Monday, June 04, 2007

Detroit Tigers top 40 prospects in 2007

While the Tigers are having success on the field, one could argue that they are having even more success in their minor league system. It seems like Dave Dombrowski brings in more talent with each draft class than the Tigers did in the entire decade of the 90s. I think it seems that way because it’s true. In just three drafts, Dombrowski has stocked the farm system with enough potential that it’s hard for anyone to agree on the best 20 prospects in the organization. It wasn’t too long ago that there weren’t even 20 prospects in the organization if you go by the true definition of the word. The exciting thing about having a deep minor league crop is that it serves two purposes: it fuels the big league club with talent; and it allows the club to go after big-names via trades.

Five years ago, I looked at a Tigers prospect list to see who would be the franchise’s savior. I didn’t look at Juan Encarnacion or Gabe Kapler as trade bait. I simply hoped they would turn the club around. Now that the Tigers appear to be set up as World Series contenders for the foreseeable future, the prospect list shifts more towards a “trade” list. The Tigers have considerable pitching depth which leaves few open spots in the rotation for the next 8-10 years. Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, and Andrew Miller should be starters in Detroit for a long time. Nate Robertson may not be going anywhere soon either. Although, I am sure the Tigers could turn him—and a few prospects—into a very good position player if they so desire.

I have been following the progress of each of the minor league teams daily. Ever since Dombrowski came aboard, I’ve enjoyed following the minors as much as I’ve enjoyed following the Tigers. Granted, following the minors involves a lot more reading than watching. Without seeing the games in person, it is impossible to get a complete understanding of how much potential a player might have. For instance, a pitcher at Oneonta (A-) might have a 1.50 ERA. That looks good on paper but the ERA doesn’t say whether the pitcher throws 96 or 88 MPH. There is more information available on some prospects than others.

I have done my best to create a list highlighting the best prospects in the organization. While I can’t say that my list is ”spot-on” due to the lack of information available, I can say that I put enough research into that it should be a fairly accurate indication of the best prospects in the organization. My criterion for this list involved many factors including; trade value, major league readiness, potential, age, minor league performance, and progression. If I had to sum this list up into one objective, it would be “value to the organization”.

It’s also important to remember that this list is both fluid and subjective. Prospects can go from “has-beens” to “the next best thing” in just a few months (see; Virgil Vasquez) and vice versa (see; Brent Clevlen and, ironically, Virgil Vasquez). It’s also important to remember that things change considerably between now and the end of the season like the addition of the 2007 draft picks. In a few months, some of these players may have suffered injuries, may have been traded, or may have regressed significantly. All I can attest to is that this is the way I see things as of the date the post was published. If you asked me to put together the same list last week or next week, I’m sure the list would have quite a few variances. I've included postion, minor league level, date of birth, and how the Tigers acquired each player. For more in-depth minor league information, check out "The Baseball Cube". Most importantly, this list is for entertainment and informative purposes--it's not meant to be the perfect prospect list--so enjoy.

Top 40 Prospects

1. Cameron Maybin CF A

4/4/1987 (1st round 2005)

Maybin is the most promising position prospect the Tigers have had in decades. I know there hasn't been a more hyped prospect in my life-time. He gets the nod over Andrew Miller at #1 because of how fragile the Tigers’ position depth is in the minors. He is slightly more important to the future of the Tigers than Miller. As far as I can tell, Maybin is every bit as good as his press-clippings. Maybin's line for the season is .306/.422/.478. Those numbers are better across the board than his 2006 totals at West Michigan (A-). The only knocks on Maybin thus far are his strikeout rate and lower-than-anticipated power numbers. Maybin is 3rd in the Florida State League (FSL) in walks so he definitely has pitch recognition skills despite his strikeout rate. He is an untouchable commodity for the Tigers. GM Dave Dombrowski said last season that he wouldn't trade Maybin straight up for Alfonso Soriano and that was in the middle of a pennant race. It’s important not to expect too much from Maybin too soon. I think he will be very good in time. Right now, he’s just touching the surface of his ability.

