MLB.com has a handy little tool nowadays for diehard fans and prospect watchers, sorting winter league statistics by parent organization. I remember in years past trying to dig through results and pages to get – for example – Andy Dirks’ stats in the Dominican. No longer.
Unfortunately, looking over those numbers doesn’t do much to inspire a Tigers fan as to the depth and quality of the Detroit prospect pool. This is particularly true of the slight-framed Latin infielders and pitchers the Tigers like to sign young, we watch them in the minors (and the winter leagues) and hope they develop – but so far it ain’t happening. As you’re probably aware, the Arizona Fall League season is over and Tigers prospects (including #1 guy Nick Castellanos) did not acquit themselves well. Castellanos’ .642 OPS for the Mesa Solar Sox was vastly better than catcher James McCann [#21] (.428) or first baseman Aaron Westlake [#27] (.563). Isn’t the AFL supposed to be an offense-first league? Well, the 4 pitchers the Tigers sent (Luke Putkonen [#26], Tyler Clark, Matt Hoffman [#35] & Michael Morrison [#48]) didn’t perform very well either – though they aren’t really the high-ceiling guys that prospect watchers get most excited about.
And that brings us to the Caribbean leagues were the action is heating up. We have guys in the Mexican Pacific League, the Dominican Winter League, the Venezuelan Winter League and the Puerto Rican League (even the Australian Winter League if you count Chris Oxspring as a Tiger prospect). Some of them have been there for a while, some like Avisail Garcia, Alex Burgos [#30] and Ramon Santiago have just begun. I had been planning to focus on the one big high point among members of the Tigers organization – Bruce Rondon closing games for the Magellanes in the VWL. Unfortunately, Rondon imploded in his last appearance this past Saturday allowing 5 earned runs in less than an inning. His overall numbers no longer look like something to praise. His 4.63 ERA rose above that of fellow Magellan Jose Ortega [#28] (4.23) with similar peripherals.
So… any bright spots? The Tigers do have 4 guys playing for Magglio Ordonez’ team – the Caribes de Anzoategui – shortstops Hernan Perez [#37] & Eugenio Suarez and pitchers Wilsen Palacios and Victor Larez. Of those only Larez is putting up good numbers: Perez isn’t hitting, Suarez hasn’t played since mid-October (I assume he got hurt or quit…) and Palacios has an ERA north of 6. Larez did well in Lakeland this year after a conversion to full-time relief, maybe we should keep an eye on him as at least potential middle-innings filler. MCB #48 prospect James Robbins is playing in Australia – but the results have not been good, with 17 strikeouts in only 41 at bats. That’s bad, especially in a league in which Chris Oxspring is – relatively speaking – better than Justin Verlander (and in 3 starts he has an 0.40 ERA with 31 Ks).
We are seeing some interesting things from the 4th or 5th outfielder types that the Tigers have backing up in the upper minors. Jamie Johnson (MCB #49) has joined Caneros de los Mochis in the Mexican Pacific League where he has 14 hits and 4 walks through his first 8 games. Ben Guez (who seems to have been strangely left entirely off John Verburg’s top 50 prospects list) is raking for Tomateros de Culiacan (especially against lefties) with a .293/.414/.534 line in 16 games. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, Ben Guez deserves at least a shot in spring training to be Dirks’ platoon partner. Outfielder/infielder Justin Henry is continuing to do his high-OBP thing (.402) for Aguilas del Zulia in the VWL. There is definitely something to be said for a guy who takes 20 walks and only strikes out 8 times in 26 games.
We’ll be back with more information once the Tigers new arrivals – particularly Avisail Garcia – have more to look at.