The range of talent and experience varies widely. There is not a lot of depth. And the fields and umpiring aren’t very consistent.
And, many of the very best Latin American players come directly to the U.S. anyway.
In addition to all that, Mariners fans, in particular, have grown skeptical of the entire Latin American structure, after watching a series of expensive and much-hyped prospects (Carlos Triunfel, Guillermo Pimentel, Phillips Castillo, Martin Peguero, and, to a lesser extent, Gabriel Guerrero and Julio Morban) seem to fizzle out.
Meanwhile, the not-at-all-hyped Ji-Man Choi has lapped all of them to become the top international hitting prospect in the system.
All that being said … there will always be hits and (expensive) misses among prospects.
And, despite everything, baseball is still baseball, so the international stats aren’t meaningless (as long as you don’t get carried away).
So, with that out of the way: Two hitters stand out among the international crowd in 2013.
Yordi Calderon is a 19-year-old Venezuelan listed at 6-foot-2, 185. He’s a corner guy, but versatile enough so far to have seen time at 3b, LF and 1b. He played almost equally at those three spots this year, but I would guess, since they aren’t working him primarily at 3b (and he seems pretty error-prone there), that means probably corner OF or 1b once he’s fully grown.
Anyway, he emerged this year as a major threat with the bat.
.314/.425/.538 with 21 doubles, 4 triples, 11 homers and 46 walks in 334 PAs.
One of the things that sets off our radar alerts is ISO over .200 with a K% under .200.
True, most of those stats were in Venezuela, and he didn’t hit so well in his 12-game tryout in the states.
But the fact that they brought him up the U.S. in mid-season (something they also did with Guerrero and Ketel Marte) shows that the scouts have liked what they’ve seen.
And, obviously, the raw materials of an interesting bat are there.
No, I don’t know how to pronounce it either, but Gianfranco Wawoe could be tripping people’s tongues soon.
He’s from Curacao, also the home of the new Home Run King of Japan, Wladimir Balentien. So, his last name is Dutch in origin, and maybe someone can give us a clue as to pronunciation.
Wawoe is a little guy — 5-foot-11, 170 — who plays in the middle of the field. He had been mostly a shortstop, but this year (his age-18 season) he was more often at 2b or CF. So I’d guess he’ll end up at one of those spots.
In those first two teenage seasons in Venezuela, he was one of those guys who gets on base a ton and was hard to strike out, which is valuable in itself, but in 2013 he added power and speed dimensions.
He hit .328/.415/.512 with 19 doubles, 4 triples and 6 homers, plus 33 walks in 284 PAs.
And 21 steals in 28 attempts.
And all that with only 25 strikeouts. That’s 8.8% of PAs. When you find guys who strike out around 10% of PAs, we call that a “micro-low K%,” because the average tends to be closer to 20%, particularly among guys who hit the ball hard.
We went through the math a bit in the Aaron Barbosa post.
So here’s a guy with the “low-K% + speed” combo (as we mentioned regarding Barbosa, the Pedroia-Reyes-Len Dykstra formula), except he figured out how to put up a .184 ISO while doing it.
Will that carry over to U.S. leagues? Maybe not. But it’s a very cool profile if it does.