JALISCO, MEXICO - OCTOBER 22: Angel Gonzalez #9 of the Dominican Republic makes a throw to first during a game against Panama during day 8 of the XVI Pan American Games at the Pan American Baseball Stadium on October 22, 2011 in Jalisco, Mexico. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Dominican Republic has produced more major league baseball players than any other international country. With all of the academies popping up around the D.R., that doesn't look like it is going to change. Both Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes were born in the Dominican Republic, and a couple of the Marlins top prospects are from the D.R. as well. The international signing period begins July 2nd, and this year is sure to be interesting, because of baseball's new CBA. For the first time ever, teams will be limited to how much money they can spend on international prospects. The new cap ($2.9 million) shouldn't affect the Marlins as much as it will other organizations, but it will still limit some of the players they can go after. Here are a couple of prospects that I would love to see sign with the Marlins.
Before we get to the prospects, let's clear a couple of things up. First of all, my goal isn't to tell you who the top unsigned Dominican prospects are. The consensus #1 Latin American prospect, Gustavo Cabrera, probably will sign with another team just due to their presence in the Dominican Republic. However, the top-rated prospect doesn't always become the most valuable player out of the bunch. For example, the best power hitter in the Marlins' system, twenty-one year old Marcell Ozuna, signed with the Marlins for only $50,000 in 2007.
Secondly, the Marlins don't exactly have a great reputation for giving out huge contracts to Dominican teenagers. Miami has always been one of the organizations that consistently give out the least amount of money in international signing bonuses. However, with a new stadium and a bigger payroll, that could change very soon.
Also, I have not seen any of these players in person. All my information about these prospects comes from people who have seen them, and people who have talked to people who have seen them. I've seen video of all three players, but that doesn't compare to seeing them play in-person. Unfortunately, unless someone would like to send me down to the Dominican Republic, I most likely won't have the chance to see these players before they sign. Without further ado, let's finally get to the prospects!
Deivi Grullon, C: Grullon is without a doubt the top catching prospect in this year's international free agent class. He was born on February 17th, 1996 in Bonao, D.R, the same city where Carlos Marmol is from. He is listed at 6' 180 lbs. but from what I have seen it looks like that could be a little friendly in the weight department. His body type reminds me of Carlos Santana, except a little bit smaller.
As a right-handed hitter, Grullon gets his power from a high leg kick before each pitch. Truthfully, if you looked at Grullon from a distance, you'd expect him to be much more of a power hitter but apparently that's not the case. From most accounts, Grullon is rumored to have gap power but not much more. He's not supposedly a very slow runner right now, but his body frame will make lead him to below-average speed in the future. The best tool Grullon currently possesses is his arm. Apparently, Grullon can throw in the mid-80's, and the Dominican Prospect League found that Grullon's pop times are around 1.95. The major league average is right around 1.90. Also, don't forget that Grullon's already impressive arm will probably get stronger as he gets older.
The transition from a Spanish-speaking country to the U.S.A is harder for a catcher than it is for any other position. Catchers have to be able to communicate with their pitchers, and that's very difficult if the catcher and pitcher speak different languages. Catchers like Ronny Paulino have shown that it is possible to be a major league catcher with English as your second language, so it definitely is possible. However, it's far from easy.
Overall, I think Grullon would be a great investment for the Marlins. For a farm system that is derived of legitimate catching prospects, Grullon could become the Miami catcher of the future very fast. He will never be a power hitter, but he could become the type of hitter Yadier Molina was in 2007. In 2007, Molina hit .275 with six homers and low strikeout and walk rates. I really like Grullon, and I'd be surprised if the Marlins didn't like him as well.
Frandy Delarosa, SS: Ah, another Dominican shortstop. Frandy De La Rosa is a wiry switch-hitting prospect who was born on January 24th, 1996. He is a man of many names as well. I have seen him listed as Frandi, Frandy De La Rosa, and Frandy Delarosa. His best skill is supposedly his bat, and his worst skill is his arm. Some people think that Delarosa will be forced to move from shortstop because of his weak arm. However, other than his arm the rest of his defensive qualities are amazing. Delarosa has soft hands, and covers a lot of range at shortstop.
For a young and skinny shortstop, Delarosa hits the ball surprisingly hard. A lot of this is because Delarosa moves the bat through the zone very quickly for a sixteen year old shortstop. He doesn't sell out for power, and he makes solid contact very often. Also, according to MLB.com, Delarosa has good makeup and is mature for his age. While that is always a good thing to hear, it might be something they heard from one of his agent's or coaches trying to boost his stock.
Dominican shortstops are pretty popular commodities among major league teams, and the Marlins will have to make an enticing offer to Delarosa if they want to sign him. I think he could develop into a very good prospect because of his switch-hitting, and ability to make solid contact. However, he definitely will need to get a lot stronger to continue to excel at a higher level.
Leury Vargas, CI: My first two players were pretty highly-regarded Dominican prospects. Leury Vargas, on the other hand, is not likely to draw a contract similar to the first two. However, there is still a lot to like about this young first baseman. He can hit for contact pretty well, and is rumored to have elite power potential. Not to mention, he is the youngest player not only out of these three, but also the entire Dominican Prospect League.
First of all, let's get something out of the way. Vargas is not a third baseman. No matter how much it could potentially boost his stock, I don't think the team that signs him will see him as a third baseman. A lot of this is due to his 6'3'' 220 pound frame. He might appear clumsy, but a lot of that is due to his huge body at a young age. However, he is definitely not slow for size.
What I like the most about Vargas is his left-handed swing. Although he could probably generate more power by using his legs more, his swing is beautiful as it is. He appears to be in rhythm during the course of the at-bat. He is very quick to the ball by moving his hands through the zone extremely fast, which scouts love. Here is a link to a video of Vargas hitting.
Overall, I will be thrilled if the Marlins sign any of these players. These three players are very different as individual athletes, but all three have a chance to play in the majors. Whether it's signing the top catching prospect in Grullon, or going after a lesser-known prospect like Vargas, the Marlins need to make an impact in the Dominican Republic this year.