It’s not too difficult to see why Padres GM A.J. Preller was highly attracted to Cuban prospect Ronald Bolanos, who was signed to a $2.25 million signing bonus last summer. With such a flurry of international signings for the Padres in 2016, it was easy to overlook Bolaños, who didn’t show up on the Top 30 International Prospects list like future teammates Adrian Morejon, Luis Almanzar, Jeisson Rosario, among others.
Playing in the Cuban Junior Circuit in his childhood, Bolanos was developing as an outfielder throughout his childhood, before giving pitching a shot to pitch in 2014. As you could probably guess, it stuck. Bolaños’ highlight was throwing for nine scoreless innings in the Pan American Games for his native country, while striking out 15 batters. Though not as physically imposing as teammate and fellow countryman Michel Baez, who at 6’8″ is half a foot taller than him, but he has a fastball that can touch 96 MPH and a tight, breaking slider as a secondary offering.
Thrown into full season ball this year in Single-A Fort Wayne, he has shown a fair amount of promise. Through his first 60.1 IP this year, Bolaños is 4-2 with a 4.18 ERA, to go along with 42 strikeouts. He hasn’t missed as many bats as you’d like (6.3 K/9) and has some control issues (4.3 BB/9), but is still very raw and still needs time to feel out what kind of pitcher he can be. The 20-year-old could project be a back of the rotation option in San Diego in a few years, or perhaps a bullpen piece if he struggles but turns his slider into a plus pitch. Unlike Morejon and the recently drafted left hander MacKenzie Gore, Bolaños isn’t someone who you might expect to shoot up the Padres system, based on some of control issues and having began to pitch only three years ago.
If he continues to improve at attacking hitters the right way and not trying to simply overpower hitters all the time, Bolaños can find success quickly. He won’t be up at Petco Park for a few years, but he is somebody that can make a difference when the time is right, and is definitely a name that Padres fans should be looking out for in a system loaded with pitching.