Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Oakland A's tapping Panama, Aruba, Nicaragua and Columbia



As disclosed by current Oakland assistant GM and and desirable GM candidate, David Forst, the Athletics have capitalized upon Caribbean regions often not considered primary destinations during the recent surge of the Sam Geaney era within their international development program. As the Dominican, Mexico and Venezuela remain prominent countries as in which to peruse talent, Oakland has opted to additionally burrow through to Central America and into neighboring Columbia to bolster their DSL ballclubs and replenish their organizational Latin depth without excessive competition from other MLB entities. Now with scouts permanently seeking out signees in these areas, the Athletics can supplant their financial restraints by uncovering low budget assets most scouts don't often witness in person. Already having seen the results just over the past few seasons, here are a few of the Caribbean prospects hailing from smaller and less respected homelands that are attempting to surprise for Oakland and prove that you don't have to splurge on multiple seven figure signees every July to be considered a premier international program.




Jesus Lopez (2B/Nicaragua): 




The lone exception to the Athletics devoting a hefty sum to a Caribbean teenager from these parts, Lopez was the most widely heralded July 2nd eligible prospect last summer outside of the Dominican Republic or Venezuela and the A's lassoed the 16 year old Alberto Callaspo impressionist for $950,000 in the third largest amateur international free agent contract distributed all time in franchise history. Notable for his presence at the plate after just having commenced the transition to switch hitting in 2012, Lopez shall likely debut in the AZL as I wrote about the youngster a few weeks ago:


"This is your newly acquired international phenom, A's fans. The Nicaraguan shortstop inked for a $950,000 sum, the most Oakland has spent on an amateur international free agent since Renato Nu├▒ez for $2.2M in 2010, this past July 2nd as the A's nabbed him from Houston's clutches and coincided his signing with Carlos Hiciano and Yhoelnys Gonzalez immediately afterwards. The 5'10", 170 pound 16 year old (Born10/5/1996. Yes, you are old) received similar acclaim to Renato as being one the best hitters within his class, with a compact and consistent swing that vaulted him up scouting reports and landed him as the #14 overall prospect on Baseball America's 2013 July 2nd prospect list. With stellar offsensive instincts, Lopez figures to develop for more line drive/gap capabilities whereas Renato initially had the characteristics for greater power production. The switch hitter receives greater recognition for his left handed approach than the righty stance at this point, but obviously can be tweaked as he progresses with the organization. The downsides for Lopez are a lack of athleticism, with subpar speed and mediocre arm strength which some hypothesize shall shift the youngster to 2B as opposed to shortstop. And indeed, Lopez was granted with a greater workload at second while making his stateside debut in Fall Instructs for the A's this previous October, and ought to be a more desirable destination for him to develop once June and the AZL campaign rolls along. 

An MLB comparison you ask? While ultimately irrelevant, scouts have compared him to *drumroll* Alberto Callaspo. Go figure... Let's hope there aren't hot dogs commercially sold in Nicaragua."


 


Jean Carlo Rodriguez (SS/Panama): 





One of the breakout participants within the DSL during the previous campaign, JC Rodriguez shall undoubtedly debut in the AZL alongside Lopez in what is expected to be an exhilarating Arizona middle infield. The Panamanian, Rodriguez was inked alongside Miguel Mercedes in February of 2013 for just over $300,000 following the national tournament that drew Oakland's Panamanian scout, Juan Mosquera, to the youngster. He would be flown to the Dominican and began upon his first DSL stint as a 17 year old, obliterating the Caribbean competition through 254 PAs with a 7.5% BB%, 7.9% K%, .302/.373/.378 slash, 128 wRC+ and a .327 BABIP in one of the more successful debuts of any A's international free agent in recent memory. JC also demonstrated his versatility, logging 20 contests apiece at 2B and 3B to coincide with eight games at SS and an additional five bouts in LF that wowed the coaching contingent present in the DR and brought Rodriguez a DSL ASG berth. Entering 2014, the 18 year old prodigy is one of the most heavily anticipated short season arrivals this season and further validates the A's now teeming pipeline through Panama. 


Jean Carlo has exceptional strike zone recognition and contact percentages as as what would be the equivalent of a high school senior, after having exhibited phenomenal improvement over the previous calendar year and a relentless work ethic that bodes extremely well for Oakland's investment in Rodriguez. Boasting eerily similar dimensions to Lopez (5'11", 175 pounds) and merely average arm strength, his route seems more justly suited for 2B, but at this stage of his development it would be foolish to make a definitive consensus on the Central American middle infielder. He and Lopez shall receive their plate appearances somehow out in Papago. 




