Azcona was one of the Tigers priority signings in 2008 when the international signing period opened on July 2nd. The Tigers swooped in and inked him to a deal with a signing bonus reported to be around $258,000.
His pro debut was a significant success, playing 63 games as a 17-year old in the Dominican Summer League. Though he only posted a .249 batting average, he walked 33 times to help notch a .350 on-base percentage. The raw teenager knocked eleven doubles, five triples, and four home runs, and also managed eight steals.
Brought stateside after just one year of pro ball, Azcona spent the first part of the summer in extended spring training before playing in the Gulf Coast League. Though his walk rate dipped, he still showed some contact ability and an idea at the plate. He finished with nine home runs, four triples and three home runs with nine steals in 52 games. Defensively, after playing exclusively at shortstop in his pro debut, he moved around between shortstop, third base, and second base in 2010.
There's a lot to dream on with Azcona, but there is also a lot of concern among scouts as to whether or not he can realize enough of those raw tools to become a viable prospect.
The one thing that stands out most when you see Azcona up close is his body. He has extremely long arms, long legs, big feet, and huge hands. It is not hard to envision him adding two to three inches and 20-25 pounds as he matures physically. He has natural strength in his frame and he could add more.
Azcona is a good athlete with above-average speed, though he could easily lose a step or two as he fills out. He has the range for shortstop and it is his best position at this time. He has the natural fielding ability to handle either third or second if they move him permanently. The game still moves a little fast for him defensively, and he gets caught rushing his movements and throws which can lead to a number of errors. His arm is a potential plus tool at any of the three infield positions.
At the plate he features a quick bat and simple swing mechanics. He gets the barrel of the bat into the hitting zone quickly and his swing plane is flat enough that he stays through the zone for an extended time.
He lacks power in his swing now but he could develop average power or better as he fills out and becomes more physical. He will also need to learn to elevate the ball with his swing and become more comfortable turning on inside pitches.
There exist tools that would allow Azcona to become one of the Tigers better position prospects. The rest of his body filling out to match his arms, hands, and feet could mean both good things and bad things for his overall tools. Whether he fills out and loses athleticism, or maintains it and turns impressive physical tools into in-game skills will determine what his ultimate projection will be.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% R
Azcona's brief career has been free of any significant injuries, and he has yet to deal with even minor, nagging ailments.
Though the Tigers like his ability at shortstop, last year's experiments at second and third were also recognition that there are numerous shortstop prospects in the system and he may have to move off the position.
Azcona will enter spring training in a competition for the second base job in West Michigan. He projects to have enough offense to carry the position, and there is enough there athletically and instinctually to think the move could work. His toughest competition this spring will be Alexander Nunez, a player that lacks the raw tools that Azcona has, but has played at a higher level.
Until we see how Azcona fills out and where he lands defensively, and in reality how his bat progresses over the next year or two, it is tough to pin any realistic timetable on his arrival in Detroit. He is at least three to four years away from the big leagues, and could take longer than that if the tools take a while to turn into actualized baseball skills.
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