VSL Update – July

This post will serve as a quick mid-season update for the VSL team.  We will follow up at the end of the season with a more complete prospect list and review.

The VSL Phillies are currently in 6th place out of 7 teams in the VSL with a 21-33 record.  The team is a relatively young team offensively, and has consequently had some trouble scoring runs.  The offense was helped immensely by the mid-season addition of 2 more experienced players (Luis Martinez – sent down from GCL, and Rudney Balentien – previously in the DSL).  The pitching staff, on the other hand, was a little older and contains fewer prospects.  Its best pitcher (Ely Izturriaga) was also promoted to GCL.The result has been a mediocre team in terms of wins and losses, though the offense does show some promise in the performance of several younger prospects.  The pitching staff does not seem to have many realistic prospects, though it should be noted that new signee Lino Martinez has yet to pitch and probably will not make his debut until next season.

On offense the top player has been 19-year-old OF Rudney Balentien from Curacao.  He is coming off a 3 HR game this weekend and is now hitting .369 with 8 HR in only 84 AB.  This is after 1 HR in 2 DSL seasons.  He is now sitting with an OPS of 1.150, though it is difficult to know if he is a real prospect.  At the very least he is showing enough to merit a promotion to GCL next year.  The other midseason addition to the VSL team is Luis Martinez who was cut from GCL earlier this year.  He is also 19 and is hitting .290 with 2 HR and a .790 OPS.

The 2 high profile players we were watching at the beginning of the year have not had great years so far.  Bernardo Solarte is 1 17-year-old CF who went 8-34 in the first 2 weeks of the season but has not been heard from since (probably due to injury).  SS Nerio Rios, also age 17, has had mediocre results.  He is hitting .220 with a .566 OPS and little speed (4 SB, 6 CS).  Rios was reputed to be a good defender with better offensive tools than Freddy Galvis.

While the high profile players have fizzled, a couple of other young prospects have picked up the slack.  Most prominent is 18-year-old C Marco Davalillo.  Davalillo is hitting .337 with 3 HR and 19 RBI (.866 OPS).  Davalillo has also thrown out the highest percentage of basestealers (35%) of the 4 catchers on the roster.  A couple of other 17-year-old catchers are also holding their own offensively.  Enderson Villegas is hitting .289 (1 HR, 13 RBI, .817 OPS) while Willians Astudillo is hitting .270 (1 HR, 18 RBI, .662 OPS).  Astudillo appears to be the weaker of the 3 catchers defensively, so is probably a lesser prospect.

Beyond these players there are a few other names to watch.  Luis Unda is a 19-year-old OF that is a solid hitter (.292, 3 HR, 28 RBI, .783 OPS) but a little old to be a top prospect.  Eduards Tolo is a small infielder (mainly 3B) that is hitting .283.  Rosmel Fajardo is the youngest player on the team at age 16, though he is having trouble holding his own hitting only .172.

While there are not a huge number of prospects on offense, there are at least a few names worth watching (Davalillo, Balentien, Solarte, Rios).  The pitching staff is much more of a disappointment.  The best pitcher in the first half of the season was Ely Izturriaga who went 2-2 with a 2.08 ERA and solid peripheral stats (39 IP, 32 H, 10 BB, 47 K).  He was promoted to GCL a few weeks ago.

Beyond Izturriaga, there are not many pitchers to get excited about.  Yosber Monzon is a 19-year-old RHP that is 4-2 with a 3.40 ERA (53 IP, 39 H, 22 BB, 33 K).  He will need to miss more bats if he is to progress in the future.  The other starters are Zael Honora (age 19, 6.34 ERA), Leonel Bastides (age 20, 5.20 ERA), Jesus Pirela (age 20, 4.63 ERA), and Ervis Manzanillo (age 19, 5.32 ERA).  Pirela has a decent BB/K ratio of 21/50, though at age 20 is a little old to be a real prospect without a dominating performance.

None of the younger pitchers such as 17-year-old Jorge Guzman (6.75 ERA) have stood out as potential prospects.  2 19-year-olds (Juary Gomez and Kirlian Campo) have pitched decently in relief roles, though the fact that they are not starting probably means the team does not see them as real prospects.

We will check back in with the DSL shortly and then follow-up with top prospect lists in August after the season has been completed.

17 thoughts on “VSL Update – July

  1. OUCH…not a lot going on there. This is why the Phils need to pony up for the better prospects….especially if they sell the farm to Toronto.

    BTW…wasn’t there a 16 year old kid they signed who was a pretty good hitter (OF ~ I think)?

  2. The one high profile 16-year-old from Latin America this year was 16-year-old Dominican OF Domingo Santana. He is having a very good debut at GCL, showing plus power in the early going.

    Don’t be too discouraged by mediocre performances in the complex leagues. The best prospects like Santana usually do not play in them as they go straight to GCL. Also, the VSL team has been hurt by Bernardo Solarte’s absence. He was the highest profile signing last year out of Venezuela.