2. Andrew Miller LHP AA

5/21/1985 (First round 2006)

Miller is the most promising left-handed pitching prospect the Tigers have had in decades. Notice a trend here? He has wicked off-speed stuff to go with a 96 MPH fastball. He excelled in his first start in AA with eight innings of one-run ball. He currently has a .59 ERA (!!!) in four starts at Erie. He made his MLB debut for the Tigers last month in a spot-start in which he pitched six shutout innings picking up the victory. Miller will likely become a full-time starter in Detroit by next season. I can’t imagine the Tigers sticking with Mike Maroth over Miller beyond this season. Miller is better than half of MLB starters right now. Don't be surprised to see Miller called-up to be the '07 version of Joel Zumaya especially with the Tigers recent bullpen struggles.

3. Dallas Trahern RHP AA

11/29/1985 (34th round 2004)

This is the spot where you'll probably find most other lists differing from mine. Jair Jurrjens is certainly a viable option for the #3 prospect in the organization but Trahern has advanced past Jurrjens in both minor league progression--Trahern has pitched at AAA--and production. Considering how highly touted Jurrjens has been, that is quite a feat for Trahern. In 10 starts at Erie (AA), Trahern has compiled a 2.45 ERA. That earned him a promotion--at least temporarily-- to Toledo (AAA) which resulted in 6.1 innings of two-run ball. He has succeeded at all levels in the minors without being a strikeout pitcher or having the best control. His K/9 in Erie this season is underwhelming 4.65. His K/9 in 25 starts at Lakeland (A) last season was similar at 5.35. His WHIP is decent. Last season it was 1.18. This season in Erie (AA) it is 1.20. Considering Trahern is not a strikeout pitcher, those numbers will probably rise in the majors. He is still very young at 21. Once he learns how to pitch, he should end up being a very effective pitcher for the Tigers or for another organization. With Miller in the fold—and Dave Dombrowski’s penchant for stockpiling pitchers every draft--Trahern becomes the Tigers top trade bait along with Jurrjens. The better Trahern pitches in the minors, the better chance the Tigers will have of making a big-time trade at the deadline. I would love to see Trahern make it to Detroit but with Miller, Justin Verlander, Bonderman and Nate Robertson ahead of him in Detroit, Trahern may find his way to the majors through another organization.

4. Jair Jurrjens RHP AA

1/29/1986 (Undrafted FA)

Jurrjens came out of nowhere in 2006 to become one of the top prospects in the organization. He had a stellar '06 campaign in Lakeland (A) where he posted a 2.08 ERA in 12 starts. He didn't have quite the same success after his midseason promotion to Erie (AA) but his numbers were still pretty good as he posted a 3.36 ERA in 12 starts. His ’07 totals in Erie are eerily (no pun intended) similar. He has the exact same ERA (3.36) through 10 starts. His secondary numbers are fairly similar to Trahern's with the exception of his K/9. Jurrjens is more of a strikeout pitcher and it shows as he consistently sports a K/9 of 6+. His better strikeout rate might help him transition to the majors more smoothly than Trahern. I think you could pretty much put them at 50/50 in terms of which one will have the better MLB career. Jurrjens, like Trahern, is primary trade bait. The rotation is log-jammed for the foreseeable future and both Jurrjens and Trahern are one year away from being major-league ready. I hate to see players of this caliber traded—especially since we have never seen this many good players in the organization before--but they can either waste away in the minors or help the Tigers bring in a missing piece via a trade.

5. Eulogio De La Cruz RHP AA

3/12/1984 (Undrafted FA)

This guy has pitched so well as of late that I would not argue if you wanted to put him ahead of Trahern and Jurrjens. In three consecutive starts at Erie (AA) in April/May, De La Cruz pitched 24 innings with an ERA of 1.50 and 28 K's. This reminds me of the run that Humberto Sanchez got on last year that resulted in him becoming a top prospect. De La Cruz can reach 100 MPH but consistently pitches 97. He is a strikeout pitcher with a K/9 at an impressive 8.1 He is short at 5'11 which could scare some teams away on the trade market. De La Cruz could be a bullpen candidate in the future but that won't happen if he continues to blow the competition away as a starter in the minors. He is another pitching prospect that the Tigers will likely dangle in front of other teams near the trade deadline. It's a shame that there isn't room for these players in Detroit. But, that's what happens when a MLB team is run the correct way. Other teams have had the problem of too many prospects and not enough open positions for years. It's just going to take some getting used to for Tigers fans (myself included).

