International Reviews: Detroit Tigers

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Baseball America's annual International Reviews provide scouting reports on every team's top international amateur signings from the 2012 calendar year, as well as a look at any notable signings from the Cuban market.

See also: 2011 American League Central International Review

Detroit Tigers

Top signing: SS Willy Adames, Dominican Republic, $420,000.
Six-figure signings: SS Domingo Leyba (Dominican Republic), SS Zac Shepherd (Australia), OF Ignacio Valdez (Dominican Republic), RHP Oswaldo Castillo (Venezuela), SS Adrian Alfaro (Venezuela), OF Victor Cortez (Venezuela), OF Ariel Serrano (Panama), OF Jose Azocar (Venezuela).

The Tigers signed two prominent Dominican shortstops on July 2, the most expensive of whom was Willy Adames, who received a $420,000 bonus. Adames, who trained in the northern part of the island, is 6 feet, 160 pounds and has flashed promising righthanded power projection that's continued to come on since signing. Adames is athletic, has good hands and the arm strength to play shortstop, though if he gets much bigger he could outgrow the position.

Detroit also signed Dominican shortstop Domingo Leyba for $400,000 on July 2. At 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, Leyba doesn't have the power potential of Adames, but he has very good instincts that help his tools play up. Leyba trained with Christian Batista (known as "Niche") and has experience playing in the Dominican Prospect League and the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. He has smooth hands, good defensive actions and a high baseball IQ. He doesn't have the strongest arm but he gets rid of the ball quickly. At the plate he's a singles hitter who sprays the ball around the field and stands out more in games than in batting practice.

On July 4, the Tigers signed shortstop Zac Shepherd for $325,000, the top bonus for an Australian position player in 2012. At the 16U World Championships in Mexico in 2011, he was named the tournament's most outstanding defensive player and earned all-star honors at shortstop after hitting .500/.571/.571 in 35 plate appearances, leading his team in average, OBP and slugging and ranking seven in the tournament in both OBP and slugging. The 2011 Australian baseball youth player of the year, Shepherd played at the MLB Australian academy in 2012 and hit .252/.333/.387 in 119 at-bats. After Shepherd signed, he performed well at the 18U World Championship in Korea in September, hitting .320/.414/.480 in 29 trips to the plate, then showed patience and power at Australia's 18U National Championships last month.

Shepherd, a righthanded hitter who turned 17 in September, played in a program in Sydney run by former major leaguer Glenn Williams, who is now Detroit's area scout in Australia. At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Shepherd impressed the Tigers with his combination of size and solid tools across the board. In addition to his strong performances during international competition, Shepherd has power projection, runs well for his size and the arm strength to play on the left side of the infield. Some scouts think he'll outgrow shortstop, however, and may project better at third base.

Ignacio Valdez signed last year in February for $260,000 after training with Josue Mateo and playing in the Dominican Prospect League, then hit .234/.272/.308 in 114 plate appearances in the Dominican Summer League. Valdez, 17, has a major league body at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds and shows good raw power from the right side in batting practice, but he's a free-swinger who's going to need a lot of game repetitions for the power to show up with more frequency. Valdez is a corner outfielder with a strong arm that fits in right field.

The Tigers are one of the most active teams in Venezuela—they're one of four teams left with an academy in the country—and they signed four Venezuelan players after July 2 for six-figure bonuses. On July 3 the Tigers signed a pair of Venezuelans, shortstop Adrian Alfaro and outfielder Victor Cortez. Alfaro, who signed for $180,000, is 5-foot-10, 150 pounds and has shown good bat control and ability to work the count. He's mostly a singles hitter now so he'll have to add strength to hit the ball with more authority. Alfaro, who turned 17 in September, has good hands and an arm that grades out around average. Some scouts think he might be a future second baseman. Alfaro played in the Liga Paralela (the minor league version of the Venezuelan League) this winter and hit .182/.286/.212 in 66 at-bats.

Cortez, 16, has a lean, projectable body (6-foot-1, 170 pounds) with good strength projection, though he doesn't hit for much power yet. A lefthanded corner outfielder from the Caracas area, Cortez has shown solid strike-zone awareness and hits the ball to the opposite field well. He played in the Liga Paralela and hit .216/.296/.237 in 97 at-bats.

Another Venezuelan, righthander Oswaldo Castillo, signed with the Tigers two days after he turns 16 in August for $200,000 out of Carlos Guillen's academy. Castillo is one of the more promising international arms the Tigers have signed in recent years because of his advanced feel for throwing strikes. At 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, Castillo throws 85-88 mph, shows feel for a breaking ball, throws an occasional changeup and shows savvy and mound presence beyond his years. He pitched well in the Liga Paralela this winter, posting a 3.33 ERA in 24 1/3 innings with six walks and 15 strikeouts.

The fourth six-figure Venezuelan signing for the Tigers last year was 16-year-old center fielder Jose Azocar, who signed out of Luis Blasini's program for $110,000 in October. At 6 feet, 165 pounds, Azocar has a raw, free-swinging approach from the right side but the ball jumps off his bat and he's shown he can drive the ball out of the park in games. He's still learning to cut down on his mistakes in the outfield but he has the speed and a solid arm to stay at the position. Azocar also played in the Liga Paralela this winter and hit .236/.250/.349 in 106 at-bats.

Detroit also spent $121,000 to sign 16-year-old Panamanian outfielder Ariel Serrano in July. Serrano doesn't turn 17 until June 23 so he was one of the youngest players at the 18U World Championships in September in South Korea, where he hit .286/.318/.286 in 22 plate appearances and led his team in batting average. Like Cortez, the righthanded-hitting Serrano has a lean frame with strength projection at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, though he doesn't hit for much power right now. He projects as a corner outfielder.