One of the more intriguing youngsters in the Tigers system, Endrys Briceno just missed our top 50 after myself and James had him in originally, but eventually ended up moving him out. It will be interesting to see where Briceno lands to start 2012, given that he needs innings for his continued development as much as anyone. If he starts in West Michigan, it could be a sign that the Tigers liked what they saw during the spring. If not, he is more than likely going to be somewhat limited in the innings he gets in 2012 as well.
Briceno is probably little known to a lot of Tigers fans, so let’s get to know him now…..
Endrys Briceno is a 19 year old right-handed pitcher, signed as a free agent out of Maracay, Venuezuela in March of 2009. In his first season, Briceno pitched out of the bullpen for the Venezuelan Summer League Tigers, logging a total of 31.2 innings. His ERA was 3.41 in his first season, and he struck out 16 while walking 12. In 2010, the Tigers began to give Briceno a few starting opportunities, and he increased his innings output to 46.1. He struggled a little more in 2010, finishing with an ERA of 5.63. In 2010 though, Briceno’s strikeout rate got better, and he K’d 33 while walking 16. The Tigers saw enough from the young right-hander to bring him stateside in 2011, and he got his feet wet for the GCL Tigers this summer. Working exclusively as a starter, Briceno made 12 starts, pitching 59 innings, and finishing with an ERA of 5.34. Once again, the K rate increased, striking out 49 and walking 19 batters. Hitters did post a .310 BA against Briceno in 2011, showing he still has quite a bit of development left.
At 6’4″ and about 160 lbs, Briceno is an ultra-projectable pitcher whose development path is going to take some patience. Right now, his rather thin and frail frame is somewhat awkward, and it shows in his lack of ability to consistently repeat his delivery. Obviously, with trouble repeating a delivery, there are going to be some command issues, despite the fact that Briceno posted a BB rate of less than 3/9 last year. As he begins dealing with advanced hitters, they will be able to lay off pitches outside of the strike zone. Still, with the development of his body, there is a lot to like here.
Briceno owns a 3 pitch mix, but only one is consistently usable, making him a hittable pitcher. That is his fastball. Briceno currently sits in the low 90’s regularly, and can reach back for a mid 90’s fastball on occasion. Given that his frame will continue to get stronger, it’s easy to see why he is intriguing. His present fastball could project to sit mid 90’s, and touch the upper 90’s with regularity. Briceno has a quick arm, and does have some ability to generate ground balls with a solid downward plane. He lacks command of his fastball like he does all of his pitches, and the development of command will be a big part in whether he can stick as a starter.
Briceno also throws a curve, and at times he shows some ability to spin it pretty well, however, he rarely threatens the strike zone with the pitch. It’s so inconsistent that hitters can literally ignore it as an option for Briceno, and focus in on his fastball. Given that Briceno doesn’t have a lot of innings under his belt, there should be some improvement here, and the curve could become an average pitch for him.
His change up lags behind as well, and isn’t a usable pitch at this point.
Patience. Briceno’s frame and fastball offers enough intrigue for the Tigers to work on developing Briceno going forward. It might take 5 years for a guy like this to begin to show his true potential and even make high A ball, or it might never happen. His development of an average second pitch, and a usable third is going to be key. If not, there would still be some hope for a high leverage reliever here. I wouldn’t be surprised if that turns out to be the case, and Briceno pumps mid to upper 90’s fastballs for someone late in games.
Briceno is really raw, and really worth watching going forward. The Tigers development staff could earn their money here if they can turn this thrower into a pitcher.