Robert Mullen (C/Panama):




Another Panamanian who had a sensational debut campaign within the DSL in 2013, Mullen inked alongside Jhonny Rodriguez for a similar sum to JC Rodriguez in the earlier portion of the year. Receiving legitimate acclaim for his power potential, Mullen slashed out to .267/.340/.367, which amongst the DSL ranks is outstanding production for a 17 year old. Additionally, he hit .333/.381/.513 through August to close his stint and thus has positioned himself for a 2015 stateside roster position should be duplicate or better his production in this upcoming season. Primarily featuring as an exquisite defensive backstop, the organization has significant interest in Mullen's progress and his youth shall benefit him throughout his Oakland stay, turning 18 on May 23rd of this year. He'll likely remain the Dominican academy's first overall catching prospect in 2014. 



Shawn Duinkerk (CF/1B/Aruba): 



The Aruban alumni of the senior LLWS, Duinkerk inked in 2010 and has since primarily been stashed in the AZL. As one of the most tremendous athletes within the farm system, Duinkerk is still gradually developing into his physical frame and ought to develop greater instinctual baseball capabilities as he continues in Papago. I wrote about Shawn for the A's MiLB first base depth chart, as the capable short seasoner dabbled in CF and 1B in 2013:


"Duinkerk is the Arbuan stud that fronted a championship squad during the senior LLWS in Bangor, ME and now takes up residency in Papago within the A's Arizona complex. The lanky 6'5, 195 pounder initially began as a corner outfield asset by inking alongside Vicmal De La Cruz in 2010 for $200,000, yet transitioned to a practically permanent first base role during the previous AZL campaign, as that figures to be a probable route for the 19 year old as he matures physically and dons a Lake Monster uniform. Most A's fans aren't familiar with Duinkerk, a buried gem hidden within the short season affiliates for Oakland, but he is purely dependent upon athleticism at the moment as he has continuously exhibitited jaw dropping physical capabilities during his now two year AZL tenure. Yet Duinkerk is extraordinarily under developed in regards to his baseball expertise, reportedly having never faced left handed pitching prior to arriving in the United States, and thus will require excessive grooming to witness his athletic potential materialize. 

Though the statistical results can be neglected due to this at the moment, he hit .246/.288/.341 in 146 PAs with 32 punchouts compared to 8 walks, and obviously is rusty. But Duinkerk will garner more opportunities within a competitive professional format, and once the plate appearances accumlulate, he should begin to feel more comfortable as he ascends to Vermont. However, it's likely that a third AZL stint could occur if the organization feels as though would rather opt to have him blossom in an environment where he's already accustomed to instead of trekking across the country. What is certain is that Shawn shall not participate against opposing competition until Mid-June, as the short season ranks are the definite destination for him. But he remains an international sleeper that Athletics fans should become familiar with, as he'll start to surface up in the full season threshold come 2015."





Luis Hernandez (C/Columbia):



The stout 5'11", 205 pound Hernandez was bestowed the nickname of "Barry Bonds" on the Columbian national team for his power rates and plate discipline. Of course, he's unlikely to blossom into the next perennial cleanup phenom in Oakland, but his performance amongst domestic competition in definitely eyeopening. As one of the first signees of the Geaney era, Hernandez hasn't lived up to his nickname's lofty expectations, after a measly .211/.318/.237 2013 despite a 12:9 BB/K. In all likelihood, this upcoming campaign is his last to demonstrate his worth to the organization. 



Alejandro Vargas (RHP/Panama)


The only current arm hailing from Panama, Vargas enters his third consecutive DSL attempt following a improved sophomore attempt as a 19 year old. Despite some lackluster precision towards the latter portion of 2013, Vargas had success with batted balls after a .139 BABIP against and a 3.73 GB/FB ratio through 26 2/3 IP. Cumulatively, Vargas has grappled through 44 1/3 IP with four dingers allowed and a 37:29 K/BB to complement his 2.13 GB/FB and shall compete for a 2014 rotation position in the Dominican this May, and attempt to salvage his career as an Oakland Athletic




Reynaldo Hoyos (LHP/Columbia):



The Columbian lefty has featured similarly to Vargas as a groundball oriented arm who had struggled to locate the strike zone as of recently and additionally has favored from a lopsided BABIP rate. Through 42 2/3 IP, Hoyos has permitted a lone HR and amassed a 39:26 K/BB. He'll be optioned out to the Dominican once more as a bullpen asset.




Mitchell Martes (1B/Aruba): 


Born on November 3rd, 1994, Martes has had sporadic opportunities after inking for $50,000 out of Aruba thus far. Intriguingly enough, Martes possesses Dutch and Aruban decent which apparently the combination of results in a 6'5", 190 pound teenager. Martes' unique background has unfortunately overshadowed his production as a professional thus far, producing a career .158/.221/.235 slash with a 14:71 BB/K in just north of 215 PAs. Horrendously raw in regards to his skills, it'll take more maturing for Martes' athleticism to be demonstrated on a baseball diamond. 

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