It was a wild season in 2021, and as we begin our level-by-level reviews, it’s worth keeping in mind that 2021 was one of the strangest, most unprecedented seasons in minor league baseball history. Almost everything about this season was filled with asterisks when it comes to projecting or looking ahead, including every player in the system losing a year of normal development, and in the case of one of the two DSL teams, losing three weeks due to COVID-related problems.
The Dominican Summer League represents the lowest rung of the minor league ladder, and is usually filled with players aged 16-20. This year, many of the players were older, and several members of the 2019 signing class were making their first pro appearances this season, a year older than normal. At this level, a year of age is a bigger difference on a physical level than at other minor league levels, and that may color some of the results.
This season, for the first time, the Giants had two teams in the DSL, one of seventeen MLB franchises fielding multiple squads. The squads were named Giants Black and Giants Orange, and for the most part players spent their time on just one team (with a few exceptions). The Black squad also lost three weeks of playing time, so those players had less games to perform in.
For this review, we’re just going to focus on the players who had interesting seasons, regardless of squad. There’s not a lot of direct scouting out of the DSL, and even less video to go off of, so we’ll be relying more on box scores than for the other squads.
So here are 10 players whose performances in the DSL will bear watching in 2022, as it’s likely all of these players will get promoted to either the Arizona Complex League or even Low-A next season.
Onil Perez, C
There’s a lot of stereotypes people have about players in the Dominican Summer League, and one of the big ones is that control is not something you see players have, either as pitchers or hitters. Any player with plate discipline in the DSL is going to catch some attention. But 19-year old Onil Perez had 30 walks to just 15 strikeouts in 36 games (134 plate appearances). He finished the year with a good .291/.448/.398 batting line, with five doubles and two home runs, and even six steals in ten attempts.
Perez was a touch old for the circuit, which would mean you’d expect him to be a bit more advanced, but then without 2020, there were some players who were getting into the DSL at a more advanced age. A bigger question is whether Perez will stick at catcher. His scouting report from Baseball America in 2019 after signing said “e controls the running game well, with a quick transfer to an above-average, accurate arm, producing pop times in the low 1.9s in games. His intelligence and game instincts also stand out behind the plate for his age. Perez is a defensive-oriented player…” And yet, while he had just one error, he also had five passed balls in 25 games, and caught just six baserunners out of 30 attempted.
Mauricio Pierre, OF
Pierre was one of the Giants’ more interesting signings of the “2020” signing class, signing for just short of $500K out of Panama. He ended up with a bit of a mixed season. In his first 12 games of the season, he hit .308/.357/.564. But then he missed a little over three weeks of games (at least partially due to a period the team was shut down due to COVID issues), and he never got his footing after that, going just 4-for-21 in the first week after returning.
He could be one of the higher ceiling guys from the recent two signing classes, but he’ll need to make a better impact with his talent. He’ll especially need to improve on his performance on the basepaths, with just six steals in eleven attempts. He also was much better facing left-handed pitching, where he hit .278/.350/.611 against LHP, and just .252/.333/.409. But he had just 20 plate appearances against LHP with 127 against PA against right-handers.
Gustavo Cardozo, 2B
One of the less-heralded of the Giants’ signings in the “2020” class, Cardozo was one of the few regulars, playing 42 games, and all but one of them at second base. He was one of the few Giants hitters on either DSL team batting over .300, and while he had no home runs on the season, he had 10 doubles in 42 games (tied for most by Giants players in the DSL), and matched it with eight steals in eleven attempts. He also had 15 walks to just 16 strikeouts, again showing that plate discipline that is rarer in a lower level.
For Cardozo, he’ll be one of those players who needs to keep proving what he can do every season, with his lack of a reputation. He’ll always be hurt by his lack of power, though as he grows he might be able to turn some of those doubles into home runs. But at second base, power won’t be as heavily expected.
