PR Showcase Draws Huge Throng
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
While awaiting the start of the 2009 high school and Division I college seasons state-side, a huge delegation of scouts was in Caguas, Puerto Rico, Jan. 28-29 to take in a showcase of the island’s top prospects for the 2009 draft.
Some 20 scouting directors, 30-35 crosscheckers and 30 area scouts were on hand for an event, organized by noted Puerto Rican scout Frankie Thon (brother of former big leaguer Dickie Thon), that attracted every top prospect in Puerto Rico.
“I have never seen an event in Puerto Rico receive this much coverage—ever,” said a scout with strong ties to Puerto Rico. “It surely had to do with the weather, but also with the class of players in Puerto Rico this year. It’s the deepest I have ever seen.”
The workout segment of the showcase was held on the first day at Caguas’ Sola Morales Stadium (home of the Puerto Rican Winter League’s Caguas Creoles), and featured the standard 60-day yard dash, infield-outfield and batting practice for position players. The following day, a game was played between players from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and non-Academy players.
Though it’s unlikely that Puerto Rico will produce a first-round pick in this year’s draft, there were as many as 12-14 players in attendance who positioned themselves as potential picks in the first 10 rounds. A year ago, only eight Puerto Ricans went in the first 10 rounds, and just two in the top five rounds—led by Puerto Rico Baseball Academy outfielder Javier Rodriguez, a second-round pick of the New York Mets.
The star attractions at the showcase, by most accounts, were outfielders Reymond Fuentes and Ruben Sierra Jr. Fuentes ranks No. 99 on PG Crosschecker’s ranking of the top 500 prospects for the 2009 draft, while Sierra improved to No. 126 off his showing in Puerto Rico.
Fuentes has been the most consistent player in Puerto Rico all year, and ran a 6.3-second 60 in the workout—just surpassing Sierra (who some scouts had at 6.4) for the fastest time at the workout. He also showed an improved arm from center field, which had been his only glaring weakness. Offensively, Fuentes had a good showing in BP at the workout. Despite his slight 6-foot, 160-pound frame, the ball jumped off his bat. In the game, the lefthanded-hitting Fuentes showed a good approach at the plate, hitting a single on the first pitch of the game between shortstop and third against Hector Hernandez, the island’s top-ranked lefthander. He also stole a couple of bases by getting good jumps.
Sierra, son of the former big league outfielder, may have helped himself more than anyone off his performance in the showcase portion of the event. He ran the 60 just a tick slower than Fuentes, displayed the best arm on the island and had an eye-opening BP—spraying line drives all over the field and hitting a few balls over the right-field fence on the occasions he chose to pull the ball. He had a clean, easy and effortless swing, with increasing power. Sierra also showed an improved approach to hitting. While he had only one hit, he had good at-bats, taking pitches that were not to his liking, and not biting on balls on the outside corner, which had been a problem in the past.
Scouts were split whether Fuentes or Sierra now ranks as the better prospect for the 2009 draft, but generally conceded both should be selected by the third round. While Fuentes generally has performed better in game situations, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Sierra has the better skill-set and higher ceiling.
Righthander Raul Rivera remains the top pitching prospect on the island, though he didn’t show scouts the velocity they were expecting to see in a two-inning stint. He worked mostly at 87-90 mph, topping at 91.
Outside of Sierra, the two players who may have helped themselves the most were shortstop Robert Perez, an Oklahoma State signee, and outfielder Jonathan Garcia—both fifth-to-seventh round talents.
Perez ran the 60 in 6.5-6.6 seconds, despite a sore hamstring. He also hit the ball well to the opposite field, and showcased his above-average arm, his best tool, while demonstrating to scouts that may have the range and quickness to remain at shortstop in the long term.
The 5-foot-10 Garcia showed plus power in BP, hitting several balls out, including a couple that cleared both fences at the stadium. He also has an above-average outfield arm that ranks behind only Sierra.
Most of Puerto Rico’s top prospects in recent years have come from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, which produced a draft-record 14 players in 2005. But most of the elite players this year—namely Fuentes, Rivera and Sierra—do not attend the academy. Hernandez, who was clocked at 87-88 mph, and outfielder Juan Silva, who struggled at the plate, are considered the academy’s top prospects
Generally, Puerto Rico’s top prospects show measurable improvement over the course of the spring leading up to the draft, and scouts will get another chance to see the same players in May at Puerto Rico’s annual Excellence Games.