We finish our look at the 2017 DSL Blue Jays by taking a peek at how the hitters did. We’ll start behind the plate and look at players who got the most playing time first, followed by the guys who played less. This year’s DSL squad wasn’t the most proficient at the plate but there were still a few promising young talents on the team.
20-year-old catcher Leonicio Ventura made his professional debut with the DSL Blue Jays this year, putting up very solid numbers at the plate, hitting .290/.370/.419 with six doubles and three triples in 93 at bats. The Dominican had a very solid walk rate at 11.0% and didn’t strike out very often, with a 12.8% K rate. Overall, these are pretty good numbers for a pro debut and he was adequately successful in throwing out runners trying to steal with a 27% caught-stealing rate and just five passed ball in 28 games as a catcher. Ventura could move up to the GCL next year, particularly considering his age, but he could also stay put and get the opportunity to play a little more.
17-year-old Venezuelan catcher Gabriel Moreno shows a lot of promise behind the plate, throwing out 32% of runners trying to steal in 24 games behind the plate. He also appeared to be a little more sure-handed than Ventura or Saavedra (see below), committing only four passed balls. Moreno will likely be working on his offense after hitting .248/.374/.296 with four doubles and a triple in 125 at bats. I can see Moreno staying put in the DSL in 2018.
The third catcher on the DSL Blue Jays was 19-year-old Panamanian William Saavedra. Saavedra struggled with the bat in his professional debut, hitting .149/.250/.213 with six doubles in 94 at bats. He showed a good walk rate, taking a walk in 10.1% of his plate apearances and struck out in 14.7%, indicating that he was making contact. Saavedra threw out 23% of the runners trying to steal and had seven passed balls in 23 games. He’ll likely return to the DSL.
21-year-old first-baseman from the Dominican Republic, Yeison Estevez completed his second season with the DSL Blue Jays, taking a step back in most offensive categories. He hit .212/.282/.281, seeing a drop of 117 points in his OPS from 2016 to 2017. Estevez’s walk rate dropped over 4.5%, hitting 8.5% in 2017 while he shaved two points of his strikeout rate, K’ing at a 17.1% rate in 2017. Estevez could be back in the DSL for another year if he returns.
Sharing time at first base with Estevez was Victor Figuereo who, in his third year with the DSL Blue Jays, led the club in home runs with two. Figuereo increased his offensive production slightly in his Age-20 year, hitting .215/.285/.348 with eight doubles, two triples and two home runs in 151 at bats. Figuereo, a 20-year-old Dominican, lowered hit strikeouts rate to a still-very-high 31.8% and saw his walk rate drop to 9.3%. I’d expect another year in the DSL for Figuereo.
Our Player of the Year for the DSL Blue Jays, second baseman Rafael Lantigua was strong across the board. Lantigua, 19, hit .284/.379/.376 with eight doubles, six triples and 11 stolen bases in 23 attempts. The low stolen-base success rate notwithstanding, Lantigua was one of the few players whose walk rate (12.9%) exceeded his strikeout rate (12.5%). I’d expect to see Lantigua, who hails from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, to make the jump to the GCL next year.
17-year-old Dominican Kenny Mauricio didn’t hit very well in his professional debut, putting up a .206/.311/.277 slash line with 10 doubles in 164 plate appearances. Mauricio had a relatively high strikeout rate of 20.6% but paired that with a high walk rate of 12.7%. I think Mauricio will get another year of seasoning in the DSL before the club reconsiders a US assignment.
The Blue Jays had 19-year-old Mexican Hector Guerrero taking most of his reps at third base. Guerrero’s debut in the DSL was fairly strong although his lack of power stands out after a season in which he hit .286/.386/.311 with two doubles and a home run in 231 plate appearances. Guerrero’s calling card could very well be his outstanding walk rate (13.9%) which exceeded his strikeout rate of 8.2% by a wide margin. Guerrero did steal nine bases and was caught four times and appears to be fairly sure-handed at third base, only committing seven errors in 50 games at the position.Guerrero could make the jump to the GCL next year but without having seen him in person, it’s tough to make any assessment due to his borderline numbers.
Hugo Cardona was one of the players to whom the Blue Jays offered a six-digit bonus in the international-bonus restricted season that followed the Vladimir Guerrero signing. Cardona, who just turned 18 in early September had a decent professional debut hitting .249/.342/.285 in 193 at bats as the everyday shortstop. he had five doubles and a triple, steaing 15 bases in 21 attempts. Cardona had a healthy walk rate of 10.8% and a somewhat high strikeout rate at 22.9%. I think Cardona remains in the Dominican Republic for another year.
Yhon Perez, a 17-year-old outfielder from Venezuela also showed the ability to play second base but spent most of his time in left field with a handful of games at center. Perez had a solid season, hitting .249/.335/.332 with a solid 11.1% walk rate and very good 9.3% strikeout rate, hitting eight doubles and four triples in 225 plate appearances. Perez stole eight bases in 12 attempts and will probably return to the DSL to build off of his solid debut.
Warnel Valdez, 18, played at all three outfield positions but mostly spent his time in left. He hit .224/.251/.282 with seven doubles and a home run in 170 plate appearances. Of concern is Valdez’s low walk rate (2.6%) and fairly high strikeout rate (22.3%) both of which will likely have to improve for him to move up. Look for him back in the DSL next year.
Jose Briceno returned to the DSL Blue Jays and regressed somewhat. The 19-year-old Venezuelan (who turns 20 in October) had a .203/.324/.237 slash line and saw his walk rate drop 1.5% to 8.6% while his strikeout rate went up slightly to 23.0%. The one area in which he did improve year over year was his ability to get hit by pitches as he was plunked nine times in 139 plate appearances. If Briceno returns, he’ll likely be back in the DSL.
Steward Berroa, 18, was the Blue Jays’ everyday center fielder and had a very solid season, hitting .261/.352/.367 with three doubles, seven triples and a home run, stealing 20 bases in 32 attempts. While Berroa’s strikeout rate was a tad high (22.2%), his walk rate was solid at 11.3%. I can see Berroa’s strong all-around game moving up to the GCL next year but wouldn’t be surprised to see him remain in the Dominican Republic.
Among right fielders, Andres Martinez led the way. One of the older players on the squad, Martinez (who is 20 on September 15) hit .285/.398/.320 with seven doubles and an excellent 14.9% walk rate while striking out in only 13.7% of his plate appearances. I can see Martinez moving up to the GCL next year but he’s going to have to hit the ball with more authority, as his .035 ISO indicates.
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