With the Tigers systematically destroying their own farm system over the past couple of years, to good effect of course, it doesn’t leave prospect followers like myself with a whole lot to watch. There is, of course, players worth following still, and I wanted to take a look today at some of those players that are at the lowest level of the Tigers minor league system. Most of these guys are going to be in the Gulf Coast League or the DSL and VSL.
I do want to caution, I have not seen these guys. Most prospect followers don’t really get to see players live at these levels, unless of course you are living in Lakeland. I begin getting most of my information on Tigers guys once they hit the New York Penn League. Most of the reason I find these guys intriguing is mainly based on statistical analysis, which I should warn you, is a tricky endeavor. When it comes to this kind of analysis, you have to be aware of age relative to league, and the nature of the league these guys are playing in. For instance, BB/K rates for a batter in the VSL or DSL can almost be ignored. Pitchers at that level are so raw, it is not unusual for batters to walk more than strikeout. But, we also can entirely ignore a player that is age appropriate and amongst the leaders of the league statistically. At the very least, that indicates their ability is likely in the upper tier for their league…and someone worth following. Pitchers, I mostly just look for projectability in conjunction with numbers.
Anyway…here are some guys worth tracking over the next couple of years.
Javier Betancourt (2B/SS)
Betancourt is an 18 year old middle infielder, who seems likely to end up at second base. Offensively so far is where he has made his big splash, hitting well over .300 last year in the Venezuelan Summer League, and doing so again this year in the Gulf Coast League. Betancourt is likely to make it in our top 50 pre-2014, and has certainly put up the kind of offensive numbers worthy of following.
Rashad Brown (OF)
Brown has at least put himself on the radar of Tigers prospect followers like myself with a strong offensive campaign in 2013 in the Gulf Coast League. Known more as an athlete than baseball player when he was drafted last year, Brown appears, at least statistically, to be showing an aptitude to learn quickly. Brown doesn’t show any power at this point, but he runs well, and is making contact, hitting .324 in 105 minor league at-bats this season.
Franklin Navarro (C)
Navarro isn’t statistically having a good time of it during his first season stateside, but still, there is belief he has some tools that will get him some notice in the upcoming years. He had a nice season in the VSL as a 17 year old, showing some pop, as well as some ability with the bat. Navarro is just 18 years old, a switch hitter, and a bit raw in his defensive skills.
Steven Fuentes (2B/SS)
Fuentes isn’t one of those guys that has put up eye popping numbers to this point, but there appears to be an intriguing mix of athleticism and strength for the 18 year old switch hitting shortstop. Fuentes is hitting .262 thus far on the year, but does have an OPS of .781.
David Paulino (SP)
Paulino was having a heck of a start to the 2013 season with the GCL Tigers before running into injury. That is unfortunate, because the 22/2 K/BB rate in 20 innings is impressive. He also has the frame to suggest that the stuff could wind up being top of the rotation. We will have to see if the injury derails him like his cousin Brenny, who was a former Tigers top prospect.
Joe Jimenez (SP)
Jimenez was one of the top prep arms out of Puerto Rico this year, but went without being drafted, because of signability concerns. The Tigers struck a free agent deal with Jimenez, and the returns so far are real good. Jimenez has the kind of frame you look for from a workhorse, and thus far has posted an ERA of 0.50 in 18 innings this year. Opponents are hitting just .155 off him, and he has struck out 24 in those 18 innings.
Emmanuel Chavez (SP)
Chavez is a projectable 18 year old that is having a mixed year in the GCL this summer. He has been very hittable, with opponents hitting .343 against him, but he does throw strikes, and has struck out more than a batter per inning. Because of the projectability, his ability to strike guys out with a low walk rate, I am tabbing Chavez as someone to track.
Domingo Leyba (SS)
Leyba was one the Tigers higher priced international signings from last year, and is performing really well in the DSL this year. Leyba is amongst the best hitters in the league, batting .350 with an OPS of over 1.000. He was known to be a good athlete with defensive ability when the Tigers signed him.
Manuel Joseph (SS)
Joseph is having his second consecutive quality season in the DSL. Joseph made my top 50 heading into the season, and is known to be a good athlete that is showing some ability with the bat. At 19 years old, however, it doesn’t appear that he is a priority in the Tigers organization, otherwise, I have to imagine he would’ve been brought stateside this year. Since information on these guys is so scarce, that could be an incorrect assumption on my part however.
Willy Adames (2B/SS)
Adames was another six figure signing from 2012, and while he isn’t putting up the ridiculous numbers that Leyba is, he is holding his own nicely in the DSL this season. Adames is just another of the long string of contact oriented, athletic, defensive middle infielders the Tigers have been finding the last few years.
Juan Alcantara (SP)
Alcantara has that frame that scouts like to project on. He just turned 19 years old, and does have solid numbers, so it will be interesting to see if he is brought stateside at the end of this year.
Anthony Castro (SP)
I was a bit surprised Castro wasn’t brought stateside to pitch in the GCL this season. I am sure the Tigers had a reason for that, but I would expect he will be in Florida this fall for instructional league. Castro is projectable and has done well as an 18 year old in the VSL.
Eduardo Jimenez (SP)
Jimenez is another 18 year old on the VSL squad, who is a little less projectable at this point than Castro, but has put up solid enough numbers to warrant watching.
*This list isn’t comprehensive, but rather some of the guys that I have tabbed. There are others that are likely to emerge in the next couple of years, and despite his struggles, guys like Harold Castro are still worth watching.