Cubs Have a Latin Infusion Heading North: The Position Players

The hardest thing about evaluating talent from the Dominican Summer League teams is that there’s no one there to report on the happenings. Some get seen in spring training, extended spring training, and fall instructs but it is rare to hear a report or even see a picture. The easy thing to do would be to scout the stat line. But that’s almost impossible as it’s a different brand of baseball on the island than what we are used to stateside. Still, there are some stats you can look at that give a good indication of how a prospect is doing. Whether that’s on base percentage and home runs for hitters, or strikeouts per nine and walks per nine innings for pitchers. Even then, it always best to take even those stats with a grain of salt.

Here are some names that I am looking forward to seeing play this summer either in Mesa, Eugene, or even South Bend.

The most hyped name is outfielder Fernando Kelli. The 19-year-old outfielder was a Dominican Summer League All-Star last year and stole 58 bases. He will begin this year in Eugene and everyone will be watching, especially after he got in a couple games with the big league team in spring training.

Carlos Pacheco has a lot of power. He’s not that big of a kid at 5’11” and 195 lbs., but the youngster hit 8 homers in 67 games in the Dominican at the age of 18. He should be one of the most interesting prospects to watch in the Arizona Rookie League.

Shortstop/third baseman Christopher Morel had an up-and-down season last year but did hit eight home runs. I like that he showed some power and had a good August. He was invited to spring training and has been in Mesa since the end of February. He could begin the year in Eugene.

Orian Nuñez and Alonso Gaitan are two more young players that performed well for the DSL 2 team last year. It should be interesting to see where they end up as a second baseman and outfielder respectively.

First baseman Luis Hidalgo came stateside in August and just destroyed the Arizona Rookie League in his short time there. He hit .339 with 2 HRs and 13 RBI in just 17 games. He could land anywhere this spring from extended spring training to a replacement in South Bend. At 21, he is finally healthy, and I was glad to see him rip the cover off the ball after three seasons in the Venezuelan and Dominican Summer Leagues.

The hitter that is probably the most advanced is 20-year-old catcher Alexander Guerra. The club signed Guerra last fall and many expected that he would begin the year in either South Bend or Myrtle Beach based on his age and Cuban experience. The 20-year-old did neither. Instead, he is in extended spring training getting in shape. Still, his bat and experience in the Series Nacional could catapult him through the system once he begins game play.

Shortstop Luis Díaz will turn 19 at some point this year. He has two years of experience in the Dominican and improved both years. Last year, he hit .273 with a .374 on base percentage and cut down his strikeout rate from 60 to 50. With 2017 draft pick Luis Vasquez ahead of him, Díaz is most likely to play shortstop for one of the two Mesa teams.

The Cubs last struck gold in international free agency in 2015 . For the past two summers, the Cubs could not sign a player for over $300,000. That restriction is now gone as the Cubs have over $4.9 million in which to spend on international free agency summer. I think they’re going to hit it big on July 2 as they’ve been linked to three high profile prospects so far.

Lead Photo of Fernando Kelli by Rikk Carlson

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