Monday, March 26, 2012

Latin America Look: DPL 1B/3B Prospects Natanael Javier and Leury Vargas

Last week, I wrote a little profile on the Dominican Prospect League, and much like I will be looking up prospects who'll be entering the 2012 Draft out of high school and college, I figure it would be a good idea to look at some international names who'll be eligible to sign in 2012. The first two I am going to look at are two guys out of the DPL program in the Domincan Republic: Natanael Javier and Leury Vargas, both who project as corner infielders. Both also appeared at the DPL Showcase in Peoria, Arizona this March.

Natanael Javier, Third Base

Age: 16 years old (Birthday: October 10th, 1995)
Hometown: Boca Chica, Dominican Republic
Height: Six-foot, Three inches
Weight: 185 Pounds

Summary on Javier:

Javier is a 16 year old third baseman who sports a lot of potential at the plate. At six-foot three inches, he's big and strong, and when you watch tape of him in batting practice, he can wow you in a variety of ways. He has a strong, fluid swing that is very consistent and he can really drive the ball with authority. Perfect Game USA in their recap of the DPL Workout Day on March 21st echoed a lot of the same sentiments, noting that Javier had one of the most impressive batting sessions of any of the DPL players that day. Here is what they said about Javier in their writeup:

"Javier is a right-handed batter with lots of strength. He has by far the best plate coverage of any of the players and his bat is in the strike zone for a long time. His swing is quick with smooth and easy bat speed. He had a “wow” BP, especially on his third round when he cut it loose. He launched three homers with easy far over the left field wall with almost no effort. To say the ball jumps off his bat is overused in scouting and really doesn’t do Javier justice. I’m not sure if it leaps, bounds, hop, or springs off his bat, but it is quite impressive."

If I had to guess, I would say his swing reminds me a lot of Hanley Ramirez. His swing looks very effortless, but he has the strength to really put some pop behind the ball. However, a lot of his value as a potential prospect is tied to his offensive ability, as scouts haven't been as high about his defense or speed in the field or basepaths. In the scouting report on the DPL site, they note that even though Javier's "foot work is great for a big man and has good body control and agility," they do suggest that he is "an average fielder with average arm strength and runs below average."

At 16 years old, Javier does have room to improve in his weak areas, and he could become a better fielder with more exposure to professional instruction, especially in Rookie ball (both in the DSL or VSL, or AZL or GCL with whatever team that signs him). Even if he cannot stick defensively at third base, the reports on his bat and power are good enough to where he could make the move to first base in the future (though he obviously would hold more value at the hot corner).

Leury Vargas, First Base/Third Base

Age: 15 years old (Birthday: August 30th, 1996)
Hometown: San Cristobal, Dominican Republic
Height: Six-foot, Three inches
Weight: 210 pounds

Summary on Vargas:

Vargas made a lot of noise for being one of the youngest players to travel with the DPL team to Peoria. Despite his youth (he doesn't turn 16 until late August), he is definitely a man-child at Six-foot, three inches and 210 pounds. Though he can play both corners, with his size, it is more likely that he will probably project as a first baseman as a professional. When you watch him on tape, it's obvious he is very raw defensively, as he doesn't look as smooth as many of the other infielder prospects on the DPL squad (and even Javier, who is rated as average defensively). While most of what I saw was him playing first base, his footwork could use a lot of work and his transfer and throwing motion could use some fine tuning as well. However, at his age, he still has plenty of time to develop and polish up his glove at the corner.

What really makes Vargas stand out is his bat. For a big guy, his swing is very short and compact (even more so than Javier's), but he still gets a lot of pop behind the ball and can consistently hit line drives. He keeps his hands and the bat close to his body and he sports a bit of a leg kick in his load. To me, his swing compares a lot to Robinson Cano. But with his strength and size, he'll obviously project for more power than Cano as a hitter.

Perfect Game was intrigued by Vargas simply because of his age and short swing for a first baseman. Here's what they said in their writeup on Vargas about his workout on March 21st:

"Leury Vargas is a bit on an anomaly, a Dominican first base prospect. He is a physical specimen listed at 6’3, 210 which is a couple inches and 10-15 pounds on the conservative side as he towers over the other players. He was the youngest position player on the team and doesn’t turn 16 until August 30. He doesn’t have the deep load that others do, as he stays very short to the ball with very quick and strong hands/wrists. His power is evident with a lot more to come."

The biggest key to Vargas' future is his size, as he is already 210 pounds as a 15 year old and he is only going to get bigger as he gets older. Whether or not he can keep the weight under control in the future will be a huge factor in his development, especially since his athleticism and footwork seem to be average at best. However, he has a ton of power potential and youth on his side, so safe to say, he will be very intriguing to a lot of teams who are looking for a long-term project to boost their system.

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