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.
The Tigers pushed Ciriaco hard at the start of the 2007 season, assigning him to West Michigan as the everyday shortstop. His overall line looks poor, but he did show promise in shorts spurts, and drew praise from various league managers for his power and improvements in the field. Audy's season was highlighted by a strong June that saw him drive in 15 of his 39 runs on the season.
Audy has true five-tool potential, though it is often masked by the extremely raw nature of his overall game. His power potential is astounding, drawing raves from several Midwest League managers. One manager reported him hitting a ‘missile' of a home run into a very strong wind while playing at Quad Cities last summer. His power is often more evident during batting practice than in games, as his approach at the plate remains unrefined. Ciriaco struggles to recognize pitches, and is prone to chasing breaking balls outside the zone. He must refine his knowledge of the strike zone in order to begin reaching his offensive ceiling.
Audy has more speed than he is often given credit for. He has smooth actions when running in all facets of the game, and makes things look extremely easy. His quickness is evident in the way he moves around the infield. He has a good first step defensively, and he can get to plenty of balls, going both up the middle and in the hole at short. His defense has made strides since his debut season, but he is still a little rough in terms of footwork on his throws. He gets a little over-excited at times, causing some routine plays to become an adventure. His arm is strong and he has demonstrated an ability to make all types of throws while on the move.
Ciriaco's ceiling is nothing short of astounding, but it is going to take time for him to put things together – if he ever does. Audy has the potential to be an elite defender and above-average offensive contributor. He will need to tighten his strike zone and begin making more routine contact to become a true offensive factor, but there is some optimism among scouts and managers I spoke with last summer.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A
Ciriaco has remained healthy to date, and he showed surprising durability in his first taste of full-season ball. He has avoided significant injuries through his first three pro seasons, and his exceptional athleticism and work ethic should aid in him continuing such a trend.
On the surface, Ciriaco would seem a lock to repeat at West Michigan in 2008, but with the addition of shortstops like Danny Worth, Cale Iorg, and Justin Henry, the waters have muddied to a degree. At present, Ciriaco will head to spring training in a battle with Worth and Iorg for the bulk of the playing time at either Lakeland or West Michigan. It is far more likely that Ciriaco works out with West Michigan this season than with Lakeland, but a strong spring from either he or Danny Worth could change the plans quickly.
There is little doubting Ciriaco's overall potential, and he responded well – though not statistically – to the challenge of being assigned to West Michigan. The Tigers still have high hopes for his future, and many scouts remain high on his ability to adjust and become a legit prospect. Expect to see some signs of progress from Ciriaco this season, and in conjunction with those signs, expect to see him moving up this list by mid-season.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.