Starting with the most prominent of the Dominican prospects to come over this season, pitchers Darlyn Duran and Darwin De Leon (formerly Eduard Reynoso) both bring interesting arsenals to the table. Duran – TigsTown's #41 prospect – has an average fastball for a lefty, sitting at 88-90 and touching 92 on rare occasions. While he is able to throw strikes with ease, he must refine his command to maintain success against more advanced hitters in the states. Duran also mixes in an above-average change-up with good deception and a curveball that has shown flashes of becoming a third quality pitch. De Leon brings a similar fastball to the table with exceptional command, but less projection. His secondary offerings have not shown the promise of Duran's, but his curveball gives him an additional pitch that he can fire for strikes with regularity.
Also joining Duran and De Leon from the Dominican Republic will be shortstop Gustavo Nunez and first baseman Luis Grullon. Grullon won TigsTown's DSL Player of the Year award in 2007, and brings a burgeoning power bat and improved defensive skills to the table. He must refine his approach at the plate, but his raw power makes him an intriguing prospect. Nunez is a switch-hitting shortstop with above-average speed; giving him excellent range at short. He moves well both up the middle and in the hole, and he has shown a strong arm on his throws to first base. Gustavo has excellent contact skills and a solid understanding of the strike zone. It is not unreasonable to expect him to hit for some average and get on base, immediately.
From the VSL, TigsTown's two-time VSL Pitcher and Player of the Year will be coming stateside; Lester Oliveros and Alexis Espinoza. Both players have drawn acclaim on this site for over a year now, and should be interesting players to watch in 2008. Oliveros pumps 90-93 mph fastballs with good command, and an 81-84 mph slider that can be devastating when on. His fierce mentality and unwillingness to back down on the mound should play well in the short-season leagues. Espinoza should have some ups and downs this summer, as his power could provide some exciting moments, while his approach at the plate could lead to some lengthy slumps.
Also coming stateside on the position side will be infielder Luis Palacios and outfielder Luis Salas. Palacios is a scrappy, throwback style player, who leaves it all on the field. He has shown some potential at the plate, with mostly contact and on-base ability being his strong points. Salas is a bit harder to get a handle on this year, as his frame has begun to fill out and he could see an increase in his power production. He has a good swing path that should lead to some mammoth shots in batting practice, but there are doubts about his readiness to flash that same power during games. Salas has the defensive chops to handle any of the three outfield slots, but he profiles best in center at this time.
Rounding things out, the Tigers will have three promising pitchers from the VSL coming to Florida. Righty Victor Larez has a quick arm and an above-average fastball that can touch 94, and he also flashes a very promising change-up with good deception. His curveball has lagged behind to date, but additional work with Pitching Instructor Bill Madlock may be just what is needed. Also working from the right side, Luis Sanz doesn't have top notch velocity, but he does have some deception in his delivery and a quick arm action that allows his fastball to get on hitters much quicker than they expect. Sanz also mixes in an above-average curveball with sharp bite that can serve as a solid out pitch. Lastly, left-hander Mauricio Robles has strength in his arm and a clean delivery that enables him to get his fastball up in the 89-92 range with regularity. Roble has a change-up and curveball that both could develop into quality pitches, but need refinement.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.