The Tigers heavily scouted Azcona for as long as two years according to some reports, prior to his signing in 2008. As a member of the class of 2008 international signees, the Tigers pounced on Azcona on July 2nd, ensuring they were able to sign what in their mind could be crown jewel of their 2008 class. Miguel Rodrigues, Ramon Perez, and Miguel Garcia teamed up to sign him to a 2009 contract with a $258,000 bonus.
Azcona played 63 games (62 at shortstop) for the DSL Tigers in 2009, showing both his outstanding raw tools and his natural ability, just about every time out on the field. Azcona finished with a rather modest looking .249/.350/.398 line that included eleven doubles, five triples, and four home runs in a tough offensive environment. Most impressive for Javier was his 33 walks versus just 54 strikeouts at just 17-years old.
Azcona participated in the Tigers Dominican Instructional League and reviews were positive both with respect to his progress and his continued hard work.
Azcona's all-around ability made him one of the Tigers top prospects signed during the 2008 signing period. He has all five tools in spades, and they all show each time he takes the field.
Hitting from a closed stance, Azcona has an innate ability to hit the ball to all fields with his powerful, line drive stroke. Though he has a wiry frame with room for added muscle, he has strong arms and wrists, and he generates good bat speed through the zone. He has flashed significant power potential in batting practice, but it has yet to show regularly in games. His concept of the strike zone is good for such a young player, but he will need to refine his approach and pitch recognition as he faces more advanced pitchers.
Azcona's speed, arm strength, and instincts make him look the part of a true professional shortstop. He has excellent range to both his backhand and glove sides, getting to balls all over the left side of the infield. Though he is still learning the nuances of positioning himself appropriately, his natural ability alone gives him the potential to be an excellent defender at the games toughest infield position.
Javier has an excellent work ethic. He loves playing the game, loves hitting, and truly wants to excel in all facets of the game. He has already begun to add muscle and strength to his frame, and many expect him to become a physical specimen in short order.
There is little doubt Azcona can stick at shortstop, and his bat shows the potential to be a plus tool in every aspect. The only thing that will slow him is his ability to adjust to advanced pitching once he comes stateside. Every tool is there to make Azcona a star, and it will be just a matter of putting them together in game action.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% R
Azcona has not suffered any significant injuries during his brief professional career.
Though he didn't come stateside for the Fall Instructional League like fellow DSL prospect Steven Moya, Azcona made quite an impression in 2009. He opened eyes, and opposing scouts began to see a more physical player than they had scouted previously.
The Tigers will give strong consideration to bringing the talented Azcona stateside for the 2010 season, but with Edwin Gomez and Daniel Fields already likely to be in extended spring training, Javier may be better served getting more work and more at-bats in the Dominican again this summer. Either way, early rumblings have Azcona slated as a player to watch closely in 2010, and he could cement himself as a premium talent in the Tigers organization.
The road to the big leagues is going to be long and will likely have plenty of bumps along the way, so don't pencil him into the plans quite yet. Once stateside, his performance will dictate how quickly he moves up the ladder, but don't be surprised if it takes him until 2012 to really start making serious noise.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.