For a little more than a decade now, the Detroit Tigers have been very closed-fisted when it comes to the international free agent market. While Detroit’s front office has no fear of doling out major contracts to proven MLB players — see: Fielder, Prince and Upton, Justin — spending big money on premium foreign talent has never been their cup of tea.
Over the past few years, however, they have made a few sneaky, under-the-radar signings that have turned out for the better. The foremost example of this was a young player who was shipped out in the David Price trade and now is a headliner of a strong Tampa Bay Rays farm: a shortstop by the name of Wily Adames. Adames, now rated by MLB.com as the game’s 21st overall prospect, was signed in 2012 for $420,000, merely a whiff of what the top international prospects get.
Another good example would be that of Jose Azocar, the speedy Venezuelan centerfielder. Rated on our list as the 7th best prospect in the system, Azocar was also a product of Detroit’s international activity in 2012. Recent Australian signee Jack O’Laughlin may be added to the short but ever growing list.
The first thing to know about O’Loughlin is how incredibly young he is: just 16 years old! This makes his performance in the Australian Baseball League (ABL) even more impressive, O’Loughlin is not only the youngest current ABL player, he is the youngest ABL starter to ever get a win.
He throws his pitches with a simple, one-piece delivery using a three-quarters arm slot. This kind of fluid motion is something that will benefit him long term, because it reduces the risk of elbow and shoulder injuries or the need for Tommy John surgery.
His fastball tops out at 90 to 91 miles per hour, but that isn’t as much of a concern as it might be in other players because O’Laughlin is both 16 years old and left-handed. He will probably add velocity as he develops physically.
His curveball is already better than those of his peers and O’Loughlin could, with more reps, craft it into a true weapon. Multiple sources cite him having an advanced feel for the offering, which puts him a leg up and will make his development go a little bit faster. It may not have the vicious 12-6 bite that one would hope for, but it is still a good pitch.
While O’Laughlin is doing better than anyone might expect thus far — his 3-3 record and 3.02 ERA in 41 2⁄3 innings — there are a few slight concerns. Namely, he doesn’t strike out many opposing batters. He punched out a mere 12.57 percent of batters in ABL action, or just 4.75 per nine innings.
His get praise for having advanced feel for his curve, but it does have issues. In video of his starts, he seemed to struggle spotting it. If he is to make his curve into an out pitch, he will need to develop better control and command of the offering. While that may come with reps, there is also a chance that his pitch with the most potential could be made completely moot.
O’Loughlin is also eons away from the majors. If he were an American, he would not even be draft eligible out of high school for another year and change. The chances of him washing out are very, very high. He won’t even be coming to the U.S. until the 2018 season, and will start in extended spring training and the lowest levels of the minors. Fortunately for Detroit fans, that also means he has plenty of time to improve. As he gets some professional coaching and he develops more physically, his velocity and command will improve, and the strikeouts will come.
Jacob’s Scouting Report:
Note: This scouting report may have far more variance from others on the internet than most published on Bless You Boys. The availability of information on O’Loughlin is low and this scouting report is the product of my research.