No. 4: Danry Vasquez, OF
Danry Vasquez was signed by the Tigers out of Venezuela when he was only 16, receiving a 7 figure bonus in the process. He was touted as one of the top international players eligible to be signed, and the Tigers were obviously very impressed by his skills and projectability. He was signed in July of 2010, and made his professional debut the following season for the GCL Tigers in Rookie League, as a 17 year old. This was somewhat surprising, in that the Tigers brought him stateside right away, rather than have him play in the Venezuelan Summer League (VSL) as they do with most of their Venezuelan signings. Regardless, Vasquez performed pretty well for a 17 year old already playing stateside. The numbers aren't flashy, but in 224 plate appearances Vasquez hit .272 (.655 OPS), showing good contact skills and the natural hitting ability that made the Tigers fall in love with him in the first place. In 2012, Vasquez was very aggressively assigned to Class A-West Michigan as an 18 year old, where he struggled. He posted only a .440 OPS in 112 plate appearances, struggling in every facet of the game against such advanced competition. He was sent down to Class A Short Season-Conncecticut to finish the season, and he rebounded very well there by hitting .311 (.742 OPS) over 310 plate appearances, improving in every area over the numbers he posted in 2011.
Vasquez stands 6'3" and weighs in at about 170lbs, with a wiry, athletic frame. He has already put on a good amount of muscle and weight since he joined the org, and his body offers significant more projection for added (good) mass as he matures, fills out, and continues in a professional conditioning program. Vasquez was originally going to be turned into a right fielder, but the Tigers have said that he will be exclusively developed as a left fielder going forward, where his profile fits best. He is still raw in the outfield in terms of his instincts and his reads, but he shows the athleticism and potential to turn into a solid-average (potentially better) left fielder in time. Remember, he just turned 19. He has an above-average arm from left field, and it shows the projection to potentially be plus in time, once he refines his mechanics and simply gets more reps. His speed is the most average of his tools, grading out in the 45-50 range consistently, and he'll probably slow down as he fills out and matures but will not be a base clogger. The main reason for all the hubbub and excitement about Vasquez resides in his bat. He shows truly outstanding natural hitting ability, with excellent barrel awareness, an advanced approach, and a simple swing that allows him to make contact on just about any pitch. He's able to drive the ball all over the field, into and up any gap, and projects to be a plus to plus-plus hitter at the major league level. He packs some pop in his skinny frame, and while his raw power has not shown much in game situations, his overall hitting ability and projection lead scouts to believe that he will have plus power in time. I was able to catch Vasquez once at West Michigan before he was sent down, and I was impressed with the swing. It was easy to see why scouts have been so enamored with him. He's very balanced at the plate, quiet in his lower half while still getting an excellent load, quick to the zone but long through it, and has very good bat speed. With added strength, I see no issue with projecting him to have plus power down the line. He needs some work on pitch recognition, but that will get better as he is exposed to more advanced pitching.
Vasquez's ceiling is that of an impact, middle of the order bat that hits over .300 consistently with 20+ HR power and tons of doubles, while playing a solid-average LF. Overall, he has the potential to be a perennial all-star, but it takes some dreaming to see it. The projection is there, and his best tool is the one tool that you'd want to be a prospects' best: his bat. He'll play the entire 2013 season at 19, undoubtedly at Class A-West Michigan. Ideally, if all goes well, he will be ready to compete for the starting LF job by 2016.