2011 DSL Midseason Update

The Phillies DSL team is a work in progress after last year’s team had a number of players promoted to GCL or Williamsport this past winter.  2010 DSL graduates included Witer Jimenez, Carlos Valenzuela (playing surpisingly well), Jorge Castillo, Gabriel Arias, Hector Neris, Luis Gonzalez, Carlos Best, and Ramon Oviedo.  That is 8 promotions from the DSL team alone and prompted some criticism about the Phillies having an older DSL squad without a huge number of prospects last year.

The Phillies’ strategy in Latin America differs from the strategy of many other organizations.  The budget is limited (21st of out 30 last year or about $1.5 million) for signing players.  But this does not mean that the Phillies are dismissing Latin America as a source of talent.  Every year the Phillies tend to sign 2-4 mid-level prospects.  The price of these prospects used to be $100K-$150K.  Now the price is more in the $200K-$300K range.  Recent mid-level signings include Gabriel Arias and Carlos Valenzuela from the above list and also include newer signees suck as Lino Martinez and Franklyn Vargas, some of whom skip directly to GCL for their Phillies debut.

The Phillies strategy has been a low budget strategy where a quantity of prospects with a tool or two that might develop is preferred over the one million dollar 5-tool prospect.  While the Phillies low budget is understandable given the high failure rate of million dollar 16-year-old signings, it can also be a little frustrating when the team appears to fall behind many of its competitors in Latin American spending.  From all appearances the Phillies DO invest in high quality complexes and development programs in the Dominican and Venezuela – a necessary attribute if your strategy is to sign a huge volume of young prospects and hope a few develop each year as they mature.

Getting back to the DSL, this year’s team does not appear to have a huge number of prospects from the surface view.  The team’s record is 15-19 and they are in 6th place in the BC South division of the DSL.  Both the hitters (18.9 vs 18.5 years old for the league) and the pitchers (19.4 vs 19.0 for the league) are slightly older than the DSL average.  And very few of the younger players are putting up decent numbers in the first part of the season.  The one arguing point in this team’s favor is that they play in a relatively tough division these days.  The Rangers and Yankees are leading their division and remaining teams such as the Cubs, Giants, Marlins, and Mets are typically among the leading spenders in the Dominican.  Add that some teams also send their Venezuelan prospects to the DSL and you have a situation where playing .500 ball might be a great result for the Phillies.

The top pitching prospect on the roster is 16-year-old LHP Franklyn Vargas (17 in August) who was this year’s highest profile signing for $330K.  I recall Vargas pitching once in the first week of the DSL season (relatively poorly) and he has not been seen since.  He does not show up in the team stats, however, so that one appearance might have been a clerical error or the game may have been rained out.  It would be understandable for Vargas not to pitch much this year as he is so young and may simply be finishing school before he plays baseball full-time.

Getting back to the roster of players who are playing regularly, the pitcher who most intrigues me is 18-year-old LHP Francibel Alejo (6’3″, 170) who together with Vargas might give the Phillies a couple of young, projectible left handed pitchers.  Alejo has had modest success with a 1-4 record and a 4.58 ERA (35.1 IP, 34 H, 13 BB, 30 K).  He is the youngest regular starter on the team and is holding his own.  The other young pitcher having some success is smallish RHP Ulises Joaquin (5’11”, 165) who is 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA (24 IP, 16 H, 5 BB, 21 K).  Joaquin is a year older than Alejo at age 19 and has been used more sparingly with only a couple of starts so far.  All of the other younger pitchers have struggled so far (Gerard Vazquez, Pedro Emelenciano, Gregorio Santos, Henry Dottin, Rivan Angulo).  Hence it is difficult to know if any are considered prospects.

