I had the privilege of watching seven straight days of Tigers backfield action. Here are a few notes and tidbits.
Endrys Briceno- He was really, really impressive. I'm going to rank him #4 in the system and have no regrets. Arm action is the best in the system, and some of the best I've seen. His FB was 92-94 T 95, but it's definitely not straight. The change up is solid average right now, and flashes plus. He's got an idea of what he's doing on the mound, and throws the change up in hitters counts, too. I've seen him a few times, and the breaking ball was always lagging. However, the other day, it was fringe average, and I was encouraged. He threw double digit breakers over the course of 4 innings, and that's the most I've ever seen him throw. If he can get that pitch up to solid average, or even just fringe average, you've really got something here. He had some trouble generating swings and misses last year int he minors, but I counted damn near 10 the other day, coming on all three pitches. I know he's a bit older, but the body and arsenal are improving, and he's taken another step forward from last year.
Domingo Leyba- BA was on the right track by blowing him up a bit. Kid has really good hands at the plate and good actions in the field. His hands are soft in the field as well, and he may be a plus at 2B down the line. However, he's small. Maybe 5'7 160. Definitely better from the left side of the plate than the right, looks like he's a natural lefty hitter. Has a bit of pop for a small guy, but he's a grinder/baseball iq type without the huge tool package. Definitely a prospect, but #8 in the system is a bit much.
Joe Jimenez- Saw him today for the first time in person. Rushed delivery, lost his arm action a bit. Really liked the arm. Heavy FB. Definitely had some life. 90-93 or so. Pitching IQ is relatively low, he's definitely more of a thrower than a pitcher at this point, and a project. Arm speed is there, arm action is there, and he has a mature build and body. Slider was short and tight, not huge movement, but definitely enough to fuck with some hitters. Comes out of the same arm slot.
Steven Fuentes- Not much IQ or feel for the game at all. Movement all over the place at the plate. Really raw. Cannon for an arm. Would probably be low 90s off the mound. Has some pop. Has moved over to 3B. Actions aren't good. Makes routine plays, but hardly gets himself into fielding position. Has some pop and a bunch of tools, but they're a long way from actualizing. Thick thighs and legs, and bigger upper body, especially for a 19 year old. Probably 6'1-6'2 185. Needs to improve barrel accuracy.
Willy Adames- I had never seen him before, and didn't know too much about him. 18 years old and 6'1 170 or so, and he's thick and sturdy, but won't fill out too much to move off short. Hands were soft, and had good lateral movements and actions in the field. Average arm. Really nice baseball body. At the plate, he's got a toe tap load mechanism, and gets his hands into a really good spot at load/balance point. Was facing Jandel Gustave, who was throwing 95-98, and hit a knee high fastball about 375 feet, and I don't think it went 20 feet off the ground. He has some pop, especially for a MIF. He's my candidate for next year's on the rise guys in the Tigers
system. Would absolutely keep an eye on him in the GCL, because he could be a dude.
Javier Betancourt- He's already a Guy. Really, really like him. Was with the big club for a couple of the days, and I've seen Low-A three times, and only seen him once. Should be fine at 2B. A bit raw in the field, and his fielding will play up due to his instincts. At the plate, he's wise beyond his years, and has a definite plan of attack. Saw him barrel up three balls in the first game I saw him (of two), and he hit two absolute ropes against Gustave. Stays exceptionally balanced at the plate. Just watching his takes, it's apparent he has a plan. Works himself into counts, extremely heady, high IQ, and while he doesn't have a HUGE tool package, I could see him being a plus hitter. All reports indicate that he's a joy to be around, and the org loves how he plays the game. Has great bloodlines of course. If I were re-ranking Tigers prospects, it may be hard to leave him out of the top 10.
- 5 o clock hitter. Pitch recognition problems. Long swing. Athletic for his size for sure, and actually moves around well in the field, especially for the gigantic human that he is (seriously, he may be 6'8 or even taller), but he's seriously lacking an approach at the plate. The raw power is massive, and I saw him take 10 AB or so, and while he only hit two balls hard, those were absolute ropes. Needs to develop barrel accuracy and barrel control, and I think he may struggle in AA this year with more advanced breaking stuff. He might OPS .500 against lefties, and has trouble seeing the ball out of the hand against them. Has the tools to be an every day big leaguer, I just don't know if they actualize. Lower on him than most, and while I know the tool package is intriguing, and the raw power is daunting, he has too many feeble plate appearances for a guy who has been in professional baseball going on 6 years, even if he is still 22. Would get absolutely eviscerated by major league pitching this year, and when talk got out that the Tigers were even considering him to play LF, I laughed, because by the second time around the league, he'd hit .050.