International Reviews: Seattle Mariners
Top 2016-17 signing: SS Alexander Campos, Venezuela, $575,000.
Total signings: 16.
Pro scouts from other teams certainly seem to like what the Mariners have brought into their system from Latin America, especially on the pitching side. The Mariners lately have been adding projectable young arms that tick up after signing, then using them as trade chips to bolster the major league club. Righthanders Enyel de los Santos, Freddy Peralta, Carlos Herrera, Daniel Missaki and Juan De Paula are all recent Mariners international signings who have been used in trades. Among position players, the latest example is Dominican shortstop Carlos Vargas. Vargas signed with the Mariners for $1.625 million in 2015, had a big year in the Dominican Summer League in 2016, then was traded to the Rays in January in the Drew Smyly deal.
Last year, three position players highlighted Seattle’s international signing class, with all of them likely to start in the DSL. That doesn’t include Cuban outfielder Guillermo Heredia, who signed for $470,000 and was exempt from the bonus pools. That deal looks like a bargain for a player who should be at least a fourth outfielder. Seattle’s biggest international bonus last year went to 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Alexander Campos, who signed for $575,000 in July. Campos, who trained with Ciro Barrios, is a good athlete who has been trending up over the last year as he’s gotten stronger. At 6 feet, 175 pounds, Campos now looks like a true shortstop with good actions in the field, where he’s light on his feet with a quick first step, good instincts and plus speed. His arm strength has improved and is now a plus tool. A righthanded hitter, Campos stands out more for his athleticism than his pure hitting ability. He has an inside-out stroke and solid bat-to-ball skills with doubles power.
The Mariners signed Cesar Izturis Jr. for $550,000 in July. Izturis’ father, who now runs an academy in Venezuela, played in 13 MLB seasons from 2001-13, mostly for the Dodgers and Orioles as a shortstop. When he was younger, Izturis split time between the United States and Venezuela, and no surprise as someone who grew up with a father in the big leagues, his feel for the game is advanced for a 17-year-old. Izturis doesn’t have any standout tools and isn’t a twitchy athlete, which is why he drew mixed opinions among scouts, but those highest on Izturis were drawn to him for his high baseball IQ, polished actions and fundamentally sound play. He’s 5-foot-11, 160 pounds with good hands and footwork at shortstop, where he’s an instinctive defender who plays under control, turns the double play well and makes accurate throws. The Mariners will give Izturis the opportunity to stay at shortstop, though a lot of scouts felt his below-average arm with a funky stroke would eventually lead him to second base. At the plate, Izturis is a switch-hitter with a line-drive stoke who uses the whole field with solid barrel control. He’s not very physical, so getting stronger will be important, though power will probably never be part of his game. Izturis has average speed with good baserunning instincts, already reading pitchers well when he takes off to steal.
Seattle’s most prominent international signing last year was arguably Luis Veloz, a 17-year-old Dominican outfielder who got $525,000 in July. At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Veloz has a strong, projectable build with quick bat speed. His righthanded swing has some unorthodox components, with a hitch to get started and some length and loop to the hitting zone, but scouts highest on Veloz saw him perform well in games with an advanced hitting approach. While some teams had strikeout concerns, Veloz is able to stay inside the ball and square up good velocity. A lot of young hitters have a pull-heavy mindset, but Veloz uses the whole field with an approach geared toward driving the ball to right-center field. He has shown good plate patience for his age with a chance to grow into average or better power. While Veloz might see some time in center field, he projects as a right fielder with good instincts. He’s an average runner who will likely lose a step as he fills out, with an arm that earns plus or better grades and could even climb higher. Veloz trained with Jaime Ozuna. Dominican outfielder Miguel Perez turned 16 on Aug. 21, making him one of the youngest players in the 2016 signing class, landing a $200,000 deal with the Mariners shortly after his 16th birthday. Perez isn’t as advanced as Veloz but the two have some similarities. Perez lacks Veloz’s strength but has a projectable frame (6-foot-2, 170 pounds) with athletic movements, good instincts for the game, a sound righthanded stroke and he recognizes pitches well for his age. He’s a line-drive hitter with good bat-to-ball skills and power that could come later once he gets stronger. He projects as a corner outfielder with a chance to play right field, with a fringe-average arm now that could tick up given his clean arm stroke and physical projection. Perez trained with Raul Valera, known as “Banana.”
Can The Sons Be Better Than The Fathers?
We’re in an especially fertile time for prodigies who are progeny.
Before July 2 during the 2015-16 signing period, the Mariners signed 18-year-old Dominican shortstop Osmy Gregorio for $27,500. He played in the DSL last year and hit .227/.338/.308 in 203 plate appearances, drawing nearly as many walks (24) as strikeouts (30). Gregorio’s DSL numbers overall don’t jump out, but he’s turned himself into a sleeper prospect with the improvement he’s made over the last year. He’s 6-foot-2, 170 pounds with bouncy athleticism, a tick above-average speed and a 55-60 arm. Gregorio split time last year between shortstop and second base and looked like a possible center field candidate, but his combination of athleticism and aptitude has helped him translate instruction from Mariners coaches into on-field improvements to slow the game down and play more under control. Gregorio has a slasher-type offensive approach from the right side of the plate with good bat speed and solid contact skills, though he doesn’t project to hit for much power.