As part of his regular series of scouting reports on Tigers prospects, James Chipman profiles second baseman Javier Betancourt, a non-drafted, high-priority free agent signing out of Venezuela in August 2011.
This past offseason, MLB.com tabbed Betancourt the Tigers' 10th best prospect. Betancourt is currently assigned to the Tigers' Advanced-A affiliate, the Lakeland Flying Tigers.
All numerical grades are determined on the standard scouting scale of 20-80, with 50 ranking as big-league average. A score of 80 is extremely rare, except in the case of speed, or raw power. An OFP (overall future potential) of 50 is a solid, average big-leaguer and is considered an asset to most organizations.
Date of birth: May 8, 1995
2015 stats at Lakeland: 31 games, 133 at-bats, 8 runs, 33 hits, 5 doubles, 1 home run, 15 RBIs, 7 walks, 8 strikeouts, 1 stolen base, .248 average.
Body: Listed at a generous 6 foot, 180 pounds, Betancourt features a small prototypical middle infield frame. He has added a bit of upper body strength since observation last season. However, there is minimal growth potential remaining. Betancourt is an exceptional athlete and durability should not be an issue moving forward.
Hit: Betancourt features an advanced approach. He's patient, he knows the strike zone well and he routinely grinds out at-bats running up pitch-counts. He has solid hand-eye coordination and a natural feel for hitting. Betancourt starts from a well-balanced stance and set-up. He has a simple, short level swing with above-average bat speed. There's minimal pre-swing noise before he loads up and swings. He has outstanding bat-to-ball skills and excellent barrel control through the hitting zone. Betancourt plays within his game, recognizing that he lacks significant over-the-fence power. He sprays the ball from foul pole to foul pole, and is more of a contact hitter yielding singles and some doubles than a legitimate power threat. Betancourt does the small things you like to see that don't show up in a box score, such as hitting behind a runner, sacrificing himself, and making adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. There's a potential 55 hitter at the highest of levels when all is said and done. Grade: Present 45 / Future 55
Power: Betancourt lacks the necessary strength to adequately drive the ball with authority. His bat-speed and ability to barrel the ball will, however, yield him some line-drive doubles power. Still, over-the-fence power is rather non-existent in the profile currently and in the future. Grade: Present 30 / Future 35
Speed: Betancourt is a fringe-average runner down the line. He gets out of the box well but lacks a second gear. Betancourt isn't a serious base-stealing threat. He fails to get great jumps and reads off the pitcher. What he lacks in the stolen base column he more than makes up for in running the bases. Betancourt is good at taking extra bases and going first to third. Grade: Present 45 / Future 45
Defense: Betancourt is an above-average defender who makes routine plays with ease. He has great reactions off the bat, a quick first step and impressive instincts that allow him to make the occasional spectacular play. Betancourt has soft hands and smooth transfers from glove to hand. The defense isn't flashy or loud by any means, but it's polished. Betancourt always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He's undoubtedly an asset, defensively. Grade: Present 55 / Future 60
Arm: Originally a shortstop, Betancourt's arm profiles better for second-base, where he features slightly above-average arm strength. Betancourt has solid footwork, with a quick release and transfer on pivot. The ball comes out accurately with desired velocity. Grade: Present 55 / Future 55
Additional points: The nephew of former big leaguer Edgardo Alfonzo, Betancourt has baseball bloodlines. Betancourt is highly regarded by his teammates and coaching staff as a hard worker and a great teammate. He is intelligent, a fierce competitor and is dedicated to the game. There are no off-the-field issues, or potential red flags.
Projection: Once again this season Betancourt finds himself in an aggressive assignment playing against competition that is several years older. He's currently the sixth-youngest player in the Florida State League, where average age is 22-23. Betancourt lacks a specific loud carrying tool that you prefer to see, but he is extremely sound across the board. His impeccable instincts and high baseball IQ help his tools appear stronger, and they should continue to advance. Betancourt lacks serious impact talent because of his well-below-average power. But he undoubtedly has realistic potential as a second-division, big-league regular. OFP: Potential 50 / Realistic 45