Monday, November 23, 2009

TEAM #28 – Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are hoping that Turner follows the precociousness of Verlander and Porcello

The Detroit Tigers are next up in our series of team prospect rankings. While the Tigers have two solid prospects at the top of the organization, the cupboard becomes rather bare, rather quickly. One of the ways that one can usually judge organizational strength is to look at the number of Minor League Relief Pitchers that rank high within the organization’s prospect list. In Detroit’s case nearly 20% of the thirty prospects that we grade a ‘C+’ or higher are Relief Pitching prospects. That just isn’t a positive sign. While they have hit at a very high rate among their first round picks (Verlander, Maybin, Miller, Porcello, Perry) over the last five years, and have had tremendous success in rounds 4 and 5, the have figuratively swung and missed in the 2nd and 3rd rounds over that time. Their international scouting hasn’t been tremendously fruitful, and that has left a pretty significant gap between those that have already graduated to the Major Leagues, and what remains. In fact, we have four 2009 draft picks, among their top 14 prospects, second only to the Diamondbacks; predominantly due to the dearth of second tier prospect talent. While the organization has a number of high-upside arms, the number of high-upside bats is limited.

Grade A

1) Jacob Turner, RHP –

We wrote, on the eve of the draft, that “while he may not be in Porcello’s class, we have him higher than we did Jarrod Parker in 2007—when he was selected 9th.” We believe that Turner, while not as polished a package as Tyler Matzek, has the highest upside of any prep pitcher in the draft. At 6’5”, 200+, he already throws an effortless low- to mid-90s fastball, that can go higher. His curve is a plus pitch, and his change has the potential to be one. We love his mechanics, his approach, and his guidance that he has received as a prep. The only negatives are the tendency to overthrow his curve and occasional bouts with control. We expect those things to work themselves out over the next couple of seasons, as he prepares to join Verlander and Porcello at the front of a very talented Tiger rotation.

2) Casey Crosby, LHP (2009 – Dominance 71; Stamina 65; HRrate 49; Control 38)

It took awhile for Tigers to finally get a look at their 2007 5th round player, after he signed late, injured his elbow in Instructional League and pitched only 5 innings at the end of the 2008 season, but they were amply rewarded by the 20yos performance this past season. Crosby was arguably the best pitcher in the MWL in 2009, as he led the League in ERA, and finished 12th in strikeouts. While he did struggle with control at times, he answered any concerns about his health, and looks poised to move rapidly, starting 2010 in Hi-A. Crosby doesn’t possess Turner’s upside, he does have the ability to fire his fastball in the mid-90s and he does have the upside of front part of the rotation starter.

Grade B

3) Andrew Oliver, LHP – We like Oliver, but there is a significant drop between him and the Top two arms in the organization. Following a distraction-filled season at Oklahoma State, where Oliver was often inconsistent, the Tigers selected Oliver in the second round, and signed him to a mid-first round type contract. We had Oliver as a Top 40 talent entering the draft, and felt the Tigers got a solid selection here. Oliver works in the low-90s, with a fastball possessing significant late life. He also uses a slider and a passable change. With work, those three offerings could allow him to remain in the rotation, but it would not surprise us to see him end up as a late-inning type. His AZFL performance was encouraging. While we feel that Oliver could handle the FSL to start 2010, he may be better served by opening up in the MWL where he can work on his command/control, and see about bringing back his once potent curveball. In any case, expect him to move rapidly.

4) Scott Sizemore, 2B (2009 Performance Scores – Power 69; First Base Rate 64; Discipline 57; Speed 74)

At the end of the season, Sizemore seemed poised to become the Tigers everyday secondbaseman to start the 2010 season. Then shortly after the AZFL began, Sizemore fractured his ankle, requiring surgery, that potentially put that in doubt. The Tigers feel he will be ready for the start of Spring Training, but we will take a more cautious approach and wait until we see what lingering effects are present from the injury. During the 2009 season, Sizemore showed the ability to make good contact, with solid middle infield power, plus speed and good plate discipline. We feel that he has above Major League average potential for a secondbaseman, and would have rated him #3 prior to the injury. If he shows no-ill effects, he could be one of the more prominent rookies in the 2010 AL. At the moment we urge caution.

