Wednesday, June 25, 2008

International Prospect Top 10

This years international crop was below average but didn't fail to deliver a couple gems. I really felt that Del Astacio was head and shoulders above everybody else and have no doubts that. While some prospects (Jose Guzman, Alex Ozuna) may end up being better hitters than Astacio, none should challenge his overall ability.

One aspect I was really disappointed with in this years crop was the lack of an elite starting pitcher. Fernandez, coming in at #6, looks to be solid but lacks elite control and a dominant pitch. There even seemed to be a run on mid level starters. Overall it was a really disappointing international crop for starting pitchers.

Before we get to the rankings I would just like to say that, this being my first attempt at ranking prospects, I thought I did a pretty decent job. I tried to do as thorough a job as possible by considering not only the prospects core projections, but their intangible ratings and performance. I devalued players who couldn't field a position and that is why you won't find Alex Ozuna or Jose Guzman (among others) in the top 10, despite the fact that they are the most likely prospects to strike fear in opposing pitchers. With that said I didn't devalue prospects who don't project well to their original positions as long as they were able to field another position adequately.

A few fun facts as of 06/27:
  • Boston signed the most international prospects, tallying thirteen (including #7 Delino Fernandez) and shelling out an estimated $16.5M in bonuses.
  • Las Vegas spent the most, an estimated $19.1M ($17M of that to Astacio).
  • Charlotte signed three international prospects and landed the #2 and #4 in the top 10, not bad, huh?
  • An estimated $230M was dished out on bonuses to the 103 prospects that were signed.
  • St. Louis, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Rochester, Little Rock, San Diego, New Orleans, San Juan and Kansas City said, "To hell with this class, I'm not spending a penny on internationals!".
  • Nearly half (48) of the prospects were signed by the NL West (27) and AL East (21).

  • 1. Del Astacio -3B - $17M
    Las Vegas Viagras

    The best player out of this years international bunch belongs to Las Vegas. With all the tools to to be one of the better defensive third baseman and a dominant hitter, Del Astacio is a homerun for the Viagras. Signed mid-season, he was assigned to the Viagras High-A squad where he promptly tore up the competition. Astacio finished his 97 regular season games with a .338 average, smacking 20 homeruns and driving in 71. In the field Astacio wasn't as electric, posting a .947 fielding percentage with ten errors and three minus plays. Despite this, his overall performance was good and is the most impressive of all the international free agents.

    2. Tony Flores - LF - $6M
    Charlotte Sluggers

    Flores came very late to the fold so there isn't much concrete evidence to base him on. However, Flores should bring a solid bat to Charlotte with good power and a great lefty matchup rating. As a fielder he has the tools to play an adequate right field or an above average left field. In his very short seven games with the rookie league team Flores came out of the gate quick at the plate, hitting .444 with four homeruns and fifteen RBI. However, Flores stumbled out of the gate playing third base, committing two errors and two minus plays in just those seven games. To sum it up, he projects very well but until Flores gets more playing time in the jury is truly out on him. However, I feel confident putting him in at #2.

    3. Luis Johnson - RF - $12.5M
    New York Highlanders

    Like Astacio, Johnson is very raw and will need to spend a good amount of time in the minors to reach his potential. Johnson showed good signs at the plate hitting .305 and knocking in 75 runs in 86 games. In the field Johnson was better than expected committing only three errors despite a low glove rating. At the plate and in the field the lefty still needs a lot of work, but if allowed to polish his skills in the minors he should end up being a well rounded player.

    4. Joaquin Chavez - SS - $6.7M
    Charlotte Sluggers

    Chavez may be the best all around short stop to come out of this crop. While he won't set any hitting records he will almost assuredly field an excellent shortstop for Charlotte. Upon signing with the Sluggers Chavez was assigned to the High A team where he split time in his 40 games in centerfield and at short. He fielded a perfect centerfield and posted a .967 fielding percentage in his nineteen games at short, committing three errors. Chavez was better than expected at the plate hitting .284 with 22 RBI's. While Chavez is nearing his potential at the plate he still has a long way to go before he peaks in the field, it should be interesting to watch this gold glover in the making.

    5. Diego Amaral - 1B - $6.1M
    San Francisco Gothams

    Amaral had one of the better performances at the plate out of this years international free agents. Amaral begin with a short stint on the Gothams' rookie league team where he promptly hit .444 with two homers and thirteen RBI in eleven games. Of course, that lofty average would come down in a more sustained appearance. In 47 games at the Low A level Amaral still performed well, hitting .333 with seven homeruns and 46 rbis. Before the season was over Amaral was promoted to High A with only a handful of games left and hit .478. In the field Amaral performed better than his glove rating would suggest, playing first base for his entire 47 game appearance in Low A, with a fielding percentage of .992. Whether Amaral will go on to play first base at the pro level is for time to tell. Amaral may not have the power you would expect from a top first base prospect but he has the potential to hit for excellent average in the pros.

