Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Top 10 Caribbean prospects playing in the United States

Once again, from my world of baseball, comes the top-10 Caribbean prospects playing in the United States. He's doing some good work, folks, lets give him a look.

4 Cubans, of course. But 3 Panamanians (how did they do so badly in the Classic); 2 Nicaraguans (nice to see them getting back into baseball); and 1 Colombian (how did they not get a team in the Classic), but no Puerto Ricans or Dutch islanders. Interesting.

1. Yonder Alonso 1B (Cuba) - He was eight years old when he arrived in the United States with his family. (not really a Caribbean prospect in my opinion, but its not my list). Drafted out of high school, Yonder chose to take his skills to the University of Miami and was second to Buster Posey for College Player of the Year. He makes contact, hits for power and should hit for average. As a first baseman he doesn’t run for much speed and his defense needs some work just to be average, but his stick will play in the major leagues. The Reds drafted him in the first round, and part of his contract placed him on the 40-man roster. Expect the Reds to move him
up their system quickly.

2. Juan Ramirez RHP, (Nicaragua) - At 6′3″ he has a good pitchers frame with plenty of projection. Currently, he can hit 97 with his fastball, but he’s more comfortable at 92-93. As he gains strength that fastball could consistently settle in the mid-90s. He also throws a slider, but has yet to develop a third pitch. His changeup still needs a lot of work as he still likes to blow the ball past hitters rather than finesse his way through an inning.

3. Dayan Viciedo 3B (Cuba) - It’s not often that a major league team talks about allowing a 19 year old to compete for a major league job. But Dayan isn’t just any typical 19 year old. He’s already played three seasons in the Cuban Nacional, which is the equivalent of the major leagues, starting as a 16 year old. He has the potential
to hit 40 homeruns, but he also has the potential to be the closest player to have a physique like Livan Hernandez. That won’t help him play third base. He’s supposeldey lost 30 pounds to get down to 230 and he has already went deep early in the exhibition season. He doesn’t have the athleticism of Alexei Ramirez, affectionaltely referred to as the Cuban missle in Chicago so if Dayan doesn’t hit bombs his contribution to a team will be limited.

4. Julio Teheran RHP (Colombia) - Baseball is a lot more popular in Colombia than people think. The Braves shelled out $850,000 to sign Julio and he made his debut in the Appalachian League as a 17 year old. He started six games and finished with a 6.60 ERA, shutdown for good chunks of the season with a sore shoulder. Julio already throws 90-93 and complements that with a plus changeup. He may get a long look in extended spring training before he is brought up.

5. Adrian Nieto C (Cuba) - Another player that came over from Cuba as an eight year old. While he was drafted in the fifth round, the Nationals were still quite impressed with him and paid him a $376,000 bonus, the third highest in the fifth round. He is
a cerebral player that is a natural team leader that plays above his tools. His arm is not a gun and he still needs a lot of work defensively, but pitchers love pitching to him. He also brings an offensive game, leading his high school to a number one national ranking, hitting two homeruns in a critical championship game.

6. Randall Delgado RHP (Panama) - The Braves farm system closely resembles that of the Mariners, with players from every corner of the world working out of their minor league farm system. This is the fifth country that is represented with Braves
prospects, having identified players from Colombia (above), Mexico, Australia and Canada. As Randal has gained strength his fastball has increased in velocity from the high 80s to the low 90s. He can also show a changeup and curveball, but both pitches need to be thrown with more consistency. He ranked second in the Appalacian League in K’s with 81.

7. Ruben Tejeda SS (Panama) - He’s still a skinny teenager, so once he gains strength his power should increase. Ruben had a disappointing .229 average last year, though he was one of the younger players in the league and went from Rookie ball to High A, skipping Low A. He has all the tools to play shortstop with a strong arm and solid range. All he needs to do is improve the bat and he could give the Mets a solid shortstop to replace Jose Reyes.

8. Juan Miranda 1B (Cuba) - At 26 this year, if the Yankees had confidence that he could make an impact he would have been playing for the Bronx Bombers by now. Only the Yankees can sign a player to a four year $4 million dollar contract, then bury him in their minor league system. He did get a September callup and did hit .400 in his ten at bats. Miranda has trouble hitting lefthanders, lacks speed and needs work defensivly. Other than that, he is ready for the major leagues.

9. Everth Cabrera 2B/SS (Nicaragua) - A rule V pick, it will be a stretch for him to make the major league roster. Last year he hit .284 in Low A, but his homerun total was more than double his numbers the previous four years. His 73 steals led the minor leagues, so he has speed to bat leadoff. His 51 walks show that he can also take pitches, but he still has trouble making contact as his 101 K’s will attest. He’s got the tools to play short, but most of his defensive preparation has been at second base.

10. Christian Bethancourt C (Panama) - Another international prospect for the Braves, Christian signed for $600,000 last year. He needs to gain strength to survive as a major league catcher. He did nail 43% of those runners who tried to steal against him, impressive for a player who still has not turned 18. But at
160 pounds, he is going to get beat up behind the plate.

All-in-all, a good class of prospects. Nice to see a couple of catchers and a third baseman in there. Most Caribbean prospects end up being pitchers, short stops, or outfielders. Yeah, I know there are some Caribbean catchers and third basemen in the majors, but not compared to the other position's.

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