5) Ryan Strieby, 1B (2009 Performance Scores – Power 79; First Base Rate 73; Discipline 29; Speed 45)

From a pure numbers standpoint, over his four year professional career, Strieby, a 4th round pick in 2006, after playing just one year at Kentucky, has been impressive—posting back-to-back .900+ OPS and belting 64 HRs over the last three seasons. But then again, when you are defensively limited to being a marginal firstbaseman or DH, they have to be. Such is the case of Ryan Strieby. There are many that call Strieby one of the Minor League’s most underrated prospects, we don’t consider ourselves to be in that category, as while we recognize his average on-base skills and plus power potential, we also are wary of his struggles with good breaking balls and a strikeout rate that has gone from 15.4% to 20.7% to 22.8% as he has climbed the ladder. In light of his below average speed and shaky defense, this raises concerns that he may end up as only a part-time player at the Big League Level. He has moved slower than one would like to see from top-flite prospects, so 2010 will be pivotal for him, as he will have to demonstrate more plate discipline and prove he can handle a big league curve.

6) Alex Avila, C (2009 Performance Scores – Power 70; First Base Rate 57; Discipline 40; Speed 41)

I feel safe in saying that no one from the 2008 draft class has proven to be more of a surprise than Avila, who many saw as a nepotism pick when the Tigers tabbed him in the 5th round. But after 200 ABs in the MWL and a half of season in the ESL, Avila found himself in Detroit, where he performed admirably in a backup role. While we still don’t see an upside of anything more than an average Big League regular here, the ‘floor’ was raised tremendously with his 2009 performance. While his bat may already capable of league average performance, he still needs more time in the Minor Leagues to work on his defense, but he looks fairly certain to have a career of at least a Major League back-up.

Grade B–

7) Wilkin Ramirez, LF (2009 Performance Scores – Power 65; First Base Rate 45; Discipline 21; Speed 79)

The enigmatic Ramirez has had an intriguing 6-year career with the Tigers where he has flashed glimpses of truly special skills, only to never quite put it all together in a package that portends significant success. 2009 was no different, where he hit 17HRs and stole 33 bases as a 23yo in AAA, but whiffed 143 times (30.1%). Ramirez possesses a chiseled-frame that combines plus-power with plus-speed. His defensive skills are solid, but he lacks solid defensive instincts—limiting him to LF. But the greatest negative is that he has shown zero ability to handle good breaking pitches. Ramirez will play 2010 as a 24yo, and if he is ever to become more than a player that tantalizes us with his skill set, the time is now. We aren’t betting that he will ever put it all together, but his upside remains as high as most any offensive player on this list.

8) Daniel Fields, SS

As the son of a former Major Leaguer, with a 6’3”, 200lb frame, the baseball world has been familiar with Fields skill set for some time now. That doesn’t mean that they still weren’t surprised when the Tigers selected Fields in the 6th round in June, and signed him to mid-1st round money. While his power/speed combo with solid defensive skills makes scouts drool at the thought of him in the middle of the diamond, conventional wisdom has him outgrowing SS, and eventually moving to 3B or the OF. He has the bat to succeed there, if that should happen, but it would diminish a bit of the lusture. Because of the significantly above-slot deal, Fields signed too late to get on the field in 2009 and will be making his debut in 2010. The Tiger hope is that he will have shown enough in instructionals to open up in the MWL. While there is a lot of upside here, it is all pure projection at this point.

9) Robbie Weinhardt, RP (2009 – Dominance 79; Stamina 27; HRrate 49; Control 57)

In previous analysis we have talked about our lack of ‘love’ for Minor League Relief Pitchers. When they are appearing in a team’s Top 10, it is usually a rather ominous sign for the organization. For the most part, that holds true with Weinhardt, although we will have to admit to being pleasantly surprised with his performance since the Tigers drafted him in the 10th round in 2008. Through two professional seasons, Weinhardt has held opposing hitters to a .203 Average Against, while posting a 1.64 ERA. In the process he has outpitched the more heralded Cody Satterwhite. Weinhardt uses a low-90s fastball that has tremendous late movement and one that he commands extremely well. While he throws a slider and a change, it is his fastball that is his out-pitch. In an extremely limited sample, his 29 Ks in 18 innings AZFL performance was impressive. While we don’t expect Weinhardt to ever develop into anything more than a middle relief/set-up type, he looks to be one of those high floor types, and could find himself in the Detroit bullpen before the end of the 2010 season.

