Meet Detroit Tigers’ newest international prospects: Full list, evaluations

Detroit Free Press

Evan Petzold
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Tigers upgraded their crop of international prospects by signing 10 players, including esteemed shortstops Cristian Santana and Abel Bastidas, after the signing period began Friday morning.

By Saturday afternoon, the organization’s top priorities in the 2021 class completed their deals. The group contains seven position players — five shortstops, two outfielders — and three right-handed pitchers, representing Venezuela (5), Dominican Republic (4) and Cuba (1). The signing period ends Dec. 15.

“You just have to scout the talent,” Tigers director of international operations Tom Moore said Friday. “Wherever the talent is, we’re going to try to be there and sign them.”

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The Tigers had a pool of $6.43 million to spend on this year’s international market. They used $2.95 million and $1.17 million on signing bonuses for Santana and Bastidas, respectively. Santana is ranked as the No. 14 prospect by MLB Pipeline in this year’s international class; Bastidas is No. 27.

“We’ve seen as an industry that there are some players under the radar in terms of their signing bonus, or how well known they are, who end up being the quickest to the big leagues or being the best players overall,” Moore said. “That’s the intrigue of the international market.

“We’re obviously going to scout the high-profile guys exposed to a lot of tournaments and stuff like that. But it’s a tribute to our scouts to keep digging on the low-profile players who may not be coming from as big of a program. There are diamonds in the rough.”

Here is the Tigers’ complete 2021 international class, with information about each player and evaluations from Moore:

Cristian Santana, SS

Age: 17.

Date of birth: Nov. 25, 2003.

Vitals: 6-foot, 170 pounds.

Bats/throws: Right/right.

Birthplace: Dominican Republic.

What Moore said: “We’ve been scouting Santana for well over two-and-a-half years. He was certainly a priority for us. Kid has always shown the ability to hit, advanced approach at the plate for his age. As an offensive player, we’re really excited. He also brings some defensive skills to the table. Very strong, good hands, quick feet. We’re confident that he’s going to go out and play shortstop. A lot of times, with these young kids, the growth potential may change the scenario for him. But I have no doubts he’s going to be at shortstop for a while. The good thing about it is he’s got the bat if he has to move off of shortstop to be an impact somewhere else.”

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Abel Bastidas, SS

Age: 17.

Date of birth: Nov. 23, 2003.

Vitals: 6-2, 165.

Bats/throws: Switch/right.

Birthplace: Venezuela.

What Moore said: “He’s been on our radar for a while. He’s a lanky, built kid who has grown a lot in the last year-and-a-half or so and has certainly developed his game. He’s always been a kid with really good defensive actions. He looks like a ballerina out there. He’s really smooth, light on his feet, quick release, accurate arm. He’s got good arm strength. He’s one of those guys who has a feel in the position to know when he needs to use him arm and when he doesn’t. Just an advanced defensive player. Hitting from both sides of the plate, he has a really easy swing, and the ball jumps off his bat. Through that growth recently, we’ve seen the power come along. Similar with Santana, where they’re bringing average to above tools on both sides of the ball. That was extremely intriguing for us.”

Carlos Pelegrin, OF

Age: 20.

Date of birth: June 21, 2000.

Vitals: 6-2, 180.

Bats/throws: Right/right.

Birthplace: Cuba.

What Moore said: “He defected about a year-and-a-half ago or so, had experience playing in the youth leagues in Cuba. He appeared on the national team for them in 2018, so we had a chance to scout him then. We monitored his performance in the Cuban leagues through his numbers. Once he defected, we had some scouting history from him being on the national team. He’s a little more advanced than the rest of the kids because he’s older. He’s got a really athletic body. He has some fast-twitch in him and is an above-average runner. He’s got a quick bat. Power hasn’t been much of his game in terms of performance, but he’s got raw power. We’ve seen it in BP. Certainly, to the pull side, he can really launch a ball. We’re intrigued by that, and there’s some potential there. He’s got an above-average arm, defensive instincts. He’s got the ability to play center field but enough arm strength to play right, as well.”

Elian Riera, OF

Age: 16.

Date of birth: Feb. 23, 2004.

Vitals: 5-10, 150.

Bats/throws: Left/left.

Birthplace: Venezuela.

What Moore said: “Left-handed hitting outfielder, really good defensive instincts to play center field. He’s got arm strength (and a) line drive, contact type of bat. We project him to have gap power in the future. Really athletic kid, body that you can dream on getting stronger in the future.”

Yimmy Diaz, SS

Age: 16.

Date of birth: Feb. 19, 2004.

Vitals: 5-10, 155.

Bats/throws: Switch/right.

Birthplace: Venezuela.

What Moore said: “Compact frame, live body with projection for strength. Switch-hitter with good bat speed and balance at the plate. Line drive, contact approach with gap power. A steady defender. Shows a lot of energy and leadership on the field. Average run with base-stealing instincts.”

Jensy De Leon, SS

Age: 16.

Date of birth: May 14, 2004.

Vitals: 6-0, 175.

Bats/throws: Right/right.

Birthplace: Dominican Republic.

What Moore said: “Sleeper ability. He might have a chance to open up some eyes. He’s got really good bat speed. He’s got some crudeness to his ability, but the bat speed is there. You watch him take BP, and he launches balls all over the place. He has good balance at the plate, so we feel like he’s got a chance to hit, and he’s going to be a kid who can play in the infield with offensive value.”

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Justin Rodriguez, SS

Age: 16.

Date of birth: March 11, 2004.

Vitals: 5-10, 155.

Bats/throws: Right/right.

Birthplace: Venezuela.

What Moore said: “Medium frame with an athletic body, plenty of room to fill out. Aggressive hitter with frequent hard contact. Generates power in his swing for his current size. Runs well but not a base stealer yet. Shows defensive ability and will make routine plays. Quick arm with future above-average strength.”

Joel Baez, RHP

Age: 18.

Date of birth: Aug. 19, 2002.

Vitals: 6-4, 185.

Bats/throws: Right/right.

Birthplace: Dominican Republic.

What Moore said: “Tall frame, really good arm. Fastball, slider mix has a chance to have some high-end value as a bullpen guy. He had some time in the States, so he’s got some exposure there. Speaks English. Seems like a bright kid and a good family. In fact, he’s related to Luis Marte, the former big-league pitcher who is now one of our pitching coaches in the Dominican Summer League.”

Keni Salgado, RHP

Age: 17.

Date of birth: Nov. 18, 2003.

Vitals: 6-2, 165.

Bats/throws: Right/right.

Birthplace: Venezuela.

What Moore said: “Tall frame, good size, wide back. A strike-thrower. Good angle and movement on fastball that shows heavy life. Good spin on his slider. Changeup has arm speed and shows late movement.”

Rayner Castillo, RHP

Age: 16.

Date of birth: June 30, 2004.

Vitals: 6-3, 180.

Bats/throws: Right/right.

Birthplace: Dominican Republic.

What Moore said: “He had experience in the Perfect Game under-14 national showcase in the U.S. in 2019 and really pitched there against some of the top 14-year-old talent in the States. He went on our radar at that point. He’s a tall, strong, built kid. He has a strong lower half. Arm works really good. You can project him having a really good fastball in the future. He has the feel to spin a breaking ball. In fact, the Perfect Game showcase that we saw him at, he struck some really good hitters out with a curveball. He also has a good feel of a changeup. He’s got three weapons with pitch-ability, so we really feel he’s got a chance to be a strong starting pitcher in the future.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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