Way back in the wild west days of the international market, teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox approached the July 2nd signing period the same way Glenn Quagmire approached a night at the strip club. Cash in hand ready to make it rain on the first young talent that caught their eye. It was in one of these talent-laden spending sprees that a strapping young Dominican power hitter by the name of Starling Heredia first surfaced. In one of the more gluttonous international splurge’s since your creepy Uncle took that “trip” to Bangkok, the Dodgers dropped $45.38 million in that period on players like Yadier Alvarez, Yusinel Diaz, Omar Estevez, Ronny Brito, Oneal Cruz, and of course Heredia. The Dominican outfielder was ranked 9th in the class by Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, two spots behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and ahead of such currently buzzy names as Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, Leody Taveras, and Aramis Ademan. He was described in the scouting reports at that time as a “the best corner outfield prospect in the class by some scouts, in part because of his raw power and projectable body.” Tools grades rated his raw power at a 60, and his hit tool at 55, pretty aggressive grades for teenage hitter. Don’t be too frightened, but at that time he listed Yasiel Puig as his role model. Then again Puig was good then. So what’s to Heredia? Is this just another rookie season flash or are we looking at a potential star in the making from the notorious Dodger pipeline.
Since that time the player nicknamed “Pitbull” has shown flashes of brilliance, but in very small samples. In 64 Dominican Summer League games in 2016, Heredia slashed .258/.338/.408 with 5 homers and 10 steals. Not awful production, but certainly not worthy of a top international prospect considered within shouting distance of the great Vlad Jr. at one time. Fast forward to 2017, and in his stateside debut Heredia is setting rookie ball on fire, to the tune of a .450/.516/.825 between the Dodgers AZL affiliate, and Ogden of the short season Pioneer League. The 18 year old slugger is quickly rising up dynasty prospect rankings, and was probably a somewhat glaring omission looking back on my top 200, but in all fairness he was 4 games into his season when the post was written. If I was to re-rank him today, I’d list Heredia slightly behind Yusniel Diaz at 130th.
Heredia is built, in a way my father in law would describe, as a brick shizz-house. A stout 6’2, 210 lbs, Heredia’s build fits his Pitbull moniker, and his violent swing evokes the strength, and malignity of the breed. His bat speed, power, and ability to mash a fastball have played up in 2017, but his ability to fly down the line surprises scouts who watch him. Particularly when his body has been described by Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs as “late-career Juan Uribe”. Damn Logenhagen is really into body shaming huh? Tisk, tisk Longie! Anyway, Heredia dominated similarly aged competition in the AZL, showing just how advanced the bat was for an 18 year old. After 7 games Heredia was promoted to the Pioneer league affiliate of Ogden, and has continued to show advanced approach, and elite power to all fields. Take a look at the below gif where he gives a ball a ride to the opposite field off the tip of the bat it seems. It’s almost like a lazy flyball it hangs up there so long.
It hasn’t been all roses and sunshine in Heredia’s development. It should be mentioned that entering this year breaking ball recognition concerns have left many cautious in their grades, and rankings of Heredia despite the prodigious power, and natural hitting ability. The trouble with the curve is more than just an awful Clint Eastwood movie, it can also be the root of many a prospect’s swing and miss issues, and Heredia is no different. As the whiffs have plagued him early in his career. However, the early reports in 2017, are bursting with optimism, and it sounds like he’s turning a corner in this regard. As a dynasty owner it’s still something to be cognizant of as he more than likely takes a full season assignment next spring.
His batting stance currently employees a big leg kick, with his hands held high, and bat flat. Some of his swing mechanics and stance might be altered, as he reaches the upper levels to help aid in his pitch recognition. As the batting stance in it’s current state is rather closed, and opening up his front side eventually, might aid in improving his ability to identify breaking and off-speed stuff. Though at the moment, with Starling racking up big game after big game in Ogden there’s no reason to fix what isn’t broke. In fact he teamed up with Dodgers first rounder Jeren Kendall, in his professional debut on Tuesday night, to lead Ogden to a 17-8 victory, as each collected 3 hits a piece. Man, it must be amazing to cover the Dodgers minor leagues full-time, the organization is just busting at the seams with talent.
In closing Heredia is a high upside lotto ticket, but one who’s prospect status is growing by the day. Could Heredia slot into a spot in the Top 50 on next season’s Pre-Season Top 100? Yes, but he’ll need to keep up his current level of production from now until the end of the season, and continue to make strides with his pitch recognition. Even in the shallowest of dynasty formats Heredia is a buy.
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