  3. If they do trade away their farm they will need to get down to south america and japan to restock the farm

  4. Thanks, I appreciate these informative writeups on the foreign rookie leagues. Is Balentien the first notable guy they’ve come up with from Curacao?

  5. I believe Balentien is the first player the Phillies have signed out of Curacao. He was not a high dollar signing, however. I also don’t think he is related to Seattle prospect Wladimir Balentien. Curacao gets a handful of prospects every year (guys like Andruw Jones), so it is definitely worth having a scout down there. The Phillies’ Balentien is probably not a top prospect, but at 19 years old he is still young enough to have a chance. He had zero power before this year, so he might be a late developer.

  6. Bernardo Solarte is currently in Clearwater rehabbing an injury, once he is better he will return to the VSL

  7. Thanks for the info on Solarte. Hopefully it is nothing serious.

    16-year-olds do occasionally play in GCL. They can sign a pro contract at age 16, though that contract is generally for the next baseball season. All of the signings from the recent July International signing period who turned 16 this year have to wait until next year to make their debut. Since Santana turned 16 last year (he is 17 next month) he was eligible this year. Only the most talented 16-year-olds will play at GCL, however, as most go to play in VSL or DSL for a year or two before they are promoted to the GCL.

  8. Emderson Villegas has done the bulk of the catching, Marco Davaliilo has played mostly First Base, and Williams Astudillo has been mostly DH. Yosber Monzon seems to be tending towards a high ground ball rate. I believe the Dominican League has more interesting players in this organization.

  9. Davalillo has caught in 26 games so far this year, Barrios 20, Astudillo 13, and Villegas 12. Davillo also plays 1B because of his bat, but the team clearly still thinks of him as a catcher. They just have 4 catchers to split the playing time. He may be the most interesting prospect on the team now outside of Solarte and Rios. Balentien really should be in GCL by now for us to get excited about him as a prospect.

  10. I don’t see where the stats are that say how many games a player played at which position. The number of games caught shown indicates 71 by my count, while team has played 54 by the stats page. So, though they may shift players around during games to catcher the general plan has evolved to be that Endersen Villegas will catch mostly , projecting forward if things remain as trending,and Davalillo will assume 1B, mostly, and Williams Astudillo will be mostly DH. Since none of these players have caught in the majority of games, where they played at other positions might be a key.

  11. Andy, I love the south of the border leagues and reading what you write about them. This year has been a horrible year for these teams. The DSL seems to have more prospects and I’m anxious to hear more about them. I was really high on Trinidad but I see he’s been suspended for 50 games. Maybe his sudden explosion had quite a bit to do with the performance enhancers.

  12. There are often 2 catchers in a game and the stats don’t quite break down innings yet. It is a little hard to find, but Baseball Reference does break down the games played and basic stats (like CS% for catchers). Here is the link for the entire organization that lists games played by position:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/PHI/2009-organization-batting.shtml

    There is a better fielding link with stats that is down now but is located on the minor league affiliates menu. Both Davalillo and Villegas play lots of 1B, most likely to keep their bats in the lineup since they are the better prospects. Interestingly Barrios is the guy that is almost exclusively a catcher, though he will need to hit some to progress from the VSL. Astudillo looks more like a 1B/DH type that also catches but is behind Davalillo and Villegas on the depth chart. I don’t think there is any grand plan here other than to keep the better prospects in the lineup at any position.

    Bellman – don’t be discouraged by the W/L records. The big thing to look at is how the young players are doing. The best prospects like Santana are not even on these teams. The DSL team may look like it has more prospects on the surface, but it is really tough to know till they get promoted. What I look for is which 17 and 18-year-olds are getting regular playing time. The best VSL prospect is probably Solarte, who is currently injured. Lino Martinez, who is our highest priced pitching signee since Carrasco, has yet to make his debut.

  13. Good stuff here, andyb. Disappointing debuts so far from Solarte and Rios, but that’s countered somewhat by Davalillo, Balentien, and Tolo emerging. For whatever reason, the organization has had some luck recently with some late-blooming Latin American players — Ruiz being the prime example, but Bastardo, Escalona, and even Siulman Lebron as well. Let’s hope that turns out to be the case for one or more of the above.

  14. I doubt anyone else will move up to GCL this year. If the Phillies were to move more players it would have happened around the time they moved Izturriaga up a few weeks ago.

    The one exception I could see is Nevri Jimenez from the DSL who has been even more impressive offensively than Davalillo. He has not played since July 4th, however. I am guessing he is injured (like Solarte).

  15. Good to see Solarte is back for the first time in two months getting three hits, 4 rbi’s and a stolen base in the VSL. Impressive to know they have Santana and Solarte as 17 year old ML outfield prospects coming out of the Dominican and Venezuela.

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