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It’s a long journey from the Dominican Summer League to the Major Leagues. Heck, it’s a pretty long journey from the Dominican Summer League to the Arizona Rookie League. Most guys don’t make it off of the island and over to the United States. The international signings has been an area where the Cincinnati Reds have been slacking over the last decade plus. In that time they have gotten a few guys to the big leagues, but they’ve all been part time players or relievers. Wandy Peralta may be the best pitcher of that group. Ronald Torreyes is likely the best position player in that time span. There’s nothing wrong with either of those players, but for a decade plus of international signings, you’d hope for at least one every day guy or starting pitcher (we are purposefully ignoring the older Cuban pitchers in Chapman and Iglesias here, who were pretty much Major League ready when signed, and paid like they were those guys).

That’s not to say the the current crop of prospects signed internationally are not worth keeping an eye on. While the Top 25 prospect list hasn’t been updated in-season yet (it will be once the draft picks are signed), three of the top 10 players are international signings. Six of the top 15 are international signings. Nine of the Top 25 are international signings by the Reds, and two more are international players acquired via trade. Eventually we will find out how that works out, but there’s some talent in the system right now that’s come from the international front.

With all of that said, there’s a mostly new crop of guys getting their careers started this year in the Dominican Summer League, which began on June 1st. The season will go through August 24th. Sometimes the players that get noticed are the ones who just put up silly stats. And sometimes those guys aren’t always the ones you expect them to be. While it happened in the now defunct Venezuelan Summer League, an undersized, late period signing jumped from the lowest level of minor league baseball to the United States as a 17-year-old. Ronald Torreyes, who was 5′ 7″ and 140 lbs. in 2010 came out and hit .390/.468/.606 with 34 extra-base hits, 23 walks, and 11 strikeouts in 67 games. The Reds were so impressed he got called over to join the AZL Reds where he hit .349 with nine more extra-base hits in 18 games. He finished the final week of the season in Dayton.

That’s an incredibly rare case. It’s one that hasn’t been repeated since. What Torreyes did was different level kind of stuff. He eventually turned that into what’s been a 4-year Major League career despite being just 26-years-old today. We aren’t likely to see something like that this year. But there are some guys to keep an eye on this year in the league for the Reds.

Position Players

Ilvin Fernandez

Position: Shortstop

Born: 9/8/2001

Height: 6′ 1″

Weight: 160 lbs.

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

Signed last July 2nd when the international signing period got underway, this is his first season as a professional. The 17-year-old has plus defensive tools at shortstop who sticks out for his athleticism and instincts. He’s got a solid frame that should fill out some. At the plate he’s got a chance to be an average hitter if he fully develops. He received the largest bonus of any player signed by the Reds in the 2018-19 signing period, getting $250,000 as the team remained in the penalty phase and unable to spend more than $300,000 on any one player.

Jeferson Geraldo

Position: Outfield

Born: 7/31/2002

Height: 6′ 3″

Weight: 183 lbs.

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

Still just 16-years-old, Jeferson Geraldo is already 6′ 3″ and 183 lbs. He’s got size and strength and should add both over the years as he continues to mature. He’s got a chance for big time power in the future and he’s a guy who has a good hit-tool. Geraldo got the second largest bonus in the signing class by the Reds last year at $150,000.

Thomas Lora

Position: Shortstop

Born: 11/2/2001

Height: 5′ 11″

Weight: 170 lbs.

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

At the plate he stands out for his ability to hit now. And there’s some power for him to come into in the future, too. He’s a shortstop right now, and there’s a chance that he can stick there long term.

The Pitchers

Luis Aquino

Position: Right-Handed Pitcher

Born: 6/19/2001

Height: 6′ 2″

Weight: 160 lbs.

Aquino, who will turn 18 in less than 2 weeks, is making his professional debut this year. He signed on July 2nd of last year, the first day of the latest international signing period. In his first start of his career on June 3rd he threw 3.1 hitless innings with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts. He’s got a loose arm and he’s thrown up to 94 MPH. The righty also has a slider and change up in his repertoire. As you’d expected with any 17-year-old pitcher, both of those pitches will need to continue to show improvement.

