Before our brand new prospect rankings come out later this week, there have been a few smaller news items regarding the farm system to catch up on. The Tigers announced most of their 2024 international free agent class last week, as we reported here, but the most interesting player is likely their 2025 top free agent, Dominican outfielder Cris Joel Rodriguez.
Reports emerged last week that the Tigers are far and away the favorites to sign the now 15-year-old Rodriguez for an estimated $3M bonus next January. Already tall for his age, the young outfielder has huge power, good bat to ball skills, and a well-rounded toolkit overall. He packs the arm strength to be a weapon in right field, and that’s largely where he’s projected to play, but this is really all about the potent offensive tools and the potential for a true star caliber middle of the order bat.
It’s hard to say if Cris Rodriguez is an Al Avila recruit, or a Scott Harris recruit, and the real answer may be somewhere in between. However, he certainly stands out as above and beyond most of the other talent they’ve signed from Latin America the past 10 years. It’s been very rare for the Tigers to land anyone in the top 30, so a top ten or even top five guy would be new territory for the organization under the current system.
The Detroit Tigers are favorites to sign OF Cris Rodriguez in the 2025 international class. Massive offensive tools. Physical as all hell. If the bat clicks, it's middle-of-the-order impact. Plus arm strength. Profiles into RF. A Top 10 player in 2025, may end up in the Top 5. pic.twitter.com/ArP6QzazHt— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) January 17, 2024
Proper strategy in the international free agent market is obviously pretty tricky. Evaluating 13 and 14-year-old kids well enough to nail these signings where agreements are already in place at that age is extremely difficult, and there’s a good argument for simply spreading the money around. Collecting the best raw athletes in bulk is part of most teams’ strategy, but for some, it’s the basis for their whole approach. Others are hunting the next superstar, and spreading around small amounts of their bonus pool on the cheaper, raw athlete side of the equation.
The Tigers have certainly gone the other way more in recent years, spending big dollars for a list of young IFA prospects who weren’t highly ranked, and who largely haven’t done much to date. Fortunately, most are still young enough to have patience with. Outfielder Roberto Campos and infielder Cristian Santana, are still only 20 years old at this point. Campos hasn’t done much, and Santana backed up after a great stateside debut in 2022, but there’s still time for both. They represent the Tigers first forays into giving out huge bonuses by the standards of the current IFA bonus pool system.
The 2024 IFA class for the Tigers was headlined by infielder Nestor Miranda, who profiles as a future first baseman but could possibly stick at third base. He possesses massive power already and good hitting tools. In his case, the Tigers got an older free agent as Miranda is already nearly 18 years old, so hopefully he was more of a lock to evaluate clearly. He was the 45th ranked IFA on MLB Pipeline’s rankings. Outfielder Jesus Pinto was their other big addition, and was ranked 41st in this year’s IFA class by Baseball America.
As we’ve noted, the process of signing most of the top guys generally starts two or three years before they’re eligible at age 16, so any impact of the new front office probably won’t show up for a little while. Rodriguez may be the first big signing to qualify, but even there the Tigers have presumably had a relationship developing for some time already.
The overall leadership structure of the Tigers international operations hasn’t changed since Scott Harris took over, but Vice-President Rob Metzler, who oversees scouting, has added veteran scout Chip Lawrence as a special assistant and global crosschecker. The Tigers also hired a new analyst for that department as well. Meanwhile, nascent attempts to reach out to the Japanese market are also underway and underpinned the reasoning behind signing a respected veteran pitcher like Kenta Maeda. Making headway in Asia would be great and could help accelerate the process of getting more out of their international operations.
Presumably the real overhaul won’t occur until the Tigers are ready to build their new planned academy in the Dominican Republic sometime in the next few years. At that point, we’d hope the Tigers can at least get into the upper tiers of teams in the international realm.
Tigers announce minor league coaching staffs for 2024
FanGraphs dropped their new top 31 on Monday, so that’s worth checking out even if I don’t love it. David Laurila also has a good interview up with infield prospect Jace Jung, who is widely getting top 100 list love from the national prospect writing corps.
Finally, another piece of farm news dropped on Monday, as the Tigers announced their coaching staffs for all of their affiliates. On the managerial side there aren’t any surprises. Gabe Alvarez was rumored to be under consideration for a new role, but ultimately he is now headed back to manage the Erie SeaWolves again, and they’re lucky to have the well-regarded manager back again.