Below are scouting reports on the prospects ranked 11-25 on my 2016 July 2 Sortable Board which you can find here. Most of the players discussed below, as you’ll see on the board, are of the 35 FV variety. So too are the unranked players listed below them on the board. The group highlighted here separated themselves from the rest primarily because of (a) a more realistic likelihood to play a premium defensive position and (b) perceived upside. Scouting reports on the top-10 players will run tomorrow. We’ll also have a “best of the rest” rundown of other players in the class next week.
11. Yordy Barley, SS, Dominican Republic (Video)
Barley is a plus runner with twitchy and athletic defensive actions, a lightning quick transfer and a plus arm. His footwork and hands need polish but he has the physical ability to be an above-average defensive shortstop at maturity. Offensively, Barley is smooth and graceful, he has loose, whippy wrists and sprays contact to all fields. The body has some room to fill out and add some power while retaining the speed for shortstop, and Barley’s swing has the natural loft to hit for some power in games. The feel to hit is a little raw and Barley probably won’t ever have more than fringe-average bat-to-ball and game power, but that kind of offensive profile from a good defensive shortstop who also provides value on the bases is a good everyday player. He is expected to sign with the Padres for about $1 million.
12. Alfredo Rodriguez, SS, Cuba (Video)
Rodriguez, who’s a former recipient of Serie Nacional’s Rookie of the Year award, has been linked to the Reds for some time, and he’s expected to ink a $7 million deal with Cincinnati during the upcoming J2 period. Rodriguez is the most advanced defender in the class (he should be, he’s almost 23) and plays an acrobatic and effective shortstop. Though his arm is just average, Rodriguez has tremendous control of his body and finds ways to make timely and accurate throws from various platforms. His swing lacks effective use of the lower half and there’s never going to be impactful game power here, but he tracks pitches well, has good bat speed and solid hand-eye coordination which should lead to hard line-drive and ground-ball contact.
Rodriguez is a plus runner and he could outperform my current hit-tool projection (40) if he learns to BABIP pitchers to death by slashing and running more than scouts saw him doing in Cuba. He might ride his glove to an everyday job — and indeed there are worse all-around players than what Rodriguez projects to be trotting out to shortstop everyday — but he profiles better as a utility man. He is likely to be the first player from this class to debut in the majors.
13. Randy Arozarena, 2B/CF, Cuba (Video)
Arozarena is an explosive physical specimen without a clear position. He has worked out in the middle infield (but it’s not clear that he has the grace and actions to profile there, nor the arm for shortstop) and in center field (where his above-average speed plays fine but isn’t exceptional). Arozarena has above-average bat speed and generates great torque with his hips to whack balls from gap to gap and turn them into extra-base hits. He’s shown an ability to recognize and adjust to breaking balls but scouts question the bat control and note that most of the hard contact comes from Arozarena’s raw physicality and not because he’s squaring up balls with any real authority the way most good major-league hitters do. Arozarena projects as a super-utility type who plays a number of valuable positions and acts as an interesting catalyst toward the bottom of a lineup.
14. Lazaro Armenteros (aka “Lazarito”), OF, Cuba (Video)
The early noise surrounding Armenteros was deafening. A lot has been said and written about Lazarito — much of it comically hyperbolic — since the baseball-loving world first laid eyes on him, but things within the industry have calmed down as scouts have gotten more looks at him. He is as physically impressive a 17-year-old as you will find, with a physique Bruce Wayne would envy, and has the raw power (55) and speed (60) that are stereotypically associated with players of that build. Beyond those two tools, however, it’s hard to find aspects of Lazarito’s game about which scouts feel unanimously good. His swing is as steep as Lombard Street, geared for showcase power much more than realistic in-game use and many scouts (who usually take a laissez-faire approach to swing mechanics, especially those of a teenager) are calling for proactive mechanical alterations.
While he has the pure speed for center field, his feel for the position is reportedly poor and, with a 40 arm, he currently projects to left field. If that indeed is where he profiles defensively, then Armenteros is going to have to make significant strides with the bat to profile there.
While rumors have circulated that the Padres are the club most infatuated with Lazarito – and it makes sense for them to land as many prospects from this class as possible given that they’re already waist deep in this year’s talent pool – there isn’t currently a deal in place of which I’m aware. For a while it was unclear if/when a deal would be struck, as Armenteros’ camp has dealt with some drama but the industry is pleased with the way the Octagon agency group has stepped in and calmed once stormy seas.
15. David Garcia, C, Venezuela (Video)
Garcia has great catch-and-throw skills, especially for a prospect who’s new to catching. He’ll post pop times in the mid-1.9s., an above-average time, and has flashed better times on strong, accurate throws from his knees. Garcia’s frame is small and the bat is light so there probably won’t be any more than 30 game power here, but the swing is simple and compact from both sides of the plate and he should hit for plenty of contact. Garcia only projects as a bottom-of-the-order hitter, if he’s a regular at all, but the world needs catchers and Garcia is the best defensive one in this class. He is expected to sign with Texas.
16. Yunior Severino, SS, Dominican Republic (Video)
Severino has alarming raw power for his size. He has above-average bat speed, loose wrists and comfortable, natural loft in the swing. He’s twitchier and more explosive in the batter’s box than he is in the field, where his footwork and actions can be slow and tentative. Some scouts think he’ll have to move to either second or third as he fills out. If that’s the case, then Severino will have to outperform my expectations for the bat to profile as a regular. If he can stay at short, however — and I think there’s a decent chance he can — then not only is he an everyday player but he’ll become one of the class’s more interesting prospects. He’s expected to sign with the Braves for about $2 million.
