I had not heard of Ismael Dionicio when I entered the stadium to watch the Angels take on the host Cubs in an Arizona League game. I had seen the Cubs several times this summer, but it was my first look at the Angels' Arizona League team.
Right off the bat, I was intrigued by what I was seeing.
Erick Salcedo was playing shortstop. Nathan Goro was the second baseman. The third baseman was Dionicio. I couldn't stop watching Dionicio -- in the field and at the plate. He had that certain "something" that made me sit up and take notice.
Dionicio came to the Angels from San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, as an international free agent in January 2009. Only 22, the switch-hitting Dionicio has already played parts of five seasons of professional baseball. Until this summer, he had played exclusively in the Dominican Summer League.
Dionicio is very solidly built, at 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds. His body is a bit thick, but it doesn't negatively impact his outstanding tools.
Prior to his Arizona League experience, Dionicio had progressively better seasons at the plate. His first year, he hit .206 in 126 plate appearances. Dionicio hit .277, .297 and .300 the past three seasons in the Dominican. Each year, he had very few strikeouts and very few walks. In short, Dionicio made consistent contact -- year in and year out.
When I saw Dionicio on the field, one thought crossed my mind. Maybe there is such a thing as "flying under the radar." This young man can play. I don't know how many people have seen him in action.
Here's what I saw.
The first tool I noticed was a very strong and accurate throwing arm from third base. With little effort, Dionicio rifled the ball to first. Every time. Even in infield warmups.
Then I noticed his ability to make contact. Hard contact. Barrel-of-the-bat contact. But without much power. Dionicio has the ability to meet the ball where it's pitched and drive it where the players aren't. Most of his hits in his career have been singles. That has continued this summer. Of Dionicio's 58 hits, he has 12 doubles, one triple and no home runs.
I saw Dionicio lay down a perfect bunt down the third-base line hitting left-handed. He beat it out for a hit. That's when I saw his speed. Dionicio can really run. He has the speed to beat out hits in the infield and steal bases. He has stolen 12 this summer while beating caught five times. The man has very quick feet.
After Dionicio's bunt single, the pitcher threw over to first several times before throwing to the plate. I think the league is aware of Dionicio's speed.
Dionicio is listed as a second baseman on the Angels' roster. However, he has played only seven games at second and 37 at third base.
Dionicio looked a bit stiff at third, and he didn't seem as comfortable as I would have liked. But I think that will resolve itself if, indeed, that's where the Angels choose to develop his skills. Dionicio looked confident, but not comfortable.
Dionicio finished the season second in the league with a .354 average, three points behind league leader Adam Law of the Dodgers, who had 34 fewer at-bats than Dionicio.
Dionicio is an exciting player to watch. He plays with passion and has tools that can be refined with repetition.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.