Top Prospects from Colombia

Myworld was going to do the top prospects from the Bahamas but they haven’t changed much from last year. You can go to the 2019 list to find the players. Some of the rankings may have changed, but we are not too excited about regurgitating the same information on the players.

So we’ll take a look at Colombia. Three players have graduated from last year’s list, Meibys Viloria, Oscar Mercado and Harold Ramirez, who were rated 4-6 in the rankings. Viloria will probably always be a backup catcher, Mercado had a good year but has the tools of a fourth outfielder and Ramirez had a surprising year but he will probably also end up as a fourth outfielder. The top two prospects from this year’s list have switched places, but they may be the only two who have a major league impact. Below are the top ten prospects from Colombia.

1. Luis Patino RHP (Padres) - The big fear with Patino is his small frame. He stands only 6′0″ but he touches the high 90s with his fastball. Last year he was number 2 on the list. He signed with the Padres in 2016, as many players on this list. He had a dominating year last year in High A, limiting the opposition to a .192 average with 11.7 whiffs per nine innings. The only pitcher better than him in the Padres minor league system is MacKenzie Gore. The pitch that gets most of the swings and misses for Luis is his slider. He still needs to improve his change if he wants to remain in the starting rotation. His year got him two starts in AA where he was a little more hittable (.258) but his ERA was excellent (1.17) and he still struck out 11.7 hitters per nine innings. Next year he should start at AA and could be in the Padres rotation in 2021.

2. Ronaldo Hernandez C (Rays) - Colombia has been starting to develop catchers, though Jorge Alfaro appears to be the only starter. Ronaldo could join Alfaro in that starting capacity. Ronaldo signed in 2014. He has good power potential hitting 21 homers in 2018 in Low A. That number dropped to nine last year in the Florida State League. He also seemed to have lost his patience at the plate with his walk to whiff ratio going from 31/69 to 17/65. This also resulted in a 20 point drop in average. The arm is strong to slow down a running game, but his defensive skills need to improve otherwise he becomes a Francisco Mejia. Next year Hernandez should start in AA. The Rays really have no one in their system to prevent him from becoming their starting catcher in 2021, unless they trade for one. Mike Zunino will not hold him back.

3. Jhon Torres OF (Cardinals) - The Cardinals are crowded in the outfield. Ironic that Torres was traded to the Cardinals from the Indians for another Colombian outfielder Oscar Mercado, probably the first trade in major league history that involved two Colombian outfielders getting traded for each other. Torres was signed in 2016. The 2019 season was his first season in full season ball but he struggled at Low A, hitting just .167. His bat came alive when he was demoted to Rookie ball, with 6 homeruns and a .527 slugging average. He turns 20 this year so the Cardinals still have some time to develop him, but he needs to have success in Low A and perhaps get promoted to High A before the season ends, depending on what kind of season the minor leagues has, in order to stay a prospect. At 6′4″ Jhon has the look of a rightfielder who can hit the ball a long ways, but he has to show more patience at the plate. As he rises up the minors higher level pitchers will get him out with their pitches.

4. Jordan Diaz 3B (Athletics) - Diaz will still be a teenager if the baseball season starts this year. He signed in 2016 and was playing in Rookie ball as a 16 year old. The 2020 season should be his first year in full season ball. Last year Jordan showed some power in his bat, slugging 9 homeruns, eight more than he hit his first two years. Jordan hits the ball hard and should develop power once he shows improved patience at the plate. Last year he had an 18/46 walk to whiff ratio. He showed enough with the bat that he should start the season next year in Low A. His glove is solid for third base. Matt Chapman should be ready for free agency once Jordan shows the skills needed to play third base in the major leagues. The Athletics don’t mind waiting, getting as much production from Chapman while Diaz matriculates in the minor leagues.

5. Santiago Florez RHP (Pirates) - Santiago is the fourth 2016 signing from this list. Florez stands 6′5″ with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s. His big issue is finding the plate. Despite the heat he has yet to strike out more than a hitter per inning in his three rookie league seasons, but he is still a teenager. His secondary pitches also need a lot of work if he wants to remain in the starting rotation. Last year was his best season ERA wise (3.46) and strikeouts per nine innings (7.8). The full season league awaits him for the 2020 season.

6. Brayan Buelvas OF (Athletics) - A second Athletic on this list, Brayan was a recent signing (2019). At 17 years of age he made his debut in the Rookie Leagues hitting .282 with three homeruns. Right now speed appears to be his best tool as evidenced by his eight triples and 16 stolen bases. This should allow him to stay in centerfield, where his lack of power makes him more valuable. His arm is average so if he fails to make it as a centerfielder left field may be a better option for him, a position teams normally look for a power hitter to man. At 155 pounds the Athletics hope he will bulk up to hit for a little more power. Next year he should see his first playing time in the full season leagues with a major league time estimated at least 2023.

7. Fabian Pertuz SS (Cubs) - Considering the kind of impact Edgar Renteria had for Colombians it is a surprise Fabian is the first shortstop on this list. The Cubs signed him in 2017. He has shown mainly gap power exercising the strength of his speed to take the extra base. In his first year he legged out six triples and stole 36 bases. Last year those speed numbers dropped to one triple and 9 stolen bases. He lacks burner speed which could limit his range at short. In 2018 he accumulated more walks than whiffs (38/32). The 2019 saw him walk 9 times with 46 whiffs. His average did go from .298 in the Dominican Summer League to .340 in the Arizona Rookie League. Next year he should make his full season debut. He is still a long way from making a major league contribution.

8. Luis Escobar RHP (Pirates) - Luis signed in 2013, originally signing as a third baseman. The Pirates moved him to the mound where he progressed to third on this list last year. He throws his fastball in the mid-90s but sometimes has trouble throwing it for strikes. Last year he walked 32 hitters in his 55 innings. The Pirates pitching staff was poor enough last year that they did promote him for four minor league games in the bullpen, but it was a nightmarish debut. He surrendered 10 hits in 5.2 innings and walked four, leaving him with a 7.94 ERA. He has a curve and change, but his future lies in the pen where his average stuff will work as a bridge to the setup man and then the closer. He should start the season in AAA and may see more appearances in the major leagues depending on his success.

9. Reiver San Martin LHP (Reds) - Reiver was originally signed by the Rangers in 2015. The Reds acquired him from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray trade. The fastball will not impress anyone. His definition is the crafty lefthander, with the change his best pitch. Without a dominating pitch he needs to locate his pitches to be effective and he has trouble accomplishing that. His pitches do keep the ball on the ground, but last year he gave up a career high 11 homeruns. While a starter in the minors his future may be as a reliever who comes in to face two of three lefty hitters in the lineup. He had some success in 12 starts last year in AA so it would not surprise me to see him start the 2020 season in AAA with possibly a major league callup before the year is out.

10. Ezequil Zabaleta RHP (Mets) - Ezequil put up good numbers in Low A last year (1.69 ERA) with a 2/22 walk to whiff ratio in 21 innings. He gave up more homeruns (3) than walks. The Mets signed him in 2015. The last two years he has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. He is listed on the Colombian World Baseball Classic roster and the Colombian national team. That is about all myworld knows about him, but we had to find a tenth.

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