17. Angel Macuare, RHP, Venezuela
Expected to sign with Houston, Macuare has a back-of-the-rotation, inning-eater profile. He’s a strike-thrower with a fringe fastball in the 87-91 mph range that will touch as high as 93. He has great curveball feel and it projects to be his best pitch, while the changeup and command project to average or just short of it. It’s not a sexy profile but one that is relatively safe compared to the other arms in the class. Macuare is a projectable 6-foot-2, 170 and the youngest pitcher on this list, which means he should at least maintain his present velocity despite the rigors of a pro workload.
18. Francisco Morales, RHP, Venezuela
Morales is a monster at 6-foot-5, with a fastball that climbs into the mid-90s and plus slider projection. He’s had trouble finding mechanical consistency and there’s a good chance he ends up as a reliever because of it, but he has the best fastball projection of any of the 16-year-olds in the class. There’s a non-zero chance that Morales, who’s expected to sign with the Phillies, can clean up the delivery and develop enough of a changeup/split to profile as a #3/4 starter but there are far too many developmental hurdles to clear for that to be considered a likelihood. If he comes stateside next fall and is throwing strikes, then he has a chance to move more quickly through the system than some of the other young arms in this group.
19. Juan Contreras, RHP, Dominican Republic (Video)
Contreras has the best arm acceleration in the class, touching 97 with his fastball and sitting 92-95. There is some effort to the delivery but Contreras’s lower half is long and strong and the arm works fine. Contreras’ slider is of the Brad Lidge variety in that it has almost purely vertical movement to it, a result of Contreras’ vertical arm slot. It flashes plus. It’s hard to generate any changeup movement from a slot like Contreras’ and because of this, his size (a slightly built 6-foot-1) and the effort in his delivery, there’s a good chance he’s only a reliever. He’s expected to sign with Atlanta.
20. Roland Bolanos, RHP, Cuba
At nearly age 20, Bolanos has one of the more advanced repertoires among the arms listed. He primarily works with a fastball in the 91-94 mph range and a fringe-average slider that projects a half grade above that. The curveball and changeup are both below average and it’s hard to envision Bolanos improving either or both of those enough to have a starter’s repertoire. Most scouts to whom I’ve spoken think it’s best for him to focus on improving the slider and move into a bullpen. Bolanos was declared a free agent on June 5 and was eligible to sign during the last J2 period for 10 days before the moratorium. He seemed like a potential candidate to sign with a club that overspent during the 2015-2016 signing period and wanted to grab one last asset on their way out the door but nothing materialized, leading some to believe that Bolanos either already has a deal. If that’s the case I have not heard with whom it might be.
21. Yefri del Rosario, RHP, Dominican Republic
Del Rosario is Diet Juan Contreras. A little smaller, a little less velocity, and a little more chance that he ends up in a bullpen. He’s been up to 94 and flashed a plus slider in the 82-83 mph range. He is athletic and has tremendous arm acceleration (you have to if you’re touching 94 and about 5-11) and those kind of pitchers typically develop changeups, so there’s a chance del Roasrio ends up with a starter’s repertoire. Whether his body will be able to withstand that kind of workload is harder to predict.
22. Kevin Richards, OF, Dominican Republic (Video)
Richards is sushi raw — so raw, in fact, that upon learning just how uncooked he was, the Nationals withdrew a multi-million dollar offer to Richards and he’s now expected to sign with Oakland for about $500,000. Richards is a physically projectable 70 runner and could be an impact defender in center field. He’s frail right now but has decent bat control for his size and should generate stronger contact as his body matures. He looks bad in games and one scout with whom I spoke thought he might be afraid of the baseball because of how frequently and early he bails out of his swing. There is a lot of work to be done on the body, bat and maybe even the mind, but Richards is a dynamic athlete with big-time upside.
23. Abrahan Gutierrez, C, Venezuela (Video)
Gutierrez was one of the class’s bigger names early in the process because his body matured sooner than his peers’. The Braves were in hot pursuit of him early on and he’s expected to sign with them. Though he’s lost some mobility in recent months, Gutierrez has enough defensive skill to remain at catcher long term provided he keeps his body in check and remains mobile. The concerns surrounding his movement skills have grown but he doesn’t turn 17 until Halloween and a pro conditioning program should help. He has average raw arm strength that plays down because of how long it take Gutierrez to rise from his crouch but that should be cleaned up, at least a bit, with instruction. Offensively, Gutierrez has some pull power because of raw strength in his hands but lacks exceptional bat speed. He might never be more than a 40 hitter with 45 game power but if he can catch that will play.
24. Luis Mieses, OF, Dominican Republic (Video)
Mieses has big-time power projection at a lean but well-framed 6-foot-4 and a natural, low-ball, power-hitting left-handed swing. It’s a corner-only body and skillset but there’s enough arm strength (55) to play right field and he should add at least a half grade there as he matures. He hasn’t shown the ability to square up balls in game as regularly as scouts would like to see from a corner-only prospect but Mieses just turned 16 at the end of May and is one of the younger players in the class, so there’s more tool projection here than on most of the other players. We’re probably talking about 55 or 60 raw power at maturity and as long as Mieses improves his contact skills to a fringe-average level we’re talking about a useful big leaguer.
25. Yerdel Vargas, SS, Dominican Republic (Video)
Vargas has good defensive footwork and enough arm strength for the left side of the infield, but it’s not clear that he’ll have enough range to stay at short as he matures. I think it should be enough, especially if he signs with Oakland (as expected), whose system is bereft of prospects with a typical shortstop’s defensive skillset. While Vargas has good feel for the barrel and about average bat speed, his in-game swing utilizes very little of his lower half and, barring a stark adjustment to this, he’s unlikely to hit for better than 30 game power. He shows the potential for more than that in BP and I think there’s a chance he fills out more than most expect him to and develops 40 raw power. Such physical develop might also cannibalize his ability to play shortstop, though.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.