Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Acquired: Amateur Free Agent, 2009
Ranking History: #183 (2009), #184 (2010), #48 (2011)
The Tigers waited to sign Briceno until just after he turned 17 in 2009 and then slotted him into the VSL Tigers bullpen that summer. In 16 outings (31 2/3 innings), Briceno posted a 3.41 ERA with 12 walks and 16 strikeouts.
Briceno returned to the VSL in 2010, starting nine of his 14 games, and posting a 5.63 ERA. Briceno was knocked around for 56 hits in 46 1/3 innings with 16 walks and 33 punch outs.
After two years of development in Venezuela, the Tigers brought Briceno to the GCL for the 2011 season and he made 12 starts for the club with a 5.34 ERA. Over 59 innings he 77 hits and 19 walks while fanning 49 batters and picking up two wins.
Briceno's slow ascent through the system continued in 2012 as he moved on to short-season Connecticut where he again made 12 starts. In 57 2/3 innings, Briceno yielded 60 hits and just 22 walks while striking out only 30 batters en route to a 4-3 record.
Even without seeing full-season ball, Briceno represents a "win" for the Tigers' scouting department. A rail thin right-hander when they signed him, the Tigers dreamt on the arm speed and feel for pitching at a young age.
Since that time, Briceno hasn't added much in the way of mass, but he has gained some strength. He is still extremely thin and needs to bulk up more to improve his stamina and durability. Briceno's delivery is clean with a long, loose arm action. The ball just jumps out of his hand, making it look like he's just playing catch in the back yard.
With that effortless delivery, Briceno averages 92-93 mph on his fastball. There reports during extended spring training last year that he was up to 95 mph and I personally had him up to 98 mph during his time with Connecticut. Those velocity spikes are rare during his starts, but they are there and hint at what could be with improved strength.
Briceno throws both a classic curveball and change-up that have promise. His curveball shows tight spin and his feel for the pitch improved throughout 2012, as he developed an ability to throw it in the strike zone, while also throwing it out of the zone as a chase pitch.
The change-up is ahead of the curveball in terms of overall development and he will flash some above-average ones during his starts. The change-up wears an impressive fastball disguise before falling off the table late. Briceno's change-up could reach the plus level with more consistency and should be at least an above-average pitch.
Briceno's ability to locate the ball comes and goes at this time. Some of his bullpen sessions were absolutely surgical last summer, but in games, he often looked more like a strike thrower that lacked the ability to locate within the zone. His smooth delivery suggests that a strong command profile is coming, but he has to gain consistency with his release point and the feel for his secondary pitches before that projection will become a reality.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP BAA SS-A
Briceno's slight frame has yet to be tested with a heavy workload. His delivery is smooth and clean and there are no indicators of future injury, but it will all hinge on his ability to handle the increased work that comes with starting in full-season ball and the upper minors.
Briceno is still far more dream than reality. He flashed hints of what he could become last year, but the consistency was sorely lacking. His ability to transition the pinpoint command he shows in the bullpen to game situations will play a huge role in the next steps of his development. Briceno is ready for full-season ball and if his consistency steps forward, broader expectations of him becoming a legitimate starting pitching prospect could begin to simmer.
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