Top Venezuelan Prospects - National League

While the American League Venezuelan prospects were dominated by shortstops the National League is filled with catchers. No player from the list last year graduated. Five players from the list last year dropped out, including Anderson Espinosa, a pitcher who has not been on the mound in two years because of arm injuries. Francisco Morales dropped from the list when Brusdar Graterol was traded to the National League. His addition gave the Dodgers four players on this list.

1. Keibert Ruiz C (Dodgers) - The Dodgers seem to be loaded at this position with rookie Will Smith winning the catching job last year. The Dodgers also have Diego Cartaya rising up the ranks. Keibert was signed back in 2014 for $140,000. A finger injury limited his season to 85 games, but he did see nine games in AAA. He does not show as much power as Smith, but his hitting tool and ability to make contact could be better. Last year he had a 30/22 walk to hit ratio with a .261 average. His defensive tools may be a tick above that of Smith, but it will be a tough decision for the Dodgers to make once Ruiz is ready. The 2020 season will see him play in AAA and called up if a long term injury should happen to Smith. It would hurt his development time if he stayed on the major league roster long term as a back up.

2. Brusdar Graterol RHP (Dodgers) - The Red Sox may not have wanted him because his arm did not allow him to be a starter, but the Dodgers were happy with his triple digit velocity to groom him as a closer. He did miss a year in 2016 because of Tommy John surgery. He also needs to work on his conditioning, standing at just 6′1″ but weighing in at 261 pounds. The bullpen was probably his ultimate destination since he only had two quality pitches (fastball and slider) when the trade was made. He did have a nice year at AA last year (6-0, 1.71 ERA) but his strikeout numbers were a little disappointing (50 in 52 innings) for a pitcher with his velocity. The Twins used him in the bullpen late in the season but he got hit for a .278 average. He should squeeze into the Dodgers bullpen at some point in 2020. The Twins got a bargain when they signed him, only paying him $150,000 in 2015.

3. Francisco Alvarez C (Mets) - The Mets spent $2.7 million to sign Francisco in 2018. Last year he made his debut stateside as a 17 year old catcher in the Rookie League. He held his own, hitting .312 with seven homeruns and a .510 slugging average. Further polishing of his defensive tools is needed, but he has a good tool set to work with. His arm is strong and he moves well behind the plate. He might need to watch his weight to make sure it does not go further north of his 220 pounds. His bat is impressive and should carry some power, making him a potential two way player that can hit for average and power while playing good defense. He could see a full season league in 2020 but at 18 years of age the Mets could have him start in the Rookie League.

4. Andres Gimenez SS (Mets) - Andres is currently blocked by Amed Rosario. His glove is top notch, highly superior to Rosario. The Mets were so impressed they signed him for $1.2 million in 2015. The bat could be a question mark. Last year he reached AA and hit just .250 with a .309 OBA. He did hit a career high 9 homeruns but a 24/102 walk to whiff ratio are cause for concern. The speed is there for him to steal 20 plus bases per year. With his speed and quality defense he should eventually make it as a utility infielder, or be used as trade bait for the Mets to acquire a veteran to use in a playoff run. Eventually, the Mets could decide to move Rosario to centerfield. In the meantime, Gimenez will bide his 2020 season at AAA being used at both middle infield positions.

5. Luis Matos OF (Giants) - No relation to the Luis Matos from Puerto Rico who played for the Orioles. The Giants found this Matos in Venezuela and signed him for $2.6 million in 2018. He has average to above average tools in all categories. Power may be his weakest area, but he did slug .566 sharing time at the Dominican Summer League and the Arizona Rookie League. The speed is there for him to fit in center and the arm is strong enough for him to slide over to right. He does have a couple cousins who play the game (Luis Basabe and Osleivis Basabe) so his baseball IQ is sharp. At 18 years of age, the Giants will start him in rookie ball if there is a 2020 season.

6. Diego Cartaya C (Dodgers) - Another talented Dodger catcher who they signed for a $2.5 million bonus in 2018. He played for a number of Venezuelan junior national teams in international tournaments. His bat carries some pretty good power and in his 36 game trial in the rookie league he hit .296. The arm is strong and the tools appear to be there to be a quality catcher. He will play the entire 2020 season as a teenager so the Dodgers have plenty of time to develop him. Another year in Rookie ball with a possible promotion to Low A is a possibility for 2020.

7. William Contreras C (Braves) - William is the younger brother of Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras. At one point he was considered the Braves catcher of the future, but then Shea Langeliers was drafted in the first round in 2019 and Contreras has some competition. Like his older brother Contreras has average to above average tools in all areas but speed. His foot speed is below average. His defense falls short of Langeliers but offensively he could carry more pop. Last year he hit only six homeruns and slugged less than .400 so it was a disappointment for him on the power side. In 2018 he bashed 11 homeruns in Low A and had a slugging percentage of .463. Numbers wise he will probably fall short of his older brother but he has a chance to be a starting catcher. Even though he played 60 games last year at AA, he may have to repeat that level to start the 2020 season.

8. Gabriel Arias SS (Padres) - The Padres whipped out a $1.9 million bonus to sign Gabriel in 2016. He is probably a smoother fielder than Fernando Tatis Jr. but he may never fill his position, unless Tatis moves to third. Arias has a strong arm and smooth fielding actions that garner Gold Glove accolades. His speed is not great, but his actions are quick and smooth. Last year the bat was pretty impressive. He hit .302 with 17 homeruns playing at a hitters park at High A (Lake Elsinore). He has trouble recognizing breaking balls and in 2018 only hit .240 in a pitcher’s park. In 2019 he cut down his whiff rate, which allowed him to hit for a better average. He still had a poor 25/128 walk to whiff ratio. The 2020 season will see him start at AA.

9. Luis Rodriguez OF (Dodgers) - Not much is known about Luis other than the Dodgers spent $2.7 million to sign him in 2019. He did not play last year. His bat is impressive, with the ability to hit the ball to all fields, finding the elevation to carry balls over the fence. The speed is there for him to play centerfield and he has the arm where he could slide easily to right and be an above average fielder there. He will turn 18 in September so there is plenty of growth ahead. The Dodgers may start him in the Dominican Summer League and move him to the rookie leagues once the short season starts.

10. Andy Lara RHP (Nationals) - The Nationals signed Lara for $1.2 million in 2019. He stands 6′4″ so he has a good frame for a pitcher. He will start the 2020 season as a 17 year old. He has yet to play in the minor leagues. At 16, when most are going through their sophomore year in high school Andy was throwing his fastball in the low to mid 90s. His curveball is already a quality pitch and his change shows potential. He could start the 2020 season in the Dominican Summer League before hitting the Rookie Leagues stateside. It will be awhile before Lara steps on the bump at Nationals stadium.

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