International showcases set to kick off in Latin America
SAN PEDRO DE MACORIS, Dominican Republic -- The Nasty Boys sat in the dugout next to Banana's kids.
The teens from Miami Poker kept a straight face until it was time to hit.
The top amateur baseball programs in the Dominican Republic came together this week at the Arias & Goodman Academy's stadium for the Dominican Prospect League's Scout Day and Showcase to kick off league showcase season in Latin America.
It's that time of year again.
The International Prospect League, another large independent league in the Dominican Republic, has scheduled a large scout day and showcase next week in Venezuela with the country's top talent. Major League Baseball's Amateur Prospect League will have a showcase in the Dominican Republic next month and one in Venezuela in November. MLB's international showcase for prospects across Latin America is scheduled for February in the Dominican Republic.
"Leagues in general are important in the international scouting community because it's a system that has historically lacked structure and what we tried to introduce is what didn't exist before, and that's structure," said DPL president Ulises Cabrera, who started the DPL in 2009. "It's not rocket science. We are all trying to evaluate in an objective fashion what we feel is sign-able talent and give scouts the chance to evaluate players that they also feel are sign-able. Over the years, people have grown accustomed to our system because of our organization and details."
Scouring the countryside for prospects and private workouts at a team's complex remains an integral part of international scouting. However, the leagues have impacted the amateur baseball landscape in the D.R., changing it from one that was heavily reliant on the tryout format to one that features prospects playing in games each week.
There are hundreds of baseball programs like Josue Mateo's Nasty Boys and Raul "Banana" Valero's baseball academy directly impacted by the emergence of the leagues. This week, the 100 prospects in attendance wore DPL uniforms.
"These leagues are part of the culture of baseball in the Dominican Republic now and that's a good thing for us," said Hector Evertz, owner of Dominican Prospect Talent Academy. "We still have individual teams come see us at our place, but why wouldn't we want to be in front of everyone at one time? It's convenient for everyone. We look forward to this."
The class of 2016 class of international prospects is expected to produce a strong mix of outfielders and infielders. Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan is considered the top player of the class, and Dominican Republic shortstop Luis Jose Almanzar is considered among the top players in the country.
Outfielders Kevin Richard, Luis Mieses, Luis Velos along with infielders Wander Valdez and Dueris Carrasco are among the top prospects in the Dominican Republic to watch.
"Last year's class was just ridiculously good, but this one is solid, too," Cabrera said. "There are some impact players who teams are interested in, good players. I would call it a balanced class."
Excluding Cuban prospects, experts predict there will be a few players that sign in the $3 million to $4 million-range and another small group will surpass the $1 million threshold. Several signings are expected in the $500,000 to $1 million range. The biggest competition among clubs could be for prospects signed for $300,000 or less.
Here's why: Several teams, a list that includes the D-backs, Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Cubs and Giants will not be able to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the 2016 international signing period after exceeding their bonus pool during previous signing periods. Those teams have already been competing for players in the $150,000 to $300,000 range for months.
There's also the belief that several teams will blow past their allotted bonus pools for 2016 and enter into the maximum penalty because an international draft could be included in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.
In the meantime, private workouts and league showcases continue.
"We are doing things that allow players to show who they are and help teams sign players they want," Cabrera said. "You see guys in the big leagues who have come out of our system and it's very gratifying."