OF Micker Zapata (White Sox)
Zapata was one of the standout talents on the field during MLB’s International Showcase in the Dominican Republic back in January, as the power potential was on full display. At the end of the day, it’s most likely a corner profile, but the power could make him a middle-of-the-order masher, as some scouts have put plus-plus grades on the tool. Given the lack of high-end talent in the White Sox system, Zapata found himself a top five prospect in the system the day he signed for $1.6M. Obviously he’s raw, and this will be true of most of the talent found in the July 2nd talent window, but Zapata shows good bat-to-ball ability, and could develop into more than just an all-or-nothing power hitter. Kudos to the White Sox. This is going to be a very good prospect. –Jason Parks
RHP Marcos Diplan (Rangers)
Despite a market reputation as a baseball factory, the Dominican Republic doesn’t produce a lot of quality major-league starters, a reality with numerous explanations [possible explanations]. A lack of pitchability is often seen as the biggest villain. Diplan stands out for his impressive raw stuff and his advanced pitchability for his age, attributes that help offset his diminutive size and the reputation of the region for producing more relief arms than impact starters. When I saw Diplan back in January, the right-hander pounded the zone with a low-90s fastball (touched 93) delivered from a lower slot. He showed feel for both a fading 80 mph changeup and a low-70s curveball, brought into game action with the swagger of a much more physically imposing arm. He was the best arm I saw at the Dominican Showcase, and it wasn’t even close. –Jason Parks
RHP Mayky Perez (Padres)
The Padres inked Perez at the end of last week, adding another promising young arm to a very solid core already in the pipeline. While the young Dominican lacks big “now” velocity, he routinely sits in the 88-91 mph range (touching 92) and creates solid plane to go with boring action. While he will throw both a slider and a changeup as secondaries, the slider is the only offering with current in-game utility. It’s a short breaker in the 77-78 mph range (touching 80/81), but matches up well with his fastball trajectory, creating deception and helping miss barrels. The off-speed is a hard straight change that too often creeps to the mid-80s and lacks deception and proper velo delta off the heater.
The current arsenal isn’t eye popping on the whole, but he has made strides over the past nine months smoothing out his delivery, which has allowed him to more frequently execute his pitches, and has additionally led to an incremental bump in his control. The hope is that Perez sees an uptick in stuff as he continues to mature and hang strength on his projectable body—a medium broad frame with the makings of a powerful trunk and core. –Nick Faleris
IF Lucas Tirado (Dodgers)
A seven-figure signee for the Boys in Blue, Tirado’s calling card is his bat from the left side. At his best, he stays compact to contact and shows an ability to produce good backspin and drive from line to line. As he continues to mature and add strength, he should have little trouble manifesting average-or-better playable power, with his approach and in-game utility ultimate dictating where he grades out. While the offensive promise is solid, Tirado currently fails to square too many balls in game. He can give away at-bats and will need to rein in his approach and attack his plate appearances with more intensity and focus as he continues to develop. He can also load to a non-uniform starting point in his swing, which could be a cause for his inconsistent barrel delivery to contact. There is work to be done here, but there is also plenty of time for him to find his stride.
Tirado looks the part of a corner defender in frame and in actions, possessing a bottom-heavy build and longish torso, and showing less-than-lithe footwork at the six spot to go with stiff and stabbing glove work. He has plenty of arm for the left side, and could deliver the ball with improved accuracy once he switches to the hot corner, where the variations on his angles will be limited. As with his approach at the plate, Tirado will need to improve his focus and limit his “effort” errors. There is potential for a fringe-average glove at third to go with an above-average offensive profile if things click. –Nick Faleris
IF Rafael Devers (Red Sox)
Devers is an advanced bat, with mechanics, bat speed, and approach combining to make him an incredibly difficult out (and frequent producer of extended at-bats). The Dominican third baseman utilizes a high, delayed leg kick to spark his stride, relying on his bat speed to make up for a late foot plant on the front side. His swing plane/pitch plane overlap is huge, and his barrel control impressive, helping him to routinely foul off pitches and extend at-bats. He already shows enough awareness to add some leverage to his swings in hitter-friendly situations, and as he continues to log reps, he should learn to use this skill to find drivable pitches and hammer them. The power will creep up in games right now, and should improve as he refines, but he’s best gap to gap with the hit tool currently projecting ahead of the power.
Devers has the hands and the arm to hold down third base, but is in danger of passing “bottom-heavy” and moving towards “round”. There should be enough raw, malleable material here for him to develop into a capable defender at the five spot in spite of his current lack of first-step quickness, but he will need to put in the work. He’s a well below average runner, which means first base would be the likely fallback option. In the end, the promise with the bat is what earned Devers a $1.5 million signing bonus with the Red Sox on his first day of eligibility, and if he progresses as the Red Sox hope, he could slot in as a classic 2 or 3 hitter on a first-division club. –Nick Faleris
OF Eloy Jimenez
The Cubs have been linked to Jimenez for a very long time, and when the sides come together to finalize the deal, the 6’4’’ power bat will receive a bonus in the ballpark of $2.8M, making him the most expensive talent in the market. I know the power is legit and the DR showcase proved this, but some scouts I spoke with questioned his bat-to-ball skills in game action, a common scouting statement when you are dealing with 16-year-olds with skill sets tailored for the showcase circuit. However, the makeup reports on Jimenez are outstanding, an uncommon scouting statement when you are dealing with 16-year-olds attempting to act in a professional capacity. –Jason Parks
RHP Erick Julio (Rockies)
Viewed by many as the top overall arm in the class, the Rockies were able to snag the loose-armed righty for a cool $700K. The physical projection is up for debate, but the loose arm action and easy release are positive developmental signs, and the overall feel for pitching is quite strong. Geographic brotherhood aside, Julio’s loose, whippy arm, feel for craft, and advanced changeup naturally remind people of a young Julio Teheran. If that proves to be remotely accurate at the professional level, the Rockies have a steal in Julio. –Jason Parks
SS Marten Gasparini (Royals)
The signing of Italian infielder Gasparini could prove to be one of the most important signings in the international market in recent memory. He is a player with the potential to alter the entire landscape of European baseball as a viable pipeline for professional baseball in the United States. At his best, Gasparini could develop into a quality player at a premium position, with enough leather and arm to hang on the left side and some offensive potential. The bat is a pretty substantial question mark at this point, but that’s not exactly an outlier report when dealing with immature, underdeveloped talent, and especially true of talent found in markets where the level of competition is suspect. –Jason Parks
SS Gleybar Torres (Cubs)
When I called around to get opinions on Torres, the Venezuelan shortstop received the best reviews of anyone, with at least one scout referring to him as a five-tool talent and a good candidate to develop into a top-tier talent in the minors. Torres is loaded with potential, from the smooth actions at short, to the strong arm, to the contact ability and power potential at the plate. The 16-year-old was paid like a premium talent, his raw tools point to a premium talent, and now he just has to develop into a premium talent at the professional level. The latter is much easier said than done, but most players don’t start off with the physical gifts and instincts to make it possible- Jason Parks
OF/IF Lewin Diaz (Twins)
Diaz is a very large human for 16, and most scouts assume he will continue to be a large human as he continues to fill out his 6’4’’ frame, thus limiting his options in the field. However, the same scouts rave about the bat, especially the raw power, which is an easy 7 on the 2/8 scale [raw power], and could develop into legit game power thanks to his overall feel for hitting. It’s tough to ignore the body and the defensive limitations created by well below average speed and massive body potential, but the power potential is a premium in the game, and Diaz could really blossom in a system that is already in full bloom in the minors. –Jason Parks