2014 Connecticut Tigers Preview

Steven Fuentes headlines the CT-Tigers lineup

In an unusual twist, this year's early Connecticut roster lacks 2014 draft picks but is still loaded with viable prospects and intriguing names. The Opening Day roster has five of the TigsTown Top 50 prospects, including two in the Top 25. While 2014 draftees may be on the way, the rest of the roster includes several players with the potential to make a name for themselves.

The pitching staff is highlighted 16th ranked Joe Jimenez, an undrafted free agent from 2013. Jimenez slipped through the cracks of the draft due to a high bonus demand but the Tigers snatched him up and his stuff in the GCL last year was impressive. His innings restrictions are likely to be fairly tight, but he can reach 95 mph with his sinking fastball and his slider and changeup both have at least average potential.

Other arms worth noting include power Latin American arms like Confesor Lara and Emanuel Chavez, both of whom have a chance to blow away NYPL hitters. Lara will work out of the Connecticut bullpen and Chavez could be a member of the rotation throughout the summer.

Right-hander Fernando Perez will get some starts this summer as well, and while he doesn't have the high-end velocity of some other prospects on the roster, he works a low-90s heater with a quality curveball to keep hitters off balance.

The CT-Tigers will also have several experienced college arms from last year's draft to help pick up some innings, including Tanner Bailey, Micah Kellogg, Johnnie Kirkland, and Austin Pritcher.

Additional college arms from last year include Daryl Norris and Chase Edwards, both of whom have some potential to become prospects with a strong showing this season. Edwards needs strength and for his stuff to step forward, and Norris needs innings to develop into the power bullpen arm he projects to become.

Venezuelan right-hander Johan Belisario is still just 20-years old and after multiple seasons in the VSL, he comes stateside with a chance to work the late innings thanks to a low-90s fastball and impressive slider.

Catcher Franklin Navarro has displayed the raw tools to become one of the best catching prospects in the system, but he still needs to the consistency to perform on a day-to-day basis. A switch-hitting youngster with feel for the barrel, Navarro could be one of the club's offensive leaders if he can handle the experienced competition of the NYPL.

Backing up Navarro behind the plate will be free agent signing Chris Taladay and occasionally returning prospect Duncan McAlpine, who will also see time at first base and designated hitter.

The Tigers will have several slick-fielding defenders up the middle, including shortstops Steven Fuentes, Steven Negron, David Gonzalez, and second baseman Domingo Leyba. Fuentes could move around the diamond some this year, including seeing time at third base, where he may ultimately end up. A compact athlete with pop in his bat, Fuentes is a high-ceiling player that could leave the NYPL as one of the circuits best prospects.

Leyba offers exceptional polish for a teenager, with the feel for the game that most players envy. His ability to barrel the ball and drive it to all fields stand out, and his instincts stand out in the field and on the bases.

The Tigers outfield is headlined by three young players with impact tools and the potential to cement themselves as viable prospects going forward. Center fielder Rashad Brown, and corner outfielders Samuel Crafort and Orvin Tovar can all offer multiple impact tools, with Brown flashing near-elite speed that changes games and generates offense against lower level competition.

Providing a stabilizing presence in the outfield will be 2013 draftee Kasey Coffman and veteran minor league Ismael Salgado, both of whom are versatile defenders that can help the club in a variety of ways.

Though short on players to start the season, the CT-Tigers have raw talent on the roster, and they should see an influx in talent as the recent draftees begin to make their way north. The Tigers will have some growing pains as young players adjust to the tougher competition, but by the end of the season, the club could be a difficult task for opposing teams.

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