6. Jeff Larish 1B AA

10/11/1982 (5th round 2005)

Larish is the Tigers' best non-Cameron Maybin MLB ready hitting prospect. The most encouraging number supporting Larish's prospect status is his walk total. Larish walked 81 times in Lakeland (A) last season which helped him post an .838 OPS. Unfortunately, Larish has struggled a bit in Erie (AA) this season but he is starting to come on strong. His power numbers are pretty good. He strikes out quite a bit but he also picks up a lot of walks. His slugging percentage is still reasonably high due to his 10 home runs which is among the best in the Eastern League. The outlook on Larish was probably more favorable last season when he was a year younger and looking like the first baseman of the future. That still might be the case. He'll be 25 by the end of this season which means he'll have to have an encouraging '08 to be in the plans at first base for the Tigers.

7. Ryan Raburn 2B/0F AAA

4/17/1981 (5th round 2001)

I'm not sure how this has happened but Raburn has flown under the "prospect" radar for virtually his entire existence as a minor leaguer. Raburn is 26-years old and is lighting up AAA. If you were starting a minor league fantasy baseball league, Raburn might be a guy you'd want to pick in the first round. He can play OF, 2B and 3B. He has a .925 OPS. His BB/K ratio is almost 1:1. He has 10 SB's to go along with a .282 batting average and a .400+ OBP. Raburn isn't a one year wonder either. He did all this last season too. With Placido Polanco occupying second base for the foreseeable future, Raburn's path to Detroit is blocked. I do know that if I were a MLB team in need of a second basemen, I would be trading for Raburn yesterday. I'm not sure how much better a prospect can perform in the minors. He'll be 27 or 28 before anyone gives him a chance. I keep thinking I'm missing something but I don't think I am.

8. Gorkys Hernandez OF A-

9/7/1987 (Undrafted FA)

I have no problem admitting that placing Hernandez this high could be a stretch. Hernandez is the youngest player on the list. His numbers at West Michigan (A-) are very similar to what Maybin put up last season minus the home run total. Hernandez has a very impressive line of .300/.357/.378. He has 21 SB's to go along with a .735 OPS. Hernandez's big drawback is his apparent lack of power. He has one home run in 180 at-bats. With Hernandez being so young and being at such a low level in the minors, it's impossible to forecast how good he will end up being. I have him at #8 for a number of reasons. I think there is a significant drop-off after Raburn in terms of major league ready prospects (unless Tata returns to form quickly). Hernandez is five years younger than Jeff Larish who is at #7. Hernandez has fallen off a bit as of late but that isn’t out of the ordinary for a 19-year old.

9. Jordan Tata RHP AAA

9/20/1981 (16th round 2003)

Tata is one of the older prospects in the organization. He made the opening day roster last season and looked to be ready to contribute again in 2007. Unfortunately, Tata had a run-in with a scary shoulder situation that kept him out early in ’07. He has returned to pitch three scoreless innings. If he can pick off where he started in ’06, he may be an answer to Detroit’s bullpen issues. More realistically, Tata may have a good shot at making the team in ’08. His injury likely reduces his trade value significantly so the Tigers will probably move him to a relief role.

10. Virgil Vasquez RHP AAA

6/7/1982 (8th round 2003)

Vasquez’s MLB debut was a forgettable one as he struggled to throw strikes. He consistently left the ball up in the zone which resulted in a shellacking at the hands of the Twins. There have been worse pitching performances but not making it out of the third inning is hardly the way a prospects wants to make his first impression. The problem that I see with Vasquez is that he tops out at 91 MPH. You have to have impeccable control to get by with that in MLB. Oddly, Vasquez has actually racked up strikeouts at an extremely impressive rate in Toledo (AAA). His K/9 is an eye-popping 11.0 which is almost unfathomable for a pitcher throwing 91. He clearly knows how to pitch. I think his rough debut was more attributable to "nerves" than anything else. There isn't much room for even the best pitching prospects in the organization (Trahern, Jurrjens, De La Cruz) so Vasquez's future as a Tiger looks cloudy at best. If he can reel off another string of great performances in Toledo (AAA), the Tigers may be able to package him in a trade.

