Top Prospects from Mexico

With the Series del Caribe being played in Mexico it is time for myworld to take a look at the top prospects from there hoping to sniff the major leagues. Mexico has not had a smooth working relationship with major league baseball as far as the signing of their players. The big disagreement is the percentage of the bonus money that major league teams pay to the prospect that goes to the Mexican team that holds the right to that player. It would be equivalent to a Dominican buscone taking a 50 to 75 percent cut of the prospects bonus. That may be why the top prospect list is not brimming with multi tooled athletes.

Those players who made the list last year that got a major league opportunity include Alejandro Kirk, Jose Urquidy and Isaac Paredes, the second, third and fourth top prospects from the list. The top prospect Andres Munoz missed all of 2020 because of an injury. Victor Gonzalez and Ramon Urias also made their professional debuts, though with the shortened season. The shortened season allowed many to keep their rookie status and reappear on this list.

Below are our top ten prospects from Mexico.

1. Andres Munoz RHP (Mariners) - The only change for Munoz is he went from the Padres to the Mariners. The Padres had paid a $700,000 bonus in 2015 to sign Munoz. They then included him in a trade with the Mariners for Austin Nola. Unlike many Mexican pitches who rely on guile and breaking pitchers to get hitters out, Munoz has a mean fastball that can touch triple digits. Unfortunately, his 2020 season was eliminated because of Tommy John surgery. He is being groomed to be a closer so his fastball/slider combination is all he needs to generate swings and misses. The Mariners would like to see him master getting the ball over the plate a little more. It would take some rehab in the minors before Munoz is ready, sometime by the middle of the season. Besides his lack of control, his injury history has fated his career to the bullpen. Staying healthy and finding the plate more will determine his path to major league success.

2. Isaac Paredes 2B/3B (Tigers) - The Cubs signed Paredes for $500,000 in 2015. He was one of the prospects the Tigers got for trading Justin Wilson and Alex Avilla to the Cubs. His career started out as a shortstop, but a pudgy build meant a lack of range, forcing a move to third base. Because he does not have the big time power that teams look for in third baseman and the Tigers want to leave room for Jeimer Candelario, they may shift him over to second base. Isaac makes good contact and shows enough patience to take a walk. Hitting around .280 to .290 with double digit homers that will fall shy of 20 are numbers you can expect from him. That would make him a decent offensive second baseman that could fall just short of being a solid defensive player. He could make the Tigers starting lineup in 2021 as their second baseman next year.

3. Victor Gonzalez LHP (Dodgers) - The Dodgers signed Victor when they went to Mexico City in 2012 to look at Yasiel Puig. They signed Puig but also a number of other players from Mexico, including Julio Urias. Victor is a 6′0″ lefthander that throws hard, with his fastball reaching the upper 90s on the radar gun. Tommy John surgery virtually eliminated his 2017 and 2018 seasons. He finally made his major league debut in 2020 and pitched so effectively the Dodgers included him on their playoff roster. He got into 15 games during the regular season, finishing with a 1.33 ERA with a 2/23 walk to whiff ratio in 20 innings. For the playoffs he got into 8 games and limited the opposition to just two runs for a 2.70 ERA. Victor has a fastball/slider combination and can use a change as an offspeed pitch, but it is fringe average at this point. He should be in the Dodgers bullpen in 2021.

4. Alejandro Kirk C (Blue Jays) - Kirk was signed in 2016. He is a bit on the pudgy side, listed at 5′8″ and 265 pounds. When he is running the bases his body bounces like jello. The one thing Kirk can do is hit. He has a two year minor league career average of .315 with a .418 OBA. Staying healthy has proved to be a challenge, limiting him to 52 and 98 games the last two years. That will continue if he fails to get his body in shape. Last year he made his major league debut and came out strong in his 9 games, hitting .375 with one homerun. In the minors he has walked more than he has struck out (89/60). On defense he has a good arm, but needs to work on some of the other aspects of the game before he can be called a solid major league catcher. Other than possibly first base, which at 5′8″ is not ideal, Kirk will have to make the majors as either a DH or catcher. Based on his success, he should get another opportunity to play for the Rangers in 2021.

