There are many ways to build up a farm system. While the Detroit Tigers have been largely using high picks in the draft to do so, the international free agency period is an equally important aspect where the teams with top farm systems seem to consistently take advantage. The Tigers have not been among them. In fact, we have to go back to Milwaukee Brewers shortstop, Willy Adames, for the last Tigers international free agent signing who really panned out in the major leagues.
In recent years it seems there’s been more of a push by Detroit to be more active on this market. Just last season, they hired Euclides Rojas as Director of Latin American Player Development, hoping to get their teenaged prospects off on a better foot before they come stateside. They’ve found some exciting prospects such as Cristian Santana, Roberto Campos, Abel Bastidas, and Manuel Sequera to name a few. In the most recent cycle, the big money acquisition was Javier Osorio.
New President of Baseball Operations, Scott Harris, will no doubt be looking to change all this and help find more talent from the most important international markets. However, these deals are often agreed upon when players are still only 13-14 years old. So any impact Harris will make is still a long ways off, and the pre-arranged deals the Tigers already have in place are highly unlikely to be altered by January.
Recently MLB Pipeline dropped their list of the top 50 international free agents for the upcoming signing period, along with the teams listed as favorites to sign them. Because the Tigers had a Competitive Balance B pick in the most recent draft, they will receive a pool of $6,366,900, which starts them among the highest pools of any team. There is still time, but once the signing period opens there is the ability to trade money.
The Tigers are linked to three of MLB Pipelines top 50 prospects. Two of the prospects expected to be signed by Detroit are from Venezuela, and one is from the Dominican Republic. Because there is not much known about these players in the public space, many times we rely on Pipeline or top publications like Baseball America for information.
According to MLB Pipeline, the highest ranked player linked to Detroit is a switch hitting catcher named Enrique Jimenez, coming in at 32nd. They give him high marks for his baseball IQ and makeup. The 16-year-old is said to make good contact with the ability to grow into some power.
MLB Pipeline also provides a short video of Jimenez. It’s just some batting practice swings and throws to second. It should all be taken with a grain of salt based on his age, but he does show quick hands from both sides of the plate.
The next highest ranked prospect likely signing with the Tigers is 44th ranked prospect, shortstop Maikol Orozco. They believe he will play up the middle, whether that be shortstop or second base, and he will hit. Orozco is already projected to be a bat-first profile. His writeup is adamant that he will hit.
There is video provided for Orozco as well. Just like with Jimenez, it’s a few practice reps in the field and a few batting practice swings. There isn’t much to say about it. However, based on the bat path in those swings it is easy to tell why Orozco gets such high marks for his hitting ability.
Finally, the Tigers are listed as favorites for 48th ranked prospect, outfielder Cristian Perez. He’s a 16-year-old righty who is said to already be showing power to all fields with more projected in the tank. Detroit has a history of going after power with international free agents, like Campos and Sequera.
Video is available for Perez. He has quick hands and a flat bat path in the available batting practice swings. Both of those things are tell tale signs of pop from hitters at any level, especially against fastballs.
There are still a few months until the signing period officially opens, so things may change. The Tigers could trade some money or they could trade for some more money. While it’s important to note who Detroit signs during this period, it’s also important to note that once the signing happens it could be a couple years before seeing these prospects in action. We just got our first full season looks at players like Santana, Campos, and Sequera. This is the long-term pipeline and will take a half decade to reach the Double-A level should things go well.