Today's prospect look is at a player I've only seen on You Tube video, and never heard in a game with a box score. Ronnier Quintero hasn't played in a game with a box score. His next "official game" will be his first. Despite that, Quintero, the top catcher in last year’s international class, is likely the last of a breed.
Signed last July 2 at the start of the international cycle, Quintero's bonus was $2.9 million. From Venezuela, he trained out of Bolivar, Dominican Republic. As he was signed as a 16-year-old, he didn't play for the DSL Cubs in 2019. Nor did the Cubs’ other two major signings, catcher Brayan Altuve or shortstop Kevin Made, both of Venezuela. (Hats off to the scouts willing to spend time in contemporary Venezuela to upgrade the pipeline.)
For now, at least, Quintero figures to play in extended spring training. XST is where players not successful at getting a full-season assignment develop and push for roles in Eugene, Mesa, or Boca Chica (DSL). If Quintero represents well, he likely gets an assignment in Mesa with one of the AZL sides.
An article I squashed last off-season gets just a glimpse of a look today. My thought then was that teams would be well-served adding another XST team. In 2018 and before, it was a loose hodge-podge of pitchers getting innings in, and hitters some at-bats. My thought was a team would be helped getting extra looks for players like Made and Altuve: not USA-ready, but unlikely to have their confidence smoked by a few strikeouts or bobbled chances.
Alas, Arizona Phil's XST coverage in 2019 had a new feature. Teams were labeled Cubs 1 or Cubs 2 in April and May. Perhaps, MLB didn't want teams getting extra stateside at-bats over a certain number of players.
Either way, Quintero will aim for the chance to get AZL chances in June through late August. We won't see footage, or listen to games. Development comes through repetition. Let him catch two games a week, DH twice, and watch two as an observer. Mix and match as applicable.
Here's the thorny part. Last year's version of Montero was June draft choice Ethan Hearn, chosen from Mobile, Alabama in Round 6. Last season, Hearn caught 23 games for the AZL Cubs, cobbled between the two teams. In 2020, look for Hearn to get quite a few chances with the Northwest League Eugene Emeralds, if he performs well in XST. No problem. Improve? Move up a level.
Where's the problem?
Where does Montero play in 2021 if the Cubs don't have a Short-Season squad? He won't be ready for South Bend. (Perhaaaaaps late in the season.) If he plays on the one (and potentially only) DSL squad, he steals time from Altuve, who should be in Mesa in 2021.
People like to assume that the weaker players in a pipeline are almost always at the lower levels. The inexperienced players are, but that doesn't deny their ability. To the extent that 'players playing in games with box scores' helps them, the plan to eradicate franchises denies players a chance to play in games. The 2021 DSL Cubs would be better at developing if two teams exist. Will they? (Shrugs.)
If Quintero misses out on a (partial, at least) season in Eugene because of vanquished rosters, the game will survive. Teams will send some guys on without the prior experience, and old others back. If this is the last year with three (or even two) teams between Mesa and full-season ball, Quintero might be the first of a new breed and the last of an old breed. "Son, I hope you can learn stuff quicker without getting submerged."