And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. From my world of baseball comes the list of top-10 Puerto Rican prospects playing in the United States. I actually have a hard time looking at these guys as foreign prospects, since they are all American citizens, with all rights, and a tax-free status most of us don't enjoy. But hey, who am I to quibble. Here's the list:
Just to add to my previous statement, another entry from the blog:
1. Ivan DeJesus Jr, SS (Dodgers) - If his name sounds familiar it is because his dad played for a number of years in the major leagues. His son should have a better bat. With Rafael Furcal recently signed to a long term contract the Dodgers may choose to move him to second to get his bat in the lineup. His power numbers have increased as he has advanced, which could be a result of him getting stronger, going from 0 to 1 to 4 to 7. Eventually, he may settle into the double figure zone. No one has a
problem with his defense at short.
2. Neftali Soto 3B (Reds) - Brandon Waring became expendable with he development of Soto in the Reds system. Soto broke Juan Gonzalez youth homerun record in Puerto Rico and combines excellent hand-eye coordination with a wicked swing. For as hard a swing as he has you would expect less contact, but his K numbers are low. He still struggles to excel at the nuances of the position such as charging bunts so he may have to eventually have to move to the outfield.
3. Angel Morales OF (Twins) - Angel slugged .623 his second year and should get his first opportunity for full season ball in 2009. His 15 homeruns led the Appalachian, which is a testament to his raw power. He also has good speed and plays a solid defense in center field, so Angel is a potential five tool player. His plus arm will make him a fit for right if as he fills out he becomes too slow to cover the ground necessary to play centerfield. The only reason he isn’t number one on this list is his accomplishments have all been in rookie ball and lets see what he accomplishes as he advances. He struck out 72 times in 54 games, which is one big concern.
4. Reynaldo Navarro SS (Diamondbacks) - Reynaldo is another player who has not advanced past rookie ball. He’s a switchhitter that shows more power from the right side but has more bat control from the left. Since his game will not be his power he should stick to moving the ball around. He made more errors in 2008 than he did in 2007 (28 to 38) so that is a concern.
5. Hector Correa RHP (Marlins)- The first pitcher on this list, he missed four months last year because of a sore shoulder. Because of that, the mid 90s fastball he showed in 2007 stayed mostly in the low 90s. He also shows a good changeup and slider as his other pitches. It will be ineresting to see if his velocity returns in 2009 and he stays free from shoulder problems.
6. Efrain Nieves LHP (Brewers) - A product of the Puerto Rico baseball academy, which has also increased the popularity of baseball in Puerto Rico. Right now his fastball is not overpowering, residiing in the low 90s, but as he gains strength it could reach the mid 90s. His out pitch now is the changeup, but he has also shown a
curveball and slider. He’s always around the plate, walking only 10 hitters in 76 innings.
7. Javier Rodriguez OF (Mets) - He’s still a teenager, drafted in the second round in 2008. His first exposure to rookie ball he only hit .193, but he shows all five tools. Whether he can put them together will decide how far he advances. Despite his poor average he only had 27 K’s in 38 games so he was making contact. A good spring will give the Mets confidence to start him in low A, otherwise he will have to play in extended spring training until the Rookie leagues begin, or Javier shows the
readiness to handle low A.
8. Luis Atilano RHP (Nationals) - At 24 in 2009, he is the second oldest player on this list. He was acquired by the Nationals in the Daryl Ward trade and had a solid year in Potomac (2.32 ERA in 15 games, 11 starts). He underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of 2006 and missed all but one game in 2007. He’s not overpowering, with a low 90s fastball, a slow upper 70s curveball and a good changeup, which will
be his out pitch. If he could tone his body more the velocity could increase, but he will take another year like 2008, because that should get him a promotion to the Nationals in 2009.
9. Lou Montanez OF (Orioles) - He still has rookie eligibility so he qualifies for this list. At one point when he played for the Cubs he was considered one of the top prospects in the minor leagues, but his star fell quickly. He was moved from shortstop and now plays the outfield, though his arm is pretty soft for being a hard throwing shortstop. He had a near Triple Crown year with Bowie, hitting
.335 with 26 homeruns and 97 RBIs. This led to a promotion to Baltimore where he will probably be no more than a fourth outfielder. He did hit .295 in 112 at bats with three homeruns, numbers he should not be ashamed of.
10. Luis Cruz LHP (Astros) - A 2008 draft pick, he only stands 5′9″ but he can hum the fastball in the low 90s, which is phenomenal for a kid that will turn 19 in 2009. He throws a changeup but still hasn’t developed a third pitch. Without a third pitch he will end up settling into the bullpen, which may be the best place for him. He did miss the final six weeks because of elbow problems, so his innings will have to be monitored. In seven starts last year he finished with an ERA of 2.28.
Below is myworld’s top ten Puerto Rican prospects list. It was much tougher to identfy all “Puerto Ricans” since some players born in Puerto Rico may have played their high school ball in Miami.But in the interest of 'international harmony', we'll give it a pass. I must be mellowing in my old age.