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Padres eye top Latin American talent

Padres eye top Latin American prospects

SAN DIEGO -- Just two months after opening their $8.5 million training facility in the Dominican Republic, the Padres are days away from stockpiling their facility with top Latin American prospects.

The Padres are said to be close to signing at least four highly regarded Latin American players on July 2, the start of the period for players who turn 17 or older on Sept. 6 to sign with Major League teams.

"We're going to be active," said Padres director of international scouting Randy Smith. "There are a lot of rumors out there. ... I home some are true. But I hope some are not."

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The Padres, who are attempting to gain a better foothold in Latin America, are said to have targeted right-handed pitcher Adis Portillo of Venezuela, shortstop Alvaro Aristy of the Dominican Republic and outfielder Luis Domoromo of Venezuela.

"This is a pretty good group ... the overall depth is as good as I've seen," Smith. "It's a good crew and there's depth. ... The other factor is there's a lot more clubs who have increased their presence there."

Signing bonuses for players in this talented crop of players are expected to reach seven figures, industry sources have said in recent weeks.

Portillo is considered by many to be the second-best pitcher in this class behind Michel Inoa, a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic reportedly agreed to a $4.25 million signing bonus with the Oakland A's on Monday, according to media outlets.

According to Saber Scouting, Portillo stands 6-foot-3 and throws between 88-92 mph with a "feel for a curveball and changeup" though his control isn't his strong suit at this point.

Domoromo is regarded as one of the top outfielders in this crop of players. According to Saber Scouting, Domoromo has a bat that "projects for plus power" and that he has a "smooth, fluid swing and emerging power."

Aristy is said to be a "defense-first prospect ... but scouts aren't sure if his bat is enough to get him to the big leagues."

The signing period runs from July 2 to the end of August.

Smith, who left San Diego early Sunday morning for the Dominican Republic, said that most of the top players in Latin American who are eligible to sign contracts have agents.

Unlike the Major League First-Year Player Draft, where teams pick in order, players and their agents are free to sign with the highest bidder.

"To me, signing guys in Latin America is like recruiting guys in college football and in college basketball," Smith said. "Things changes. It's a fluid situation. It's a lot about building relationships. It's a different ballgame. Just to get to July 2, it's such a long process."

The Padres commitment to building a state-of-the-art training facility in the Dominican Republic, Smith said, will also help them as far as visibility. The complex includes two regulation-sized fields, weight and training rooms, a clubhouse, batting cages as well as enough housing for 60 players and staff.

"Our facility is far and away the best in Latin America," Smith said. "People look at us differently now."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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