The Detroit Tigers have made their presence felt on the international market over the last few years. Instead of adhering to their old practice of spreading their international bonus pool between a large number of inexpensive youngsters, they have begun to commit large percentages of their resources to a select few players with more talent. While it will take a long time for the strategy to bear fruit at the major league level — the kids they are signing are 16 and 17 years old, after all — it has already made an impact at the lower level of the minors.
The 30th entry on our top prospects list this year was the powerful Jose de la Cruz, a Dominican outfielder Detroit signed for a then-record bonus in 2018. The other player the Tigers committed a large bonus to during that signing period was infielder Adinso Reyes. Reyes, a fellow Dominican, offers a well-rounded profile. He surged up our prospects rankings thanks to a torrid summer in 2019.
Amateur international free agents are mostly shielded from the public eye before they are snatched up by professional teams, a by-product both of their youth and as a side effect of some gray-area deals that teams often make with the players that capture their attention. Therefore, without much in the way of professional experience, there isn’t a lot to know about a player’s background. Reyes has only played in one season of professional baseball, but it certainly left an impression. He shredded opposing pitching, hitting .331/.379/.508 with seven home runs in 62 games.
As his blistering pace in 2020 would indicate, Reyes’ strength lies in his ability to make put the ball into play and make regular hard contact. He was ranked 17th on Baseball America’s recent 2019 Dominican Summer League Top 20 Prospects list, and they had very kind things to say about his skill in the batters’ box.
“Unlike a lot of power hitters at his level, Reyes isn’t just a pull-heavy masher,” wrote Baseball America. “He has an unusual ability to let the ball travel, hit it where it’s pitched and hammer pitches on the outer third to the opposite field.”
Among other things praised in the report were his two-strike approach and his combination of strength and bat speed that create genuine plus raw power output. It’s an encouraging report for a few reasons. The biggest point is that it separates him from the “an all-or-nothing slugger” class that has produced many a waiver-wire frequent flier. The Tigers have been bitten by buying into over-muscled let-it-rip types in the recent past and have a chance to work with a better skillset with Reyes.
One of the tenants of prospect writing is to never scout the stat line, but let’s bend that rule for one moment. It’s an important note that his power showed up in his numbers immediately in professional baseball. As it was noted in the writeup on de la Cruz, using wooden bats can be a concern for even polished college hitters. The fact that Reyes wasn’t stumbled by using a wooden bat upon entering the professional ranks speaks to the validity of his offensive potential.
It still remains to be seen how he plays against pitchers who are capable of spinning a breaking ball and have a semblance of command, but all the indicators we have point towards a bright future at the dish.
Billed as a good defender at the time of his signing, Reyes purportedly has the soft hands and solid arm required of a shortstop. However, there’s concern that he won’t be able to stick at the position for much longer. “A fringe-average runner, Reyes has more work to do to clean up his defense,” wrote Baseball America, “where he has a strong arm for the left side of the infield, but a lot of scouts view him as a future third baseman.”
FanGraphs’ scouting report was a little more encouraging on that front, positing that he could be an average defender in time but peg him as a 40-grade defender at present. Just to look at the numbers, those aren’t unfair takes. He committed 19 errors during the 39 games he played at short in 2019. And if he is truly a third baseman, that will put a significantly larger amount of pressure on his bat to play at higher levels.
But on the other hand, the condition of Dominican Sumer League fields is often suspect compared to more well-groomed fields at higher levels, meaning that some of those errors can likely be attributed to unpredictable or strange hops the ball took on uneven ground. The small sample size and subjective nature of errors muddy that equation even more, meaning we’ll just have to wait and see how things shake out on that front.
In fact, “wait and see” is a big part of this profile. The most important thing to keep in mind when discussing most any international signee is just how far away from they are from making an impact on a significant level. Of course, there are the ones who break that rule, such as freakishly talented players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Juan Soto. As far as we can tell, Reyes does not fit in with that group and Tigers fans will have to be patient with his development into a major league asset.
When the separation between a player’s floor and ceiling is so chasmic, there are all kinds of ways for things to go wrong during his development. It takes a deft hand to correctly manage and coach player so inundated with risk, and the Tigers have yet to earn our confidence in that regard.
Being so far away from the majors, his future value is a bit cloudy. A by-product of the fact that his development could derail in so many different ways is the fact that there are many, many paths that his career could follow. The organization may have in mind what kind of player they want him to become, but it’s hard to say with certainty what his ceiling really is without laying eyes on him ourselves or getting a decent number of in-person scouting reports from other outlets.
Projected Team: Rookie-Level GCL Tigers
Between his sweltering pro debut and the fact that he will be 18 years old for the entire season, it’s possible that 2020 will be the year Reyes gets to short-season ball. However, don’t expect to see his name on the Opening Day roster in Norwich. There is little (if any) reason for the Tigers to push him very hard, so he should start the season in rookie ball and stay there for the majority of his playing time. Should he force his way up the ladder, though, that would only help his case as one of the Tigers’ better young prospects.