    6. Luis Ugueto - RF - $6.1M
    Seattle Sleepers

    Luis Ugueto was a late signing, appearing in only seventeen games at the rookie league level for Seattle. Although his time was limited Ugueto looked solid at the plate hitting .309 with four homers and 24 rbi. He was also spotless in the field, playing all seventeen games in right field without a blemish. Ugueto projects more as a corner outfielder, lacking the arm to play in right but posessing the tools to be more than a left fielder. Either way, Ugueto has blazing speed and, if able to get on consistently, could be another weapon for the already savvy base stealers in Seattle. Combine all this with excellent patience, temper and makeup ratings and it's a no brainer as to why Ugueto grades out so high.

    7. Delino Fernandez - SP - $7.7M
    Boston Boston Bandits

    Fernandez looks to be the second best starting pitcher prospect out of the bunch. His stamina and matchup ratings are solid but he lacks good control of his decent four pitch arsenal. Fernandez was able to get eight starts in after being signed in the early second half of the season, going 3-3 with a 4.54 ERA and 1.68 WHIP at the High A level. Despite the average numbers Fernandez had only one truly bad outing; a 2/3 inning, seven run outing against the Renegades. In his seven other starts Fernandez averaged nearly 6 innings and allowed 2 earned runs or less in five of his seven other outings. Other than his control there is no glaring weaknesses for Fernandez and it should be interesting to follow Fernandez through the minors.

    8. Mark Chang - SP - $11M
    Cleveland Cuyahoga's

    Chang was the highest paid of all the pitchers and although he doesn't project as a superstar in the pros he should be able to serve as a decent, back of the rotation inning eater. Chang was signed in the middle of the season and was able to get a good fourteen starts in. He was immediately assigned to High A where he made all of his appearances. Chang's numbers were not impressive and his performances were inconsistent. You may even characterize Chang as someone who plays to his level of competition. It is his four quality starts, all against top opponents, that display his potential. But it's two of his four bad starts which came against the second worst team in High A ball that raise a red flag. Chang's projected pitch repertoire would appear to be solid if it weren't for a weak fifth pitch that, coupled with his below average matchup ratings, may be his undoing.

    9. Einar Flores - Setup/Closer - $8.6M
    Iowa City BlackShirt Huskers

    Flores may be the best relief pitcher to come out of this years crop. The 22 year old reliever is also one of the more developed signings and should be ready to make significant contributions to the major league club by mid season 4 if not sooner. Flores was signed early in the season and appeared in 34 games, throwing 57 innings, for the BlackShirt Huskers AAA club. Unfortunately for Iowa City their bullpen woes would extend to the newcomer. Flores finished out the season with a 7.11 ERA , 1.88 WHIP and two blown saves in three chances. Some may question if Flores was thrown to the wolves by beginning his career in AAA, but only time will tell. If Flores can reach his potential he could be a cornerstone for the Iowa City bullpen.

    10. Virgil Mateo - LF $5.3M
    Los Angeles LongBallers

    Virgil is one of those periphery players who, even if fully developed, may not be a long term solution for the LongBallers. His fielding tools put him as an above average left fielder but his hitting skills may be questionable. While his contact, power and lefty ratings are all good his righty matchup rating may never be good enough for Mateo to sustain a starting career in the pros. However, looking at his performance in Low A, where he played 124 games, he was much better than average at the dish, hitting .327 with 18 homeruns and 106 rbi. On the flip side, Mateo was juggled between 2B, LF and CF and played a solid spot in left field, where he projects the best. Can Mateo parlay a good first season into continued success?

    Honorable Mention:
    One day, these guys may tear up Munson:

    • Alex Ozuna - 1B - Anaheim
    • Juan Lee - P - Chicago
    • Fernando Lucano - P Cincinnati
    • Ricardo Olmedo - 2B Cincinnati
    • Javier James - 2B - Santa Fe
    • Jose Guzman - 1B - Seattle

    Under the Radar
    They weren't impressive enough to warrant that big contract but that doesn't mean they can't play ball. Here are the guys who did their talking on the field:

    • William Nakajima - 1B - Arizona
    • Albert DaSilva - SS - Cincinnati
    • Benji Liriano - P - Dover
    • Albert Valdivia - RF - Madison
    • Endy Martin - RF - San Francisco
    • Diego Telemaco - P - Syracuse

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