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December 2, 2020 at 9:00 AM

Scout Chatter: Gilberto Jimenez, Brainer Bonaci and more from Fall Instructs

This is the fourth article in our series relaying reports we received from the Fall Instructional League. The data we’ve collected will be up on the News Page for your reading pleasure before we use it to update player page scouting reports, so forgive any inconsistencies until that point. Today, we focus primarily on position players the Red Sox signed as international free agents over the last few years. 

- Multiple sources identified outfielder Gilberto Jimenez as the top prospect at Instructs, with one remarking that his pure tools are “scary.” The 20-year-old Jimenez had an excellent year with Lowell in 2019, hitting .359/.393/.470, but there were some red flags in his extremely high ground ball rate and low exit velocities. Jimenez’s swing was very slap happy, as he just looked to put the ball in play and use his speed to get on base. Things have changed now, however, as the young Dominican is now listed at 212 pounds, up significantly from where he was with Lowell. Even though he has added that much size, he still is an elite athlete and has only lost a little speed, now grading as a 70 runner rather than 80. From the left side this fall, he was timed at 3.95-4.05 while from the right-side he was timed at 4.12-4.15.

The biggest development for Jimenez at Instructs was his newfound ability to drive the ball, especially from the right side of the plate. Jimenez has tweaked his stance and filled out considerably, allowing him to impact the ball. He showed plus raw power from the right side and a vastly improved swing from the left, in which he no longer is just looking to slap the ball. While his right-handed swing likely will always be better than his left-handed swing, the improvements he made should help ensure he is not a liability from his weaker side against more advanced pitching. Defensively, Jimenez showed a solid all-around skill set with plus range and an above-average arm. He still will make the odd mistake out there, but given his speed and decent instincts, he has a chance to develop into a very solid defender. 

Jimenez’s overall skillset is very exciting. He is the toolsiest player in the system, and you can dream on him becoming a potential impact player. He is still on the raw side, however, and his development will take time and could be a tad frustrating, as he is prone to do some things that make you scratch your head. Regardless, his upside is among the highest in the system, and he clearly has put himself on the national radar after his outstanding performance this fall.

- Another player scouts were very impressed with was 18-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Brainer Bonaci. Bonaci looked the best of the young group of middle infielders in camp, a group that included former second-round picks in Matthew Lugo and Cameron Cannon as well as former $1.4-million bonus signing Antoni Flores. Bonaci, who signed in 2018 for a much more modest $290,000, still has a long way to go physically and is on the small side. He showed good athleticism and average bat speed with good bat control. He is not the fastest player, but does have the quick twitch athleticism you look for in the middle infield and a solid blend of instincts and physical ability that should allow him to stick at shortstop long-term. His best tool is his potential plus arm, but he also could develop average hit tool and defense. While Bonaci does not have the same upside or loud tools as someone like Jimenez, he looked like he belonged playing with players several years his senior while also being one of the smallest players there. He is still youthful, and that will show in his play at times, but long-term his stock could really rise as he climbs through the system, especially if his hit or power tools show better than they currently project. 

- Dominican outfielder Eduardo Lopez received the largest bonus in the Red Sox 2018-19 international free agent class at $1.15 million. Though he did not play much at the beginning of camp, by the end he was someone scouts started to take notice of.  Lopez walked at a 15 percent rate in the DSL in 2019, and it seems that was not artificially inflated by poor DSL pitching, as scouts were very impressed with his batting eye. He showed the best approach of the young, Latin outfielders in camp, and his plate discipline is a true difference maker. His hitting ability lags behind some because his swing is inconsistent, but it was evident that he had feel at the plate. He lacks another stand-out tool at this point, but with that kind of approach and some remaining physical projection, there is a good base to build from as he progresses through the system. 

- Unlike Lopez, 20-year-old Dominican Darel Belen showed off two standout tools. Belen has a great frame, listed at 6-foot-4, 204 pounds, and really looks the part on the field. He has plus-plus raw power and even showed it off in-game, hitting a long home run to left field off Jay Groome in one game. His swing is a little on the long side, but he has some feel at the plate and showed decent discipline. There are major questions with his hit tool, but his raw power is among the best in the system. Defensively, Belen played primarily first base, where he was not bad and did show off a plus arm that could play in a corner outfield, where he has played in the past. The roster was thin at first base with Pedro Castellanos not playing in games, so that may be why Belen saw nearly all of his time at that position in camp.

- 19-year-old Dominican outfielder Bryan Gonzalez had an up-and-down camp. Some days he showed well, but in others he struggled, which is not surprising given his profile. He has a solid frame and is more of a strength-based player at this moment with big power. He was impressive against lefties throughout camp, but there are concerns about how he will be able to handle more advanced right-handed pitchers. 

- After a disappointing 2019 season during which he regressed in all aspects, Antoni Flores again struggled and now seems to have moved to second base primarily. The athleticism he showed in the Fall Instructional League in 2018 is gone, and his speed has regressed to the point where he was consistently timed at 4.6 seconds down the line, which is a 20 on the 20-80 scouting scale. 

Photo Credit: Gilberto Jimenez, Brainer Bonaci and Darel Belen by Kelly O'Connor.

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.