One of the Tigers most promising youngsters heading into 2012 was OF Danry Vasquez. Vasquez, who most people consider to have plus ability with the bat, got an aggressive assignment to start the season being sent to full-season ball in West Michigan with the Whitecaps. As a 17 year old in 2011, Vasquez had given the Tigers organization to have a little bit of confidence in him. For the GCL Tigers, Vasquez hit a respectable .272, but struck out in an approximate and respectable 15% of his at bats. He didn’t show much power, or walk much in 2011, but that isn’t unusual for a youngster not old enough to vote playing professional ball.
Subsequently, before the 2012 season, Vasquez shot up Tigers prospect lists reaching as high as the top 5 in some. Those who really believe in Vasquez see him as a prototypical right fielder. He may not be the most athletic guy, but many believe he can hit for average and possesses future power numbers in the left handed bat of his. His frame at 6’3″ and 170 lbs suggests that he and add the needed muscle to live out that projection.
His start to the 2012 season had some people jumping off of the Vasquez bandwagon early, and that same bandwagon now has people trying to climb back on.
In hindsight, the Tigers organization would probably admit the West Michigan assignment was too aggressive for a kid who just turned 18 in January. Never being too shy to try it out though, Vasquez struggled mightily against pitchers who were anywhere from 2 to 4 years older than he was. Personally, I wasn’t surprised, but judging by the reaction from some Tigers fans, you would think they believed that Vasquez’ talent was vastly overblown. It is true that Vasquez struggled, but a low batting average isn’t the be all end all of statistics. His batting average was .162 by the way in West Michigan.
The truth is, the sample was relatively small, and he wasn’t being dominated beyond belief. His K rate was a little bit below 20%, meaning he was over matched, but not nearly as bad as some others have been in the same spot. Vasquez showed an ability to make contact, albeit it weak contact. His struggles did reportedly lead into some lack of effort issues, but maturity issues at 18 isn’t an anomaly in baseball. It happens all the time with even 21 year old’s.
The Tigers made the decision to send Vasquez to extended spring training, and then bring him back when short-season clubs began again. Still facing guys much older than he is, the results have been drastically different in Connecticut, and now we are starting to see why the Tigers spent 7 figures to sign Vasquez just 2 years ago.
Vasquez is hitting a robust .32o with the C-Tigers, and one of the more encouraging things is his strike out rate is looking good, suggesting he does possess the ability to handle the bat that the Tigers thought. Vasquez has only struck out in about 14.3% of his at-bats in Connecticut. What we have seen an increase in over 2011 is power numbers. The power numbers still aren’t good by any stretch, but what we are looking for is development and improvement even in the face of climbing the ladder. In 206 GCL at-bats last year, Vasquez slugged .350. This season in Connecticut, that number has risen to .411. Vasquez has also increased his walk rate, though that is still not where the Tigers would like it to be at around 4%.
Danry Vasquez still has a long way to go, I wouldn’t tell anybody otherwise, especially those that are reading this. But there are some good indicators here, and if he advances a league every year for the next few years, he will be reaching AA at 21 years old. Increasing his walk rate, batting average, slugging pct, OBP, and decreasing his K rate are all positive things.
Patience is required people, and in Vasquez’ case, it could pay off big time.