Dodgers eye Starling Heredia as potential big July 2 signing

The rumors of the Dodgers going all-out on international prospects gained a little more validity on Monday when Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs named a prospect he heard the Dodgers are looking to sign for the next international signing period.

Starling Heredia is a 16-year-old center fielder from the Dominican Republic who is among the best available prospects for July 2, and the Dodgers are seemingly really interested in acquiring his services.

McDaniel wrote he hears Heredia could sign in the neighborhood of $3 million, which would be three times as much as the Dodgers have spent on any single prospect since the new international signing rules were put into place. He cautions that a deal isn’t yet completed.

“If Heredia signs with the Dodgers, the most common number I’m hearing is $3.0 million. The Dodgers max 2015 pool after making trades for pool space is just over $3.0 million, so signing Heredia could mean the Dodgers are looking to go over their pool, but that alone may not do it.”

… and

None of these deals are close to official because they’re all, essentially, handshake deals. Most don’t end up falling through, but the Yankees reportedly backed out of a deal with Dominican shortstop Christopher Torres in 2014 (who later signed with the Mariners). I’m sure there have been prospects who have backed out of deals for something better, so it probably goes both ways. McDaniel wrote he heard Heredia was connected to the Cubs in October, but the Dodgers have essentially swooped in and took the lead in his sweepstakes (for lack of a better term).

And then there’s this, which is just puzzling.

“As I mentioned in my latest Yadier Alvarez update, the Dodgers are eyeing the option to go well over in 2015 and getting a number of players like Heredia, Alvarez and others, but one executive said the Dodgers were ‘dragging their feet’ on this decision and ‘stringing out’ Heredia.”

The only reason I can think of to back up this executive’s quote is the Dodgers are really interested in Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan, who has been described as the next Miguel Cabrera. He isn’t available to sign until the next July 2 signing period, and if the Dodgers go big in the 2015-16 period, they’d be out on Maitan. I’m not sure the front office could afford to pass on Yoan Moncada, Yadier Alvarez, Heredia and anyone else who it might be interested in to sign a guy that a lot of teams are going to be interested in and a guy who won’t be ready to help the MLB club for a long, long time. It’s time for a decision, otherwise, it’s entirely possible Heredia (and his agent) seek another deal with another club.

The Dodgers passed on signing Moncada, in part, so that they’d have a chance to sign this Heredia. Well, they did it mostly so they would have a chance to sign Alvarez, but Heredia is one of the best players in the class. That cannot be overlooked.

Here’s some video of the teenager.

Let’s break this down. First, as McDaniel wrote, Heredia is a physically mature player, leading folks to question his age. McDaniel addressed this specifically in his article.

“I should note before the predictable flood of comments saying, ‘there’s no way this kid is that big and fast and 15-years-old’ (probably with more spelling errors) that there is a very similar player to Heredia in the states by the name of Ronald Washington. Washington is the top prep prospect (if you can even say that) for the 2017 MLB Draft and has nearly the same mature frame and above average tools of Heredia. Their birthdays are less than a month apart, but no one is asking these questions about Washington, so you shouldn’t ask them about Heredia.”

Heredia begins his stance with a wide base and his hands at shoulder level. He has a big leg kick that causes him to put his weight on his back leg. Surprisingly, he keeps his back leg pretty stiff/straight, unlike most hitters whose legs tend to bend/collapse a bit. He did make adjustments later in the video to bend his back leg a little more. He gets his front foot down quickly, opens his hips and brings the bat through the zone. Despite the high leg kick, he has a surprisingly short path to the ball, especially with his plus-bat speed. The ball jumps off his bat as he rolls his top hand over. The ball also sounds great coming off his bat. He displays plus-raw power that could translate to in-game power as he matures (remember, he’s just 16). The in-game video of him showed more of a line-drive approach, but the potential for power is definitely there. As McDaniel wrote, he definitely has a Manny Ramirez-esque finish to his swing. He also has some Hanley Ramirez and Jose Bautista in him. It’s not surprising to see him emulate three of the best Dominican-born hitters of the last 20 years.

He has a short, choppy running motion that definitely isn’t graceful, but he clocked in with some plus-times for scouts, so it’s hard to be too critical of it. I’d like to see him track fly balls down in center field, but there was no video of that. He’s better once he’s underway, which might preclude him from being a big base stealer, but should help him stick in center field. Of course, he could grow another 2-3 inches, add 25-40 pounds and move to a corner spot (maybe left field as his arm isn’t the strongest). It’s really hard to fully scout his potential without knowing if he’ll have a growth spurt, but he already has a MLB body. His body reminds me a little of Yasiel Puig‘s, but his swing is completely different.

One report had Heredia at 6’1, one had him at 6’4. It’s hard to know which one to trust, but in the video, he looks shorter than 6’4. And at 16, he might not be done growing yet.

I might be all-in on this guy. His swing, like his body type, is really advanced for his age. You don’t see many 16-year-olds who have that kind of leg kick, bat speed and power potential. If the Dodgers need to go to $3.5-4 million (or even a little higher), I’m thinking it’d be well worth it (seeing as they’re planning to go really big anyway).

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I was disappointed the Dodgers didn’t end up with Moncada. They, reportedly, still tried to get him, but they absolutely never made him a formal offer. If the Dodgers can somehow end up with Hector Olivera, Alvarez and Heredia (plus any other player who might become available before June 15, 2016), then missing out on Moncada might have been worth it.

Then again, these guys (save Olivera, on some level) are all lottery tickets — especially the 16- and 17-year-old kids. Alvarez is closer to a finished product than Heredia, but if the Dodgers could infuse that kind of young, international talent into the farm system, they should really be doing that. And I think the new braintrust will. The international draft is coming, and this signing period is one of the last they could go crazy with their money and pay the penalties before whatever the new rules end up being.

Either way, it’s nice to see the Dodgers getting more active on the international market.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He does contracts and depth charts for FanGraphs and is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a one-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, California, and has yet to be shot.