The 2016 group of prospects did a better job of making the major leagues last year. The number one prospect Orlando Arcia earned the starting shortstop job for the Brewers to begin the season. The number two prospect Wilson Contreras saw significant playing time behind the plate and in the outfield by mid season. The number four prospect Jose Peraza earned playing time at second base for the rebuilding Reds. With all that success new players will fit the bill. Below are the top Venezuelan prospects in the National League, some of them already getting enough playing time in the major leagues this year not to be eligible for this list next year.
Below is the list of National League top prospects from Venezuela:
1. Anderson Espinoza RHP (Padres) - Injuries have delayed the start to his 2017 season. Last year he pitched in Low A and had some success, though his ERA was at 4.49 and his whiff rate was below one per inning. The opposition hit him at a .276 clip. Someone with his mid-90s fastball and top of the class change should put up better numbers at Low A, though he was one of the youngest players in the league. The Red Sox signed him in 2014 for $1.8 million then traded him to the Padres for Drew Pomeranz. Missing a full year could have an impact in his development, especially as he tries to develop a work load that will allow him to pitch 200 innings in the major leagues. At 6′0″ he draws comparisons to Pedro Martinez and Yordano Ventura, with the potential to be a top shelf starter. If his small stature makes it difficult for him to stay healthy he could always move to the bullpen as a closer.
2. Kevin Maitan SS (Braves) - It is unusual for a 2016 international signing to find himself on top 100 prospect lists. That is the case for Maitan, but the $4.2 million the Braves shelled out for him could have had an influence. Maitan did not play last year and at 17 years of age had to wait until July for the Rookie Leagues to begin to make his debut. His .302 batting average in minimal at bats (43) validates the Braves faith in his offense. Power should develop as he matures. Maitan has the tools to play short, but if he physically matures he has the bat to move to third base.
3. German Marquez RHP (Rockies) - The Rays signed German in 2011 for $225,000. The Rockies acquired Marquez in the Chris Dickerson trade. Last year he made his major league debut. This year he has cemented himself in the Rockies rotation after two starts in AAA. The fastball hits the mid 90s and his curve ball is considered above average. The change will need to develop more consistency if he hopes to stick in the rotation. Currently he has a 4.34 ERA after 15 starts with the Rockies. His .276 opponent batting average is influenced by the High Colorado air. Staying in the rotation will require improved consistency.
4. Ronald Acuna OF (Braves) - Acuna signed for only $100,000 in 2014. Despite his young age the Braves are speeding him through their minor league clubs. This year he has played at three levels despite his 19 years of age, currently at AAA where he is hitting .250 with two homeruns in his first six games. All the tools are there with the speed to play defense in center and the arm for right. He should hit for both average and power as he matures. His strikeout numbers are up this year but he appears to have improved his stolen base numbers with a career high 33 in just 91 games. In his first two years he stole 30 bases. It would not surprise my world to see Acuna get a September callup. The biggest comp for Acuna is Andrew Jones. Expect him to have an impact in 2018.
5. Elias Diaz C (Pirates) - The Pirates signed Diaz in 2008. Last year he made his major league debut as a September callup. This year he returned to the major league team after injuries to their catchers. Nobody questions his defense. Elias has a strong arm with good mobility behind the plate. The big question mark with him is his inability to hit major league pitching. The Pirates turned to Elias once injuries decimated the catching staff. After a hot start his average has dropped to .266. If he can show a decent bat he should at least make it as a back up in the major leagues.
6. Antonio Senzatela RHP (Rockies) - Another Rockie pitcher. Antonio signed in 2011. He was limited to seven starts because of a shoulder problem. That did not stop the Rockies from promoting him to the major leagues after only one start in AAA. Last year he only pitched 35 innings. The previous year he threw a career high of 154 innings. This year he has already gone over 100 innings with a 4.57 ERA, not bad when half of your games are played in Colorado. Antonio has a low 90s fastball with excellent command. In between he can throw a slider, curve and change.
7. Luis Torrens C (Padres) - The Yankees like to sign catchers with offensive potential but limited on defense, as evidence by Gary Sanchez and Jesus Montero. Luis was considered the better defensive catcher early in his career, one of the reasons the Yankees signed Torres for $1.3 million. Injuries have limited his ascent up the minor league ladder with 62 games in 2014 his minor league career high. The Padres acquired him in the Rule V draft and despite never getting past Low A kept him on the major league roster. Luis is hitting .188 with a .225 slugging in limited playing time. At 20 years of age he is young enough to develop in the minor leagues next year.
8. Jose Martinez OF (Cardinals) - Jose Martinez is a hitting machine. In 2015 he combined for a .382 average. Last year he slipped to .278 but made his major league debut, hitting .438 in 12 games. The Royals traded him to the Cardinals mid season and this year Jose has spent most of the year on the major league club as a fourth outfielder. He is best suited for left field defensively but lacks the power for the position. The Cardinals have been using him at first and the two corners. Expect him to stick in the major leagues as a fourth outfielder/pinch hitter.
9. Andres Gimenez SS (Mets) - The Mets signed Andres in 2015 for $1.2 million. With Amed Rosario a couple levels ahead of him second base may be his best position. Gimenez does not have a lot of power but the tools are there for him to play shortstop. This year in Low A he is making his domestic debut, having played in the Dominican Summer League last year. A .274 average with a .676 OPS shows his offensive limitations. The Mets have a bevy of depth in the minor leagues at shortstop so the Mets will be patient with him as he rises up the minor leagues.
10. Ricardo Sanchez LHP (Braves) - The Braves acquired Ricardo from the Angels for Kyle Kubitza. For a lefthander he has good velocity on his fastball throwing in the mid-90s. Command is the area that results in his ERA rising above 5 and the opposition hitting .296 against him. At 5′11 he is not a big guy, but lefthanders under 6′0″ have a better opportunity to survive as a starter.