The Tigers were most aggressive in Latin America, signing four players out of the Dominican Republic and two more out of Venezuela. The club also inked a pitcher out of Australia and is working toward signing another Venezuelan prospect.
Three pitchers were the primary target in the Dominican, highlighted by 17-year old right-hander Juan Alcantara. At 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds he has an extremely projectable frame and the type of arm speed that lends to plenty of fastball projection. A scout not affiliated with the Tigers believed he had the potential to develop 93-95 mph velocity in the next few years. The Tigers indicate that he shows good feel for a change-up and also throws a curveball that has some potential.
Right-handers Sandy Baez and Carlos Lara are completely different animals but both offer the hope of projection. Baez has plenty of movement on his pitches and some scouts believe he will add velocity as well. His curveball shows promise as a potential plus pitch according to one scout and he has uncanny confidence in his change-up for a pitcher his age.
Lara is a long, lanky pitcher that the Tigers call a bit of a "project." None of his pitches rate that well now but his work ethic and general feel for the game suggest they could improve down the line.
The lone position player signed out of the Dominican was shortstop Manuel Joseph. Still only 17-years old, Joseph has an athletic 5-foot-11, 160 pound body. He moves well on the infield and has the potential to be a solid defender once the game slows for him. His offensive game will require work but he has some feel for the bat but must learn to recognize pitches and have a better approach to hitting. He is a plus runner.
Both of the recent Venezuelan signings by the Tigers are catchers that will compete with incumbents Gabriel Tenia and Jose Ovalles for time behind the plate in the VSL; Franklin Navarro and Arvincent Perez. Perez is currently 18-years old and Navarro will hit that same age after the 2012 season is complete.
Navarro is the more intriguing long term prospect with solid athleticism for a catcher and the tools to develop both offensively and defensively. A switch hitter, the Tigers indicate he has a good swing from both sides of the plate and believe he could develop into a solid hitter.
Perez spent some time with the Tigers Liga Paralela club this winter and showed well enough to earn a contract offer. He is a polished defender for his age with a plus arm and a good feel for the game.
Though the club has not confirmed the signing to date, multiple sources outside the organization indicate that the Tigers have agreed to terms with Venezuelan outfielder Ignacio Valdez, pending completion of the MLB investigation process.
Valdez is an exciting young prospect with a great body (6-3, 185) and a broad skill set. Still just 16-years old he offers plenty of projection with his athleticism and solid feel for the game at a young age. He will show plus bat speed at times but loses his swing mechanics when he tries to do too much. As he learns to let his natural strength work for him he should become a more consistent hitter.
The final international signing the Tigers announced in recent weeks was that of right-hander Warick Saupold out of Australia. Saupold is coming off a dominating run in the Australian Baseball League and the Tigers are very familiar with him considering international scout Kevin Hooker is on the coaching staff of Saupold's team in the ABL.
Saupold's American pro debut could come at any number of levels but given his limited experience scouts outside the organization believe he could stand some time at the A-ball levels to get his feet wet. He has a fringe-average fastball that will touch 91 mph when he reaches back it.
His best secondary pitch is a slider that flashes average. He also throws a change-up regularly and the Tigers note that his arsenal includes a curveball; a pitch not noted scouting reports outside the organization. Saupold offers some limited projection as his body has some room to fill out in the coming years.