Each year teams from around the league invite handfuls of young players to debut in the Stateside complex leagues as one of the biggest tests of the year. This season the Tigers will invite at least nine players to the States for their first exposure to live game action in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Headlining the newcomers to this year’s GCL squad will be shortstop Adinso Reyes and outfielder Jose De La Cruz. The Tigers top two signings from the 2018 international signing period, Reyes and De La Cruz had little trouble handling opposing pitchers in the Dominican Summer League last year. At just 17-years old and having signed for $1.45 million, Reyes torched the DSL with a .331/.379/.508 line in 62 games. Similarly, De La Cruz ripped off a .307/.375/.556 line in 56 games last year. After such strong performances in the DSL the next logical step was to bring both players stateside.
The Tigers handed De La Cruz $1.85 million as soon as the international signing period opened in 2018, largely because of his exceptional bat speed that could lead to big-time raw power. While DSL stats don’t tell much of a story, he flashed plenty of pop last year with 13 doubles and 11 home runs. As Tiger fans look for excuses to get excited about young players that support the rebuild, De La Cruz’s potential power bat and ability to play center field with plus speed and a strong arm are more than enough reason to be enthusiastic about his future.
With Reyes, Tiger fans should be looking for another power bat, particularly as he completes his physical development and his already strong frame continues to fill out. Reyes doesn’t have the strong defensive profile that De La Cruz owns, but he’s a solid athlete with good capable feet and a strong arm that should enable him to handle a move to third base should shortstop become too challenging.
Other position players the Tigers are brining Stateside this year include infielder Yoneiry Acevedo and outfielders Adonis Figuereo, Lazaro Benitez, and Iverson Leonardo. Acevedo signed for $300,000 in 2017 and spent the last two years in the DSL, improving across the board last year to post respectable offensive numbers. His calling card continues to be an exceptional defensive profile that could keep him at shortstop long term. Thanks to his excellent athleticism, soft hands, plus speed, and plus arm, Acevedo is one of the better infield defenders in the system.
Benitez is the highlight of the outfield crop thanks to his impressive physical stature and budding offensive profile. One of the Tigers few forays into the Cuban market, Benitez pulled a $150,000 signing bonus in 2018 before hitting a strong .312/.360/.481 in 61 games as a 19-year old in the DSL last year. Benitez is athletic and strong with the potential to be an intriguing power prospect down the line, and while he has above-average speed right now, he could slow a tick and slide to an outfield corner.
Figuereo and Leonardo are both intriguing outfield prospects in their own right, though without the power/speed combination of Benitez. Figuereo has the potential to develop above-average to plus power as he fills out his long-limbed frame and refines his offensive approach. Leonardo may be the exact opposite of Figuereo, offering athleticism and speed in center field while his bat needs to catch up considerably. Both outfielders signed in 2017 with Figuereo inking a $300,000 deal and Leonard getting $275,000.
Headlining the pitchers heading stateside in 2020 is right-hander Adolfo Bauza. A member of the Tigers 2017-2018 signing class, the Venezuelan received $150,000 thanks to his projectable 6-foot-2, 170 pound frame that has already begun to fill out as he reaches his late teens. Immediately after signing, Bauza’s fastball was clocked in the 85-88 mph range but has since bumped up to the 90 mph range and could still go higher. In addition to his evolving fastball, Bauza offers a solid curveball and developing changeup. Bauza’s biggest challenge as he comes stateside this year will be harnessing his lively arsenal to cut down on walks (6.2 per 9 innings in 2019).
The Tigers will also have right-handers Wilmer Fenelon and Erick Pinales stateside this year, and while it won’t constitute their official Stateside debut (both pitched in one GCL game each last summer), it will represent their first true test of stateside ball.
Though not official, a host of additional prospects appear likely to make stateside appearances in 2020, including catcher Pedro Garcia and right-handed pitchers Martin Herrera, Daniel DiMonte, Willander Moreno, Jose Pina, Joseph Salazar, and Andy Santana.