2015 VSL Tigers Preview

Following a stellar campaign where the VSL Tigers finished 45-23, the club returns to a league that has been depleted to just four teams; largely due to the political climate and overall risks in Venezuela. Though the Tigers pulled a healthy chunk of talent stateside for the 2015 season, the VSL club still has a handful of highly intriguing prospects to keep an eye on.

Catcher Elys Escobar could be in line for a breakout campaign, following off-seasons where he has been ranked near the back of the TigsTown Top 50. A gifted defender with a powerful arm, Escobar’s offensive game could be poised to take off as he plays as one of the more experienced hitters in the league.

With Escobar likely being a leader on both sides of the ball for the Tigers this summer, the club will also find offensive contributions from infielders Anthony Pereira and Jose Salas, and outfield Hector Hernandez.

Pereira enters the year with high expectations following a fall league where he began to assert himself as a bona fide prospect. Though his home may not be shortstop over the long haul, his bat may make his defensive home a moot point; offering thump and a good ability to make contact. On top of that, Pereira brings some speed and instincts to the bases, where he could cause problems for opposing pitchers and catchers.

Hector Hernandez was one of the Tigers higher profile signings a couple of years ago, and while he hasn’t hit with the gusto many scouts would have projected, indications through the fall and the off-season suggest he could be poised to elevate his prospect status. With a strong season in 2015, Hernandez could be ready for a trip to the United States for fall ball or 2016 spring training.

Fans should also keep an eye out for progress from former third baseman, now outfielder Luis Torrealba. Known for his massive raw power, Torrealba has to reign in his offensive approach and get the barrel to the ball more consistently for his game to play against more advanced players.

On the mound, the VSL Tigers will have a host of arms competing for innings and looking to make a name for themselves, including experienced pitchers like Ken Figueroa, Luis Ledezma, and Wildensen Yanez. All three pitchers have the raw ingredients to dominate complex league hitters, but all three will need to find consistency with their stuff to make that happen.

Figueroa may be best positioned to make an impact this year, with a solid-average fastball that can reach 93 mph, backed up by an average curveball that tortures low-level hitters. As things continue to click for Figueroa, his numbers could resemble those of a video game.

Ledezma may be the highest ceiling arm on the entire roster, but he may also be one of the most raw Venezuelan arms the Tigers have in the organization. With a projectable frame and excellent arm speed, scouts project Ledezma to develop exceptional velocity down the line, and he consistently throws in the low-90s right now.

Several new arms like Adonis Figueroa, Jesus Rodriguez, and Javier Villaroel will also look to contribute in their debut seasons.

All told, the Tigers have a solid blend of raw talent and experience that should allow them to compete with the Rays, Cubs, Phillies in this small league. TigsTown will offer more detailed scouting looks at the players on this year’s VSL roster in the coming weeks.

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