The first year of the Astros new Dominican Academy is officially in the books and while the record (26-43) doesn't show it, it was successful. I know the large majority of you understand that the win/loss record is not what matters in the minor leagues, but that the development of the players is the focus. Appy Astros has already done his DSL Wrap-up, but I wanted to do my own and go a little more in depth.
When I say that this first year was a success, I mean that the academy served it's purpose in Latin America. It's main function is to house Latin-born players while they adjust to professional baseball and help them learn English for when they play in the States. It's a nice, comfortable environment for them with a level field of competition. Last year, we had to put many of these guys straight into the Gulf Coast League where the level of competition was to high while they adjusted to life in the United States. Now, after spending a year in the academy, they can move to the GCL next season and not have such an extreme culture shock since they know some English and have been prepared for that move.
It also serves as a recruiting tool. Many of these players are aware of the culture shock that is awaiting them if they move straight to the states and that they need to spend a season in an academy. Since Latin players (other than Puerto Ricans) are not drafted, they get to choose who they sign with. The main recruiting tool is a signing bonus, but these academy's are also recruiting tools. In that sense, it has served it's purpose in that area as well. We have made many big international signings over the past year, and the academy has definitely helped with that. These are the guys who the Astros have signed in the past year; Ariel Ovando, Kelvin Vizcaino, Jose Montero, Michael Feliz, Yonathan Mejia and Jean Carlos Batista. There have been more, but those are the biggest names. That's a pretty solid list of international prospects.
I'll go over the prospects more in depth after the break!Another thing to keep in mind with this year's DSL team is that it is extremely young. While every team in the DSL is very young, Houston's is younger than many of the Latin American teams fielded in the past several years. In fact, eight of them are still 17 and one (Michael Feliz) is 16. That puts a few of them who are showing promise in the states at age 18, just like HS draft picks.
Unfortunately, Jean Carlos Batista and Ariel Ovando didn't play this year so we aren't really able to see what they've done statistically. We know that Batista was one of the top prospects from the Dominican Prospect League (DPL) and plays a premium defensive position at shortstop. Ariel Ovando is a big out-fielder with massive power potential and a solid arm. He is very unorthodox at the plate with his stance, but I actually like it. His upside is so great that he'll easily be a top 10 prospect when those lists start coming out. So, needless to say, I can't wait for this kid to start playing.
I'm going give you a list of DSL prospects to whom I think should be guys to watch next year. All the statistics are in small sample sizes as only three hitters reached 200 at-bats. As far as power is concerned, it takes a while to develop and not expected at this level. Only ten players hit more than five home runs.
- Kenny Diaz (18-C)-Drafted in the 49th round of this years draft out of a HS in Puerto Rico, he was assigned to the DSL as a more comfortable setting for him and lower competition. He put up an OPS of .528 but did walk and strikeout at a rate of approximately 14% each. Although, the sample size is small with 116 AB's. He also played a few games at 3B which indicates he's fairly athletic. He's definitely a project, but I could see him moving to the GCL next year.
- Max Ayarza (18-SS)-An OPS of .631 isn't impressive, but for a young SS, its acceptable. He improved it by over 200 points from last year, so he should be able to move up the GCL.
- Fredwin Campusano (18-3B)-He played mostly 3B but did play nine games at 2B which would his bat would profile better at. He led the team in steals and second in OPS. He had both a solid OBP and SLG which was supported by a good walk rate and four triples.
- Luis De La Rosa (18-OF)-Primarily played 2B last season and is now primarily playing LF/RF. An OPS of .752 is pretty good for someone so young. He hit three triples and two home runs while batting in the heart of the lineup for most of the season and got more playing time than anyone else on the team. GCL bound!
- Yonathan Mejia (17-2B)-Listed as a 2B, but actually played six more games at 3B, but that could be due to the abundance of middle infielders in the DSL this year. He was the lone position player to be elected to the all-star team for the Astros and played quite well for most of the season before dropping off in the second half. He struggled with plate discipline with just 12 walks and 43 strikeouts in over 200 AB's. But, he was able to hit two home runs which ties for second on the team.
- Ydarqui Marte (17-CF)-Played a lot of games in CF, so he should be decent at worst. He also picked up two home runs as well. He didn't walk a lot, but he didn't strikeout much either, just 13% in a little over 200 AB's. He also stole nine bases but was caught five times. He's raw, but seems to have some tools.
- Kelvin Vizcaino (17-OF)-He played all three OF positions pretty evenly, but a little more in CF. We made a pretty big deal of his signing since he was considered the top DPL prospect at the time and has a nice line drive swing with great bat speed. Well, an OPS of .602 isn't good, but he did lead the team in home runs with three. He walked in 10% of his plate appearances and struck out at about 20%. He is one of my favorite DSL prospects.
- Jose Solano (18-SS)-Listed at SS, but played twice as many games at 2B. At 6-2, 175 lbs, he might grow out of the position. He posted a .702 OPS that was dependent on his batting average with a walk rate at 5%. But, he doesn't strikeout much either with just 15%. He also hit two home runs.
- Michael Feliz (16-RHP)-He was only able to pitch in three games since he had to serve his 50-game suspension. He originally signed for $800k, but signed with us for half price. That makes him a pretty big sign. A 3.06 FIP is very good and he posted a K/9 of 9.2 and a BB/9 of 2.1. Since he is so young, I can see the Astros keeping him in the DSL next year, but I'd rather move him along. He really is a massive kid at 6-4, 210 lbs, he can definitely handle a promotion.
- Leonardo Alayon (18-RHP)-In his second season in the DSL, Alayon was the front line starter and with 2.53 FIP. He pitched in 15 games, including 12 starts, that totaled up to a team leading 75 IP. His strikeout rate left just a little to be desired at 7 K/9 but it was sterling with his 1.6 BB/9. Expect him as a starter in the GCL next season.
- Francisco Baso (19-RHP)-The two time DSL Mid-Season All-Star impressed again as a reliever. Used exclusively as a reliever, but pitched about two and a half innings per appearance, many of which were much longer. He put a 2.76 FIP and will likely be moved up to the GCL next season. His K/9 was good at 7.5 but he needs to cut his walks down from his 3.3 BB/9.
- Edgar Ferreira (17-LHP)-Another big name international free-agent. He put up a sterling 2.70 ERA but that was overperforming his 5.84 FIP. He had a good K/9 at 7.6 but his BB/9 was absolutely atrocious at 13.5. At 6-3, 180 lbs, he is still very projectable and has plenty of room to fill out and develop. I can see the Astros being aggressive with him and moving him up to the GCL next year.
- Jose Montero (17-RHP)-The other big name that was signed with Michael Feliz. He was probably the most impressive of the young crop of arms in the DSL this year, in my opinion. He posted a very nice 2.91 FIP. He struck out 7.9 per nine innings and walked 3.9 per nine. He's also very big at 6-4, 190 lbs, and plenty of room to fill out and add to his already low 90's fastball.
I really like that our Dominican Academy has a solid chance to provide 3/5 of the GCL rotation next season with Montero, Feliz, and Alayon. Ferreira will also be used as a starter for the most part but he has a lot of developing to do and may return to the DSL. Expect Vizcaino to put up solid numbers in either the DSL or GCL next season. He has the most upside of all the hitters listed above. Yonathan Mejia also has a good bit of potential but not the same upside as Vizcaino. The GCL will likely be populated primarily with Latin players again, but the upside will be much better. The GCL will also likely be the destination for Ariel Ovando next season.