Bowie)
Alvarez has a come long way from last season, showing average defensive chops in center field with a plus-plus arm to boot. At the plate, Alvarez shows plus bat speed with strong hand-eye coordination, but the raw power plays down because of his free-swinging ways. The profile is becoming clearer, though, and it looks like a fourth outfielder with upside to be a second-division type.

Gabby Guerrero, OF, Mariners (High-A High Desert)
Gabby Guerrero possesses bloodlines that connect to Vladimir Guerrero and shows similar talents to that of his uncle. Guerrero has 70-grade raw power and will flash his potential in the present, sending moonshots out of California League parks. The plus arm and raw power give Guerrero a right field profile, but there is plenty of risk to go with it. He is very raw at the plate, swinging at everything (sound familiar?) without much of a plan.

Steven Moya, OF, Tigers (Double-A Erie)
Scouting Report (most recent)
Link
Moya is a physical specimen with projection, but the baseball skills are severely lacking. The athleticism and body don’t play well in the outfield, instead looking more treacherous than natural. The raw power could be a 70-grade tool for Moya, but plays well below its potential due to his bottom-of-the-scale hit tool.

Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin)
Scouting Report (most recent)
Link
Pompey has exploded onto the scene, showing ridiculous tools across the board, accompanied by high risk and rawness. But despite that, the floor isn’t that far off, because of the defensive package that could allow him to be a plus defender in center field with an equally strong arm and 65-grade speed. If the switch-hitting Pompey can convert his tools into skills at the plate, he could be a plus hitter with pull side power.

Domingo Santana, OF, Astros (Triple-A Oklahoma City)
It is still puzzling as to how Santana is a member of the Astros organization, but Houston isn’t complaining. He fits the bill of a future right fielder due to his strong arm and big power potential. The swing is geared to drive the baseball out of the ballpark, and Santana is showing huge opposite-field power. Santana could be forcing his way to the big leagues by season’s end, but will first need to improve on his all-or-nothing ways at the plate.

*Selected but will not play

Ron Shah is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ron's other articles. You can contact Ron by clicking here

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