The Tigers have become known for their strategy of signing plenty of players for less money rather than paying a massive bonus to one or two players; a strategy that they will stick to under the new international bonus pools implemented by MLB.
Working with just over $2 million this year, the Tigers were expected to be aggressive with several young players on The Opening day of the signing period, though they were not expected to toss around seven-figure bonuses. The Tigers have not handed down a seven-figure bonus to an international player since signing Danry Vasquez out of Venezuela in 2010.
As expected based on recent history, the largest bonus the Tigers handed out yesterday was a reported $400,000 bonus to Dominican shortstop Hector Martinez. Martinez projects as a bat-first player with offensive potential that exceeds his defensive grades. He shows good bat speed at a young age and some feel for contact. His swing path is still inconsistent but he has a chance to hit for average and power, though possibly not as a shortstop. Martinez has the arm strength to stick at shortstop but his feel for the position and his range may come up a little short, forcing a move to third or second base down the line.
The Tigers also gave a reported $350,000 signing bonus to Venezuelan catcher Elys Escobar. Like many young catchers the Tigers sign in Latin America, Escobar offers advanced catch-and-throw skills for his age. He is a quality defender for his level right now and has the potential to become a strong defender at the highest level; including good receiving ability and a strong arm. At the plate, Escobar has natural strength and can run into it at times, giving him decent power projection, though his offensive utility remains an open question with a raw hitting approach and swing.
The Tigers stayed in Venezuela for their other two opening day signings, inking shortstop Anthony Pereira and outfielder Hector Hernandez. Pereira fits the mold of the classic Tigers Venezuelan shortstop signing with a very strong defensive profile that could lead to him sticking at shortstop with good range, soft hands, quality instincts and a strong arm. Pereira handles the bat well and sprays line drives around the field but his overall offensive game will require patience and plenty of projection.
Speedy outfielder Hector Hernandez earns 7s for his raw speed with the ability to get down the line quickly and cover plenty of ground in center field. Hernandez shows the potential to be a quality defender up the middle with improving outfield instincts, the speed to back it up, and a good throwing arm. Hernandez has a very raw offensive approach that will need refinement as he moves up the ladder, but he shows good gap power in batting practice, and occasionally in game action.
The Tigers typically remain active signing players throughout the signing period so check back frequently and we'll have all the scouting information for you as players are signed.