30 Farmhands #1: Developing DSL | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

The Milwaukee Brewers opened their new Dominician Academy in November 2011. The Brewers’ Dominician Summer League (DSL) team plays in the San Pedro de Macoris division. MLB.com reported that the Academy was founded by former closer Salomon Torres, and the move undoubtedly served as an effort for the Brewers to increase their international presence. The club previously had a DSL club in the Santo Domingo North league, but their current academy has yet to reach the postseason success of that club (the 2011 DSL Brewers went 44-27, in what must have simply been a predestined banner year for the organization). Still, as the club signed Gilbert Lara in 2014, Doug Melvin made a splash in an area that can only help the Brewers bring controllable talent to the big leagues. The Brewers instantly improved their profile of their farm system, which leads me to ask: who else is playing in the DSL?

This is the first installment in a fun series aimed at profiling some of Milwaukee’s farmhands. While I am very new to prospect writing, I believe there are certain areas we can look at for each player that help us raise questions about the link between performance and tools. I am not yet ready to compile lists, so I will feature groups of players and look at some of their performances and scouting reports. If there’s a relevant tagline for this series, it’s simply that throughout the summer, it seemed like there were more notable performances in the Brewers farm system to get excited about, impact prospects moving forward in the system, and bigtime signings and a textbook “high ceiling” / “impact talent” draft. This series will list 30 key developments.

DSL Note
The DSL is a robust offensive environment, where each team averaged nearly 5.00 RS/G in 2014 (an increase from 4.44 RS / G in 2013, and 4.75 RS/G in 2012). The batting profile, not surprisingly, features a 10% walk rate against a 19% strike out rate. Along with that high walk rate, DSL bats hit .245 and slugged .331. The DSL Brewers play in a particularly robust environment in San Pedro de Macoris:

’12-’14 San Pedro de Macoris RS/G RA/G
2014 DSL Tigers 7.23 4.62
2013 DSL Tigers 6.13 4.29
2014 DSL Blue Jays 5.70 5.85
2013 DSL Blue Jays 5.40 4.73
2014 DSL Brewers 4.91 6.51
2012 DSL Braves 4.88 4.75
2012 DSL Tigers 4.66 4.83
2013 DSL Brewers 4.66 6.07
2014 DSL Braves 4.64 5.69
2013 DSL Braves 4.51 5.49
2012 DSL Brewers 4.40 4.86
2012 DSL Angels 4.39 3.36
2012 DSL Blue Jays 4.38 4.89
AVERAGE 5.07 5.07

In the Dominican Summer League, the average age is quite young (usually around 18 for batters), and a team’s complex will serve as an educational and nutritional center. In fact, one will likely find more articles about the DSL Brewers’ charity activities than their baseball development, since charity work with local schools is also another area in which these teams produce. One should keep these facts in mind when reading DSL statistics: these are not tracking performances of polished players, but extremely young, developing players that are also learning the game, attending classes, preparing for the potential cultural leap to the American minors and MLB, and doing charity work.

Joantgel Segovia
If you’ve followed DSL or Brewers minor league box scores over the summer, undoubtedly you’ve run into the name of Joantgel Segovia. Currently 18-years old, the Brewers signed the outfielder in 2013, and Segovia debuted in the DSL during his age 17 season. Debuted really isn’t the best word to describe his performance, though. In 259 plate appearances, Segovia walked 24 times (against 19 strike outs), and collected 86 hits (including 10 doubles and triples). Segovia finished in the top five in hits for the entire DSL, which is particularly impressive given that he played 58 games. Everyone else in the Top 10 played at least 60 games, and the other Top Five hitters played 64, 68, 70, and 70 games. Even in an extreme hitting environment, Segovia’s breakout season exhibits better than average discipline. It is also worth noting that the young outfielder was born and signed out of Venezuela, which is the same prospect pipeline that brought Orlando Arcia into the Brewers system.

Nicolas Pierre
The Brewers were rather busy on the International front in 2013, and Nicolas Pierre represented one of the organization’s richest international investments at that time. Signed for $800,000, the notable international prospect debuted during his age 17 season in the 2014 DSL. While Pierre’s discipline does not follow the league’s profile, as he walked 13 times and struck out 58 times in 275 PA, his power jumps off the page: the youngster lead the DSL Brewers in home runs, and while six homers might not look great, that rate is double the league average. True to his scouted potential, Pierre also debuted in centerfield, and served as the club’s primary centerfielder. If those homers aren’t enough for you, Pierre’s 14 doubles also were tied for tops on the DSL Brewers, and his hit total landed him among the team’s leaders, too. The youngster just turned 18, so he’s rather young even for the DSL, and his raw power and age surely make him a name of interest in the Brewers’ system. Listed at 6’3″ at his age, Pierre’s early power development leads to a projection that one can dream about.

