Top Ten Minor League Prospects from Mexico

There are not the number of prospects from Mexico as there are from other Caribbean countries. Major league teams have to negotiate with the Mexican League teams before a rostered player can appear in a major league camp. The Mexican League teams tend to identify the talented players in Mexico at a very young age and roster them. Very little of any bonus payment goes to the player but is pocketed by the Mexican League team. It is a system the Cubans would like to establish for their league to prevent the major leagues from poaching all of their top players without proper compensation.

Roberto Osuna was the number two prospect from this list last year. He jumped to the Blue Jays bullpen and was successful as their closer last year. He’ll have to battle Drew Storen in 2016 to keep the closer job. Daniel Castro got a little bit of major league time but not enough to lose his rookie eligibility. He returns to the list. Arnold Leon got 18 bullpen appearances for the Athletics and after the season was traded to the Blue Jays. He is getting up there in age to still be considered a prospect.

There are two players from this list who could be premium players. The others will find regular major league time a struggle. They should be happy with utility, fourth outfielder or back of bullpen roles if they should find themselves on a major league roster.

1. Julio Urias LHP (Dodgers) - Julio has superstar capability. He missed most of the beginning of last year for cosmetic eye surgery. The Dodgers wanted to limit his innings in 2015 but he ended up throwing less than he did in 2014. That couldn’t have been part of the plan. He’ll still be a teenager most of next year while he pitches in AA and will more than likely get a September callup. While his fastball hits the mid-90s but sits in the low 90s it is the change that separates his stuff from most lefthanders. It is a swing and miss pitch allowing him to strike out 10.7 hitters per nine innings in his minor league career. His curveball is also major league quality and like many Latin pitchers he uses various arm angles to confuse hitters. Julio made two appearances in AAA, struggling with his command and finishing with an 18.69 ERA. The Dodgers may start him in AA to give him every chance for success before they give him a second opportunity at AAA later in the season.

2. Manny Banuelos LHP (Braves) - Manny had some pretty impressive stuff as a teenager, but Tommy John surgery put a dent in his major league ambitions. The Braves are hoping the velocity on his fastball returns to the mid-90s, something he has not seen since his surgery. The break on his curveball and the separation of his change have also been impacted. Last year he made his major league debut and he got bounced around a bit. His walk to whiff ratio was not great in AAA (40/69) and it remained pretty pedestrian in his seven start callup (12/19). Getting a little more velocity to his fastball could change that. The Braves are loaded with pitchers ready for the major leagues. At 25, the Braves can not wait too long for Banuelos to find his stuff before they turn to another arm for success. Manny could end up being trade bait before the year is out if he can’t squeeze himself into the Braves starting rotation.

3. Fernando Perez 2B (Padres) - Fernando was born in Mexico but attended high school in the United States, selected by the Padres in the third round of the 2012 draft. In 2014 he showed some power, slugging 18 homeruns with a .454 slugging percentage. He did not replicate those numbers last year, dropping down to 10 homeruns with a .352 slugging average. His average also dropped 60 points to .224. Fernando lacks speed and is not noted for his defensive chops so he needs to hit to have an impact in the major leagues. The Padres could have him repeat the California League, normally a hitters haven, or if he has a good spring jump him up to AA.

4. Daniel Castro SS (Braves) - Daniel made his major league debut last year, hitting .240 in 100 major league at bats. His best bet is to fill a utility role for the Braves. His defense at all three infield positions is solid and his bat has been potent at some levels, hitting .389 in AA in less than 100 at bats last year. The power is lacking but he makes good contact not to be an automatic out when in the lineup. His minor league seasons have not been filled with stolen bases, but he has enough speed in his legs to take the extra base on hits. Expect him to make the Braves roster this year in a utility role, getting more use at shortstop with the departure of Andrelton Simmons and the older legs of Eric Aybar.

5, Luis Heredia RHP (Pirates) - A couple years ago Luis was on top of this list, signed as a big 6′5″ 16 year old lefty. He has not progressed as quickly as the Pirates anticipated. At 21 years of age he still has plenty of time to find himself. Last year in the High A Florida State League his ERA was at 5.44, not what you want to see from a pitcher. A 44/54 walk to whiff ratio is troubling and giving up 105 hits in just 86 innings does not bode well. His fastball is not overpowering and his command allows too much barrel of the bat on ball contact. The last four years the Pirates have seen his ERA rise with his WHIP being a horrendous 1.73. The Pirates will need to see some improvement to keep him on the roster next season.

6. Luis Cessa RHP (Tigers) - The Tigers acquired Cessa from the Mets in the Yoenis Cespedes trade. Michael Fulmer was the big attraction for the Tigers but Luis has some potential. He was originally signed as a shortstop by the Mets in 2008 but moved to the mound after two failed years as a hitter. His fastball is not overpowering, sitting in the low 90s but he has excellent command of his pitches. With pedestrian stuff he may best fit in the back of the bullpen or as a fifth starter, but he may lack the secondary stuff to have success with a lineup the second time they see him.

7. Arnold Leon RHP (Blue Jays) - Arnold also made his major league debut last year, pitching 19 games in relief. The Athletics traded him to the Blue Jays where he will provide depth at the back end of the bullpen. As a reliever his fastball can hit the mid-90s more so than as a starter. He also throws a slow curveball, slider and change to give hitters different looks. At 26 years of age Arnold is at the precipice between being a journeyman and making the back end of a major league bullpen.

8. Jose Urena OF (Padres) - Jose played with Roberto Osuna on the 16 and under team for Mexico that lost to the United States in the Pan American championship in 2010. The Padres signed him from the Mexico City Red Devils in 2011 for $550,000. His first couple years Jose has had trouble making contact. He had a little breakout season last year, walking 47 times with seven homeruns and 45 RBIs in the short season league. That kind of production should give Jose an opportunity to make his full season debut next year. There is very little speed in his legs which makes his outfield defense below average, meaning if he is going to make an impact in the major leagues Jose will need to draw on that power more consistently.

9. Leo Heras OF (Astros) - Leo was the secondary player the Astros signed out of Mexico with Japhet Amador. Amador was the big slugger who eventually went back to Mexico and this year signed a contract to play in Japan. Leo was the deer who flew around the bases showing off better overall tools Than Japhet allowing him to get a longer look. Leo needs to learn to hit for a higher average to take advantage of his speed. Last year he stole 13 bases in 14 attempts but he only hit .239 with a .325 OBA. In the Mexican League he has shown a bit of power slugging over .500. That does not translate in the United States where his career slugging average is .364. Leo lacks the instincts to be a centerfielder so to be more than a fourth outfielder in the major leagues he will need to generate a little more power. A better year for average could see him get a September callup, if the Astros can find the 40 man roster space.
10. Artie Reyes RHP (Cardinals) - At 5′11″ he lacks a pitcher’s body. His fastball is not overpowering, sitting in the low 90s and his secondary stuff lacks a real put away pitch. Last year he got 17 starts, crafting a 2.64 ERA for AA by forcing hitters to beat the ball into the dirt. When promoted to AAA Memphis he was a little more hittable, going from a .255 opposition average to .340. At this point the best Artie can hope for is a back end of the rotation slot or a bullpen role. His height and lack of velocity will always make it a challenge for him to reach the major leagues.

2015 Top Ten Prospects from Mexico

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