5. Tirso Orenelas OF (Padres) - The Padres shelled out $1.5 million in 2017 to sign Tirso. At 6′3″ he has the build that would predict power to be in his future. A lack of speed will limit him to a corner outfield. The arm is strong enough he could play right. The power has not shown itself in games in the minor leagues. In 2019 he had a particularly horrendous year, slugging just .279 with a .213 batting average. In his previous two seasons he had gotten his slugging average close to .400. The absence of a 2020 minor league season is not something Tirso wanted for his development. He may have to return to A ball to get back that confidence that he can hit. Tirso could still be a couple years away from seeing the Padres.

6. Luis Gonzalez OF (White Sox) - It is at this point that my knowledge of the players gets a little more spotty. Luis was drafted by the White Sox in the third round of the 2017 draft, but he was born in Mexico. He attended high school in Arizona and played college ball at New Mexico. He doesn’t carry an array of great tools, but he does have some skills that could get him to the major leagues as a fourth outfielder. The power is lacking but the arm is strong enough for him to shine in right field. He has enough speed where he could play centerfield in a pinch. His career minor league average is .269. It was enough for the White Sox to give him three games in the major leagues where he got one official at bat. He struck out. Luis lacks the tools to be a starting outfielder on a playoff caliber team, but he can still fill a useful role as a fourth outfielder. He hopes to get a few more at bats in 2021 to amend for his one strikeout performance in the major leagues last year.

7. Gerrado Carrillo RHP (Dodgers) - Carrillo was signed by the Dodgers in 2016 for $75,000. The righthander is listed at 5′10 and 150 pounds. Even with that skinny frame his fastball sits in the mid-90s and even touches the three digits. If he can pack on more pounds that could provide another level of improvement to the fastball. He has two breaking pitches (slider and curve) that are good enough to put him in a rotation once he enhances his change. The Dodgers have used him in the rotation, but his best fit may be in the bullpen. The 2019 season was a disappointing year when he got hit at a .263 clip for a 5.44 ERA. The previous year opponents could only hit him at a .192 clip, putting his ERA at 1.50. Gerrado will probably start the season in A ball and depending on his development will reach the Dodgers sometime towards the end of the 2022 season.

8. Efrain Contreras RHP (Padres) - Efrain is another 5′10″ righthander, but he weighs 210 pounds. The Padres signed him in 2017 for $50,000. He sits in the mid-90s with his fastball but despite the meatier build his fastball peaks at 97/98. There is not a lot of projection for more velocity in the fastball. The curveball is his best pitch. That leads to a high number of strikeouts at the lower levels (121 in 109 innings). As he rises up the minor league ladder those hitters who can’t hit breaking pitches are often weeded out from the minor leagues and it becomes harder to fool hitters with curve balls alone. If Efrain can spot his pitches well he could end up in the back of a rotation or as a set up reliever. Expect him to be with the Padres sometime late in the 2022 season.

9. Luis Verdugo SS/3B (Cubs) - The Cubs paid the Mexico City Red Devils $1.2 million for Luis. He is expected to outgrow shortstop and move to third base. The bat could be his best tool. In 2019 in rookie ball he hit .305 with a .447 slugging percentage. More will be known about him as he rises to the full season levels in 2021. His body should develop more muscle to increase his power, but he also needs to adapt to better pitching. The power is expected to develop for him to start at third. He could also play in a utility role. He is still a long ways away from making a contribution in the major leagues. Expect that to happen sometime in 2023.

10. Manuel Rodriguez RHP (Cubs) - Manny made our list last year. Like many pitchers out of Mexico he lacks the ideal height that major league teams are looking for from their righthanders. He stands at 5′11″. He was signed for $400,000 in 2016. His fastball can hit the lower levels of the high 90s, but normally sits in the mid-90s. His curve has enough downward break that it can get its share of swings and misses. The Cubs are high enough on him that they added him to the 40 man roster in 2020. When the Cubs signed him he was a closer for Yucatan. They have used him strictly in the bullpen, but normally not as their closer. He needs to improve on his command, averaging near 5 walks per year in his minor league career. Last year he got the mark down to 3.2, so that is a level of improvement. Manuel should pitch in AA next year and if he pitches well could see the Cubs by the end of the year.

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