International Reviews: Philadelphia Phillies
Total 2017 signings: 54.
Top 2017-18 signing: SS Luis Garcia, Dominican Republic, $2.5 million.
The top Phillies international signing in 2017-18 was Luis Garcia, a 17-year-old Dominican shortstop who landed a $2.5 million bonus on July 2 after training with Carlos Guzman. Garcia is one of the top defensive shortstops in the 2017 class, with some scouts considering him the best of the group. He’s 5-foot-10, 170 pounds with quick, graceful footwork and slick actions. A solid-average runner, Garcia is a fundamentally sound fielder for his age who can also make the flashy plays, with smooth hands and a plus arm.
Scouts highest on Garcia saw him hit well in games and thought he could hit toward the top of a lineup, though several others thought his bat had more risk and felt he would fit better toward the bottom of the order. Garcia is a switch-hitter whose swing is better from the left side. He uses his hands well with a short, quick swing, with a path geared toward top-spin line drives and not much power, occasionally knocking balls into the gaps. With the Phillies fielding two Rookie-level Gulf Coast League teams this year, Garcia will be the starting shortstop for one of their GCL clubs.
Righthander Victor Vargas, the top 2017 prospect from Colombia, signed with the Phillies for $525,500 on July 2. Vargas, 17, is 6-foot-1, 175 pounds with a starter’s repertoire, fluid delivery and pitchability. His pitching IQ and ability to command his fastball stick out relative to his peers. He has reached 94 mph and sits at 88-91 mph, with the physical projection to operate more consistently in the low 90s once he gets stronger. Vargas has shown feel for both his curveball and changeup, with the curveball flashing average with three-quarters break. He’s advanced enough that the Phillies might push him to the GCL for his pro debut.
The Phillies have signed a group of bat-first catchers in recent years, especially out of Venezuela, with Cesar Rodriguez the latest addition. Rodriguez, who signed out of Venezuela for $500,000 on July 2 after training with Luis Blasini, is a smaller, stocky switch-hitter at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds with a good performance record in games. He has a fast bat and sound hitting mechanics, making contact at a high clip with the ability to barrel up good velocity. Rodriguez has a good hitting approach for a 17-year-old, managing his at-bats well, usually staying within the strike zone and hitting the ball to all fields. He has hit well since signing, flashing occasional over-the-fence power as well, though it’s a hit-over-power profile right now. Rodriguez is an aggressive, hard-nosed player with an average arm, but his defense isn’t as advanced as his bat, so improving his receiving, blocking and agility behind the plate will be important for him to stay there.
Venezuelan righthander Carlos Betancourt, 17, signed for $460,000 on July 2. He’s been slowed by a right knee injury as a pro, but as an amateur he showed promising athleticism, arm speed and a fastball that reached 94 mph. He has a lot of space to add weight to his 6-foot-1, 160-pound frame and throw harder in the future. He showed an inconsistent breaking ball that flashed slightly above-average, getting slurvy at times but with tight spin and the ability to miss bats. Betancourt will have to throw more strikes, but his athleticism assist his ability to make delivery adjustments.
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The Phillies will be closely watching the 20-year-old center fielder to see how he progresses in his first stint at a full-season level.
The Phillies signed another 17-year-old righthander, Alfonso Puello from the Dominican Republic, for $460,000 on July 2. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Puello has a thick, strong build for his age and a long arm stroke in the back, reaching 92 mph now and with a chance to develop into a power arm. With his fastball and feel for a slider, Puello has shown a knack for missing bats in games. Puello trained with Amaury Batista.
Jefferson Encarnacion, a lefthanded outfielder from the Dominican Republic, signed with the Phillies for $265,000 in September. Encarnacion turned 16 on Aug. 28, making him one of the youngest players in the 2017 class and nearly a 2018 prospect had he been born four days later. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Encarnacion has good bat speed and physical upside, but given his youth (he will play the entire Dominican Summer League season as a 16-year-old), his hitting performance in games might take more time to develop. He fits best as a corner outfielder.
Another offensive-minded Venezuelan catcher, 17-year-old Oscar Gonzalez, signed with the Phillies for $135,000 on July 2. Gonzalez has to work at his defense to remain at catcher, but he shown early promise as a righthanded hitter. At 6 feet, 185 pounds, Gonzalez is strong for his age, with a line-drive, all-fields approach and a chance to develop average power.