Prospect spotlight: De Leon emulates Lindor

June 12th, 2021

Over the past several years, the Orioles have worked to stockpile prospects via the Draft, international signings and trades, bolstering their Minor League system into one of the sport’s best. These days, Baltimore’s system sports headliners like Adley Rutschman but also considerable depth, in the form of exciting players who have the chance to grow into the club’s Top 30 rankings -- and impact big leaguers -- in the near future.

Consider it the result of Baltimore’s expanding efforts in the international market, after years of eschewing Latin America under previous regimes. All summer at and MLB Pipeline, we’ll be spotlighting these prospects, many of whom are on the verge of beginning their professional careers in earnest.

In this installment, meet infielder Isaac De Leon:

Age: 19
DOB: 11/7/2001
Hometown: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 210 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Position: SS/3B
Prospect ranking: Unranked
MLB ETA: 2025
MLB comp: Erik Gonzalez

What’s his backstory?
A natural shortstop, De Leon plays with his hair dyed bleach blonde in honor of his idol -- Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor. Growing up in the baseball hotbed of Boca Chica, De Leon marveled at the ease Lindor brought to the game, his obvious talent and the positive energy he showed on the field every day.

“He’s the player I really imitate, and [I] try to emulate everything I see from him as well,” De Leon said through Orioles team translator Ramón Alarcón. “He looks happy. He looks like he’s having fun. Regardless of what’s going on, he looks like he’s in a good mood. And he makes great plays.”

Furthermore, Lindor can hit. That has always been De Leon’s favorite part of the game, since he first grew enamored with baseball at the age of 7. He began training seriously in his early teens, and then at 16 -- boom! A growth spurt made De Leon one of the more sought-after prospects in the 2018-19 international signing class. Now the possibility of reaching the Majors comes with an added perk: the chance to potentially meet and compete against Lindor.

“I have not had the opportunity to meet him yet, but I would love for an opportunity like that,” De Leon said. “I would most definitely like to compete against him. You definitely want to compete against the very best, and I believe he's one of the very best.”

What are his tools? (20-80 grading scale)
Hit: 40
Power: 45
Run: 40
Arm: 50
Field: 50
Overall: 40

Scouting report
De Leon was one of the 2018-19 international class' earliest seven-figure commits before that original deal fell through and he signed for $275,000 with the Marlins. Miami sent him to the Dominican Summer League, where he hit .256 with 13 doubles and more walks (38) than strikeouts (36) as a 17-year-old in 2019. Tall and lanky in his mid-teens, De Leon has filled out significantly in the two years since signing, adding several inches and upwards of 40 pounds to his frame. The Orioles acquired him in August 2020 as the player to be named later in the Richard Bleier deal.

De Leon is already on the bigger side for shortstop, but he moves well and shows excellent hands and a strong arm, leading some to believe he can remain at the position long term. If not, De Leon is athletic enough to play anywhere on the infield, with third base the most likely profile due to his throwing ability and flashes of raw power. As with many young players, the question offensively is whether he will be able to refine his approach and hit consistently in game action.

De Leon’s DSL experience gives him an edge over many newer international signs, who didn’t play competitively last season due to the pandemic. Still, this year will be important for his offensive development after more than a year away from competitive at-bats. If he continues to fill out and can refine his approach, De Leon has a chance to reach the big leagues down the road as a utility player with some right-handed power.

How did he arrive in the organization?
The Orioles swung five deals during the 2020 season, stockpiling nine prospects in trades for veterans Mychal Givens, Tommy Milone, Miguel Castro, Hector Velázquez and Bleier. The Marlins were surprise contenders looking for bullpen help when they targeted Bleier, who spent parts of the past four seasons as one of Baltimore’s most reliable relievers. The O’s announced they’d acquired De Leon as the trade’s PTBNL on Sept. 18, 2020.

“I was very surprised,” De Leon said. “It was something I was not expecting. Thankfully, since I was very little, I was taught you play the game hard no matter what.”

What are they saying about him?
“When we saw Xander Bogaerts as a kid, we thought he would move over to third base. And he’s doing fine. People were trying to move Jhonny Peralta over his whole career, and he played short for 15 years. … I don’t know if De Leon will be a shortstop at the end. By the time he’s 24 or 25 he might be too big and strong.” -- O’s international scouting director Koby Perez

2021 outlook
The pandemic delayed De Leon’s timeline, though he did participate in minicamp at the Orioles’ Dominican academy and extended spring training in 2021. The plan now is for De Leon to debut for one of their two Gulf Coast League teams this summer, a natural progression given the full year of DSL action under his belt.

“Turning pro, I learned that with signing that first contract brings more responsibilities,” De Leon said. “You have to be accountable for the good and the bad. That’s something I definitely learned: You need to be a professional on and off the field. With the Orioles, I’ve learned to control my emotions. I’ve learned how to not let them get the best of me and to focus on the main goal.”