The hapless Dallas Deputies have struggled since coming into the league in 2012 as an expansion team. They have never finished above 4th place in their division, and despite clawing their way to a team record .420 win percentage last season, were still relegated to basement dweller status in one of the toughest divisions in the league, the AEL’s East Division.
But if the latest glance at the minor league system rankings is any indication, the team may be poised to turn things around finally, especially at the low minor level, as years of early draft picks come into fruition.
A perfect example is John Heart, the rookie-level LF who was drafted 2nd overall in 2016, and was the #11 prospect last season. After 107 pro games, all at rookie-level, he seems to be on a slow road to progress, but almost certainly will get to the top echelon of hitters eventually.
Heart is regarded as one of the top hitting prospects in the league, has above average power, and great defensive tools. For now, he is still on the rookie roster, and age 20, this may be a smart move for Dallas as they can get him playing earlier, as the Florida Rookie League sparks up over a month before the Bull League gets going.
But they will want to move him up as soon as he shows any signs of progressing towards his projected benchmarks.
The team is still stuck in retooling mode, especially after losing .294-hitter SS Celestino Caparica, and home run leader Chris Zahn, in a recent trade (Caparica) and to free agency (Zahn). The team’s other run-generator, C Jerry Bravo, won’t be able to carry the team alone.
The young Alex Alvillar, a 17-year-old international scouting discovery out of Venezuela, could be another high-contact hitting prospect for the Deputies, and once Bravo, who is only under contract until 2020, moves on, Alvillar could move in to replace the lost hitting. As an added bonus, Alvillar is also a pretty decent catcher and working to get better. He is currently on the Newcastle Nuclears winter league team, where he is holding his own with a .261 average, a pair of home runs and doubles each, and a .995 fielding percentage.
After the BOWL wraps up, he will most likely continue at the Florida Rookie League, furthering his early development as he works to improve, perhaps looking at a big league shot in 3 to 4 seasons or so, if things go well.
Finally, both players should be coming up to the top level right when last year’s 2nd overall pick, Francisco Villareal, is hitting his prime. The speedy third baseman, who largely retains the early potential he was tagged with last year, looked solid in his brief 6-game stint at the major level last season. Whether he will remain the full-time third baseman is up for debate, but it is clear that Dallas has options now and in the near future that could help the team climb out of the basement.
Of course, these plans could all go off the rails if the team decided to trade their top prospects to acquire some veteran experience.
They have already been involved in two trades, both of which finalized today. So far their strategy seems to be to dump their expensive veterans in return for more prospects. But strategies can change in a flash.