No. 17: Endrys Briceno, RHP
Endrys Briceno is a name many of you may not have heard as of yet, but is someone you should definitely be paying attention too. He's a 20 year old native Venezuelan, signed by the Tigers as an international free agent in 2008. He made his professional debut as a 17 year old in 2009, with the Tigers' Venezuelan Summer League (VSL) team. There, he posted solid numbers with a 3.41 ERA across 31 2/3 innings, striking out 16 and walking 12. He repeated the VSL in 2010, this time spending the majority of the season as a starter, where his numbers took a hit. He posted a 5.63 ERA in 46 1/3 innings, while increasing his K/9 by nearly 2 and maintaining a solid BB/9 of right around 3. In 2011, he came stateside to play in the Rookie League GCL, where, again, his numbers weren't great, but he began to show up on prospect watch charts due to his tons of potential and projectability. In the 2011 season, the ERA wasn't great (5.34), but he again increased his K/9 by almost a full K, while still limiting his walks. The Tigers obviously liked what they saw, trusting his development enough to promote him to Class A Short Season-Connecticut in 2012. There, all of his numbers improved slightly, with the exception of his K/9 ratio, which took a severe downturn, all the way to under 5. I attribute that more to being at a (more) advanced level, and due to the quality of his stuff, I don't think he'll have a problem striking guys out in the future.
Now, for the fun stuff. If you're into projection and potential, Briceno is your guy. He stands 6'4" and weighs in at a rail thin 160lbs. He has the body type scouts dream of when scouting young pitchers, as he's loose, with a lighting fast arm, and tons (I mean TONS) of room for added strength/mass on his frame. Briceno offers a 3 pitch repertoire, with a fastball, breaking ball (that's more of a slurve-type), and changeup. Here's where it gets exciting: Briceno already sits in the 92-93 range with his fastball, while bumping it up to 94-95 with regularity. He has also shown an advanced ability to command the pitch, at least at an average level, which is very promising. His fastball has significant projection remaining, so much so that I'd be willing to put a future 70 grade on the pitch, as I see Briceno sitting eventually in the 95-96 range with the ability to ramp it up to 97-98 when he wants to. His breaking ball is the worst of the 3 as of now, but that doesn't mean it's not an effective pitch. He shows the ability to snap off good breaking balls from time to time, inducing swings and misses. I don't think it'll ever be a plus pitch, but it should develop to at least average and maybe even above-average, while occasionally flashing plus. His changeup is already somewhat of an out pitch for him, showing nice fade and sink in addition to the deception that comes from being thrown in the same arm slot with the same arm speed as his fastball. He already earns above-average grades on the pitch, and I could see it becoming a plus pitch in time. Remember, Briceno is talented, yes, but still very raw and his timetable will be a slow one. He still needs to add weight and strength while refining his mechanics, so while it's ok to be excited about him, the potential he has is still a long ways from being reached.
As evidenced by their willingness to push Briceno up a level in both 2011 and 2012, despite mediocre numbers, the Tigers are quite high on him. I see the potential ceiling of a #3 starter here, but one that is still several years away. I'd assume that barring some kind of setback in spring training, he will head to West Michigan and take his place in their rotation for the 2013 season.