The hardest part of the minors to report on is, far and away, the international leagues. In the past, that has included both the Venezuelan and Dominican Summer Leagues, but with the shuttering of the Venezuelan league this year, the Phillies are only fielding teams in the Dominican Republic. And teams is plural there on purpose; the Phillies will be fielding two teams in what has become a packed league. For someone who does not have access, it is difficult to cover the league because of the near-complete lack of in-person looks and reports, as well as the limited knowledge and track record of the players involved. Most of the players featured on these teams will never be heard of again. At least, baseball-wise. Let's not get too morbid, here.
Because the Phillies signed Jhailyn Ortiz for a gigantic bonus last year, the amount of international players of notable bonuses was lacking. We do have some reports because Ben Badler of Baseball America is great and full of information. Below, let's take a quick look through some of the squad's highlights, and names to keep in mind for the future.
The top prospect on either team is catcher Rafael Marchan. Marchan is a converted infielder who signed for $200,000 last July, which was less than the industry thought he might get. Though still raw behind the plate, the consensus seems to be that he will really hit, and hit is just what he did in the La Liga Paralela (minor league of Venezuelan Winter League). Marchan lacks power projection, but he won’t need a ton if he can stick behind the plate. Normally, Marchan would have started stateside (and he was stateside for spring training), but with Rodolfo Duran, Lenin Rodriguez, and others taking up the spots in the GCL, there was simply no room yet.
Manuel Silva is a projectable left-handed starter who signed for $100,000 last year. He was apparently sitting 87-90 when signed, so he will need to grow into more velocity in addition to all of the tenets of normal development. There are a lot of arms like Silva in the world, but curiosity is a good start.
Keudy Bocio is one of the many Latin middle infielders that get signed each year. He got enough notice that his bonus ($60,000) was reported, which is typically a good starting point, all told. He has been labeled with the general "think he can hit" tag with good speed, and a likely forthcoming move to second base.
Jonathan Guzman is another current shortstop. According to Badler, he made some noise in the Dominican Instructional League. What is really notable about Guzman is his age (he will play almost the whole year at 16) and Badler notes that he should stick at shortstop.
Ricardo Baez is actually making a return trip to the Dominican Summer League. He was a $100,000 bonus signing in 2014 who was the youngest player in the Phillies organization last year. He did not hit well, but he is far too young to write off.
The Young Ones
One thing I am always looking for on the rosters are players who are very young. This year, these players stand out to me because they have so much growth ahead of them (omitting the aforementioned Guzman and Marchan):
RHP Leonel Aponte 6'4" 145lbs 7/2/1999
SS Victor Alfonso 5'11" 140 8/27/1999
OF Jose Estrada 5'11" 165 5/2/1999
The above are not bonus babies, mainly because the industry uncertainty around their potential has left them to be categorized as more risky, with a lower likelihood of stardom. And hey, youth does not always correlate with infinite potential, but players this young in pro ball usually merit noticing. On the flip side, the summer leagues have also seen their fair share of big-ticket signees in years past: Carlos Tocci, Luis Encarnacion and former Phils minor leaguers Domingo Santana and Jonathan Arauz all spent early, formative time playing ball outside the States. These rosters are rarely lacking in prospect variety.
As I was going through the DSL rosters, something interesting stood out: There were 3 Italian-born players on the roster. The Phillies had previously dipped into Europe with Julsan Kamara (Germany) and Marek Minarik (Czech Republic), both whom did not last long in the organization; Kamara was in the Dominican before being released and Minarik pitched in the Gulf Coast League. A third basemen the Phillies signed, Leonardo Colagrossi, had some buzz when he signed, but it is hard to tell what to really believe.
Sometimes, there are "top" organizational prospects in the summer leagues, like Daniel Brito and Lenin Rodriguez last year. Other times, unheralded prospects like Adonis Medina, who showed flashes and a 88-90 MPH fastball at age 17 before breaking out the following year, can make their first mark. Other times, older prospects like Hector Neris, who are just trying to carve a career out, can find the summer leagues to be a launching point. No matter what, the Dominican Summer League allows you to project and dream on players in a place that is hidden away from constant scrutiny.