CAYEY, Puerto Rico -- Major League Baseball has been working intensely to replenish the pool of Puerto Rican talent filtering into the big leagues, but one quick glance at their showcase in Cayey this week suggests the fruits of their labor may already be paying off. While there are several prospects from the island who could be selected in the 2016 Draft in June, one stands out above the rest: shortstop Delvin Perez.
Perez, ranked No. 10 on MLB Pipeline's list of top Draft prospects, is tall, lanky, terrific defensively and speedy on the basepaths. He could be selected in the first round, and perhaps as high as the top 10, as long as teams -- or, more accurately, a team -- determine his bat, which is questionable, shows true big league potential.
That makes this week and the next several months crucial for the 17-year-old shortstop, who is currently being watched by more than 50 scouts from all 30 teams at the Pedro Montañez Municipal Stadium in Cayey.
"His defense is obviously there," one scout said. "It'll take time to see how much he hits. It's the hardest thing to project, because it's the hardest thing to do. But he's where he needs to be with his speed and defense."
Because of where Perez is from and the position he plays, it's tempting to compare him with Astros shortstop and fellow island native Carlos Correa, who made history four years ago as the first Puerto Rican player to be selected first overall in the Draft. Correa earned the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2015.
It's too early to determine if Perez will dazzle like Correa has, but the intrigue is understandable -- even if it may be unnerving for Perez to be compared with such an established player.
Count the confident Perez as a Correa admirer, though.
"We were all so proud of him, because he was the first pick, and he's Puerto Rican," Perez said through an interpreter. "We were all super happy."
Perez hopes to be the next to fall into what has been a growing line of Puerto Rican players ready to enter professional baseball. Thanks partly to his raw talent and partly to MLB's intensive focus on reviving baseball in this part of the world, Perez has had many opportunities to showcase his talents.
Last fall, Perez performed admirably in the World Wood Bat Association World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. This week, he's one of 160 high schoolers picked for the MLB showcase, a three-day clinic that includes a pro-style workout and a game on Wednesday and doubleheaders Thursday and Friday to finish out the event. Four teams were composed, made up of players from different regions on the island.
Perez, who practices six times a week and is benefiting from instruction from former Puerto Rican Major League players now working for MLB's development program, seemed unfazed by the dozens of scouts watching from the stands as he went through Wednesday's schedule of events: the 60-yard dash, infield drills and several rounds of batting practice.
"I know not everyone has a chance to be here, so I'm very happy," Perez said. "I'm proud to have this opportunity."
Staying focused is going to be crucial for Perez as the weeks and months progress toward the Draft, which may be a tall order considering what's on the line. Perez vows to simply continue what he has been doing. So far, it seems to be working well for him.
"I'm very focused on what I'm doing," Perez said. "And I'm ready."