11. Yorman Bazardo RHP AAA

7/11/1984 (Traded for Jeff Frazier)

Considering Jeff Frazier wasn't anywhere near a top-ten Tigers prospect, I would have to say the Bazardo/Frazier trade has to go down as a steal for the Tigers. Neither player has produced anything at the big-league level yet so I don't want to get ahead of myself. It just looks like a favorable deal at this point. Admittedly, the favorable things about Bazardo have everything to do with his "potential" and nothing to do with what he has actually been able to accomplish in the minors. He has long been considered a very good prospect. He sports a mid-90's fastball and is still relatively young at 22. Unfortunately, there are some pieces that need to be put together for Bazardo to make in impact in Detroit. Baseball Prospectus had the following to say regarding Bazardo:

"Scouts love him for his mid-90s fastball and slider. The low strikeout rate (95 K in 154.3 IP in 2004 at Jupiter in A) is a definite concern, although it's mitigated by his great control (only 30 BB in those same 154.3 IP) and insanely low home-run rate (only 3 in 2004). The real concern is his arm; by no means has Bazardo been abused, but the attrition rate is high for guys this young and this advanced."

The "low strikeout rate" has followed him at every level of the minors. In 11 starts at Toledo (AAA) this year, Bazardo has a K/9 of 4.9. His "low home-run rate" has also held true as he has only given up one in 62 innings this season. His ERA is pretty good at 3.77 to go a long with a mediocre 1.35 WHIP. The good news here is that Bazardo is pitching well at AAA despite not having put it all together yet. Hopefully the light will turn on sometime soon.

12. Chris Cody LHP A-

1/7/1984 (8th round 2006)

Cody is one of the hottest pitchers in low A baseball. His season totals are in Pedro Martinez '00 territory. He has a 1.79 ERA in 11 starts. His WHIP is .93. His BAA is a paltry .213. His K/9 is 9.2. Cody was fantastic at Oneonta (A-) in '06 and had a stellar senior season at Manhattan. Cody is still a long way from dominating big-league caliber hitters but it's hard to dominate the minor leagues more convincingly than what Cody has done this season.

13. Ryan Roberson 1B A+

8/1/1983 (30th round 2005)

Roberson did not have a productive 2006 season in the Tigers minor league system. He spent time with the GCL Tigers, West Michigan, and Lakeland. His best OPS of the bunch was .610 at Lakeland. Suffice it to say, Roberson was nowhere on the radar entering this season. Roberson has started the '07 season with authority. He has 10 home runs to go along with a .925 OPS. Roberson put up big-time numbers in college so hopefully his monster ’07 campaign is a sign that he is starting to get comfortable with the increased level of play.

14. Ryan Strieby 1B A-

8/9/1985 (4th round 2006)

Larish, Roberson, and Strieby are in a three-man race to be the first basemen of the future in Detroit. Strieby had a monster senior year at the University of Kentucky in ‘06. His stat line looks made up: .343/.473/.704. His OPS was a Barry Bonds like 1.177. He is progressing nicely at West Michigan this season with a line of .291/.354/.471. If Strieby could hit slightly better against righties (.246), he would be unstoppable. He destroys lefties at an unbelievable .415/.500/.679. That equates to an OPS of 1.179. Unlike most of the prospects outside of the top-ten, Strieby actually might make it to Detroit some day. He is a big, powerful first basemen who doesn’t strike out nearly as much as Larish and Roberson.

15. Preston Larrison RHP AAA

11/19/1980 (2nd round 2001)

Larrison has been with the organization for quite some time. He recently made the move to the bullpen which should give him a realistic chance at making it to the majors with Detroit. He has been pretty good in that role with Toledo this year with a 3.14 ERA in almost 30 innings.

16. Lucas French LHP A

9/13/1985 (8th round 2004)

French is one of a few left-handers that are putting up very good numbers in the minors for the Tigers. He had a successful '06 campaign at West Michigan (A-) and has pitched even better at Lakeland (A) this season. He has posted a 2.77 ERA in 11 starts. Unfortunately, his BAA is pretty ugly at .277. He doesn't rack up a lot of strike outs as evidenced by his 5.1 K/9 at West Michigan (A-) last season and his slightly more impressive 6.6 K/9 at Lakeland this year. Left-handed pitching prospects get a few extra points since lefties are hot commodities in MLB. French has a long way to go before anyone should get excited but he is off to a decent start.

17. Brent Clevlen OF AAA

10/27/1983 (2nd round 2002)

Clevlen has all but worn out his welcome as a Tigers top prospect. In fact, I am pretty certain that the only reason people are high on Clevlen at all anymore has to do with how well he hit in his stint with the Tigers last season. Unfortunately, 39 at-bats do not make for a successful big league career. Clevlen hit .282 with the Tigers in that many at-bats but still has never hit above .230 beyond A ball. His OPS was .670 at Erie (AA) and only got worse this year at Toledo (AAA). Clevlen has lost virtually all his trade value as he is neither productive nor young. It is possible that he'll pull it together at some point but at this point I have to go by the history.