The top starter on the team is 20-year-old Yari Sosa who is 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA.  Sosa is in his 3rd year with the team but this is the first time he has had a chance to start and he has put up strong numbers across the board (44.1 IP, 26 H, 11 BB, 30K).  The other older pitcher that is holding down the rotation is 5’11” LHP Adrian Sierra who is 0-5 with a 5.35 ERA though has relatively strong peripherals (35.1 IP, 47 H, 12 BB, 33 K) to suggest he has been a little unlucky in the early going.  Enrinzon Bautista has been dominant in limited action (1-0, 1.76 ERA, 15.1 IP, 11 H, 5 BB, 20 K) but at age 21 is simply way too old to be considered a great prospect.  Finally, Ramon Oviedo started the season with 3 DSL starts (1-1, 3.00 ERA) and earned a quick promotion to GCL.

Oh the hitting side the most notable performances from younger players have come from LF Pedro Miranda and speedy CF/IF Robinson Torres.  Miranda is an 18-year-old OF from Panama hitting .288 but adding 11 BB for a .413 OBP.  Torres is 19 years old and has started in CF most of the season.  He is hitting .258 with a .706 OPS but leads the team in most counting stat categories (19 runs, 17 RBI, 15 SB).

A trio of catcher/1B types are also holding their own offensively and are not too old for the league. Rommel Cepeda has started 30 games behind the plate and is by far the top catcher.  He is hitting .250 with 2 HR and 13 RBI.  Edwin Esquea (.271, 1 HR) and Rafael De La Cruz (.227, 2 HR, .802 OPS) have also seen time at catcher and at first base.

A trio of younger middle infielders have struggled some in the early going, but are worth watching for their age and playing positions.  Jairo Cardozo is the Phillies second Colombian SS (after Jair Morelos in the VSL) and has started much of the season at age 17.  He is only hitting .200 so far, but remember that this league could be much tougher competition than the VSL.  18-year-old Angelo Mora has also seen lots of playing time at SS, though he too has struggled (.239 average).  Finally, 18-year-old Fernando Rios is another player recently added to the roster from Panama.  None of these players have played especially well in the early going, but the fact that they are getting lots of playing time means the Phillies do like them as prospects.

The big disappointment for the team is likely 3B Yeisson Morales who looked ready for a promotion to GCL but got demoted once again to DSL and is hitting only .155 while only DH-ing.  If he is healthy (a big if), his prospect days may be over.  A couple of other players worth mentioning are 19-year-old 2B Riwash Ramirez who is hitting .283 with a .699 OPS and new signee Diego Gonzalez who is an older (age 20) CF but is hitting .341 in the early going.  Finally, OF Delvi Francisco has been hurt much of the year but is still only 18 years old and has plenty of time to build on his decent performance last year (.642 OPS at age 17)

In general it is hard to isolate the best prospects on this team as most of the younger players are struggling and many of the better performers are older.  While this team may not be quite as good as recent Phillies DSL team, there are still multiple players to watch and I would be surprised if the Phillies did not promote 4-6 players from this group to GCL next year.  We will check back in to both the VSL and DSL teams later in the season as the two leagues finish up later in July and August.

29 thoughts on “2011 DSL Midseason Update

  1. Any word on Miguel Nunez, that tall pitcher they paid up for last year? I don’t see any stats for him in 2011 in any league. Is he injured or just in extended?

    1. He’d be in GCL or Williamsport if he was healthy. I admit it is not a great thing that 2 of our most recent 3 high profile pitching signings (Miguel Nunez, Lino Martinez, Franklyn Vargas) are nowhere to be found this year.

    1. Lino is doing pretty well this year. I was talking about 2 of the 3 guys now pitching currently in the article. Hopefully Lino is not a year older than listed, as his MILB roster age is a year younger than his baseball reference age.

        1. 18 is the age that milb.com has listed. He signed on July 2, 2009. He did not begin play until 2010, as would befit a 16 year old signing in 2009 and beginning play in 2010 the year he turns 17. All indications are that milb.com birthdate is correct and Baseball reference is wrong. If Lino Martinez was born in 1991 as Baseball Reference says, he would now be 19, instead of the 1992 birthdate on milb.com in which he would be 18.

  2. Thanks Andy.

    I think you highlighted a bunch of important points in your opening, and I hit on a few of the same things a while back when I looked at Carlos Rivero. The beta for prospects in Latin America is through the roof, and the Phillies model seems to be the most prudent approach, and from a risk analysis point of view, the most intelligent when you consider all factors.