Estanlin Cassiani, OF
Cassiani was one of the top Giants’ basestealers in the DSL with 10 steals, just one off the squad lead (which was Samuel Rodriguez with 11). What’s notable about Cassiani is that he did it in just 19 games, with 10 steals in 11 attempts. The three other Giants DSL players who reached double digit steals all did it in at least 43 games. And he did it with a hot start, hitting .421/.450/.579 in six games in July (six games that were scattered from July 16th through the 29th).
Cassiani’s biggest need is to be able to play every day. Only three times all season did he play on back-to-back days (not counting play in both side of a doubleheader). He also missed almost all of September, coming back for just one game on October 2nd before the season ended. If he can succeed at staying healthy, it’ll be very interesting to see what Cassiani can do on the basepaths.
Samuel Reyes, OF
Reyes was probably one of the Giants’ squad’s best performing hitter in 2021, with a .305/.433/.473 batting line, 18 walks to 20 strikeouts, and nine doubles, five triples, and a home run in 164 plate appearances. He also added on eight steals in eleven attempts. Not bad for one of the 2019 signing class who wasn’t one of their top signings.
Signed as a shortstop, Reyes played his first pro season in the outfield, with 21 games (about 60% of his games played) in right field, with seven more played in center field, and the other eight in right. There’s not much that Reyes needs to work on other than to continue to perform.
Cesar Quintas, OF
Playing a shortened season, Cesar Quintas had a strong all-around season, batting .309/.431/.457, with six doubles and two home runs in 27 games. Quintas also, again, was one of the Giants prospects who showed good patience at the plate, with ten walks to sixteen strikeouts in 102 plate appearances. The corner outfielder also picked up a pair of steals offensively.
The big question with Quintas will be his health. His season ended in mid-September, as he missed the final six weeks of the season for undisclosed reasons, presumably something health-related. Otherwise, it’ll just be his need to keep hitting as he will likely make his US debut in 2022.
Brayan Palencia, RHP
Palencia was the closest the Giants had to a dominating pitcher in the DSL. Palencia had 23 strikeouts in 18.1 innings, with just four walks. Palencia put up a 1.96 ERA across 15 relief appearances, and picked up two saves in three opportunities for a DSL Orange team that was 27-27.
What Palancia did deal with was giving up hits, with 13 allowed in 18.1 innings, which led to a .197 batting average allowed. As he moves on to more advanced foes, he’ll need to ensure that he won’t get hit hard as he pitches within the strike zone.
Miguel Mora, RHP
The 19-year old Mora ended up being the club’s best starter in the DSL, with a 3.09 ERA in ten starts, with 47 strikeouts to 16 walks in 43.2 innings. Mora struggled in his first couple of starts, but got stronger as the season went on, and didn’t show much of a platoon split, giving up a .197 batting average to left-handers versus .170 to right-handers.
Generally, starting pitchers don’t often come out of the DSL, and Mora is not at the same level as Manuel Mercedes and Esmerlin Vinicio as the top pitching signees the last couple of signing periods. But if there’s anyone in this year’s DSL who has a chance to push for that, it would be Mora, though being a year older (thanks to the pandemic) doesn’t help his chances to not get moved to relief when it comes to Rule 5 protection time.
Rolfi Jimenez, RHP
With 11 starts, Jimenez had the best ERA of any of the starters in the DSL teams, ending up with a 2.35 ERA. Jimenez went on a different path than Mora, starting the season white hot, but ended up with some struggles at the end of the season with walks and hits allowed.
In the end, Jimenez ended up with a lower ERA than his teammate Mora, but had more struggles in giving up hits and getting strikeouts. Jimenez also had a bit more of a struggle in the splits, with a .308 batting average allowed to left-handed hitters against just a .240 given up to right-handers.
Argenis Perez, LHP
The DSL across the entire circuit didn’t have a lot of left-handed pitchers, and the Giants’ top pitcher was Perez, with a 2.19 ERA working mostly in relief. Perez did show some platoon splits, with a .150 average allowed to lefties while giving up a .229 average to right handed hitters.
Theres always a lot of room for relievers coming out of the DSL, and Perez had an impact out of the league, so he’s going to be on the top tier of pitchers to watch for the Giants in 2022 to see how he performs in what will likely be the ACL in 2022.