TigsTown MLN: Scouting Updates, Position Move

The prospecting season never stops, and that same rule of thumb applies to our work here at TigsTown as well. In this edition of the Minor League Notebook, TigsTown's Mark Anderson takes a look at a few position players from the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues, updates on some DSL/VSL roster moves, and notes a position switch.

VSL Releases – The Tigers have released right-hander Carlos Cachutt and infielder Dick Guanipa. Cachutt played his first professional season with the Tigers/Marlins joint VSL team in 2006 as a 17-year old. He repeated the VSL in 2007, before going down to a season ending arm injury prior to the start of the 2008 campaign. His stuff had some projection going forward with an upper-80s fastball and promising breaking pitches, but the injury was just too much to overcome. Guanipa had been a teammate of Cachutt the last two years in the VSL, but had struggled to translate tons of raw power to the field. His strong physique allowed him to put on displays in batting practice, but nothing seemed to materialize in games. Being a slow footed player and relatively poor defender didn't help his cause either.

DSL/VSL Signings – The Tigers have added four more youngsters to their crop of 2008 international signings. In the Dominican, the Tigers have signed right-handed pitcher Ramon Franco. With the VSL squad, the Tigers have added infielder Eugenio Suarez and outfielders Aldo Navia and Jesus Alvarado. We're still tracking down all of the biographical and scouting details on these four players. All four players are expected to make their professional debuts in 2009.

Position Change? – After struggling to breakout as an outfielder, the Tigers appear to be trying the hand of Brandon Timm on the pitcher's mound. Timm has long been lauded for his powerful outfield throwing arm, and with little progress seen at the plate, it looks like it might be time to see if that arm carries value elsewhere on the diamond. Timm will likely enter spring training as a wild card for nearly any of the Opening Day rosters, though with his inexperience on the mound, I wouldn't expect him to start any higher than A-ball. Timm is the second player in the last twelve months that the Tigers have converted to the mound from the outfield; having done the same with Dominican outfielder turned pitcher Zuriel Stephenson at this time last year.

Scouting Report Updates

Luis Castillo – Outfielder Castillo is one of few native Panamanians the Tigers have ever signed, and he brings an interesting skill set to the table. As a 19-year old in the Dominican Summer League in 2008, Castillo shoed improvement over his VSL debut in 2007; finishing the season with a .245/.326/.292 line in 57 games. A left-handed hitter with good leadoff skills, Castillo can play small ball with the best of them. He is an above-average runner that can bunt and steal bases with ease. He is a little slow out of the box but is an excellent runner once underway. His speed translates well to the outfield, where he is a plus defender, with range, good jumps, and a solid arm.

Ivan Espinoza – Outfielder Of no relation to stud Venezuelan prospect Alexis Espinoza, Ivan is a fringy outfield prospect with some intriguing tools. Limited to a corner slot, Espinoza's defensive limitations include his inability to get too jumps on the ball and a barely average arm. He takes solid routes once underway, but he is often slow to react. Offensively, Espinoza has some occasional power, but is generally a line drive hitter to all fields with some ability to get the ball into the gaps for extra bases. An average runner, Espinoza has decent instincts on the bases, and is an aggressive runner; trying to take extra bases whenever possible.

Robinson Figueroa – Outfielder Though the stats may not show it (.149/.222/.247 in his pro debut), there are reasons for hope with this 18-year old Dominican outfielder. With a lanky 6-foot frame that packs only 160 pounds, Robinson has plenty of room for added strength to improve his bat speed and overall hitting ability. His swing plane and quick wrists give him projection for both power and average down the line, and with average speed he can make things happen on the bases. In the outfield, Robinson has the ability to man all three outfield positions, and he gets good reads and takes excellent routes to the ball. It may take a very long time for him to develop, but there are some intriguing tools here.

Samuel Ortiz – Infielder Signed just before the start of the 2008 DSL season, Ortiz was a huge unknown entering his first pro campaign. At just 17 years old for much of the season, Ortiz has youth on his side going forward. He has wiry strength in a frame that many still believe will continue growing in the coming years. All of Ortiz's tools are very raw at this time, but he does have some power in his bat and should add more as he fills out and matures physically. One scout threw a loose Alfonso Soriano comp on Ortiz; not suggesting he had that level of talent, just that he could resemble him as a player. He has the arm strength to handle any infield position, but his lack of instincts at an early age may push him to second base early on.

Elvin Soto – Third Baseman If Soto's power wasn't evident from his ability to post an .818 OPS while hitting just.231 in the DSL this summer, the scouting reports should tell the story even more. Soto has above-average power to all fields with even more to right field; his pull side. A left-handed hitter with power and patience, Elvin could become a coveted commodity once stateside. He does have some trouble with contact, and his patient approach doesn't always leave him in the best hitter's counts, but there is hope that he can improve that with maturity and additional confidence in his bat speed. At the hot corner, Soto has solid actions and decent range, with a plus arm that has carry and accuracy.

Adolfo Reina – Utility The Tigers have put a huge emphasis on developing catchers in the Latin leagues in recent years, and Reina may be one of the next to start making noise. Though he's has the ability to play all over the infield, he profiles best at catcher with quick feet, good leadership abilities, and a very strong arm. He needs work receiving pitches and calling games, but those will come with experience and further instruction. Adolfo has a strong 6-foot-1 frame that some scouts believe is ideal for catching. At the plate, he has plenty of strength that lends to excellent pull power, but his overall hitting ability needs improvement. He may be another year or two from coming stateside, but Reina has enough potential behind the dish to warrant attention.

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