TigsTown Analysis: The DSL Tigers

With five minor league clubs already in full swing, it is finally time to see what the DSL Tigers can do. As the GCL and Oneonta Tigers await the 2008 draft, the DSL squad gets rolling this weekend with a roster full of returning players and a bunch of new guys on the block.

While the starting rotation reportedly has not been finalized yet, there are two pitchers who can reasonably be assumed to be filling two of the five slots; right-handers Ramon Lebron and Sergio Collado. Neither pitcher was terribly effective in limited innings last year, but both have the arsenal to work as starters, and have done so in the past.

Three other returning pitchers with starting experience could be in a battle for some of the additional rotation slots, including Robert Diaz, Jose Martinez, and Marcos Nunez. All three pitchers have worked primarily in relief in the past, but have shown enough this spring to be in contention for a slot.

Rounding out the potential starters, are four newcomers who have looked impressive thus far. Lefty Kelvin Medina, and righties Carlos Melo, Emmanuel Del Orbe, and Yinio Calderon all have enough raw stuff and pitchability to survive in the rotation as rookies.

No matter how this all shakes out, the bullpen will be loaded with high potential arms, led by returning relief stud Sandy De La Cruz. Sandy tied for fourth in the DSL in saves with 15 last season, and is the frontrunner to take the reigns at the back of the bullpen. Three returning hurlers with plenty of arm strength will join De La Cruz to anchor the ‘pen; Gabriel Herrera, Crucito Moreno, and Vladimir Ortiz.

Early word has three additional rookies starting out in the bullpen, but all could see time in the rotation as early as the first week. Those rookies are Winter Kery, Melvin Mercedes, and Rayni Guichardo. Guichardo's raw stuff from the left side could make for a dynamic compliment to right-hander Sandy De La Cruz at the back end of games. Rounding out the bullpen is converted-outfielder Zuriel Stephenson. After struggling for two years in the VSL as an outfielder, the Panama native takes his strong arm to the DSL mound to see if he can jumpstart his career.

Working as the staff's battery mates will be a foursome of prospects with varying skill sets. Newcomers Raynolds Guzman and Ricardo Olivo will be vying for plenty of time behind the dish, but could also see time at designated hitter and first base to get additional at-bats. Returners Julio Rodriguez and Samir Rijo are both listed as catchers, and will likely see some time there, but Rijo is also likely to see substantial time in the DSL outfield.

The outfield currently only has three full time players on the roster, but will see additional time from the aforementioned Samir Rijo, and could also see some time from Elvin Soto. The primary outfielders are Isidro Montesino, Victor Dionicio, and Luis Castillo. After a debut season where he showed more tools than numbers in the VSL, Castillo will look to build upon his solid strike zone judgment and ability to make good, hard contact, by moving over to the DSL at age nineteen. Montesino and Dionicio both must begin translating raw tools to game action in order to avoid losing playing time to more advanced players.

Working the infield corners will be a litany of players, including trained third basemen Juaner Aguasvivas and Elvin Soto. Both have worked at the hot corner in the past, and both could also see time across the infield at first. In addition, it is likely that several of the many DSL catchers will see time at first to become more versatile and get at-bats to develop their offensive game.

Playing up the middle, the primary shortstop will be rookie Domingo Gonzalez. Gonzalez was signed last year and praised as one of the Tigers top international signings of the year. Manning the keystone alongside Domingo will be Santo Heredia and Alexander Nunez. Nunez was signed as a shortstop and could see time at the position if the need arises, but the conversion to second has already begun. Heredia is returning from an injury and he must prove that his patient approach can play two seasons in a row. Missing from the infield at the start of the season will be rookie shortstop Javier Azcona. He is currently being held back to continue working at the Tigers DSL complex and could join the team at a later date.

The DSL Tigers have plenty of pitching and hitting talent littering the roster, but much of it is long on tools and short on results thus far. The DSL staff will have their hands full in developing this raw crop of players, but if even a few break out this season; it could be an exciting year to follow the Dominican squad.

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