The lowest levels of the Minor Leagues began play this week, with the Rookie-level Arizona Complex, Florida Complex and Dominican Summer leagues all kicking off Monday. While many of the players are teenagers who are at least four or five years away from being ready for the Majors, several of them will become big leaguers.
Just look back at 2017, when the Arizona League (now the ACL) featured Emmanuel Clase, Camilo Doval and MacKenzie Gore. The Gulf Coast League (now the FCL) included Shane Baz, Roansy Contreras, Brusdar Graterol and Royce Lewis. Felix Bautista, Ezequiel Duran, Luis Gil and Luis Robert all played in the DSL, a step below the other two circuits on the developmental ladder.
Below, we've highlighted each organization's top prospect currently on a Complex League roster (not including higher-level players rehabbing injuries at team training sites). Cubs shortstop Cristian Hernandez is the only current Top 100 Prospect, but several more should ascend to the list in the future.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Manuel Beltre, SS (No. 9)
Fresh off signing for $2.35 million in January 2021, Beltre put together an intriguing Dominican Summer League season last year. On the one hand, he finished with a .391 on-base percentage and more walks (42) than strikeouts (33). On the other, he hit just .225 and hit only two homers in 53 games. The 18-year-old has proven he’s willing to work a count but will work on making better impact in his turn in the Florida Complex League. Good news there: Beltre began his 2022 season by going 3-for-7 with a homer and a double in his first two FCL games.
Rays: Carlos Colmenarez, SS (No. 10)
Colmenarez came into the Rays' system with a lot of hype when he signed for $3 million in January 2021, giving Tampa Bay fans hope he could be the club’s next big name on its conveyor belt of shortstop prospects. Then, he suffered a broken right hamate bone before he could get going in the DSL, and his '21 season turned toward getting any experience he could. He’s back, healthy and stateside now in the FCL, where he brings four above-average skills in his hit, run, arm and fielding tools.
Orioles: Samuel Basallo, C (No. 19)
Over the last couple of years, the Orioles have reinvested in efforts to acquire talent in Latin America. Basallo was one of their larger signings, getting $1.3 million in January 2021 to sign out of the Dominican Republic. He fared reasonably well during his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League last year with five homers in 41 games and he is now making his United States debut in the Florida Complex League. The early returns for the left-handed-hitting backstop have been good, going 5-for-14 in the first three games of the summer season.
Red Sox: Miguel Bleis, OF (No. 16)
Signed for $1.5 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2021, Bleis possesses one of the highest ceilings in the Red Sox system. He has a sound left-handed swing, advanced feel for the strike zone and the potential for solid tools across the board.
Yankees: Roderick Arias, SS (No. 12)
MLB Pipeline's top-rated prospect in the 2021-22 international class, Arias signed for $4 million out of the Dominican Republic in January. A switch-hitter with better pitch recognition and strike-zone management than most 17-year-olds, he could develop plus tools across the board with more strength and experience.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Royals: Juan Olmos, C (unranked on Royals Top 30)
Kansas City signed Olmos, ranked as the No. 25 talent in the international class, for $800,000 back in January; five months later, he opens his Minor League career with the DSL KC Stewart club. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound backstop has the size, athleticism and arm strength to be a good defensive catcher, and he has decent power from the right side to dream on as well. He grew up around the game -- his uncle is Royals scout Rafael Miranda -- and that could ease his transition to the pro side.
Twins: Brayan Medina, RHP (No. 12)
Medina began his professional career with the San Diego Padres, who gave him $700,000 to sign out of the DR in July 2019. He pitched his way from the Dominican Summer League to the Arizona Complex League last year, and clearly, the Twins took notice, acquiring him as the player to be named later in the deal that sent Taylor Rogers and Brent Rooker to San Diego. Medina has yet to pitch in '22, but he should make his first Minnesota contribution in the FCL.
Tigers: Cristian Santana, SS (No. 4)
Signed for $2.95 million in January 2021, Santana shot out of the gate with a .269/.421/.520 slash line, nine homers and 12 stolen bases over 54 games in the DSL last season. That production, and the belief that the 18-year-old shortstop could possess a future plus hit tool, allowed the Tigers to get aggressive with Santana to start '22 by sending him to Single-A Lakeland, but he struggled there with a .145/.305/.276 line in 22 games. This move back to the FCL is technically a rehab assignment for an undisclosed injury, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Tigers keep Santana in the Rookie-level circuit for a bit longer to regain his confidence.