    1. Hopefully come Nov 2012, when MLB has their contract talks for a new CBA, an equitable drafting system will have been developed for the Latin market—because as it stands now—the highest bidder gets the most coveted kids.

    2. Dude, I think you run an awesome site. Simply stated you know more than I do about the minor leagues. I learn things from you in your write-ups.

      But by my count…in over a decade the Phillies have gotten 4 guys to MLB from LA that are worth mentioning. Carlos Ruiz, Carlos Silva, Carlos Carrasco, and Antonio Bastardo. There might be 2-3 other guys (Ezequiel Astacio, Robinson Tejeda, etc) but not really any successes to speak of past the top 4 names. Am I missing anyone else?

      In well over 10 years…almost going on 15 years…that is the return on investment? I don’t view that as very successful. If that truly represents the “most prudent” and “most intelligent” approach then why are the results so thoroughly underwhelming?

      1. The issue is the incredibly high number of players who go bust and never contribute at all in the big leagues. I think its almost impossible to look at a 15/16 year old kid (especially in Latin America, where you hardly ever get to scout them) and know what he will be like 5-8 years down the road. It takes most of these elite prospects at least 4-5 years to make it to the majors, and those guys are the best of the best.

        For every Felix Hernandez, there are 500 Michael Ynoa’s. The Phillies are risk averse in Latin America, which makes a lot of sense to me. Signing Latin American prospects is a huge crapshoot, much more so than the US draft.

        1. Make no mistakes, I agree LA is even more of a crapshoot than the draft. In fact, while I have complained frequently about what I think is a very short sighted and meager US draft spend in 2009 and 2010, I don’t really complain about the spend in LA so much as the results.

          My problem with LA is that for all the supposed investsments in these great bricks and mortar acadamies and all the supposed spreading of risk…where is the beef? (I realize I dated myself with that comment). Where are the results?

          We are all believers and fans of the minor leagues here…and we all believe that is the lifeblood of the MLB club…so at some point don’t results matter? Top 30 lists are fun and it is enjoyable to track individual progress of the players, but at some point the whole goal is for these guys to get to the MLB level and help the big club. If results do matter then they seem to suggest that all may not be well with the Phillies LA operation.

        2. The problem with the Phillies—-John S. Middleton is only a limited partner with money—no control of strategy. Once he gets a little control, possibily in a few years, then we will see a more return on investment. Of course by then, the Latin market may be under a fair drafting system.

      2. There are a few other names like Jonathan Villar and Sergio Escalona and Alfredo Simon and Kelvin Pichardo that have had some impact mostly in trades the past few years. Elizardo Ramirez helped us land Cory Lidle way back when.

        The Phillies LA program is not great. But it is arguable that the Phillies get good value for the dollars they put in. They have also started to produce more prospects in recent years without raising their spending much, as Sebastian Valle, Lisalberto Bonilla, Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez and others (HGarcia, Manzanillo, etc.) are all worth watching as prospects.

        While the Phillies have not had amazing Latin American success, they are somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of developing talent these days IMO.

    3. From a risk analysis point of view the Phillies strategy is great. Sign a large volume of prospects with some tools but at a young enough age where developing them is difficult. Then spend your money on complexes and teachers to help them develop.

      But even if I love that part of their strategy, I still feel they can be more aggressive in signing mid-level prospects. I just think Latin America and the draft (for overslot signings) are great values in terms of dollars per player value. An extra million would go a long way in Latin America. If we signed 5 or 6 medium-dollar players instead of 1-3 that extra million might get us many more millions in prospect value. We won’t hit on all of them, but if we hit on a third of them to at least develop as top 20 system prospects then we would have more trade material at a minimum and a deeper system no matter what.

      1. Six of the Braves top seven prospects are Latin signees. There is one reason they keep their farm production at a premium..

  3. Andyb,

    Thanks for the great write-up. I’ll say to you the same thing I said to Gregg last year on his Lehigh Valley write-ups. I don’t see too much to be excited yet in DSL this year, but I read every report you write and I appreciate the time you took to share the information.