Jose Franco

Position: Right-Handed Pitcher

Born: 11/25/2000

Height: 6′ 2″

Weight: 175 lbs.

The Venezuelan native signed on October 16th last year. He got up to 93 MPH during spring training. He also showed the feel for a breaking ball. There’s some projection left for him to pick up velocity in the future.

Jesus Rojas

Position: Right-Handed Pitcher

Born: 3/22/2002

Height: 6′ 3″

Weight: 185 lbs.

Another Venezuelan, Jesus Reyes signed just before the new year, inking his contract on December 29th of 2018. The just-turned 17-year-old made his professional debut on June 5th and struck out 4 batters with 2 walks in 2.2 innings. The same age as a high school junior, he’s already got plenty of size and he’s been up to 88 MPH. And there’s plenty of room to add to that in the future.

8 Responses

  1. cinvenfan

    The Reds need to go over their coaching staff/methodology down there. For kids this young with a difficult background, it’s critical the guys in charge of their development must be a lot more than just baseball teachers. They need nutritionists, psichologists, social workers among others.
    From the baseball side, it’s pretty clear that the coaches and scouts have failed miserably.

    • RojoBenjy

      I would be interested in hearing the perspective of MK on this, as well as any others that have hosted DR players and/or developed friendships with them.

      What aspects are the Reds doing well in, and where do they need to improve?

      @cinvenfan, if you are one of those that has an inside track also, I welcome more from you also.

      Thanks.

    • Doug Gray

      I can’t speak to having a psychologist or social worker on the staff, but they do have a nutritionist, teachers, along with the coaching staff at the academy.

  2. The Duke

    Hopefully Jeferson Geraldo doesn’t end up 6’8″ like Juan Duran. Ideally he’s done growing at about 6’3″. Sounds promising with the hit/power combo though.

  3. MK

    Of my 5 guys, 4 of them were from Venezuela. They were not particularly poor kids.One of them father owned a construction company, one a youth sports coach, one from a broken home where he lived with mother and grandmother and two brothers, Dad worked a couple jobs and supported them. The other the least affluent is now married to a physician. They all played in the old Venezuelan League and lived at home. The Dominican kid we had came from a Dominican Academy and he grew up in the type place we see depicted in many photos of less than nice Dominican homes. All the things you say they need they had at Summer League from cooks to trainers to teachers, etc. Venezuelan League had the same.
    I do know Ronald Torreyes and unlike the other guys who lived with us, he really needed the help of the services of the Reds staff to develop and the folks in the Venezuela Summer League. He was from the boonies in Venezuela and had to travel a day and a half just to get to the airport. Unlike most of the Venezuelans his English skills were nil. We took him out to eat several times and he ordered pizza or hamburgers wherever we went. David Vidal his roommate helped him a lot.

  4. Tom

    Good story on reds.com about how they found Votto. Basically it was one rogue scout who saved the Reds from themselves at that time by keeping the good info secret from Jim Bowden’s leaky ship. The same guy wanted Kazmir over Gruler, and Brian McCann over whoever they took in the late 1st round but got railroaded by the budget hawks in the FO. Imagine 2006- 2012 with Kazmir and McCann in the mix!

    • MK

      He wasn’t unknown however. The Yankees chief cross checker Tim Kelly was an old friend of mine who tells a story of how he convinced Votto to stop in Columbus, when they were Yankees farm team, for a work the same day he was to be in Cincinnati in the afternoon for a pre-draft workout. Joey said he couldn’t stop in Columbus because he had promised the Reds he would be there. Tim guaranteed he would get him to Cincinnati on time if he would come to Columbus in the morning and he did. Tim said if only he had had a flat tire on I-71 the Yankees who selected just after the Reds would have had Votto and the Reds Brandon Weedon.