Taking a look at Detroit’s recent international signings

Detroit Tigers

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

It’s an area where the Tigers haven’t had much contribution the last few years. So beyond the latest signings, how are the Tigers faring on the international front and in their system? They’re not where they want to be, but there are signs of progress, both in talent and infrastructure.

Changes in international scouting and signings normally take time to measure. The vast majority of signings are teenagers who don’t arrive in the United States for Minor League Baseball for another year. The current international prospects in full-season ball are mostly players who signed in 2018 and ‘19, a stretch when the Tigers spent a good amount of their signing pool money on a top prospect or two.

That said, there aren’t many international products in the Tigers’ system rankings, especially near the top. Detroit’s top seven prospects in MLB Pipeline’s rankings — and 15 of their top 16 — were selected in the Draft, either by Detroit or another organization. The exception, No. 8 prospect Hao-Yu Lee, signed with the Phillies as a teenager out of Taiwan before joining the Tigers organization last August in the Michael Lorenzen trade.

Detroit’s top-ranked international signing is No. 17 prospect Cristian Santana, a Dominican shortstop who signed for a record $2.95 million bonus in 2019. After a lost ‘20 season due to the pandemic, he showed enough in the Dominican Summer League the following year and instructional ball to leapfrog the rookie-level Florida Complex League and go straight to full-season ball, ranking as high as fifth in the Tigers’ system.

Santana has had a learning experience since then, largely at Single-A Lakeland. In 2023, Santana hit just .156 (48-for-308) in 97 games for the Flying Tigers, but drew 91 walks for a .365 on-base percentage. He also struck out 116 times, meaning just over half his plate appearances ended with a ball in play. Half of his hits went for extra bases — 12 doubles and 12 home runs — to finish with a 100 wRC+. He just turned 20 this offseason.

No. 18 prospect Enrique Jimenez was the Tigers’ top international signing last year. The Venezuelan catcher, signed for a $1.25 million bonus, played last year in the Dominican Summer League and is expected to make his U.S. debut this year.

No. 20 prospect Wenceel Pérez, a $550,000 signing out of the Dominican in 2016, reached Triple-A Toledo last year and has a chance to reach the Majors sometime this season, having been added to Detroit’s 40-man roster. The versatile switch-hitting speedster had a topsy-turvy, injury-slowed pro career before blossoming in ‘22.

Like Santana, No. 22 prospect Roberto Campos was a headline signing, agreeing to a $2.85 million bonus in 2018. He had spent three years training without competitive baseball in the Dominican after defecting from Cuba. Three years into his pro career, the 20-year-old remains a bit of a mystery, a skilled athlete still trying to translate his raw strength into home run power.

Campos batted .257 with 22 doubles, five homers — only one after May 17 — and 53 RBIs in 88 games for High-A West Michigan last year, but had flashes where his talent flourished. The Tigers left him exposed to the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, but with no experience above Single-A, he went unselected and remained in the organization. A move to Double-A Erie could help his offense, as it did for a similarly athletic outfield prospect, Parker Meadows.

Like Pérez, No. 26 prospect Keider Montero was a late bloomer after signing out of Venezuela in the same 2016 class for $40,000. He spent two-plus seasons at Single-A West Michigan before vaulting three levels in 2023 in his long-awaited breakout season, his sixth season as a pro. If the 23-year-old can build off that, he could be the next starter to reach Detroit.

Not yet ranked is catcher/first baseman Josue Briceno. A 2022 signing out of Venezuela, Briceno’s left-handed bat opened eyes in ‘23 as he posted a .954 OPS across 44 games in the Florida Complex League. Other formerly highly ranked signings, such as slugging outfielder Jose De La Cruz, slick-fielding shortstop Abel Bastidas and infielder Manuel Sequera, have fallen off the rankings.

The biggest change ahead for the Tigers on the international market could be in infrastructure. After years of renting a facility for a Dominican academy, the team is planning a new complex outside of Santo Domingo.

“That’s going to make us a lot more competitive internationally,” president of baseball operations Scott Harris said in October. “And it’s going to include some features that allow us to tap into that development.”

Articles You May Like

Tigers Minor League Report Podcast with Brandon Day
Tigers 8, Twins 2: A low-stress win is apparently possible
Woof and double woof as the Twins sweep twin bill on Saturday
Max Anderson and Andrew Jenkins homer to power the Whitecaps
Series Preview: Detroit Tigers to play 4 games in 3 days vs Minnesota Twins at home

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *