As important as the Instructional League is to many of the Tigers stateside prospects, it can be just as important to the young Dominican players that get much needed additional at-bats and time with the coaching staff.
One of the stars of Instructs was also an intriguing figure during the FIL in Lakeland; outfielder Steven Moya. During his time in Lakeland in October, Moya impressed instructors and coaches with his raw power, willingness to listen and learn, and just the shear potential he possesses.
In speaking with Tigers Director of International Operations Tom Moore, he indicated that Moya's experience in Lakeland made a world of difference for the young power prospect.
"His confidence is growing. He realizes he can really do some things, and he took a lot of things back to the Dominican Republic with him. There is no telling what he can do power wise," said Moore.
Moya's strong work both in Lakeland and at the Tigers Dominican complex has likely positioned him for a trip stateside for the 2010 season, and a chance to really start showing his skills against stiffer competition.
Another stick that is really coming along is that of outfielder Samir Rijo. After a breakout DSL campaign that saw him hit a robust .279/.388/.464 in 66 games, Rijo kept right on hitting this fall.
When asked what Rijo showed during the fall league, Moore chimed in, saying "He can hit, and he continued to do that in the Instructional League. He is a very aggressive hitter, and that works for him. We just have to continue working on making him a legitimate corner outfielder." The Instructional League wasn't just a place for players to continue offensive onslaughts from the DSL season, however. It also served as a place for a return to full-time action and a pseudo-pro debut.
"[Delgado] really transitioned well to pro ball. He impressed on the field, certainly with his defense and athleticism, but also with the bat. We were really pleased with his pro debut," said Moore when asked about his initial thoughts on July 2nd signing Alwin Delgado.
After catcher Ricardo Olivo missed the entire 2009 season due to surgery to repair a broken hamate bone in his wrist, he was finally back to 100% during the Instructional League, and his hard work paid off with a strong showing on the field. The 2010 season will be a key season for Olivo to re-establish his prospect status, particularly with the Tigers loading up on catchers throughout the system.
Observers at the Tigers' Dominican complex also got quite a show from a few of the arms that toed the rubber; including high profile signing Greg Morillo.
"He really struggled with the adjustment to pro ball this year. It was the first time he hadn't dominated the competition, and that was difficult for him," said Moore. He continued by saying "He didn't really have a breakout Instructional League, but he started to gain confidence, and learned to use and trust his stuff. We saw some outings like those we saw from him as an amateur."
After appearing in just eleven games for the DSL Tigers last summer, Morillo needed a strong showing to get himself back on track. With his high-potential right arm, the Tigers want to see what he can do when his confidence returns and he has a swagger on the hill.
One player Moore specifically pointed to was left-hander Ariel Medina. After a strong second season in the DSL with a 2.15 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning, Medina continued to show well during the fall.
"He continued to impress; he really did. We're hoping to see his body fill out, because he could be a monster physically. He can command the zone with his stuff, he has some projection on the fastball, and it's really hard to teach the bulldog mentality that he has."
That type of review is encouraging, particularly for another player that may have punched his ticket to Lakeland for spring training in 2010.
Moving several time zones to the west, the Tigers also had plenty of activity in the Parallel League in Venezuela; including debuts of several high profile international signings.
Shortstop Erick Soto may have had the most impressive pro debut, seeing action in 40 games for the Tigers, and with a torrid finish to the season, his line sits at .299/.384/.409, with 16 walks and just 25 whiffs.
While Moore spoke highly of several players in the Parallel League, Soto was one that really stood out; "There is no doubt he can hit. He can swing the bat. Seeing that as a 16-year old, against older competition is really impressive. We wouldn't have been surprised if he struggled, but he has excelled, and that has to give him confidence for next season."
Soto's performance with the bat may mean some uncertainty for premium athlete Daniel Carranza. Signed as a shortstop out of Panama, Carranza athletic gifts give him the ability to play all over the field.
"He may see other spots next year, but we'll see. It's really about just finding a guy like him at-bats, and letting him develop offensively. He is such a good athlete, that we really have no concerns about him settling into a position on defense," said Moore.
Carranza may have finished the fall with a meager .162/.275/.235 line in 28 games, but that was done while dealing with a lot of change, as Moore alluded to; "He was dealing with a lot; lots of adjustments for him. Between trying to adjust to pro ball, playing different positions, and being away from home, that's a lot. That is really going to help him next year as he competes."
One of the Tigers leading hitters in Venezuela this fall was outfielder Alexander Moreno, who hit .317 with 18 walks in 41 games. Playing nearly everyday in the outfield, Moreno's raw tools that have always impressed are really starting to show as baseball skills on the field.
"He's making a lot of really nice progress. There is no question he can hit a fastball! He has to gain recognition of the breaking stuff, and if he can, he could really take off. He's showing a lot of confidence at the plate right now."
Like many of the other players discussed here, Moreno is in a prime position to be considered for a trip to Lakeland for spring training and some work with the Tigers talented coaches. With tools galore, Moreno is a guy that could take off as things begin to click in the next couple of years. On the mound, the two Carreno's stood out for different reasons. Returning right-hander, Josue Carreno, battled some blister problems during the VSL season, and the Parallel League provided him a great opportunity to continue developing in a competitive environment.
Moore made it a point to discuss Josue, saying "We are really happy with his progress. He battled the blister problems this summer, but he bounced back really well. He can locate with all of is pitches, and he really has fun pitching." While he may not be related to Josue, Angel Carreno may soon garner similar praise. The only tryout player to have already signed with the club during the Parallel League, Carreno brings an interesting mix of projection and polish to the table.
"There is lots of projection in terms of what he can be down the line," said Moore when asked about the signing of Carreno so quickly. "The secondary stuff is interesting and close enough that he could have three good pitches pretty soon."
In 24 innings for the Tigers, Angel posted a 5.25 ERA; allowing 29 hits in 24 innings, while striking out 16 hitters. That experience – though not appealing statistically – will be very valuable for Carreno as he heads toward his official pro debut in the VSL next summer. Don't be shocked if Angel is one of the key contributors to the Tigers success in 2010.
Many other players stood out in the Parallel League, including shortstop Hernan Perez, catcher Gabriel Purroy, and first baseman Gilbert Gomez, so check back for additional updates on these youngsters as the off-season continues!