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New class of Dominican talent takes US field

MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

The start of the 2018-19 international signing period is less than a month old, but it's never too early for international scouts and decision-makers to look ahead to next year's class.

There are already events showcasing next year's crop of talent across the Dominican Republic and this week, a group of prospects from the island nation wrapped up a four-day showcase in front of 200 scouts at a stadium outside of Chicago.

The start of the 2018-19 international signing period is less than a month old, but it's never too early for international scouts and decision-makers to look ahead to next year's class.

There are already events showcasing next year's crop of talent across the Dominican Republic and this week, a group of prospects from the island nation wrapped up a four-day showcase in front of 200 scouts at a stadium outside of Chicago.

The Dominican Prospect League's Elite Travel team, composed of 120 players that will be eligible to sign in 2019 and '20, played eight games at Schaumburg Stadium in Schaumburg, Ill. The prospects also took batting and fielding practice before each game.

"These events have become part of the process," an American League international scouting director said. "It's a good opportunity to see them in action and get to know them. We still travel all over looking for players, but this is a good chance to see a group all at once."

The International Prospect League and JDB Baseball in the Dominican Republic, along with other leagues across the D.R. and Venezuela, are also showcasing talent for the future. Major League Baseball has played host to national showcases in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela along with an international prospect showcase for players across the Caribbean and Latin America for several years. Similar events are scheduled for later this year and in 2019.

So far, more than 450 prospects have signed with Major League teams since the international signing period began July 2. Close to 1,200 prospects signed during the previous international signing period.

"The idea started that we, as Dominican-Americans, [co-founder] Brian Mejia and myself, we felt that there was a need in the Dominican Republic to have organized baseball games with the top players in one place so that one, the players could measure themselves against one another, but also so they could actually learn the fundamentals of the game and have that experience of gameplay at an elite level," said DPL founder Ulises Cabrera. "But then also for the MLB teams that invest heavily and rely heavily on the Dominican player, we wanted to prove that process of evaluation. That was the initial idea, and we felt that we could make a positive impact in that space. That was more than 10 years ago, and 10 years ago we finally got it started."

More than 3,000 players have participated in the DPL and approximately 700 have signed since the league began. There have been more than two dozen DPL alumni to play in the Majors -- a list that includes Ronald Guzman, Juan Soto, Miguel Andujar and Willy Adames.

"The whole industry is all about the players," Cabrera said. "We're trying to help the players become as good of a version of themselves as we possibly can. What we're trying to do with that is the same thing the teams are trying to do. These four days of doubleheader games are our attempt for the players to demonstrate who they are and what they're capable of. The teams are here to evaluate that as well."

Dominican players to watch for 2019:

Adael Amador, SS
Jose Cosma, SS
Willmer De La Cruz, SS
Luis Encarnacion, SS
Onil Perez, C
Leonel Sanchez, SS
Malfrin Sosa, OF
Yonaldi Soto, SS
Junior Tilien, SS
Victor Valera, SS

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.