Espinoza joined the Tigers an amateur free agent in June of 2006, and promptly made his debut for the Tigers joint Venezuelan Summer League team with the Florida Marlins. Even at 17-years old, Alexis wasted no time bursting on the scene and driving the ball around VSL parks. Through his first 27 games, Alexis posted an impressive .294/.348/.447 line that had many thinking he was worth keeping an eye on.
Espinoza laid any doubts about his potential and whether he was worth watching to rest with an electric second month (.386/.427/.600) that saw him take home the TigsTown VSL Player of the Month Award; the first award ever given to a player at that level by TigsTown. In the end, Espinoza's .855 OPS and 80% success rate on stolen bases were enough to garner TigsTown's VSL Player of the Year Award as well.
Heading into 2007 there were high expectations on Espinoza, and he fulfilled many of them. Despite not taking home the same extensive hardware as during the previous seasons, he still put together a fine campaign. Most impressively, Alexis led the Venezuelan Summer League in home runs with 12, and finished the season with an inspired .268/.313/.587 line.
Espinoza has a complete skill-set that includes above-average speed which he uses extremely well, particularly for a player of such youth. He runs well on the bases, and takes very good angles in the outfield. His arm is average, and he generates plenty of carry on balls thrown all over the field. His defensive package is currently capable of handling centerfield, but he profiles much better on an outfield corner, particularly as he fills out and likely loses some speed.
His hitting stroke is very good, and he repeats his swing plane well. He generates excellent power, and should continue to add loft and homerun power as he adds muscle in the coming years. He must improve his understanding of the strike zone and demonstrate an ability to lay off mediocre offerings, waiting for a pitch he can drive with authority. He has an aggressive approach at the plate, and is never likely to be a player that walks a significant amount, but just understanding the zone better, would help him take advantage of his raw strength and natural hitting ability.
Espinoza's work ethic has improved dramatically since signing, and he now works diligently at his craft, sculpting his body, working on his defense, and continuing to refine his stroke. Espinoza profiles as a classic power hitting corner outfielder, capable of popping 30-35 home runs at his peak, and hitting for a decent average.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% R
Alexis battled some minor injuries early in the 2007 season, but nothing that should have an impact on his performance going forward. As he continues to improve his conditioning and workout routine, he should become better at avoiding minor maladies.
Espinoza has come stateside for spring training this year, and he will have a chance to impress the Tiger brass prior to breaking camp. It is likely that he begins the year with the Gulf Coast League Tigers, but he could have an opportunity to move up if he continues to perform at the plate.
The Tigers have been aggressive with some of their better Latin prospects, and with continued maturity and improvement, Espinoza could be fast tracked by the end of this season. Expect him to have some trouble adjusting to the game in the States, but he should be fine by the close of the 2008 campaign.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.