Detroit Tigers 16-year-old shortstop Javier Osorio: ‘My bat is going to be special’

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Osorio is considered one of the most advanced players in his international class, and one scout says he’s the best among his position group.

The 16-year-old Venezuelan has power potential because of his bat speed. His athleticism and above-average arm strength could keep him at shortstop for the long haul.

“My bat is going to be special,” Osorio said Saturday, a few hours after signing with the Tigers for a $2.2 million bonus as the international signing period began. “I want to hit for a lot of contact and a lot of power.”

But players from the international market are the toughest to predict.

For Osorio, who turns 17 in late March, it’s all about upside.

The same is true for other top-ranked international prospects in the Tigers’ farm system: Cristian Santana ($2.95 million bonus in 2021), Abel Bastidas ($1.175 million in 2021), Roberto Campos ($2.85 million in 2019), Jose De La Cruz ($1.8 million in 2018) and Adinso Reyes ($1.45 million in 2018).

Although the Tigers don’t have a strong track record internationally, they’ve recently  been signing higher-ranked players.

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On Saturday, the approach was no different.

The Tigers, dreaming on a power-hitting shortstop, signed Osorio for a $2.2 million bonus. He lives in Caracas, Venezuela, but traveled west to Cartagena, Colombia, to meet with the Tigers and sign his contract.

Osorio is ranked No. 10 on Baseball America’s top 50 international prospects. The Tigers also signed fellow Venezuelan shortstop Samuel Gil, ranked No. 21 on the list, for a $1.2 million bonus.

MLB Pipeline ranks Osorio at No. 13 among its top 50 international prospects in this year’s class, led by New York Yankees shortstop Roderick Arias ($4 million bonus). It grades Osorio’s arm and running tools 55 on a 20-80 scale and his hitting, power and fielding 50.

Osorio’s body compares to a track-and-field athlete, but he is only an average runner. His power comes from bat speed and he has advanced plate discipline. He projects as an offense-first shortstop.

“I’m very happy to be part of the Tigers’ organization,” Osorio said, with his agent, Wilfredo Polidor from Octagon, interpreting. “I’ve been waiting for a long time. Now I’m a Tiger, and I’m really excited. It’s a good organization.”

He later added: “It’s the best thing that could have happened to me.”

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The Tigers’ scouting efforts were anchored by Latin American director of operations Miguel Garcia, a veteran scout covering Venezuela who joined the Tigers in November 2005. In 1999, Garcia worked for the Florida Marlins and signed Miguel Cabrera, 16 years old at the time, for a $1.8 million bonus.

Entering 2022, Cabrera has 2,987 hits, 502 home runs and a Hall of Fame resume in his 19-year MLB career. The 38-year-old leads all Venezuelan-born players in hits, home runs, RBIs (1,804) and doubles (597).

“He is the best in the game from Venezuela in history,” Osorio said.

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Osorio started playing baseball at 5 years old. By the time he turned 12, he realized he would be a professional player. One year later, the Tigers began developing a relationship with him and his family.

The 6-foot, 165-pound Osorio earned the shortstop position because of his skills, but his personality naturally made him a leader.

He’s either going to be an everyday shortstop or second baseman, though if he bulks up more than expected, he has the arm strength to play third base.

“I like being the captain on the field,” Osorio said. “I feel like I’m going to be playing a long time at shortstop. Later (in my career), I could be a third baseman. I’m going to train really hard, play hard and do the little things to be a shortstop for a long time.”

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Officially a professional, Osorio is eager for his first task in the minor leagues.

He will compete in Dominican Summer League to start the 2022 season, and his goal is “to move as quickly as I can” through the organization. A promotion would send him to the Florida Complex League in the United States, one step from Low-A Lakeland but a long way from his MLB debut.

“I’m going to try to make it as quickly as I can,” Osorio said. “I want to be 18 years old and in the big leagues, to be one of the youngest in history to play in the big leagues. I want to make history.”

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Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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