10) Avisail Garcia, RF (2009 Performance Scores – Power 29; First Base Rate 43; Discipline 48; Speed 44)

Garcia was signed as a 16yo, out of Venezuela, in 2007 and went on to post the 3rd best age-adjusted performance in the VSL in 2008. The Tigers thought enough of him to give him 300 full-season ABs in 2009—as barely an 18yo. While he didn’t produce eye-popping numbers, his age-adjusted performance ranked among the Top 30 in the MWL. In an organization short on high upside position players, Garcia rates as a potential five tool player. His defensive skills are extremely advanced for his age, he has plus speed, solid on-base skills, and although it wasn’t present in his 2009 performance, there is good power potential here as well. Our hope is that the Tigers will give Garcia at least one-half of a season back in the MWL in 2010 before moving him to the FSL. Having success in a full-season league is critical to his long-term development. While much of Garcia’s ranking here is on projection, we would not be surprised to see Garcia more than justify this ranking with his 2010 performance.

11) Cody Satterwhite, RHP (2009 – Dominance 71; Stamina 26; HRrate 48; Control 26)

Drafted eight rounds earlier than Weinhardt, Satterwhite has struggled with command/control issues thus far in his professional career, and hasn’t been able to harness his more heralded ‘stuff’. While Satterwhite possesses a couple of other below average offerings, it is his mid-90s heater that got him drafted in the second round. Satterwhite has the potential to pitch in the back of the bullpen, but at the moment he hasn’t proven dominant enough to overcome 5 walks per 9IP. If he is unable to make significant strides in 2010, he will be downgraded considerably.

12) Dusty Ryan, C (2009 Performance Scores – Power 72; First Base Rate 64; Discipline 22; Speed 42)

A 2003 draft and follow, Ryan had posted 4 disappointing season before a breakout 2008. He followed that up with a solid, if unspectacular 2009 in Toledo. Ryan is a big guy, with solid power and adequate on-base skills. His arm strength is among the Minors’ best, but he sometimes ‘lumbers’ defensively. His biggest negative is his lack of plate discipline that has produced a career strikeout rate of 28.7%, as he struggles mightily against good breaking stuff. With already two brief Major League stints under his belt, it is a strong certainty that Ryan will see more time in the Majors in 2010. We don’t believe that he has an upside greater than that of a big league reserve, but he should achieve it.

13) Brennan Boesch, RF (2009 Performance Scores – Power 77; First Base Rate 27; Discipline 37; Speed 76)
After the Tigers selected Boesch in the 3rd round of the 2006 draft, he put together disappointing 2007 and 2008 campaigns in the MWL and FSL respectively. Undaunted, the Tigers challenged him with an ESL assignment in 2009, where Boesch had somewhat of a breakout campaign, belting 28 HRs. Boesch possesses a strong power/speed combo, but has below average contact/plate discipline skills, as he fanned 22.7% of the time last season. He will play the 2010 season as a 25yo, so this is somewhat of a make or break year for him. If he can improve upon his 2009 performance, there is a potential Major League job in his future. If his contact skills erode further, there won’t be much of a future for him anywhere.

Grade C+ Prospects

14) Wade Gaynor, 3B; 15) Casper Wells, CF; 16) Alfredo Figaro, RHP; 17) Gustavo Nunez, SS; 18) Adam Wilk, LHP; 19) Billy Nowlin, 1B?; 20) Cale Iorg, SS; 21) Josue Carreno, RHP; 22) Clemente Mendoza, RHP; 23) Luis Marte,RHP; 24) Zach Simons, RP; 25) Charlie Furbush, LHP; 26) BrooksBrown, RHP; 27) Jon Kibler, RHP; 28) Michael Torrealba, RP; 29) Brett Jacobsen, RP; 30) Brayan Villarreal, RHP.

Grade C Prospects

Duane Below; Luis Castillo; Audy Ciriaco; Andy Dirks; Brent Dlugach; Casey Fien; L.J. Gagnier; Edwin Gomez; Scott Green; Rayni Guichardo; Brandon Hamilton; Matt Hoffman; Jamie Johnson; Ramon Lebron; Melvin Mercedes; John Murrian; Alex Nunez; Lester Olivares; Luke Putkonen; Josh Rainwater; Will Rhymes; Deik Scram; Tyler Stohr; Austin Wood.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the players performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season.

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