International Reviews: Detroit Tigers
Top 2016-17 signing: SS Wenceel Perez, Dominican Republic, $550,000. Total signings: 33. In the uncapped bonus pool era, the Tigers never went past their pool allotment, which typically was among the smallest in baseball with the major league club’s success. Many of their best international signings from recent years are now with other organizations. The most prominent is shortstop Willy Adames, who the Tigers signed for $420,000 in 2012, traded to the Rays in the 2014 David Price deal and is now the No. 10 prospect in baseball. Dominican righthander David Paulino, a 2010 Tigers signing traded to the Astros in 2013, is the No. 51 prospect in the game. Dominican shortstop Domingo Leyba, signed in 2012, was shipped to the Diamondbacks in 2014 and is Arizona’s No. 3 prospect. Going forward, expect to see more million-dollar bonuses from the Tigers now that they’re jumping from an annual bonus pool of around $2 million up to at least $4.75 million starting this year. In 2016-17, the Tigers spread their money around, with their top bonus ($550,000) going to 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Wenceel Perez on July 2. Perez, like the organization’s other international signings, is expected to debut this year in the Dominican Summer League.
Perez could end up one of the better values among mid six-figure signings from last year, with a promising blend of fast-twitch athleticism, tools and feel for the game. At 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Perez is a bouncy athlete with a quick first step and plus speed. Perez’s baseball skills are more polished than most other Latin American signings with his raw athleticism. He has quick wrists and good hand-eye coordination and a knack for putting the barrel to the ball from both sides of the plate. He’s a line-drive hitter with occasional gap power, projecting as a tablesetter who could hit near the top of a lineup. Perez’s athleticism is evident in the way he bounces around at shortstop, turning the double play well with good hands and an average arm that could tick up with more strength. He trained with Christian Batista, who goes by “Niche.” Venezuelan outfielder Jhon Sandoval is another premium athlete, though his baseball skills aren’t as advanced compared to Perez. Sandoval, a 17-year-old who signed for $525,000 in July, is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds and was one of the best athletes in the 2016-17 class. His plus speed is his best tool, with an average arm in center field. He has a slender, highly projectable projectable frame to add strength, with good bat speed and carry off his bat already when he’s able to connect. Sandoval’s hitting ability in games is still raw, so he will need time to iron out his approach and improve his pitch recognition to make more contact. He trained with Henderson Martinez. Dominican outfielder Jimmy Mojica, a 16-year-old who signed for $225,000 in July, has a strong, physical build (6 feet, 175 pounds) with good bat speed and present power that could grow into a plus tool. A righthanded hitter who trained with John Carmona, Mojica has also shown better than expected awareness at the plate and ability to put together quality at-bats against live pitching. He’s a fringy runner who tracks balls well and could see time in center field but most likely ends up in right field, where he has an average arm. Frank Veliz, a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop who got $200,000 in July, is a true shortstop at 5-foot-11, 160 pounds. He has quick, soft hands in the field with nimble footwork. His average arm plays up because of his fast exchange and should get stronger with physical maturity. Veliz is a righthanded hitter with a quick bat who uses the whole field with occasional gap power. He’s an average runner with good baserunning instincts. Veliz trained with Johan Ocanto. For $200,000 on July 2, the Tigers signed Ernesto Adames (no relation to Willy), a 17-year-old, lefthanded corner outfielder from the Dominican Republic. Adames, who trained with Perez in Niche’s program, is 6-foot-1, 180 pounds with big power to his pull side. Power is Adames’ main tool, with his speed and arm strength fitting best in left field. Kendry Marte, also from Niche’s program, is a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop who signed for $185,000 in July. He’s a righthanded hitter with a free-and-easy swing and good bat path. At 6 feet, 160 pounds, getting stronger will be important to be able to do more damage on contact. Marte has shown good defensive actions too with a chance to stick at shortstop. Another Dominican shortstop, 17-year-old Yerjeni Perez, signed with the Tigers for $100,000 in July after training with Julio Rosa. Perez is 6-foot-1, 165 pounds who attracted the Tigers with his offensive potential and chance to stay at shortstop. Perez has good bat speed and gap power from the right side of the plate, with a tick below-average speed and a 55 arm. In November, the Tigers added 17-year-old Dominican catcher Carlos Medrano for $100,000. Medrano, who trained with Angel Santana (known as “Aroboy”), is a good athlete for a catcher (he’s an average runner, though will likely slow down) who has a chance to be a good receiver with an average arm. At 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Medrano is a lefthanded hitter with a line-drive approach. During the 2015-16 signing period last year in March, the Tigers signed 17-year-old Australian lefthander Jack O’Laughlin