The piggy-back style starting rotation that the DSL Tigers will be rolling out this summer should be very interesting to watch. Led by former DSL graduate and GCL participant Darlyn Duran, the pitching staff should keep the team in games. Duran returns to the DSL after a tough season stateside in 2008. His move back to the Dominican wasn't necessarily a demotion or punishment for a tough season, but rather ‘part of the numbers game with a lot of good prospects in the States' said Director of International Operations Tom Moore. According to Moore, the move allows Duran the opportunity to get more ‘quality innings' to ‘harness his control.'
Along with Duran, the rotation will include returning pitchers Emmanuel Del Orbe, Albin Acosta, and Yinio Calderon. All three pitchers have good enough raw stuff to get hitters out with ease, and it will simply be a matter of gaining consistency with their stuff and command.
One of the Tigers more prominent July 2nd signings from last summer, Greg Morillo will certainly be one to watch in his debut season. ‘He's a guy with a good arm, and good secondary stuff,' said Moore. Despite his youth, Morillo could be one of the team's most impressive starters this summer.
Also in the rotation will be right-hander Ramon Franco and left-hander Antonio Cruz. Both pitchers will be making their professional debuts this summer, and while they may hit some bumps in the road, they have enough moxie and stuff to work through the rough patches and use them as developmental opportunities.
Another rookie making his debut is big right-hander Edgar De La Rosa. ‘He's a guy we are really excited about,' said Moore, ‘he's a big kid with a really good arm.' If Edgar can harness his control out of the gate, he could team up with Morillo to help lead the rotation in spite of their youth and inexperience.
The Tigers have also recently signed tow more pitchers that will help out in the piggy-back role. Right-hander Jose Encarnacion and left-hander Yadier Polanco are both guys the organization likes and they could be guys to watch on the hill. At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, the 18-year old Encarnacion has the frame and arm action to develop a big time fastball. The slightly younger Polanco also has a nice frame and enough raw arm strength to develop an above-average fastball from the left side.
The DSL bullpen should also be stocked with strong arms and talented pitchers, led by returning relievers Zuriel Stephenson, Ariel Medina, and Vladimir Ortiz. All three pitchers are aggressive on the hill with plenty of raw stuff. Medina is a ‘long, lanky, and loose left-hander that is very tough on lefties,' according to Moore.
Another arm that will work in the bullpen mix is right-hander Victor Dionicio. Avid minor league followers may remember Dionicio as an outfielder for the DSL squad the last two years, but his raw arm strength and struggles at the plate forced the move to the mound. From the left side of the mound, Dionicio brings an above-average fastball from a lower arm angle, with a slider and change-up that are both a work in progress.
The Tigers recently signed another pitcher that should fit in the bullpen, in right-hander Villis Andujar. An older signee, Andujar has size and a loose arm that generates a 90-92 mph fastball with an above-average splitter.
Four pitchers that would normally fit into the mix on the DSL squad, will unfortunately be starting the year injured. Winter Kery, Sergio Collado, Crucito Moreno, and Sandy De La Cruz are all suffering from various shoulder injuries, and will not start the season with an active role on the team.
Working as the primary receiver for the pitchers will likely be returning catcher Ricardo Olivo. His work behind the dish may be on hold to start the year, as he deals with a minor hand injury that could keep him on the shelf or DHing for a while. Filling in while he recovers will be Raynolds Guzman and former VSL prospect Raul Leiva. All three backstops could also see time at DH and first base throughout the season.
The primary first baseman on the roster will be the returning Juaner Aguasvivas. The hulking first sacker will look to build upon a solid 2008 campaign, and make his case to come stateside for the 2010 season.
Backing up Aguasvivas at first base, while also working at third base, will be second year player Ernesto Marte. Marte doesn't have the greatest ceiling on the roster, but he does enough things well to warrant playing time throughout the summer.
Up the middle, the DSL Tigers will have Samuel Ortiz working as the everyday second baseman. Though he has the ability to play both shortstop and third base, Ortiz profiles best at second and he should fit nicely there as last year's second baseman Santo Heredia moves to the outfield. Moving over from the VSL, Wondy De Los Santos could see some time at either second or shortstop, mixing in as the team's utility infielder, and don't rule out the outfield for him as well.
After playing both third base and shortstop in 2008, Domingo Gonzales will be the Tigers primary third baseman in 2009. As Elvin Soto works through the visa process to come stateside for the summer, Gonzales will look to settle in at the hot corner. ‘He really improved his all around game. Once he moved to third – more of a reaction position – things really seems to slow down for him. He has some nice tools,' said Moore.
Moore also spoke very highly of the DSL Tigers expected everyday shortstop. Javier Azcona was a major signing for the club last summer, and he has the tools to really impress on the field. According to Moore, ‘If he is able to refine and develop his skills at the plate, he could be the next premium guy we send to the states. He has the potential to have five big league tools.'
The outfield will have two speedsters and two sluggers moving around out there. Robinson Figueroa returns to man center field, with the speedy on-base machine Santo Heredia filling in regularly. Samir Rijo will fit in on one of the outfield corners, trying to get his bat in order to fulfill his immense potential.
The guy to watch in the outfield will be newcomer Steven Moya. Scouts and front office types – including Moore – continue to rave about his raw tools. ‘He's a legit cleanup, middle of the order hitter,' said one scout. ‘He has as much raw power as anyone in our Latin American programs,' said Moore, who continued by saying ‘you could put him in a big league club house and he would absolutely mix right in with all the big league bodies.'
The DSL Tigers will be an exciting and talented team to keep track of this summer, with premium talents like Greg Morillo, Javier Azcona, and Steven Moya making their debuts, and returning talents like Darlyn Duran and Samir Rijo with the potential to develop into players to watch. Keep a close eye on the DSL Tigers as they try to develop their youth and compete in what is typically a loaded summer league.