The minor league season is drawing to a close and many leagues have closed their doors for the year. Two leagues already in the books are the Gulf Coast League and the Arizona League. These short-season leagues are at the bottom of the minor league ladder and often serve as the first stop for many prospects.
Here is a look at a handful of the most intriguing prospects from those two leagues:
RHP Fabio Martinez Mesa – AZL Angels
After starring in the Dominican Summer League last year, Martinez Mesa made his state-side debut this summer with the Arizona League Angels. The 19-year-old made a dominating first impression and has emerged as one of the most intriguing prospects in the organization. Mesa's strikeout rate was an eye-popping 34.3% (268 TBF) and he had a strong 57% GB as well as a 3.18 FIP. While he missed a ton of bats, he also missed the strike zone more than you would like, as his walk rate was too high at 13.4%. After the AZL season came to an end, the 6-foot-3 right-hander was bumped to the Pioneer League, where he has since fanned nine while walking two in seven innings. Look for him to be assigned to Low-A Midwest League next year.
RHP Adys Portillo – AZL Padres
Portillo, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, was one of the biggest names during the2008 international signing period. The Padres gave him a $2 millionbonus, which at the time was tied for the ninth-largestbonus ever handed out to an international signee. Portillo was broughtover to the states this season, and while his debut was rather rocky,we have to realize that he is only 17 years old. Portillo allowed 67hits and 41 runs in 52.2 innings while walking 28 and striking out 44.Randy Smith, the Padres director of international scouting, wasn't overly concerned withPortillo's lackluster debut. "He would be a high school junior [rightnow]. I saw him on July 8th. At times he showed the stuff that provedwhy we like him so much – the good arm and movement... he was 88-to-93MPH – which for a 17-year-old is great. His location was off a little.His changeup has improved. It is a matter of getting him straightenedout again and focused. He is still a premium, blue-chip guy."
RHP Fautino De Los Santos – AZL Athletics
Turn back the clock 18 months and De Los Santos was one of the fastest rising prospects in the game. An unknown entering 2007, De Los Santos had a dominating season that year and entered 2008 as a consensus top 50 prospect. Unfortunately for De Los Santos, his 2008 season was over with nearly as quickly as it began. He lasted five starts before succumbing to Tommy John surgery and was sidelined for more than a year. He returned to action this summer in the Arizona League and he was getting fastball up to 95 MPH. De Los Santos worked 11.2 innings, surrendering six runs on 12 hits. The righty allowed four walks while fanning 16. His elbow acted up during the season and it caused him to miss a few weeks, but he returned in early August and was able to make it through the rest of the summer. De Los Santos will need to move quickly going forward. He was 21 when he made his state-side debut, which is a couple years older than most prospects, and losing a year due to Tommy John surgery was an additional blow to his development. He'll celebrate his 24th birthday before next season and the Athletics could start him as high as Double-A.
OF Eury Perez – GCL Nationals
With prospects like Stephen Strasburg, Derek Norris, and Destin Hood, the Nationals farm system is slowly taking shape. Perez, who hit .321/.424/.436 last year in the Dominican Summer League, has become its latest bright spot. The 19-year-old was a hit machine during his state-side debut. He churned out out a league-high 69 hits, hit safely in 40-of-47 games, and ended the campaign on a 27-game hitting streak. His .443 on-base percentage paced the league while his 16 steals ranked third. More impressively, his 9.8% K made him one of the ten toughest hitters to strikeout. “At 6-foot, 180 pounds, Perez's power is below-average, but he has a good feel for hitting and for the strike zone. His above-average speed is also a weapon in center field and on the bases,” according to Baseball America. Perez, who played error-free ball this summer, could have the makings of a top-of-the-order hitter.
OF Juan Duran – GCL Reds
Duran was one of the top international talents on the market last year and he was given a $2 million bonus. The scouting reports were glowing and he drew comparisons to players like two-time MVP Juan Gonzalez. “[Duran's] body and offensive ability stick out like a sore thumb. In batting practice, he was just hitting them over the trees in our complex, hitting them out to center and right-center field. You can tell just tell from the way the ball jumps off his bat,” Reds director of Latin American scouting Tony Arias told Baseball America at the time of the signing. After his state-side debut this summer, it's clear that the 17-year-old Duran has a long ways to go. He hit .177/.218/.268 over 174 plate appearances. He didn't hit a single homer and his plate discipline was quite shaky – 4.6% BB vs 29.9% K. Duran has one of the highest ceilings in the organization but he is years away from making any sort of impact in the majors. He may be back in the GCL next summer.
Contact Ryan Fay at firstname.lastname@example.org