The Tigers signed Ciriaco out of the Dominican Republic during the 2004-05 off-season for a reportedly modest signing bonus. Despite drawing interest and larger offers from several teams, Ciriaco opted for the Tigers in a bit of a surprise signing. The Tigers wasted no time in bringing Audy stateside to work with the organizations instructors, making his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League in June 2005. At only 17 years old, Ciriaco was part of the younger contingent present in the league. Despite the hype, Audy struggled to get going in his first taste of big time baseball, posting a modest .250/.299/.421 line in 40 games.
A return trip to the GCL in 2006 yielded less than inspiring overall results, but there were signs of progress for the talented infielder. A season line of .217/.255/.337 hides the progress that was made throughout the summer. While he failed to adjust to pitchers as the season wore on, his July performance warrants some attention (.279/.311/.430 in 25 games). While the statistics failed to demonstrate his considerable talent, scouts walked away impressed and hopeful of better things down the line.
Ciriaco's tools suggest nothing short of stardom in his future, but it could take some time before those tools translate to professional success. He has an astounding offensive ceiling, one that includes plenty of power potential, the ability to hit for average, and above-average speed. His raw power is off the charts, and it plays well to all fields. His swing is smooth and quick through the zone, allowing him to drive the ball with authority. He lacks the strike zone judgment to allow his power to play in games, but reports indicate that he has made strides in pitch recognition and chasing poor pitches. He is a gifted runner, who makes running the bases look easy. Audy won't win foot races against the system's burners, but he could steal 20 bases annually as he refines his instincts.
Defensively, Ciriaco has made substantial progress. He still has a tendency to rush routine plays, leading to wild throws, but his consistency is improving. He has tremendous actions in the field, with good fielding instincts. His instincts help supplement an already impressive display of range to both sides, and he demonstrates that burning desire to field everything on the left side of the infield. His arm is strong, but lacks accuracy. As the organization works to iron out his footwork, he should reduce the workload of his first basemen. His work on the double play has improved dramatically, and he is close to becoming one of the organization's better shortstops on the pivot.
His overall ceiling is nothing short of amazing, but as you might expect, he has a long ways to go before he approaches that ceiling. If he begins to make strides in commanding the strike zone, he could make the leap from toolsy, fringe prospect, to legit five-tool shortstop prospect, worth of more attention.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% R
Ciriaco has not experienced any significant injuries to date.
After two seasons in the GCL, Ciriaco will make his long-awaited full season debut with West Michigan. He should get the bulk of at-bats as the everyday shortstop, and while I expect him to have some serious ups and downs, he really should start establishing himself on prospect radars quickly. Keep a close eye on his road numbers this season, as they should tell a much more truthful tale of his actual performance.
The leap to West Michigan is a huge step for the 19-year old phenom, but with a relatively veteran crew around him, he should manage to make the adjustment quite well. I'm fully expecting him to fly up our rankings this season, likely screaming towards the top thirty with even a modest performance in the Midwest League.
Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.