Top Prospects from South America

No major league graduates from the first top prospect list from South America last year. The top prospect Jorge Alfaro got more major league time and the 2018 season should see him as a regular major leaguer. The number two prospect Luz Gohara and the number five prospect Thyago Vieira, both flame throwers from Brazil made their major league debuts. Gohara got five starts for the Braves while Vieira made one relief appearance for the Mariners. After that the cupboard gets bare. Below are the top ten prospects in the minor leagues from South America for 2018.

1. Bo Bichette SS (Brazil/Blue Jays) - He played for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic qualifier. His mother is Brazilian and his father is Dante Bichette, once a Blake Street bomber for the Rockies. His brother Dante Jr. played briefly for the Yankees. Myworld saw him hit three homeruns in an exhibition game and thought he would be a star, but one game does not make a major leaguer, especially in spring training. Now Bo is trying for major league status. Last year was a breakout season for him hitting .384 in Low A and getting promoted to High A and hitting .323. His career minor league average is .372 after getting drafted in the second round in 2016. He does not have the power of his dad, but the batting average will play. Currently, shortstop is his position but there are many who think he does not have the range to play there in the major leagues. The dilemma: his teammate Vladimir Guerrero plays third while another player with major league bloodlines Cavan Biggio plays second. This year Bo is hitting .299 in AA. With Troy Tulowitski seeing his last days as a shortstop the Blue Jays will give Bo every opportunity to succeed at short.

2. Jorge Alfaro C (Colombia/Phillies) - Injuries delayed his permanent arrival to the major leagues. He was signed by the Texas Rangers and included in the deal that got the Rangers Cole Hamel. There is big time power in his bat and his arm has the strength to zip the ball to second base. Those are his strengths. One concern with his bat is his poor walk to whiff ratios (16/113 last year) which could lead to struggles against savvy major league pitchers. Last year he hit .318 with five homeruns in just 29 games to earn the starting catchers job. He lacks speed on the bases and is prone to the passed ball (12 last year), so those are his defensive deficiencies. This year his .235 average with the Phillies is evidence his poor patience could impact his batting average rising to .250 consistently in the major leagues. If the power is there he should stick as the starter.

3. Luiz Gohara LHP (Brazil/Braves) - Despite his ability to throw in triple digits the Mariners traded him to the Braves for Shae Simmons and Mallex Smith. There was concern with his doughy physique keeping him from his major league aspirations. Last year he got five starts for the Braves and overpowered hitters with his high 90s fastball. A lack of a quality third pitch resulted in major leaguers hitting him at a .283 clip. An injury in spring training prevented him from competing for a starting role for the Braves in 2018. His first three starts in AAA have been a struggle to find the plate walking seven hitters in just 12 innings with the opposition assaulting him at a .347 pace. That kind of production will delay any major league appearance until he can start retiring minor league hitters.

4. Jesus Luzardo LHP (Peru/Athletics) - Luzardo was born in Peru but attended high school in Florida. His high school Parkland was involved in a mass shooting and he has done a lot to help the school heal. The Nationals were able to draft him in the third round in 2016 because Tommy John surgery had dropped his draft status. He was one of the players they traded to the Athletics for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Last year he only pitched 43 innings but his lefthanded arm was able to sling fastballs across the plate in the mid-90s, resulting in 48 whiffs. At 6′1″ he is not a tall pitcher but his secondary pitches should augment his fastball. The Athletics promoted him from Rookie ball to High A where he only started three games before they promoted him to AA. A 1.23 ERA and 25 whiffs in just 14.2 innings was a reason for that. If he continues at this rate he could see some major league time in September, though that would be optimistic for the 20 year old.

5. Eric Pardinho RHP (Brazil/Blue Jays) - As a 15 year old he was pitching for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic qualifier. That motivated the Blue Jays to shell out $1.4 million to sign him in 2017. It’s possible Bo Bichette could have recommended him highly after playing behind him. At 5′9″ the righthander is very short. Despite the stature his fastball sits in the low 90s and can hit the mid-90s. He still needs to make improvements on his secondary pitches, though throwing strikes is not a problem. The 2018 season will be his first and it will start in the short season leagues.

6. Luis Escobar RHP (Colombia/Pirates) - Luis has climbed three spots from his ranking last year. The 2017 season was his first in full season ball where he went from 68 innings pitched to 132. A sizzling mid-90s fastball resulted in a lot of swings and misses (168 in 132 innings pitched) resulting in the South Atlantic League strikeout lead. His curveball has a nice break and his change is still in the development stage. Trying to find control of his pitches is his biggest downfall with 60 walks in 132 innings. This year he has started in the Florida State High A where his strikeout rate is not as prevalent (22 in 26 innings) but hitters still have trouble making hard contact (.213 average).

7. Meibrys Viloria C (Colombia/Royals) - Last year he was rated third based on his .376 batting average. The 2017 season saw him debut in Low A where he only hit .259. More strikeouts and less walks were the main culprit in the batting average drop. His power is more gap to gap but as he gets stronger he should reach double digits in homeruns. The arm is strong allowing him to gun down 40 percent of the runners who attempted to steal against him. The Royals have a number of catchers in the minor leagues rated ahead of him so his task will be to find that patience to replicate his 2016 season. After a slow start in High A he has gotten that average up to .250.

8. Oscar Mercado OF (Colombia/Cardinals) - Mercado was five years shy of being a teenager when he left Colombia for Florida. He was impressive enough at his high school the Cardinals drafted him in the second round of the 2013 draft. While a shortstop in his early years he struggled to generate any kind of offense. A move to centerfield last year put the pressure off him and he slugged a career high 13 homeruns with a .287 average. The speed is there to steal 40 bases each season. The Cardinals outfield is crowded but a .319 average in AAA is enough to draw attention to himself. If he can play centerfield and hit for double digits in homeruns he will be more than a fourth outfielder.

9. Thyago Vieira RHP (Brazil/White Sox) - The Mariners signed Thyago two years before they signed Luiz. But like Luiz they were not impressed with his triple digit fastball and traded him to the White Sox for international slot money when they had hopes of signing Shohei Ohtani. Lack of quality secondary pitches have kept him in the bullpen. He also lacks the swing and miss one would expect for his triple digit fastball (7.4 whiffs per nine innings). If he can find a breaking pitch to throw for strikes he could become closer material. His 2018 season in AAA has come with more whiffs (20 in 11 innings) but more walks (9) and a higher opponent batting average (.295).

10. Ronaldo Hernandez C (Colombia/Rays) - The third catcher from Colombia on this list. Myworld smells a trend. Ronaldo played on the 18 and under Colombian team as a 15 year old in 2013. The Rays signed him the next year for $225,000. All he has done since his arrival is hit, with a .326 minor league career average in his first three years, all in Rookie short season ball. Each year his slugging average increased, climbing to .507 last year. A strong arm resulted in a 57 percent success rate against runners trying to steal against him. This year he has made his debut in full season ball and is hitting .302 with a 17 percent success rate in gunning down runners. It is still early so there is plenty of time to change those numbers.

2017 South American Prospects

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