15 Coming Stateside for Tigers in 2015

With one of the biggest Stateside classes in recent memory, the Tigers will bring 15 Latin American players to the United States in 2015. Among them, the Tigers will bring six from the Dominican Republic, eight from Venezuela, and one from Panama; in addition to breaking down the class with two catchers, three outfielders, two infielders, six right-handed pitchers, and two left-handed pitchers.

Adrian Alfaro – Shortstop
Signed in 2012, Alfaro made his debut playing 67 games, most of them at shortstop, in 2013, and then followed that up with an improved performance in the VSL in 2014. Signed as a bat-first infielder, Alfaro has a good feel for the barrel and makes easy contact throughout the strike zone and on a variety of pitches. Given his small frame (5-9, 175) it is not surprise that Alfaro lacks punch in his bat. Scouts are mixed on his ability to stick at shortstop, despite strong instincts, with most viewing him as more of a second baseman or utility player over the long term. At just 19-years old, Alfaro will likely spend the 2015 season in the Gulf Coast League gaining experience.

Jose Azocar – Outfielder
Azocar may have been one of the most improved prospects in the Tigers Venezuelan program in 2014, flashing impressive tools that excited scouts and elevated his profile. Bigger than his listed 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, Azocar is a physical specimen with loud tools across the board. Considered a potential plus defender in center field with an average arm, Azocar’s defensive profile will keep him in the middle of the diamond and ultimately take some pressure off his offensive development. Azocar is a good runner and has some thump in his bat, but to use those tools he will need to refine his offensive approach and begin finding better hitter’s counts and making more consistent contact. Azocar should be an exciting player to watch in 2015, but his developmental path will be long.

Francisco German – Right-Handed Pitcher
Listed at 6-foot-2, 160 pounds, German has grown since signing with the Tigers prior to last season, and he fits the long, lean profile he was previously tagged with even more. With a fastball that now reaches into the low-90s, and as high as 93, as just an 18-year old, German is an intriguing righty with a chance to develop into yet another power arm. German’s feel for the changeup is advanced for his age and some scouts believe it could be an above-average second pitch in time. His breaking ball, a curveball, lags behind his other two pitches and remains a work in progress. German’s long term role as a starter or reliever remains up in the air, but expect the Tigers to find ways to get him plenty of innings in the short term.

Cesar Gonzalez – Outfielder
Coming off a monster season in the Dominican Summer League where he posted a .342/.430/.476 line, Gonzalez will compete for playing time in center field with Azocar, as both players offer exciting middle of the diamond tools. Another good defender, Gonzalez is another plus runner with an average arm and strong defensive potential. Even more similar to Azocar, Gonzalez’s offensive game remains a work in progress as he attempts to develop his offensive approach and improve his feel for contact. Gonzalez has been and remains more physical than Azocar, and his power potential reflects that with plus raw juice in his bat. Gonzalez will play most of the 2015 season as a 20-year old, and with a strong showing in extended spring training, he could see time in the Connecticut outfield this summer.

Eudis Idrogo – Left-Handed Pitcher
After three seasons torturing VSL hitters, Idrogo will arrive in the States still a teenager. With a solid pitchers frame, Idrogo brings a funky delivery to the table and releases the ball from a low slot. Previously credited with a well below-average fastball, Idrogo saw a velocity bump in 2014, reaching the 89-90 mph range and peaking as high as 91 at times. His breaking ball and changeup are making progress but still lag behind his fastball, forcing Idrogo to rely more heavily on his feel for pitching and deception. Idrogo is an intelligent pitcher with good mound presence and most scouts project him as a potential left-on-left reliever.

Junnell Ledezma – Infielder
As a bit of a utility player over the last two seasons in the VSL, Ledezma will come Stateside and likely see most of his time at second base and third base. Ledezma lacks the standout tools of some of the other top performers that are coming Stateside, but he is a solid player that brings plenty to the table. He is a natural hitter with a good approach at the plate and an ability to drive the ball to the gaps. Defensively, Ledezma does a solid job at both second base and the hot corner, with enough arm for both positions and good hands. Given his lack of a carrying tool and his positional versatility, scouts easily project him as a potential utility player long term.

Jose Lopez – Right-Handed Pitcher
Used almost exclusively as a reliever over the last two years in the VSL, Lopez could be the next in a lengthy line of high-powered relief pitchers to come out of the Tigers Latin American pipeline. After showing a fastball in the 88-90 mph range in the past, Lopez’s velocity has begun to spike over the last few months, reaching 94 mph, and there are some scouts that believe there could be more coming in the future as a result of his strong, stocky frame. His slider is a second potential plus pitch with sharp, darting break, and while his changeup lags behind, there is some feel for the offering. Lopez will likely remain in a relief role during his Stateside debut, and with success and continued velocity increases, he could move quickly through the lower levels.