18. Michael Hernandez OF A

12/18/1983 (Undrafted FA)

Hernandez is teaming with Maybin to form a formidable one-two punch in Lakeland’s outfield. He is in the top ten in a number of offensive categories including RBI’s, OPS, and Slugging %. He can definitely rake. He isn’t exactly young for A ball. He'll likely start off at Erie (AA) next season at the age of 24. He struggles mightily against lefties going eight for 38 this season. His biggest obstacle will be finding a place in a crowded Detroit outfield. If he can hit at the same level at Erie next season, he will become a valuable commodity around MLB.

19. Brent Dlugach SS AA

3/3/1983 (6th round 2004)

Dlugach’s K/BB ratio is among the worst I've ever seen. In 2005, his ratio was 121/19. He was slightly better (or worse depending on how you look at it) in 2006 at 144/27. Dlugach does deserve credit for the year he is putting together at Erie (AA), though. While he is on pace for 142/34, he is hitting a respectable .292 with an .818 OPS. It's encouraging that Dlugach is having his best season in the minors in the most difficult league that he has played in. That could be a sign that he is starting to mature as a hitter. Regardless, Dlugach is the Tigers top shortstop prospect in the system right now. He is currently nursing an injury but should be back within the next month.

20. Tony Giarratano 2B AA

11/29/1982 (3rd round 2003)

Giarratano hasn't played in '07 because of a knee injury. He had a pretty good season at Erie in '06 hitting .283 with a .730 OPS. He hit zero home runs in 269 at-bats which suggests he might not be a power hitter (duh!). I have no idea how much his knee injury will effect his career. He should be returning sometime in the near future so it'll be interesting to see how he bounces back.

21. Kody Kirkland 3B AA

6/9/1983 (2003 Trade)

Kirkland is having a much better '07 season at Erie (AA) than his '06 campaign which isn’t saying much. Kirkland hit .217 with 157 K's and 26 walks in '06. That is eerily similar to Rob Deer's '93 season which, as you may have guessed, isn't good. Kirkland is the de facto top third base prospect as I type this. That should change fairly soon if Ron Bourquin can get things going. If Kirkland can duplicate his current numbers next season at AAA, he'll surely catch the eye of a scout or two. He does not factor into the Tigers future plans other than in a trade unless he makes a quantum leap in the next year or two.

22. James Skelton C

10/28/1985 (14th round 2004)

Skelton is the default top catching prospect in the organization. That’s good for Skelton but bad for the Tigers considering he is only at West Michigan (A) right now. He stands in at a whopping 165 lbs. So he has that going for him. He also has a .328 batting average going for him which is in the top ten of the Midwest League. I doubt Skelton will be the Tigers answer to Pudge's retirement but he is off to a respectable start in the organization.

23. Jon Connolly LHP AA

8/24/1983 (28th round 2001)

Connolly has had some stellar minor league seasons. He has also had a few terrible ones. He is the reason why nobody should get too excited about the Cody/French/Below trio just yet. In 2003 for West Michigan (A), Connolly went 16-3 with a 1.41 ERA. Four years later, he finds himself just one level up at Erie (AA). After a rough 2006 season at Erie, he has bounced back to pitch reasonably well. He doesn't strike out a lot of hitters but he is a lefty. That is probably his biggest asset at the moment. I suspect Connolly will be pitching in Toledo (AAA) in three years but hopefully I am wrong.

24. Burke Badenhop RHP A

2/8/1983 (19th round 2005)

Badenhop has pitched much better in the Tigers organization than his college numbers would have otherwise indicated. He had successful campaigns at Oneonta (A-) and West Michigan (A) before starting this season at Lakeland (A+). He is not a strikeout pitcher which leads me to believe that he may start to struggle once he gets to Erie (AA). Badenhop is 24 and has continued to progress through the minor league system. We'll know a little more about this guy next season but the clock is running.

25. Duane Below LHP A-

11/15/1985 (19th 2006)

I’m not sure what to make of Below’s impressive ’07 numbers. If it weren't for Cody, Below would be getting all of the press at West Michigan. Below has a 3.03 ERA in eleven starts. He also sports a very impressive 9+ K/9. Like Cody, Below was not a highly-rated draft pick. Both are members of Dave Dombrowski's 2006 draft class. Both are dominating the Midwest League. Both are lefties. Both are a long way from legitimacy but the Tigers couldn’t have asked for better starts.

