For most prospect watchers, there is virtually no point in following the Dominican Summer League, but for some reason, I enjoy keeping track of it anyway. The DSL is a short season rookie-level league with a level of competition traditionally below that of the Gulf Coast League, where most American high school draftees make their professional debuts. The DSL is traditionally the first professional stop for Latin American teenagers signed on or after July 2 who are not considered advanced enough to make their stateside debuts, because of some combination of a lack of professional coaching, lack of English skills, or youth. Advanced Latin American free agents have been known to skip the DSL, with Jesus Montero and Arodys Vizcaino serving as two primary examples. In the Yankee system currently, prominent alums of the DSL include Jose Ramirez, Ivan Nova, and Francisco Cervelli. DSL play has just begun, so I think it is worth taking a closer look at some of the names you may be hearing about years down the road.
On the two Yankee teams in the league are dozens of prospects with ages ranging from 16 to the early 20′s. There are 6-7 figure bonus babies playing alongside guys who signed for a few thousand. While information on the prospects in the DSL is pretty sparse, I am going to point of some of the players to keep an eye on this summer. Some of these assessments are based on previous information I have heard about these prospects, namely bonus figures, hype, or previous performance in the DSL. For guys about whom there is little information, the main criteria to pay attention to are age and position. The younger a DSL player is, the more likely they are to be a legitimate prospect. Guys who haven’t made it stateside by age 19 are likely filler at this point, and it is certainly important to notice which players are playing premium positions. I’ll take a look at a few intriguing guys from both teams.
DSL Yankees 1
- RHP Cristofer Cabrera, age 17, is likely the top pitching prospect on this team, and probably the top Yankee prospect in the DSL. The 6’0″ righty signed for $400,000 last year out of the Dominican Republic, drawing comps to Arodys Vizcaino for his ability to hit mid-90′s with his fastball despite his small stature. He reportedly has a decent breaking ball and feel for a changeup, but evidently was not believed to be advanced enough to go stateside right away.
- LHP Melvin Croussett is not much of a prospect (unless you ask the folks at RAB), but he has put up ridiculous numbers for the past few seasons in the DSL. Apparently, there are no plans to bring him to the states anytime soon.
- Outfielders Yeicok Calderon (18) and Erickson Lianora (18) are somewhat surprisingly repeating the DSL, despite putting up strong numbers last season. Calderon posted an .854 OPS with a very encouraging 38:45 bb:k ratio. Lianora put up a .778 OPS with 15 steals. I expected both of these guys to be in the GCL outfield this season, but evidently the Yankees are taking it slowly with them.
- 18 year-old catcher Jackson Valera was a 6-figure bonus guy from the 2008 class who struggled last year, but if he puts together a strong season, could be another piece in the deep catching pipeline.
- A few recent signees to watch: 6’3″ RHP Angel Rincon (17) from the DR, a projectable righty already hitting the low-90′s, and 17 year-old shortstop Jamiel Orozco (no information obtained from google search)
DSL Yankees 2
- 18 year-old shortstop Gian Arias, a $750,000 dollar signee from 2008, is repeating the league after posting a .642 OPS last season at age 17. Although Arias’s hitting was fairly weak, he did show great plate discipline, with a 48:49 bb:k ratio.
- Outfielder Eladio Moronta is an interesting player to watch. He is old at 21 for the DSL, and is getting a late start because he was suspended for lying about his age. This didn’t stop the Yankees from shelling out a $570,000 bonus on him in November. Although Moronta is old and fairly raw, he flashes great tools, including plus-plus speed, a plus arm, and above-average raw power. Moronta’s tools make him worth watching, but if he doesn’t tear up the league at 21, he may never prove to be a legitimate prospect.
- Some other recent signees to watch include 17 year-old RHP’s Samuel Garcia and Reynaldo Polanco, 17 year-old catcher Rainiero Coa, 17 year-old shortstop Rafael Polo, and 16 year-old outfielder Sandy Brito.
Notably absent from these teams is catcher Gary Sanchez, the 3 million dollar bonus baby from last year’s free agent class. This likely indicates that the Yankees perceive that his game is advanced enough to make an early stateside debut. Given the unpredictable nature of the DSL, however, it is quite possible that none of these guys will ever see the majors, and somebody completely unexpected can rise through the ranks. Even if a player succeeds in the DSL, there are many hurdles remaining before he becomes a legitimate prospect.