Victor Meuses – Right-Handed Pitcher
Signed just before the start of the 2014 season, Mueses made an impressive debut splitting his time between the rotation and the bullpen. Blessed with a lean, projectable frame, Mueses has seen his fastball bump from the 88-91 mph range to the 90-93 mph range as he adjusted to the professional game. His breaking ball works in the upper-70s and shows some average potential, and while his changeup is still developing, it is a firm pitch with potential. Most scouts expect Mueses to develop as a reliever where his power profile should work well.

Mario Sanjur – Catcher
A converted third baseman, Sanjur was very raw defensively when he signed with the Tigers, but he has made some progress during his first two seasons in the VSL. Sanjur’s arm strength and quickness behind the plate are assets, and some scouts believe he could continue to develop better receiving and blocking skills. Sanjur has feel for hitting and could post solid batting averages as he matures and climbs the ladder. His approach at the plate is strong and he shows a willingness to work counts, giving him a chance to get into counts where he could show some gap power. Sanjur’s development will take time and he may spend multiple season in the GCL before progressing, but his potential should not be ignored.

Gregory Soto – Left-Handed Pitcher
Though his numbers have been occasionally shaky during his two years in the Dominican Summer League, Soto has some promising potential in his left arm. With an ability to run his fastball as high as 95 mph in short bursts and a demonstrated ability to hold his velocity in the 92-93 mph range over longer outings, Soto has the arm strength to entice scouts. Despite his strong fastball, Soto’s breaking ball is still a work in progress, as his ability to throw strikes, two things that will be key to his development over the next couple of years.

Andres Sthormes – Catcher
Sthormes debuted with the Tigers in Venezuela as a 16-year old in 2013 and then improved his performance across the board as a 17-year old in 2014. His progress will continue with his assignment to the GCL in 2015 where his unusual tools for a young catcher will be on display. Unlike most catchers, Sthormes is a plus runner with an ability to steal bases, and his knack for contact and impressive athleticism should allow him to use his speed long term. Sthormes likes to swing the bat and will often expand his hitting zone in an effort to make contact, an approach that he will need to tweak against more advanced pitchers. Defensively, Sthormes offers an average arm and some potential to become an average defender behind the plate.

Andres Tejada – Right-Handed Pitcher
A bit of an older prospect when signed, Tejada comes Stateside after just 34 1/3 innings in the Dominican Summer League. Having worked in relief last summer, scouts project Tejada to remain in that role over the long term. A big guy with great angle to the plate, Tejada’s average fastball (89-91 mph) plays up because of the leverage he generates with his height. Complimenting his fastball with a solid changeup and improving short breaking ball, Tejada mixes his pitches well and has feel for setting hitters up to keep them off balance.

Ignacio Valdez – Outfielder
After three years in the DSL, Valdez is now larger than his listed 6-foot-3, 195 pound frame, offering an impressive body that portends his raw strength and power potential. His development has been slow in the DSL and he struggled with contact over his first three seasons, but Valdez has begun to refine his approach some to allow him to find pitches he can drive with greater frequency. When he connect, Valdez offers huge raw power that manifested in 30 extra-base hits in just 62 games last summer, and some scouts believe he can crank 20-25 home runs at his peak, if the hit tool develops. With a strong arm that fits in right field, Valdez is an improving defender. Valdez will have bumps in the road during his Stateside debut, but with rare power potential, Valdez will get plenty of chances to find his groove.

Angel Vasquez – Right-Handed Pitcher
Long since talked about as an intriguing prospect with loads of potential, Vasquez had not posted an ERA below 6.00 in his first three seasons as a professional. Then working as a full time starter in 2014 and working the heaviest workload of his career, Vasquez posted a 1.72 ERA with the lowest walk rate of his career. An extra-large 6-foot-5 right-hander, Vasquez offers a heavy, sinking fastball in the 89-92 mph range, and he can reach higher at the expense of movement and control. His breaking ball and changeup are still developing, as his ability to locate his entire arsenal, but the Tigers maintain hope he can continue developing as a starting pitcher.

Adensen Verastegui – Right-Handed Pitcher
Armed with a solid, strong frame, Verastegui is a pure reliever that has plenty of experience in high-leverage situations. His fastball consistently works in the 90-93 mph range with life, and some scouts believe he could see an uptick in velocity as he gains experience in the States. He pounds the strike zone with his heater and backs it up with a potential above-average slider that can miss bats on occasion. Though he has yet to show the type of stuff that would project him to a setup or closer role, Verastegui’s development could accelerate in the GCL and possibly the NYPL this summer.

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