Top Ten Prospects from Venezuela - American League

Venezuela has been overtaken by the Dominican Republic and even Cuba in the number of quality prospects in baseball. The political situation there has made major league scouts reluctant to travel to Venezuela. This forces Venezuelan prospects to travel to the Dominican Republic or other countries to be seen. The top ten from the American League list in 2017 did not have any top ten prospects graduate and become ineligible for the list this year. Franklin Barreto is the only player who saw significant time in the majors. Anthony Santander was a Rule V pick but did not stay healthy enough to lose his rookie status. Myworld put this list together before the season started so Gleyber Torres will obviously graduate from this list after this year. Below are the top ten prospects from Venezuela playing in the American League before the start of the 2018 season.

1. Gleyber Torres SS/3B/2B (Yankees) - Tommy John surgery last year prevented him from making his major league debut. It did not take long into the 2018 season before the Yankees called him up to fill a hole at second. He has performed well enough (.294, 10, 28) that he should stay with the Yankees all year and compete for the rookie of the year award. Last year he was number one on this list. Didi Gregorius at short and the performance of Miguel Andujar at third forces Gleyber to make his home at second base. He should hit over .300 and be a 20 plus homerun hitter in the major leagues.

2. Franklin Perez (RHP) Tigers - Franklin Perez was acquired from the Astros in the Justin Verlander deal. A right lat strain during spring training this year has delayed his season. It was expected he would miss three months but the Tigers will be patient with him. He has a fastball that hits the mid-90s but what separates him from the other pitchers with mid-90s fastballs is his control and a quality curve that freezes hitters anticipating the fastball. His change is also a pitch he can use to keep him in the starting rotation. Last year the strikeout numbers were not there, falling below a strikeout per inning. In high A he was tough to hit (.191) but in AA he was less of a mystery (.266). Expect some time in rehab at perhaps Low A or a rookie league before the Tigers assign him to their AA team.

3. Franklin Barreto (SS/2B) Athletics - The Athletics seem to like Marcus Semien as their shortstop and Jed Lowrie is having a career year playing second so Franklin will have to show even more patience this year before earning a starting spot in the major leagues. He was acquired from the Blue Jays back in 2014 in the Josh Donaldson trade. Last year he made his major league debut, getting 71 at bats but only hitting .197. This year he got a brief 6 at bat callup and did not get a hit. During his major league time his strikeout rate is above 40 percent. He shows some power with 15 homeruns last year, but his struggles making contact leave him as a question mark if that power can present itself in the major leagues. Last year he played most of his games at shortstop and committed 18 errors in 83 games. This year he is playing more at second base. He will have to wait until Jed Lowrie cools down before seeing significant major league time this year.

4. Kevin Maitan (SS/3B) Angels - Last year he was number two on the National League list. The Braves lost him to the Angels when he was declared a free agent after the Braves were found violating the international salary cap rule. At one time he was considered the top international prospect in baseball. He has grown heavier in the lower half since, turning into a Carlos Baerga type build which has lowered his prospect status. Many feel he no longer has the range to play short. Last year he made his stateside debut in the rookie leagues as a 17 year old. The reviews were mixed, but with a new organization he gets a fresh start. The Angels will start him in the Rookie Leagues once they get started at the end of the month. Where they put him will define his role.

5. Jairo Solis (RHP) Astros - The Astros signed Solis in 2016 for $450,000. His fastball has shown increased velocity since the signing, hitting 96 but sitting in the low 90s. At 6′2″ and only 160 he should gain some more velo as his 18 year old frame fills out. Last year he missed a lot of bats with an above average slider and change, striking out 10.1 hitters per nine innings in rookie ball. After some time in extended spring he was given an opportunity to pitch at Low A but in his first start retired only one batter. His second start he went five innings. He has yet to strikeout a hitter and walked five. If he continues his early season struggles the Astros may return him to the Rookie Leagues to give him some confidence.

6. Brusdar Graterol (RHP) Twins - Signed at 16 for $150,000 in 2014 he had to have Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of the 2016 season. He returned last year and his fastball jumped almost 10 miles per hour after his surgery, hitting the mid-90s and reaching triple digits. Quality breaking pitches and good command have changed his prospect status and he has jumped ahead of Fernando Romero as having the best fastball in the Twins organization. His second year after Tommy John he is dominating at Low A (1.95 ERA) striking out more than 11 hitters per nine innings and limiting the opposition to a .192 average. Expect a promotion to High A after the All star break.

7. Thairo Estrada SS (Yankees) - A gunshot wound to the hip in Venezuela delayed the start of his season. He played eight games at AAA after a rehab in the Florida State League and only hit .152. The Yankees put him back on the disabled list in early May and he has not returned. Last year in AA he hit .301 and played a smooth shortstop. His bat carries little power but he makes good contact. The tools fall short for him to make it as a starter, but he could be used as a utility player.

8. Yohander Mendez (LHP) Rangers - Last year he was number three on the list. His fastball is not overpowering and his breaking pitches are below average. What he possesses is a quality change that makes his fastball look livelier. Last year in the major leagues he got seven relief appearances and was hit pretty hard, with not a lot of swings and misses. With only two pitches this may end up his role in the majors. This year he has returned to the rotation in AAA with less than stellar results. Hitters are hitting .294 against him and his strikeouts are not there. This did not prevent the Rangers from recently promoting him and using him in the bullpen. If he is going to make the starting rotation he must improve on one of his breaking pitches (slider or curve).

9. Samir Duenez (1B) Royals - Last year Samir broke out for power with 17 homeruns. The Royals signed him way back in 2012 and have been waiting for that. He won’t turn 22 until June 11 so there is still time for Samir to develop. While he is not fast he is excellent at running the bases, collecting 26 stolen bases in 2016. This year the Royals are having him repeat AA where his power has ticked up a little bit with five homeruns and a .451 slugging. His defense is not gold glove but it is adequate to fill the position. With Lucas Duda at first the Royals do not have a quality first baseman preventing him from getting a major league callup in September. The Royals 2017 first round pick Nick Pratto may prevent him from keeping that position long.

10. Carlos Hernandez (RHP) Royals - The Royals only spent $15,000 to sign him last year because he was 19 years old. At 6′4″ he had a nice pitcher’s frame and could whip the ball across the plate in the mid-90s. His breaking pitch was below average and he did not have much of a change but the Royals saw some future in his arm. Last year in rookie ball he struggled (5.49 ERA). Promoted to full season ball this year his numbers have gotten better (4.03 ERA). He just needs innings to improve on his pitches.

2017 Top Venezuelan Prospects in the American League

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