The Padres made a splash on Day 1 of the 2012 international signing period, inking 6-foot-2 third baseman Carlos Belen to a $1 million deal. Baseball America ranked Belen eighth among international prospects, citing his advanced bat as the reason behind his high ranking.
Belen features a short swing not often seen in players his own age or experience level and projects to hit for average and power down the road. Defensively, the evaluations of Belen range from above average potential to near guarantees he’ll move off the position. Belen does feature above average arm strength but his footwork and instincts at the position are very much on the raw end – even for a 16-year-old prospect.
ESPN’s Enrique Rojas seems to have the highest opinion of Belen among industry experts, citing evaluators who see Belen as a supreme two-way talent in the mold of Adrian Beltre. While that seems quite bullish based off other aggregate reports, there’s no question the Padres are believers in Belen’s upside if they’re willing to risk a third of their entire spending budget for the year.
One interesting aspect to Belen’s game is the fact that he’s one of the few top international talents that has played in games leading up to the signing period. This situation is unique as most players choose to simply take batting practice and go through simple fielding drills once they are considered a top player in the market. Further, Belen has not only played in these games but also excelled offensively.
While this uniqueness does not guarantee any sort of future success, it does likely give the Padres a bit more confidence in their investment. The contract that Belen signs this year begins in 2013, but he’ll train at one of the Padres’ complexes until then. Depending on his progression a Dominican
Southern Summer League debut is likely with an outside shot at seeing Arizona League action at some point next season.