Tigers open international market with five signings
The Tigers have a form when it comes to signing prospects on the international market, and it usually involves quantity. They’ll go in on one mid- to upper-ranked talent, maybe two in a good year, then bolster that with a handful of deals or more involving lesser-known kids or raw prospects. They’ve done that since well before the MLB-imposed spending rules, and it has served them well.
In that sense, the Tigers stuck to tradition when this year’s international signings market opened Wednesday. In another sense, their deal for outfielder Julio Martinez went against the profile.
When they go position players, certainly in recent years, they’ve gone for top athletes at premium positions. Martinez is a big kid with a power bat who will either be a corner outfielder or a first baseman. Coming on the heels of last month’s First-Year Player Draft, when the Tigers were rumored to be looking at college power bats, it makes some more sense.
“Even at the big league level, power is a premium tool,” Tigers international scouting director Tom Moore said. “When you go through the draft and stuff like that, you definitely see more prevalent power, so that’s why we’ve been trying to get the athletes and guys you could project down the road. But this is a premium tool and something we couldn’t ignore.
“We always have a certain focus and things we think are successful in terms of producing talent. But at the same time, you always have to go with the best talent.”
Jesse Sanchez, who does a tremendous job covering the international signings for MLB.com, has a profile of Martinez here. Martinez ranked 19th on Sanchez’s list of top international prospects.
The secondary crop includes some more projected talent:
Irwin Chirinos, OF, Venezuela
Like Martinez, the left-handed-hitting outfielder has a strong body for his age (6-feet, 170 pounds) and a bat with some power. Chirinos’ outfield arm has the chance to be a strong one as his body fills out, while he should be an average runner. YouTube video of Chirinos is above.
Adonis Figuera, RHP, Venezuela
Figuera is more of a projection signing, based on what scouts believe he could do once his 6-foot-2, 165-pound frame fills out.
“He’s a tall, skinny-framed kid,” Moore said, “but he’s got a real big arm. His fastball is in the mid-80s, but he projects to have a lot more gas in the tank.”
He already has a curveball and a changeup, the latter of which is a work in progress.
“The bet on this kid is, as he gains strength, he’s going to gain more power,” Moore said.
Jose Salas, SS, Venezuela
Initially, Moore said, the Tigers saw Salas as a defense-first infielder, rangy and athletic but not necessarily a great hitter. As scouts continued to watch the teenager learn pitchers and adjust his game, they saw more upside to his bat.
“He’s got real quick hands. He’s going to be able to play shortstop,” Moore said. “The thing that’s really come on is his bat speed and ability to make hard contact.”
Jorge Ynirio, SS, Dominican Republic
If Martinez represents the Tigers’ need for power bats, Ynirio profiles more like the kind of player the Tigers have targeted in past summers, an athletic player with upside who can play a premium position. He can run, Moore said, and he has a plus arm. His bat speed shows the promise for offensive production.
“He’s got a little bit of crudeness to his game, nothing moreso than a lot of kids,” Moore said. “But really, the thing we’re banking on is the athleticism. The tools are there. They’re certainly things we can bank on. He’s got a good chance to become a good player.”