The number of Dominicans playing in the states is amazing. I mean, they have more prospects than some of the states. I'm not talking about place like Rhode Island, Vermont or Delaware. I'm talking about states like the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, etc. Sure, the population base might not be the same, but these guys are out performing us.
I think the right thing to do would be to abolish non-important sports. No more soccer, no more tennis, no more lacrosse. It has to stay at baseball, basketball, football and hockey for team sports. Hockey gets a pass because of all the Canadians needing jobs in the States. Individual sports will be limited to track and field, boxing, and swimming. We'll be back on the right track soon.
Anyhow, that's my rambling. Here's the list for American League prospects:
1. Neftali Felix RHP (Rangers) - The Rangers do have a habit of trading pitchers before they have an opportunity to make an impact with the team. Something tells me the Rangers will not trade Felix. They will wait until his arm falls off before he discards a Ranger uniform. Neftali’s fastball has hit 100, but is more comfortable traveling between 94-96. He also has a plus curveball and changeup, though he needs to develop a bit more consistency with those two pitches. If everything develops he will be a number one starter and future Cy young candidate.
2. Carlos Santana C (Indians) - The Indains acquired Carlos from the Dodgers for Casey Blake. Based on the year that Carlos had last year (.326, 21, 117) that was a pretty good haul. The Indians have Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach at catcher so they have time to develop his catching skills. But they may decide that his bat is too good to keep in the minor leagues and call him up to play first base to get his offense in the lineup or trade Victor Martinez for a starting pitcher. He makes a lot of errors, allows a number of passed balls and doesn’t speak English with the fluency to make communicating with a pitcher difficult. But he has the tools to play the position. The Indians may want his bat before he perfects those tools.
3. Michael Inoa RHP (Athletics) - It’s hard to rate a pitcher the third best Dominican prospect in the AL when he has yet to pitch a game in the United States. But Billy Beane does not throw $4.25 million dollars at just any pitchers. And when you hear the reports of low 90s fastballs that reach the mid 90s from a 6′7″ pitcher who will turn 18 this year, the drool starts forming around your mouth. As his body develops that fastball should hit the high 90s if his arm can stay healthy. He also throws a curveball and changeup, but both pitches need a lot of work before they become major league average. You probably will not see him in a game until mid-June when the Athletics have him pitch in the rookie league, refining his pitches in extended spring training.
4. Carlos Triunfel SS (Mariners) - The Mariners will keep him at shortstop until he shows that he can’t play the position. He doesn’t run well now and he should get slower as he matures, which means his range for shortstop will be lacking. He does have the arm and bat to fit at third base. He only hit eight homeruns in 2008 and in 2007 he went homerless in 96 at bats. Those homeruns should come as he gains strength. At 18 he was the youngest player in the high A California league. One thing that needs to be watched is his attitude as he progresses to the higher leagues. The Mariners issued a 10-game suspension to him for violating team rules.
5. Engel Beltre OF (Rangers) - A nice haul for the Rangers for trading Eric Gagne and David Murphy to the Red Sox. Engel has the opportunity to be a 5-tool player. His wiry frame generates above average power and his plus speed allows him to patrol a lot of ground in centerfield. He’s got the arm that if the Rangers choose they can put him in right field. Of all the tools his arm may be the weakest. The one concern with Engel is his lack of patience, which has produced OBAs below .300. Last year he only walked 15 times and struck out 105 times. The higher he goes the more those weaknesses will be exploited.
6. Wilken Ramirez OF (Tigers) - The last three years, my world has seen Wilken play in three games. In all three games Wilken has gone deep. Based on personal experience we would place him at the top of the list, but rating him sixth confirms our attempt at objectivity. He’s got good speed, but that does not translate into good defensive skills. He doesn’t have good instincts for the outfield and will be limited to left field. Another concern is his struggles with breaking balls. He struck out 149 times last year. The Tigers may be better offensively by moving Carlos Guillen to third and playing Wilken in left field, catching Brandon Inge or trading him to a team that needs a .220 hitting third baseman that can also catch.
7. Michael Almanzar 3B (Red Sox) - He is the son of Carlos Almanzar and signed for $1.5 million in 2007. When he initially signed he was listed at 6′5″, but his height is now shown as 6′3″. Either he has shrunk or his original height was a bit exaggerated to get a better contract. He has tremendous power and shows a good ability to make contact. He’s got the arm to play third, but his first step quickness needs improvement to react to the hot corner. If he can’t improve his reactions he may have to move to first. His lack of speed makes a move to the outfield doubtful. He will try to handle the Sally League this year, after struggling with a .207 average there last year in 140 at bats.
8. Kelvin de la Cruz LHP (Indians) - He was originally signed by the Indians in 2004. At that time his fastball topped 86. But he was only 16 then. His fastball now rests between 88-92 and has reached the mid 90s. So as he gains strength to his 6′5″ frame his fastball has increased in velocity. While his fastball was developing Kelvin relied on his curveball, which is a solid pitch. He needs to enhance his changeup to get a third pitch and improve the command of his other pitches to survive as a starting pitcher. If he can do that he will rise quickly through the system as a starter. If he can’t, the Indians can use a lefty with his two pitches to throw out of the bullpen. He could start 2009 in AA, but since he finished with a 6.44 ERA in 8 starts last year he could repeat high A. His 25 walks in 29 innings in high A point to his lack of command.
9. Jhormidy DeJesus 3B (Mariners) - The Mariners are not in a rush to move Triunfel to third base. Perhaps one of those reasons is the presence of DeJesus. He signed for a $1 million bonus in 2007. He has above average power and should be able to handle the defensive demands of third base next year. He needs to improve his pitch recognition in order to develop offensively as a third baseman. 2009 should see his first year in a full season league, starting with low A Wisconsin.
10. Michael Pineda RHP (Mariners) - The third Ranger on this list. In his three years in the Mariners organization he has an ERA of 1.90 ERA in 36 appearances, 49 games. He has yet to reach past low A, so high A should be his destination next year. Hitters have trouble making contact with his 88-92 mph fastball. At 6′5″ that frame should get stronger, increasing the velocity on his fastball. For a 20 year old he has excellent command, but he needs to throw his slider more to improve the pitch. If he can’t develop a breaking pitch, he has enough on his fastball to get hitters out.
National League tomorrow.