The International Prospect Trio

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Minor League Monday

Chen Zhang-Ao Zhuang signing with Athletics (CPBL Stats.com)

Following the end of the 2021 season, the Oakland Athletics decided to sign three international free agent pitching prospects: Alejandro Manzano, Chen Zhong-Ao Zhuang, and Eliazar De Los Santos. As these players haven’t played in an MLB organization before, there isn’t much to go off of in determining how likely they are to stand out. However, from what little information we have, there are some promising aspects to these players.

Alejandro Manzano

Nearly right after the conclusion to the 2021 regular season, the Athletics signed Alejandro Manzano to a minor league contract and immediately assigned him to the Athletics’ Dominican Summer League affiliate. The 20-year-old right-handed pitcher stands at a good, but slim height for the position, standing at about 6’2’’ and weighing only around 160 lbs. However, other than this and the fact that he fact that he shares a name with a member of the band Boyce Avenue, nothing is known about Manzano’s ability.

The only thing that could hint at his ability is that he might have played with two other international prospects. The Baseball Cube lists a few players from Merida, Venezuela, where Manzano was born, and who were born around the same time as Manzano. Both of these players have made their minor league debut in 2021 as well. These prospects are Reiner Chourio, a 2B prospect in the Marlins organization, and Raymher Moreno, a relief prospect in the Rangers organization.

On top of this, Merida might have a good pipeline of talent as of late, since, after potentially losing three talents to MLB organizations, their U-18 team made it to the finals of a 13-team tournament before losing. While its difficult to accurately predict the MLB potential of prospects simply by their lower-league success, it is a generally good sign for the prospects in the system like Alejandro Manzano.

Chen Zhong-Ao Zhuang

On November 24th, 2021, the Oakland Athletics signed 21-year-old Taiwanese pitching prospect Chen Zhang-Ao Zhuang to a minor league contract. While there is still not a lot known about Zhuang, unlike Manzano, there are a few things that more solidly describe his ability. The one thing immediately put Zhuang on the map was a showcase in the USA in June of 2021. During this showcase, Zhuang was able to reach a solid 95 mph on his fastball and was immediately offered an MLB minor league contract. However, Zhuang would reject this deal, as it was apparently far below what he expected.

Following this, Chen Zhong-Ao Zhuang continued pitching for Taiwan Sports University until September, when he represented the Taiwan U-23 in the WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup in Mexico. Zhuang only made two appearances during this World Cup, but he definitely attracted attention. In his first game, he pitched 5 shutout innings and 9 strikeouts against Germany while allowing 6 hits. His second performance wasn’t as memorable, allowing 4 runs in 4 2/3 innings, but he would still be signed by the Athletics in November to a reported $500,000 signing bonus.

At the very least, it seems that Chen Zhong-Ao Zhuang has the ability to strike batters out and has a fastball that won’t force him to rely on control and movement. So, other than a potential 95 mph fastball, what else does Zhuang bring to the mix? Well, his best pitch isn’t even the fastball.

Zhuang throws a Splitter (in some articles referred to as a Split-change) that ranges from the upper 70s to low 80s in terms of speed. He also has a slider and curve that are not as effective, but still present in his arsenal. Overall, for a low-minor league pitching prospect, this is a very good pitching mix to start off with and we could see Zhuang at the highest level among this years’ international prospects.

Eliazar De Los Santos

On December 6th, 2021, the Oakland Athletics signed 19-year-old Dominican pitching prospect Eliazar De Los Santos to a minor league contract and immediately assigned him to the DSL Athletics. Unlike his fellow DSL teammate, Manzano, there is absolutely no information on De Los Santos other than his age, height, and weight. Standing at 6’4’’ and weighing 220 lbs., one would expect that Eliazar has a bit more power behind his pitches than Manzano due to his more filled-out frame.

However, to use his place of birth to group him with a potential good crop of talent is even more inaccurate than it was for Manzano, as Santo Domingo routinely sends multiple prospects to MLB teams each year. This, combined with the fact that there are multiple teams in Santo Domingo, makes it more difficult to determine when there is a particularly notable crop of players. Overall, its easier to see the potential in Alejandro Manzano when looking at his experience than it is with Eliazar De Los Santos.

While there might not be a lot of information regarding these prospects, each one shows some potential to flourish in the Athletics organization. Manzano is a part of a relatively untouched pool of amateurs from Merida that is recently seeing some acknowledgement. Zhuang has positive international experience and a solid pitch mix that could see him quickly rise up the minors. And De Los Santos has a decent pitching frame that could potentially put a lot of power behind his pitches. Overall, while these prospects might not be a heralded as others, they could provide a quite a few surprises in the minors.

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Micah Dahlvig

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