Digging for Diamonds: Round 3
The name of the game is getting in early. Right? Is there a better feeling than finding a player you believe in, and watching him succeed? I know it’s the part of playing dynasty baseball I enjoy most, and I’d wager that most of you enjoy it as well. So, welcome back to Digging for Diamonds. An article series based entirely on finding prospects outside the TDG’s top 100 prospects that we present for your satisfaction. We think they’re worthy of your hearts and minds, and spill ours to share about their potential. However, we do need something in return.
Here’s the deal. We’re looking for this season’s best under-the-radar prospect, but we want your help. Each week a few writers will present you with a case as to why a particular player needs your attention. Your job is to vote on which prospect has piqued your interest the most.
You get a bunch of prospect info, we get some bragging rights. Deal? Make sure to vote in the poll at the end of the article. We’ll announce who moves on in the next article.
Now, let’s dig in.
Felix Valerio, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
Age: 21, Highest Level: Double-A
Analysis by Ross Jensen
Last season, I highlighted Felix Valerio in my Scouting the Statline series. With an exceptional batting eye, Valerio entered 2021 with a career MiLB batting average over .310 with more walks than strikeouts. While he has shown above average speed and stolen base prowess (nearly 38 SB/600 PA), what fixed Valerio on my radar in 2021 was the emergence of power in his swing, something sorely lacking in his early seasons. Valerio managed to slug .468 in 2021 overall, continuing to hit for solid power after a promotion to High-A, despite struggling to maintain his typically high average and OBP against older pitching competition. This season Valerio has moved up again and has continued to dominate despite being the sixth youngest player at the level. Valerio currently sports the highest SLG and OPS of his career (.592 and .992, respectively). Perhaps most impressive is that he has a 3:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio (with only 3 total strikeouts, a meager 5% K rate).
Standing at just 5’7, Valerio is often overlooked (perhaps literally?) on most top prospect lists. He did not appear on TDG’s own top 200 prospects list from Ken Balderston. His position, size, and bat-to-ball skills remind me of another criminally overlooked prospect from just over a decade ago: Jose Altuve.
Like Valerio, Altuve was ignored by top prospect lists. Upon his promotion to the big leagues, I recall reading how Altuve’s bat-to-ball skills made it look like he was hitting from a tee when he squared up big league pitching. Those are the same kind of skills that Valerio brings to the table. Like Valerio, Altuve’s power began to show during his age 20 season in the lower minors. In his age 21 season, Altuve pushed himself onto the big league roster directly from Double-A (how conveniently similar to Valerio’s current spot) and he never looked back. Quite the set of coincidences, eh? Indeed, I am not the only analyst dubbing Valerio Altuve 2.0. From Altuve’s inconspicuous beginnings, he has gone on to win three batting titles and an MVP while attending 7 All-Star games. Valerio has the makeup to follow that trajectory, add him to your roster with confidence!
Jesus Galiz, C, Los Angeles Dodgers
Age: 18, Highest Level: DSL
Analysis by Brian Shanks
Every tale has a beginning, some fillers, some highs and lows and then an ending. Some stories end really quickly and we just set the book down and move on to another piece not ever wondering how the writing was gonna end. Something at the beginning of the book must grab your attention or why would you ever continue to read. Now there are instances where a buddy recommends a book and you pick it up just because you trust his taste. No matter how bad the writing or content is, your buddy told you it was good so you’ll continue on. Also, we all grew up hearing the old adage of don’t judge a book by its cover but come on while this is some fine advice it doesn’t hold true to 90 percent of things. If a book has this incredible cover and it is the exact thing you would like to pick next then obviously that is the direction you are gonna proceed.
Now just change the book into a prospect and we have the exact way we all find all our players. The cover is a 6’4, 200 pound 16 year old so you darn right I am gonna judge him a tad more favorable than a 5’8, 160 pounder. The content and filler is your minor league stats from Low A ball to Triple A ball. And the ending all depends on the proximity to the majors the player is. I would imagine we all have a buddy or writer that we like to take their advice on whom they are looking at next as a hidden gem. I guess what I am getting at is a prospect is just like reading/writing a book depending on your perspective.
