Tigers Sign Three 16-year old Talents

The Detroit Tigers wasted no time jumping into the international free agent market this season, inking three 16-year olds in the first days of the annual signing period. In addition to the big name in Adelin Santa, they also signed Steven Fuentes and Emanuel Chavez.

Santa was the big name signed over the weekend, as the Tigers brought him on board with a reported $750,000 signing bonus. The club would not confirm the bonus amount, but did say it was "in that range."

A 16-year old third baseman, Santa stands 6-foot-1 and weighs in at 190 pounds. The Tigers have seen plenty of the youngster, as he was playing for multiple prospect teams in the Dominican Republic.

"We've seen him a lot already," said Director of International Operations Tom Moore. "We got the chance to see him in a lot of games and that really helped us get comfortable with him."

Moore spoke highly of Santa's power potential and arm strength, noting both as plus tools. One NL scout in the Dominican said he could easily see 60-65 grade power in Santa's future, noting "There's real pop in there. If the hitting ability comes along, he could hit in the middle of the order."

Multiple scouts noted that Santa's hit tool is a work in progress. He does show some ability to recognize the breaking ball but is still quite raw as a true hitter.

The big question surrounding Santa at this point is whether he can actually stick at the hot corner. Most scouts have expressed some concern over his body long term, believing he could be forced to first base down the line.

"That's definitely something we were concerned about in the beginning," said Moore. "The more we saw him though, the more we saw that the hands are pretty soft, the arm definitely works at third, and the footwork has a chance to work there."

In addition to Santa as the highest profile signing, the Tigers have also signed Venezuelan shortstop Steven Fuentes and Dominican right-handed pitcher Emanuel Chavez, with both players taking home signing bonuses in the low-six figures.

The Tigers made a play for a premium level athlete by signing Fuentes. Not the polished defender that some recent Venezuelan shortstops the Tigers have signed, Fuentes does have the potential to be a quality defender.

"He's a plus runner and I see a plus arm in the future," said Moore. "He has very good hands and quick feet at the position. He's not there yet, but unless he's on a roster with a clearly better shortstop, he's not moving off the position."

One AL scout loved the athleticism that Fuentes has shown in workouts over the last couple of years, and noted he just needed more game action to start translating that athleticism to baseball skills.

Offensively, Moore noted that Fuentes needs some refinement, but there are tools present.

"The ball comes off his bat very well," commented Moore. "He has a lot to learn, but he has such good, quick hands that he can make up for a lot of his own mistakes right now."

The final early Latin American signing was right-handed hurler Emanuel Chavez. At 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, Chavez has a great pitchers frame that oozes projection. He works from a high-3/4 arm slot and has a very good downward angle on his pitches.

"We've seen him work in the mid-80s and top out at 90 mph," said Moore. "He also has some feel for a change-up and curveball, with the change-up being a bit more consistent right now. Like a lot of the young guys we sign, he's got that loose arm we look for."

The Tigers surprised many by jumping right into the fray with three signings right out of the gate this summer, and it sounds as though they will continue signing more guys in the coming days.

"Within a week I expect us to have two to three more guys signed, sealed, and delivered," Moore said in closing. "It was just one of those situations where several guys that we really liked signed quickly and we're fortunate to get these deals done."

As the Tigers continue to be players in the 2011 international free agent market, be sure to check back with TigsTown.com for all the details and scouting reports on the latest signings.

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