On Monday, June 5th, the Arizona and Florida Complex Leagues, along with the Dominican Summer League, will all be having their respective opening days, kicking off another season of helium. A year ago today, Josue De Paula was a complete unknown, and now the 18-year-old power-hitting outfielder has cards listed on eBay for nearly $10,000. Life, indeed, comes at you fast.
Up to now, Dodger prospects in Arizona have been participating in Extended Spring Training, and those in the Dominican Republic have been playing in preseason games. Stats aren’t publicly available, but just the same, there have been a number of standouts, some of whom are well-known, and others who are just beginning to make their mark.
Let’s dive in, starting with the ACL guys.
While De Paula has been leading the charge at Camelback, Derlin Figueroa has been hot on his heels, reportedly just behind him in nearly every offensive category. The 19-year-old Figueroa has been showing ample power and the ability to go deep off righties and lefties, torching both fastballs and breakers as he went deep a couple of times week:
Pitch recognition is among the most difficult things to teach, and seeing it like this out of a prospect who is already showing legit in-game pop definitely makes him intriguing.
Defensively, Figueroa continues to play all over the field, and by all accounts is acquitting himself pretty well, so it will be interesting to how they deploy him as the Summer progresses. It certainly appears that the Dodgers will have to get his bat into the lineup one way or another.
Not to be outdone, Samuel Munoz, who was the number one ranked prospect in January 2022 IFA class for the Dodgers, had a multi-homer game on Monday, taking both a righty and a lefty deep as well:
As an amateur, Munoz possessed more of a line drive oriented swing, utilizing his plus hit tool and nascent pop to spray lasers all over the field. Since joining the organization, the now 18-year-old has grown into a little bit of loft and is elevating pitches he was previously unable to drive with authority. I have said it before, but I will reiterate: if the Dodgers were willing to top their IFA class with a 1B/OF type, then their confidence in the bat is likely to be sky-high.
Reynaldo Yean, whom I previously wrote up as a very deep Helium pick, has reportedly added velo. Already capable of reaching triple digits, the 6’4, 240 lbs 19-year-old is now sitting at 99-100 mph and reaching 102. I still think El Monstro Negro (lordy, what a nickname) is a high-leverage single inning reliever long-term, as he pairs that gas with a hard, plus slider but the command is about what you’d expect out of a 19-year-old who is reaching 102. Either way, he has one of the more exciting power arms you’ll see at Camelback.
Moving about 2700 miles East-Southeast, here are some of the prospects making heads turn at Campo Las Palmas, home of the Dodgers’ operations in the Dominican Republic.
Joendry Vargas, the top IFA signee for the Dodgers in their January 2023 class (and the #16 ranked prospect in the system at FanGraphs, 22nd at MLB Pipeline), has made some gains as well. Originally a switch-hitter, Vargas has swapped to righty only. Since joining the org in January he has added a little strength and bat speed, and is putting on a bit of a laser show during the preseason:
The 6’4, 175 lbs 17-year-old is also beginning to show some of the pop that he will ultimately grow into:
Given Vargas’ incredibly lithe build, the developmental timeline has a chance of being a bit longer than most class-toppers, but the ceiling is enormous.
Another member of the January 2023 signing class happens to be a bit closer to his ceiling — Arnaldo Lantigua, who is hitting bombs left and right in the Dominican preseason:
Though I love the helicopter finish, the walk, and the bat flip in the first homer, my favorite has to be the last one — that thing when a pitcher gives up an absolute bomb and they point up for the outfielders like it’s catchable, it sends me every time.
At any rate, whether it’s in, out, up, down, fastball, breaker, it doesn’t matter, the 17-year-old Lantigua is barreling them up with authority. Listed at 6’2, and 200 lbs, it should come as no surprise that he is getting to his pop already, and with the ability to recognize spin, he is poised to have a big Summer.
A position player the Dodgers signed this past January who is already turning heads is Eduardo Quintero. Originally signed as a catcher, Quintero’s athleticism has ticked up big time, to the point that the Dodgers have completely moved him off his previous position and he’s now a center fielder only going forward. The 6’0, 175 lbs Venezuelan is reportedly posting 60-yard dash times in the 6.3-6.4 range. For perspective on that, Baseball America came out with a guide for the 20-80 scouting scale. A time of 6.45 to 6.64 seconds is considered to be 70-grade speed.
All throughout his time as an amateur, Quintero received praise for his solid bat to ball and at-bat quality, but uptick in physicality has improved his offensive game as well, and though it’s early, he is looking like a legit 5-tool prospect that could have been a class headliner.
Lastly, how about a pair of kids lighting up the radar gun? First, Jesus Tillero — listed at 6’0, 190 lbs, the recently-turned 17-year-old Venezuelan has already added velo, and is showing feel for spin with a power curve out of a mature delivery for his age.
The other pitcher also happens to be from Venezuela, and his delivery may remind Dodger fans of a former nemesis from up North — 17-year-old Samuel Sanchez, who despite being listed at just 5’11, 150 lbs, is dialing it up to 97 mph as well:
Yeah, there’s a bit of Tim Lincecum in that, both in the build and in the delivery.
Though Sanchez is slight, he has an exceptionally quick arm and he repeats his delivery very well, leading to him filling up the zone in a way that is beyond his years. He also shows plus feel for spin, and his curve has ticked up with the velo gains. Just don’t trade this kid for somebody named Delino, Dodgers.
That’s all for this roundup of the pre-opening day reports.
Enjoy your Tuesday, folks.