Johel Atencio
Catcher Johel Atencio was another member of the group of 2013 signings that included Pierre. While Atencio did not have the type of debut that Segovia did, Atencio exhibited a strong contact profile in the 2014 DSL. He walked 10 times and struck out 19 times in 232 plate appearances, ultimately knocking the ball into play during 85% of his plate appearances. While Atencio drove one home run in the DSL, he also his 11 doubles, resulting in an 18% extra base hit rate on batted balls in play. Given Atencio’s 5’10”, 180 pound stature, it will be interesting to see how his power develops outside of the DSL. However, with his strong contact profile, if he can continually limit the strike outs, Atencio promises to be a solid batting average player in the minors. His ability to find his power may also raise a question about whether he will be moved off of the dish, and given a new fielding assignment.

Nelson Hernandez
If you watched the World Series this fall, undoubtedly you heard FOX analysts mention the foresight Kansas City scouts used to project Yordano Ventura‘s potential. One might keep this idea in mind, as righty Nelson Hernandez serves as yet another member of the Brewers organization’s Venezuelan signing pipeline. According to BaseballAmerica, Hernandez was 6’2″ and 170 pounds when signed, and he already possessed an 85-88 MPH fastball and a spinner to accompany that pitch. Undoubtedly, Hernandez’s bubblegum card reads terribly, as the youngster debuted at 1-6 with an ERA north of 7.80 in 55.3 innings. However, Hernandez’s command of the strike zone shines, as he walked only 8 of 252 batters faced (he also allowed 4 homers and struck out 33). Looking into a crystal ball, one might expect Hernandez to continue to strike batters out as he grows into his frame, and the young man won’t even turn 18 until 2015 spring training. This means that one can hang their hat on Hernandez’s walk rate, and look for his strike zone dominance to guide his future performance.

Joan de la Cruz
Searching for information on southpaw Joan de la Cruz, one finds more details and photos about his charity work than his baseball performances or scouting profile. After two rough seasons in the DSL, the now-21-year old lefty destroyed his previous pitching profile, decreasing both his walks and home runs as he faced the most batters of his career. In 60.7 innings, de la Cruz looked great across the board, allowing a moderate number of hits, striking out boatloads of younger bats, and preventing runs. A skeptic will say that de la Cruz was simply catching up to the learning curve with age, although it is worth noting that the average age was older for pitchers than batters in the 2014 Dominican Summer League. While 26 walks in 271 batters faced does not look great, it is worth remembering that de la Cruz worked in an environment where 10% walk rates were average. As de la Cruz presumably advances through the lower minor leagues with the Brewers, it will be worth watching the walk rate, to see if that 2013-2014 decline of 12% to 10% continues.

Keep an Eye On:
1B Nicol Valderray (HR, overall power, BB)
OF Yerald Martinez (HR, overall power, BB, improvement from ’13 to ’14)
IF Julio Mendez (overall plate discipline)
SS Franly Mallen (shortstop; BB, doubles power)
C Yoel Vasquez (age, late 2014 season signing)
IF Gilbert Lara (potential 2015 debut)
P Carlos Luna (age, walks, runs prevented)
P Melvin Tejada (age, walks, runs prevented)
P Junior Flores (age, strike outs)
P Yosmer Leal (age, strike outs)

DSL Graduates
Currently, the Brewers’ low minor leagues feature at least 20 graduates from the organization’s new Dominican Summer League operations. The list below does not include members of the previous academies, such as top shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia. While some of these graduates were not active within the organization in 2014, there are others that appear poised for Top 30 Prospect status at some point. Arguably, pitcher Jorge Lopez and third baseman Sthervin Matos are the most notable players among these graduates.

Positional Graduates
OF/SS Carlos Belonis (Arizona Rookie, 2014)
SS/2B Daniel Leonardo (Arizona Rookie, 2014)
OF/1B Juan Ortiz (Arizona Rookie, 2014)
UTIL Leudi Otano (Arizona Rookie, 2014)
2B/3B Jorge Quiterio (Arizona Rookie, 2014)
OF Yunior Santana (Arizona Rookie, 2014)
C/3B Natanael Mejia (Helena Rookie, 2014)
SS/2B Gregory Munoz (Helena Rookie, 2014)
OF/2B/SS Francisco Castillo (Helena Rookie, 2014; Wisconsin A, 2014)
3B Sthervin Matos (Arizona and Helena Rookie, 2014; Wisconsin A, 2014)

Pitching Graduates
Miguel Diaz (Arizona Rookie, 2014)
Joshua Torres (Arizona Rookie, 2014)
Angel Ventura (Arizona Rookie, 2014)
Jorge Ortega (Helena Rookie, 2014)
Victor Diaz (Wisconsin A, 2014)
Juan Santiago (Helena Rookie, 2013)
Joel Dicent (Arizona Rookie, 2012 and 2013)
Eduard Reyes (Arizona and Helena Rookie, 2012 and 2013)
Gian Rizzo (Arizona Rookie, 2013 and 2014)
Milton Gomez (Arizona Rookie, 2013 and 2014)
Jorge Lopez (Arizona Rookie, 2011-’12; currently Brevard County A)

Resources
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC., 2000-2014.
BaseballAmerica. Enthusiast Network, 2014.
Brew Crew Ball. Vox Media, 2014.
Brewerfan.net.
MLB Advanced Media, LP., 2014.
Other resources cited as mentioned.
Photo from Joantgel Segovia‘s Twitter.

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