This story is in its very early infant stage but let me introduce you to the tale of one Mr. Jesus Galiz. I would like to say this tale started off as a happy, feel good story but unfortunately this wasn’t the case. In 2021 during the pandemic Galiz lost his father due to Coronavirus complications and had his offer sheet of $1.5 million pulled from the New York Yankees due to cutbacks, also related to Coronavirus. Fortunately, the Los Angeles Dodgers swooped in and signed him to a $815,000 offer sheet.
The numbers during the 2021 minor league season didn’t knock anyone’s socks off but I’m not concerned about a 17 year old making the transition. In 101 at bats Galiz collected 22 hits for a .218 average. He didn’t get a long ball but collected 5 doubles and 1 triple, slugging .287. He only struck out 17 times which I love at this young of an age. Galiz has the ability to hit the ball all over the field. He has quick hands and plenty of bat speed with enough power to reach 20 plus homers in the years to come. Maturity and workability are just a few things being said of him in the early stages of his career. Athletic catchers are one of my favorite players to scout because there could be positional eligibility in the future, think along the lines of Daulton Varsho. It very well could have been a boon for Galiz getting picked up by the Dodgers with how well they do in the development department. What we have is a 6 foot 183 pound athletic machine with a hit tool on the brink of explosion while having the coaches stamp of approval on maturity. This is the kind of ‘spect I wanna be all over before it becomes all too common to be saying his name, not to mention his story makes him easy to root for.
Cesar Prieto, SS/2B, Baltimore Orioles
Age: 23, Highest Level: High-A
Analysis by Andrew Jurewicz
As I expected, Brian and Ross have done a fantastic job on their nominations and analysis for this week’s Digging for Diamonds breaking down Galiz and Valerio. Keeping with the international theme of prospects from Latin American baseball powerhouses my nomination is going to be a 2022 international signee, Cesar Prieto, of Cuba. My close baseball friends know that I have an affinity for Cuban ballplayers and prospects. Big fan of the cuisine too and even if the players don’t pan out I can make up for it with a nice Cuba libre in hand! But seriously, why isn’t Cesar Prieto getting more love in the dynasty ranks? Let’s get started.
The 5’9” infielder became eligible to sign with a major league organization under the international bonus pool after defecting to the US in May 2021 and chose to sign with the Baltimore Orioles in January 2022. At the time he was considered one of the best players in the Cuban ranks and showed out in his final season of the Cuban National Series, slashing .403/.464/.579 over 360 plate appearances with 7 home runs and only 11 strikeouts. Though the talent level comps out to a lower minor league isn’t that what a great hitter should do with that competition? Dominate.
He profiles as a hit over power middle infielder most likely ending up at second base. Scouting reports say that Prieto has a good understanding of the strike zone with a mature approach and doesn’t miss very often when he does swing. Since getting into a major league program he’s reportedly added 15-20 pounds which should reflect some nice power gains. Do you think it’s working? Through April 24th at High-A Aberdeen he’s hit 6 home runs in 63 plate appearances putting together a slash of .321/.381/.679 and tack on a 7.9/15.9 BB/K%. Here’s a look at his first home run of the season. A small sample size but nonetheless encouraging as he transitions to playing professionally in the US with better resources available for development.
While not an exact comparison I think there are some similarities that can be noted to Prieto and fellow native Cuban prospect, Miguel Vargas, who’s very close to MLB ready. They’re offensive minded infielders with excellent hit tools to square up baseballs, are showing signs of hitting the ball for more power, and keep their strikeout percentage manageable. Both are similar in age (Prieto is about a half a year older) but Vargas obviously has a greater power ceiling and while our diamond nomination still has a lot of work to do against more advanced pitching at the higher levels.
If our guy keeps it rolling in High-A odds he’ll get promoted to Double-A reasonably quickly given his age. Prieto is rostered in 4% of Fantrax leagues right now but I’d anticipate that changing quickly as word gets out there. Better act quick if you want this diamond!