|Jeff Morris – Follow on Twitter|
The Dominican Summer League Braves were the league’s most inept club, finishing an abysmal 18-53 on the season – which looks a little worse when you consider they won their first three games of the year. Much of this was due to the aggressive placement of their best prospects from the previous July 2nd signing period. That meant no Kevin Maitan, Abraham Gutierrez, or Livan Soto. The DSL Braves only briefly got a look at Yunior Severino, Yefri Del Rosario, and Juan Contreras. Only Yenci Pena (pictured right) spent significant time in the DSL for this team.
Without the organization’s best international prospects, the DSL club relied a surprising amount on players who joined the organization during this year’s signing class – which again has signing bonus restrictions. Nearly a dozen players from that J2 class made their professional debut this season, which is a fairly astounding number when most J2 prospects don’t get into game action until the following summer after a year in the team’s training complex. Despite trying a host of new faces (nearly 60 total), the DSL squad could never get going.
Don’t get down on this year’s roster, though. While the Braves sported a few older guys, many of them lacked experience. Typically, guys stick around 2-3 years for consistency, leadership, and experience, but with the Braves pushing so many guys from the last two J2 classes, it led to a lot of players with little or no previous experience. There are some major league quality prospects at this level – they are just too young and experienced to face other older and more experienced pitchers and hitters.
A few players did stand out as studs for this roster.
DSL Braves Pitcher of the Year – Gabriel Noguera
Signed at the end of May of 2016, Noguera was already 20, but he still did not pitch last season. Noguera was actually a prospect to watch in the 2013 J2 signing period, but he never agreed to a contract. This season, his first of professional action, Noguera owned the Dominican Summer League. He’s way too old at 21, but over 31 innings, he picked up a strikeout an inning and was charged with just three earned runs (0.87 ERA). He did walk a tad too many with 14, but for a DSL club short on real success, Noguera was a breath of fresh air. In early August, he came to the states and joined the GCL club. He’s continued to find success there and the southpaw is starting to gain some traction as a prospect on the march.
DSL Braves Player of the Year – Juan Carlos Negret
Though he missed a few weeks in July, Negret paced the DSL in doubles and steals while using an unusually high hit-by-pitch number to prop his OBP all the way up to .410. A Cuban-born outfielder, Negret spent most of the season at Age-18 and hit .264 with a .391 SLG to go along with that sparkling on-base percentage. He added 14 doubles and 23 steals while playing surprisingly errorless baseball in 250.1 innings in center. I say surprising because errant throws are common at this level. He also played about about half as much in right field. With the Braves raiding the DSL roster for talent, it was a little surprising to see Negret stick around this entire season, but we should see him stateside next summer.
Other Names to Remember
Yenci Pena, SS – I mentioned Pena before and he did spend a good chunk of the season in the DSL, slashing .230/.328/.327. Another seven-digit earner from the 2016 J2 Class, Pena fills out the scouting report well with good tools all-around, though no plus-plus tool. It remains to be seen if shortstop is his long-term position. He never played after his promotion to the GCL for whatever reason.
Reilys Blanco, UTIL – The expectation was that Blanco, a switch-hitter, would play a big, big role after he was surprisingly left in the DSL despite a .307/.374/.330 run over 102 PA last year. Unfortunately, his numbers declined instead. He still flashed good plate discipline, walking 28 times to just 18 strikeouts though it’s difficult to put but too much value in those kind of numbers as the DSL pitchers are notoriously wild. Still, he was left with this odd slash – .217/.342/.265. Blanco played mostly third base, but also slotted over to shortstop along with playing a little second base and left field. Now 21 years-old, Blanco is too old for the DSL – and frankly the GCL – and his production this season might make it difficult for him to stick around for 2018.
Henry Quintero, OF – One of the oldest players in the DSL, Quintero is another player signed out of Cuba and one of this year’s J2 class that made his debut shortly after. At 23, Quintero is ancient for the DSL and whipped the league around over an injury-interrupted nine-game campaign that included a lost month of action. Depending on his VISA situation, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Quintero in the mix for a Danville assignment to open 2018.
Jose Montilla, RHP – Montilla was the unquestioned ace of the roster after Noguera’s promotion. Over 44 innings, he maintained a 3.07 ERA and started ten games. The Dominican right-hander finished the year with a start in the Gulf Coast League, where he tossed five scoreless innings. Not a bad turn of events for the Age-19 pitcher who was actually part of the previous J2 class after signing on June 1 of this year. His season might not be done as the GCL squad enters its last week.
Lisandro Santos, LHP – Though he never started a game, Santos flashed a big arm. He logged 30 innings out of the pen, which ranked him tenth on the team in total ING, but finished one strikeout short of the team high to Walner Polanco. Signed in August of 2016, Santos made his debut soon after with four scoreless appearances for the DSL squad last season. The lefty should be one of the few arms that comes stateside for next year’s GCL squad. Santos could be a nice bullpen piece moving forward, though he’ll have to firm up his control – as most DSL arms need to.
18-53, 4th-worst in RS, 4th-most runs given up
RS – Negret, 31
H – Charles Reyes, 49
2B – Negret, 14
3B – Reyes & Eudis Lora, 2
HR – Antonio Sucre, 4
RBI – Reyes, 29
SB – Negret, 23
AVG – Negret, .264
OBP – Negret, .410
SLG – Negret, .391
ISO – Negret, .126
wOBA – Negret, .402
wRC+ – Negret, 140
(min. 30 ING for rate stats)
W – Six Tied, 2
G – Polanco, 22
GS – Luis De Jesus, 11
SV – Five Tied, 1
IP – Montilla, 44
BB – Javier Ciriaco – 34
BB% – Polanco, 18%
K – Polanco, 36
K% – Noguera, 25.2%
ERA – Noguera, 0.87
FIP – Filyer Sanchez, 2.96