Guardians: Angel Genao, SS (unranked on Guardians Top 30)
Part of the Guardians' seemingly endless supply of sweet-swinging middle infielders, Genao signed for $1.175 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2021. He's a switch-hitter who should stick at shortstop and has a high baseball IQ.
White Sox: Erick Hernandez, OF (unranked on White Sox Top 30)
In addition to signing Cuban slugger Oscar Colas for $2.7 million in January, the White Sox also landed Hernandez for $1 million. The New York City native is a quality hitter with 20-20 upside and a chance to stay in center field.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Astros: Carlos Espinosa, RHP (unranked on Astros Top 30)
The top pitcher in the Astros' 2021-22 international class, Espinosa signed for $480,000 out of Cuba in January. He sits at 93-96 mph with his fastball, backs it up with a hard slider and throws strikes.
Mariners: Gabriel Gonzalez, OF (No. 9)
Signed for $1.3 million in 2021, Gonzalez opened a lot of eyes in the Dominican Summer League last summer, using his plus bat speed to post an OPS of .892 in 54 games. Compact, athletic and strong, Gonzalez has brought his skills to the ACL in his first taste of competition in the United States. He probably best profiles in right field where his power potential should fit well.
Angels: Denzer Guzman, SS (No. 5)
When the 2020-21 international signing period opened in January 2021, the Angels wasted no time in adding Guzman, one of MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 international prospects in that signing class, for $2 million. While he put up modest numbers in the Dominican Summer League last year, the organization was pleased with how he handled the bat, as well as with his defensive actions at a premium position they believe he can play long term. Guzman has brought his tools stateside and hit the ground running, going 3-for-6 with three RBIs in his first two Arizona Complex League games.
A’s: Pedro Pineda, OF (No. 11)
The A’s signed Pineda for $2.5 million in January 2021 when the 2020-21 international signing period began. He got off to a solid start professionally last summer, playing his way from the Dominican Summer League to the United States and the Arizona Complex League. Oakland felt his advanced feel at the plate would help the 18-year old make the leap to full-season ball in '22, but after hitting just .188 over 42 games at Single-A, the organization decided to send him back to the ACL to regain his footing.
Rangers: Anthony Gutierrez, OF (No. 15)
Gutierrez originally planned on signing with the Nationals in 2023 before deciding not to wait and turning pro in January for $1,997,500. The Venezuelan trained at the same Dominican academy that spawned Eloy Jiménez, and he could develop into a more athletic version of the White Sox outfielder.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Mets: Simon Juan, OF (No. 13)
New York used more than one-third of its international signing pool to sign Juan to a $1.9 million bonus this past January. The Dominican Republic native provides a lot of intrigue with two above-average tools in his power and speed, and he should get a decent chance to stick in center field. A right-handed hitter, it could come down to his overall ability to make contact in determining just how dynamic a pro he can be.
Braves: Diego Benitez, SS (No. 18)
This was the first year the Braves were completely out of the international signing penalty box following their infractions. They jumped in with several high bonuses, none larger than the $2.5 million they gave to Benitez. Some have seen a little young Manny Machado in how he plays, with Benitez certainly having the chance to stick at shortstop, but with a potential offensive profile to fit at third if need be. He's just getting started now, playing his first professional games in the Dominican Summer League.
Phillies: Jordan Viars, OF/1B (No. 12)
Because he didn't play on the summer showcase circuit before his senior year of high school in Texas, Viars was a little bit of an unknown. A strong senior season put him on the radar a little bit more and the Phillies liked his left-handed power potential enough to take him in the third round of the 2021 Draft. Viars had a brief -- but fairly successful -- pro debut in the FCL last year and he's back in Florida, still only 18, continuing to work on his craft.
Nationals: Cristhian Vaquero, OF (No. 5)
Vaquero was ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 international prospect in his class, and he received a bonus of $4.925 million to match that evaluation. The 17-year-old outfielder is best known for his plus-plus speed and promising left-handed power, but all five of his tools have the potential to be above-average as he matures into his 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame. True to form, Vaquero opened 2-for-5 with a triple, double, three walks and a stolen base in his first two Dominican Summer League games.