    1. Thanks for the comments. I am not sure I can hold a candle to Gregg’s detailed writeups but hopefully we can have some discussion about the complex leagues that at least starts to sort out who might be prospects.

      1. The Phils announced a signing of a 17 yr. old Righthander from Venezeula Alejandro Arteaga 6 2 176 lbs on July 7th (transaction column on website) ??????

        1. From Venezuelan League – league transactions, and also appears on Phillies VSL roster, Accessible from http://www.milb.com, one easy way to see these is click on STATS line at top of page, and go to league icon and hit transactions or team rosters, if that is what you are looking for.

        2. Probably not a major signing as there was no Phillies official announcement that I could find. They tend to announce the $100K+ signings only.

  4. “andyb says:
    July 11, 2011 at 3:37 PM
    From a risk analysis point of view the Phillies strategy is great. Sign a large volume of prospects with some tools but at a young enough age where developing them is difficult. ”

    I don’t doubt their ability to find a useful arm on the cheap by scouring for projectability. Finding hitters with that strategy seems to be a bit unsuccessful.

    1. It is probably tougher to find hitters, though we may have one in Valle and Domingo Santana at least appears worthy of the investment at this stage. Until Santana most of our more expensive signings were pitchers and middle infielders. Almost as if the Phillies’ strategy was to get specific things out of Latin America – shortstops and late developing mid-priced pitching. Also relievers as guys like Juan Sosa and Ebelin Lugo are clearly on a relief track in the low minors.

      For all the complaints we have about the Phillies and Ruben Amaro’s sometime dismissal of sabermetrics in their public comments, this is a real Moneyball player acquisition strategy. Moneyball post-Moneyball that is. The A’s found a real value in polished low tool college players that has now been over-exploited. The Phillies version of moneyball is finding underpriced tools, often guys that have legit tools but have something wrong with them. That might be bad performance (Taylor/Howard). That might short height (Bastardo). That might be Latin America (dozens of low priced projectible arms). That might be injury (Hamels, Nesseth). The real key to sabermetrics is finding baseball value in every dollar you expend and the Phillies are really good at this lately.

      1. AndyB,

        Your last comment…

        “The Phillies version of moneyball is finding underpriced tools, often guys that have legit tools but have something wrong with them. That might be bad performance (Taylor/Howard). That might short height (Bastardo). That might be Latin America (dozens of low priced projectible arms). That might be injury (Hamels, Nesseth). The real key to sabermetrics is finding baseball value in every dollar you expend and the Phillies are really good at this lately.”

        I agree with you and I agree with the Phillies on this approach. However, in the last 24 months it feels like RA has started to focused almost soley on this approach and seems to have missed the fact that sometimes getting the best talent is going to cost you some money. It is great to look for bargains, and the Phillies should continue this approach, but they also need to make sure they are targeting above average talent and willing to pay for it.

        I don’t see this as an Either / Or approach, but I believe both approaches should be part of any good organizations strategy. What I see from the Phillies recently is alot of bargain hunting…to the point it appears they have gotten distracted from the basics of talent evaluation and talent acquisition. It is starting to feel like that if it isn’t a bargain or blue light special, they aren’t interested.

        Sometimes quality really does cost you top dollar. In some cases…you really do only get what you pay for.

        1. I tend to agree with you that teams can go too far in this direction. Hopefully the Phillies increase the draft budget this year and get some of the higher dollar guys who are more certain under contract.

          In general I like this approach however. I tend to go with tools over performance more than others on this sight. The performance guys often become mediocre pros when they rise up the system. The tools guys have at least a shot at getting better up the ladder. Now one can go too far (Hewitt), but I also love choices like Collier that have a chance to be special.

          I do get the feeling that sometimes the Phillies do a screen of everyone who had Tommy John surgery (or needs the surgery) in the past year and then cross-reference that with their high school scouting reports pre-injury. Then we draft at least 1 guy each year in a late round that at some point had graded out in the top 5 rounds previously.

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