Projecting minor leaguers is a tough business. Even MLB teams, who have full access to just about every scouting report on the planet, fail at a very high rate when it comes to developing young players. Draft busts are a dime a dozen, even in the top rounds. Amateur free agents are signed as early as 16 years old, and those that pan out take nearly a decade before finally reaching the major leagues.
The Detroit Tigers have a few interesting young talents coming through their system, and some of them will be making their stateside debuts in 2016. Those of you on the west side of the state may even be fortunate enough to see a few of these players at Single-A West Michigan at some point (though you may be waiting until 2017). They all have high ceilings, as most heralded international talents do, but are still very high risk prospects.
I'm a sucker for center fielders, and Azocar has a chance to be a good one. A 19-year-old plucked out of Venezuela as a teenager, Azocar hit .325/.350/.428 with 15 extra base hits in 51 games for the Gulf Coast League Tigers in 2015. TigsTown's Mark Anderson labeled Azocar as a plus runner with plus potential in the outfield. He struggled offensively in a handful of plate appearances at short-season Connecticut last year, and needs to improve his approach at the plate as he progresses through the system.
Not to be confused with Julio Daniel Martinez -- you know, that dinger monster in the Tigers' outfield -- the young Dominican outfielder made his Dominican Summer League debut in 2015. Martinez hit .274/.339/.462 in 234 plate appearances, showing flashes of the powerful bat that earned him a $600,000 signing bonus. He profiles as a left fielder defensively, but Anderson points out an advanced plate approach as a reason to believe in Martinez.
It's easy to get excited about a player when reading a scouting report. It's even easier when that scouting report includes the words "prodigious raw power," as Alcantara's does. A third baseman by trade (for now), Alcantara hit .305/.415/.488 as an 18-year-old in the Dominican Summer League last season. His defense is a question mark, but he has the kind of offensive upside to make people forget about the glove.
Pereira's stat line isn't all that impressive -- he hit just .219/.297/.323 in the Gulf Coast League last year -- but he has the potential to be the best player in this group. Ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the system by TigsTown, Pereira could be an impact player on both sides of the ball. He has the chops to field multiple infield positions, though may not stick at shortstop long term. The Tigers were aggressive in promoting him last year, and could do so again this season.
Shortstops with power seem to be growing on trees lately, and with any luck, Hector Martinez will be part of the next bumper crop of prospects. He tore up the Dominican Summer League last season as an 18-year-old, hitting .336/.378/.507 with six triples and five home runs in 55 games. Baseball America's Ben Badler called Martinez "a strong kid with the bat speed to project for some power," and thinks he could stick at shortstop long-term.
(h/t James Chipman for the videos)