Marlins: Yiddi Cappe, SS (No. 12)
The 6-foot-3 Cappe drew physical comparisons to a young Carlos Correa as a Cuban amateur and signed for $3.5 million in 2021. He's a right-handed hitter with plus raw power and arm strength and he still would profile well if he winds up moving to third base.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Pirates: Bubba Chandler, RHP/SS (No. 9)
There may not be a more intriguing prospect in a Complex League than Chandler, who not only drew interest on the mound and at shortstop, but also had the chance to play football in college had he decided to go that route. The Pirates went way over slot to sign him in the third round of the 2021 Draft for $3 million, and he got his feet wet briefly last summer as a hitter in the FCL. The plan is to let him both hit and pitch this summer back in the Complex League, while monitoring his progress on both fronts.
Reds: Ricardo Cabrera, SS (No. 20)
Cabrera was ranked No. 3 on the MLB Pipeline Top 50 international prospects list when the most recent international signing period opened in January of this year. The Reds gave him a $2.7 million bonus on January 15 to join the organization. Cincinnati thinks he has the chance to stay at shortstop long term, though he may develop enough of an offensive profile at third should he outgrow the position. That's a conversation for another day as he plays his first professional innings in the Dominican Summer League.
Brewers: Johan Barrios, SS (No. 28)
Milwaukee inked Barrios for $1.385 million -- just a little more than fellow shortstop Jhonny Severino -- back in January to make him their top international signing of the class. The 17-year-old has a compact swing that helps project for above-average power. He could add more strength as he ages, though it’s worth wondering how that will affect his 55-grade speed. The Brewers have separated Barrios and Severino on their two DSL affiliates in an attempt to get the two shortstops as much playing time as possible.
Cardinals: Jonathan Mejia, SS (No. 14)
Mejia checked in at No. 14 for the 2022 international class and signed for roughly $2 million back in January. The shortstop, who just turned 17 in April, shows good plate coverage as a switch-hitter and already has enough bat speed to project to be an above-average hitter. His arm gives him his second 55-grade tool, and that should help should he need to move off the six as he climbs toward St. Louis. Mejia opens, as expected, in the Dominican Summer League.
Cubs: Cristian Hernandez, SS (No. 2/MLB No. 81)
Hernandez elicited repeated physical comparisons to Alex Rodriguez and Manny Machado as an amateur in the Dominican Republic, and some scouts considered him the best player in the 2020-21 international class. Signed for $3 million in '21, he has a quick right-handed stroke along with plus raw power, speed and arm strength.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Jacob Steinmetz, RHP (No. 22)
Arizona selected Steinmetz in the third round out of a Long Island high school last year with two words in mind -- raw and projectable. The 6-foot-5 right-hander blossomed in his senior year to throw in the low-90s with his fastball and feature a high-spin, above-average curveball. He doesn’t turn 19 until July 19, and that age, along with his history as a cold-weather pitcher, plays into why the D-backs are taking the slow road with an ACL assignment in his first pro season.
Padres: Victor Acosta, SS (No. 10)
The organization that has Fernando Tatis Jr., CJ Abrams and Jackson Merrill on its shortstop depth chart has another big name at the position. Acosta -- a $1.8 million signee in January 2021 -- has the chance to be an above-average switch-hitter, thanks to his quick hands at the dish. He produced a .285/.431/.484 slash line with 22 extra-base hits and 26 steals in 56 games in the DSL last season. Acosta’s aggression at the plate could be challenged with his stateside move to the ACL, but there are plenty of pieces -- like his good speed -- for him to take off here as well.
Rockies: Dyan Jorge, SS (No. 18)
Because Jorge defected from Cuba so late in 2019, teams had used up most of their international bonus pool money for that signing period, so the young shortstop decided to wait until the following one. No. 15 on the MLB Pipeline Top 50, Jorge’s decision to wait paid off, as he got $2.8 million from the Rockies to sign last January, the organization's largest international bonus in history. Now 19, Jorge has gotten off to a strong start in the DSL, going 5-for-16 in his first four games.
Dodgers: Wilman Diaz, SS (No. 10)
The Dodgers grabbed the top-rated Venezuelan prospect in three consecutive amateur classes: Diego Cartaya in 2018, Luis Rodriguez in 2019 and Diaz in 2020-21. Diaz signed for $2,697,500 and has the tools to hit for power and average, along with plus speed and solid defensive ability at shortstop.
Giants: Ryan Reckley, SS (No. 24)
Part of a growing wave of talent coming out of the Bahamas, Reckley signed for $2.2 million in January. He's a switch-hitter who understands his swing and the strike zone, and he's also a plus runner with solid defensive tools at shortstop.