As we continue our countdown of the Detroit Tigers' Top 30 prospects, we offer a look into Josue Brieno, a catching prospect within the team's system. The left-handed hitter hails from Venezuela and was signed to a minor-league contract back in 2022 to join the Tigers organization.
He made his affiliate ball debut in 2022 and advanced up to Single-A Lakeland during his time with the Detroit Tigers organization, but he has spent most of his time on the backfields in Lakeland. He has a lot of projectability in the long term but has to keep moving through the organization and showing the tools off throughout the road to Detroit.
He's a 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame with physicality in the build and room to keep adding to the frame and put on more strength. It's easy to see why the Tigers were intrigued on the frame alone, with projection there, but he's got to keep adding and working on things with the Tigers organization to reach full potential.
He's a left-handed bat with a simple and open stance. He's pretty upright with his setup, lower-set hands, and a simple stroke through contact. He creates separation well, but the hands drift a bit too much for my liking in the swing, which could bring about some concern to me.
The leg lift is rather big, and he makes an inward move from his open stance, which can leave him prone to some weaker swings on the inner third. However, Briceno's issues tend to be working away on the outer third. My guess is that he gets the weight working middle-in and has a harder time extending to cover that outer third with a connected swing.
But top to bottom, it's a left-handed stroke from a physical frame that can produce loud results. The power grades tend to be generous with Briceno, who can get good wood on the ball and do some damage. This is where that leg lift comes in handy. When he gets a pitch, he can turn on; his leg lift and separation allow him to get that foot down with force and turn hard through contact.
It's a pull-side approach overall, and if it means sacrificing pitches on the outer third to belt 15-20 homers and drive in runs, so be it. But this is all hypothetical; he's got to hit all levels of the organization to get to that point. But from a projection standpoint, the pull-side juice is there.
It's a bat-first profile. His power is what carries the profile. Behind the dish, he's average at best. There are other catchers in the organization who are better at him defensively. He's got an arm and can throw runners out, but he's sometimes inaccurate. More importantly, behind the dish, there are some questions about whether he can stick.
He may transition to first base in the long term but obviously remains a primary catcher. That said, it's important to note that the offense carries Briceno's profile. He annihilated the backfields in 2023, playing in 44 games where he slashed .325/.404/.550 with 13 doubles, two triples, and seven home runs, driving in 37 runs for the FCL Tigers.
He made it to Single-A Lakeland for a cup of coffee, logging 11 games in 2023, slashing .293/.396/.439 with six doubles and no big flies. He walked seven times and struck out eight, for what that's worth regarding plate discipline. He also had 23 walks to 28 strikeouts in his time with the FCL Tigers, for clarity.
Briceno has a future with Detroit, but he has to hit more. The power needs to come around, and he needs to establish himself with the Single-A squad in 2023 to really garner my attention. He's a 19-year-old prospect with a projectable body and plus-raw-power.
He is what he is, to put it bluntly. There are defensive concerns, but the stick has plenty of upside if it clicks. He just needs to hit and continue to hit his way through the organization.