Searching for Value with Latin American Pitchers: AL East
In most years the place to shop for Latin American pitchers is the AL East. With 4 of the 5 teams heavily invested in Latin America there are always low money signings under the radar or big money signings hiding behind their more illustrious peers. Unfortunately 2014 is a bit more of a down year for the AL East in the underrated Latin pitching market than 2013 was, but given the international signings by the Red Sox and Yankees, there should be more buying opportunities in the future.
A Glimpse at the Blue Jays:
Last year was the year to raid the Blue Jays farm system for Latin arms in deep dynasty leagues, 2015 brings you the opportunity to get them closer to the majors. Though on a side note; the Blue Jays farm system has been a consistent source of high upside low minors pitchers over the years, they are always worth an extra look for pop up guys.
Miguel Castro – RHP
2014 Stats: 80.2 IP 2.68 ERA 50 H 30 BB 78 K
Castro is everything you dream about in a pop up prospect. Last year rumors came out that he had touched 103 in the DWL, before coming stateside to the GCL. In 2014 he took his electric fastball through a destruction of the North West League before having 30.1 productive innings of full season ball, culminating with time in Hi-A. There is a ton of projection here as the fastball is mostly 93-95 with the ability to touch higher. He shows feel for secondary pitches but is mostly living off of his fastball. Castro is primed for a launch into insane amount of hype in 2015 as he is now on the prospect radar of more casual fans. There is a lot of risk that he ends up in the bullpen long term (though the outcome there is still likely special if you are in a league that values relievers), but if you are scared of being burned by a move in the future there is still plenty of time to bail with a profit. In the end there is front line potential and huge risk, but it is definitely something you can dream big on.
Jairo Labourt – LHP
2014 Stats: 85.1 IP 2.53 ERA 62 H 57 BB 93 K
After full season didn’t go well (20 BB 11 K in 14 IP) Labourt bumped back down to the NWL where he was dominant. Where as Castro is flash and burns brightly, Labourt gives you that more conventional look. He has prototype size (6’4″ 204), is left handed, has a fastball that is plus with a chance a little bit more, can miss bats already, and has shown the workings of potentially two plus secondary pitches. Even without the full season resume, Labourt offers a bit more safety than Castro, as the floor here if he stays healthy is likely more back end starter than reliever. There is still plenty of upside here, especially if he can continue to miss bats. He will need to do a better job the second time around at facing the Midwest League, but he is a guy who won’t get as much hype and could come cheaper than Castro, but in a similar value range.
The Rays Kids:
After some not great years on the farm, the Rays system is starting to show some promising Latin arms at the complex level. These aren’t guys to run out and get right now (unless for some insane reason you also play in leagues where ~1000 minor leaguers are owned), but they are guys to keep an eye on and collect them or like minded prospects as they start to pop up.
Orlando Romero – RHP
2014 Stats: 37.1 IP 4.58 ERA 39 H 17 BB 34 K
I will be honest, I didn’t know about Romero until Kiley McDaniel rated him the #24 prospect in the Rays’ system. For the most part if you weren’t around Rays Fall Instructs you didn’t hear about him recently, but after impressing in the VSL they brought him stateside where he was 92-96 and up to 98 with the fastball while showing some promise with offspeed pitches. Romero is eons away, especially since the Rays have traditionally moved pitchers very slowly through the system. He is probably not worst rostering in all but a few leagues, but 18 year old starting pitchers who are up to 98 should be paid attention to.
Jose Mujica – RHP
2014 Stats: 3 IP 0.00 ERA 4 H 0 BB 2 K
A year ago Mujica showed good on his $1 million bonus, by electrifying the GCL with pinpoint control (3 BB in 32.0 IP). Mujica missed most of 2014 due to a non-pitching injury (broken foot). He has a low to mid-90s fastball with good sink, and he couples it with a changeup with plus potential. The breaking ball isn’t there and he lacks big time projection. It is a profile that could sky rocket, especially if he can keep the control he showed early. He does not have the upside, but if you are looking for the “safest” profile in the low minors, groundball tendencies, good control, and good changeup would be near the top of the list. Mujica will play 2015 at age 19.
A Second Shot at German:
Domingo German – RHP – New York Yankees
2014 Stats: 123.1 IP 2.48 ERA 25 BB 113 K
I almost wrote up German on the NL East section, but decided against it because I thought his hype was too high, but now after some middling rankings and a trade to the Yankees, it is probably a good time to talk about the RHP. There is electric stuff here, and anyone who saw the Futures Game this year still has his inning burned into their mind as he flat-out dominated Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo back to back for strikeouts, but despite the single impressive inning German is far from a top prospect right now. German is a good reason why command and control are two separate skills, he can pound the strike zone, as evidenced by his good walk rate, but manipulating the ball in the zone is not his strength. The fastball itself is in the mid-90s and all the way up to 97 and has great movement, especially in heavy sink. Some evaluators like the changeup potential and the slurvy curveball, but both need work. There is a lot of upside here, but the secondaries and command need to come (as does every pitcher I write about), the floor is a near one pitch reliever who unleashes the fastball while using the secondaries to keep batters honest. The Yankees have had some recent look with pitchers, so it will be interesting to see what a fresh set of eyes does with German. German should probably be owned in all dynasty leagues with 200 or more minor leaguers owned, and should be owned in many below that, because there is a chance at a nice pay off.
The Peralta Lesson: (CAUTION not Advice)
Ofelky Peralta – RHP
2014 Stats: 43.1 IP 3.12 ERA 28 H 37 BB 33 K
I will start this off by saying that as the title says, this is not an endorsement of a player, it is a warning about how to approach the concepts put for by this series. The Baltimore Orioles rarely are involved in Latin America and so when a 6’5″ 16 year old teenager popped up last winter who was up to 95 with room for more, he got a ton of hype. This is the cautionary tale on jumping on board too early. Peralta is super raw, the control is non-existent, the secondaries are nascent, and he is eons away. If roster spots aren’t an issue, by all means roster lottery tickets like Peralta, but at this point he is probably 6-7 years away from being on your major league roster and probably 8-10 away from being useful, and that is only if the player actually succeeds. This series is about finding value, but I would avoid chasing ghosts and whispers that aren’t stateside.