26. Michael Hollimon SS AA

6/14/1982 (16th round 2005)

I have a feeling that Hollimon is destined to have a Ryan Raburn existence. Raburn is a 26-year old second basemen (also plays 3B and OF) who has hit well at every level in the minors. He has no immediate future in Detroit and Hollimon might not either. Hollimon has been impressive at every level he has played as well. With Carlos Guillen signed on for the foreseeable future, Hollimon is stuck in the minors.

27. Wilkin Ramirez OF A

10/25/1985 (Undrafted FA)

Baseball America named Ramirez "the best power hitter" in the Tigers organization back in 2006. That seems laughable now since he has 33 career minor league home runs in 1,191 at-bats or one homerun every 36 at-bats. Ramirez started off his career as a third basemen but a boatload of errors caused a switch to OF. He is once again struggling at the plate posting a .242 batting average and a .642 OPS at Lakeland (A) thus far. If there was ever a position that could have gotten Ramirez some more play as a top prospect, it would have been at third base. Unfortunately, Ramirez wasn't good enough defensively to stick with a position of need for the organization.

28. Brendan Wise RHP A+

1/9/1986 (8Rd. 2005)

Wise is one of the top bullpen prospects in the Tigers' system. He was pretty good in '06 at Oneonta and has been lights-out at Lakeland after getting a late start to the season. He is a pitcher that could fly up the prospect list in the next few months.

29. Ron Bourquin 3B A+

4/29/1985 (2nd round 2006)

There are high expectations for Bourquin in the organization. He was a very good player at Ohio St. which prompted the Tigers to select him in the second round of the 2006 draft. He didn't hit particularly well at Oneonta (A-) last season and he's having an abysmal season at Lakeland (A+) this year. He is currently hitting .192. It is very early to pass judgments on Bourquin. His numbers will undoubtedly get better. Only time will tell if they improve enough for him to become a legitimate answer at third base for the Tigers.

30. Brennan Boesch OF A

4/12/1985 (3rd round 2006)

Boesch was a third-round pick for the Tigers in '06. He had a respectable season at Oneonta hitting .292. He is struggling a bit at West Michigan this season. His K:BB ratio is 31-7. His OPS is under .700 and his OBP is .290. I suspect his numbers will gradually improve as the season moves along. It's way too early to know how good Boesch will be.

31. Scott Sizemore 2B/SS A

1/4/1985 (5th round 2006)

Sizemore is starting to come on a bit after a rough start. He was the best hitter at Oneonta last season but that hasn't translated to success at West Michigan. Like the rest of his '06 draft position-player counterparts, I think he'll start to get things going sooner than later.

32. Deik Scram OF A-

2/1/1984 (18th round 2006)

Scram was an 18th round pick out of Oklahoma St. in 2006. He put up decent numbers at OSU which makes his draft status peculiar. He is arguably the hottest hitting Tiger at any level in the minors right now. He is hitting .338 at West Michigan (A) with an OBP of .417. He is a bit on the older side but he's less than a year older than Boesch who went in the third round. Scram has had a much better start to his Tiger career than Boesch. Considering he was in college a year ago, one has to be impressed with what he has accomplished in less than a year in the minors.

33. Brett Jensen RHP A

11/29/1983 (14th round 2006)

Jensen is a huge right-hander with impressive numbers. He dominated the college baseball scene at the University of Nebraska and then did the same at low A ball at Oneonta. He is putting together a very good season at West Michigan (A). He has a 1.64 ERA with 10 saves in 22 innings. Jensen is on the older side so look for him to start making his way up the minor league system presuming he continues to pitch well. He could be a player that cracks the Detroit bullpen sometime down the road along with Wise.

34. Eddie Bonine RHP AA

6/6/1981 (Rule-5 from SD)

Bonine is a 26-year old right-hander at Erie (AA). He has pitched well at times but has been roughed up in his last two outings. He has a poor K/9 rate but combats that with a relatively low B/9. Bonine rates this low because of his age. He isn't likely to sniff the big leagues anytime soon. The best the Tigers could hope is for Bonine to reel off a string of good starts to increase his trade value.

35. Hayden Parrott 2B A-
11/1988 (11th round 2006)

Parrott destroyed rookie ball pitching last season. He hit an unbelievable .429 with a 1.075 OPS. The bad news is that Parrott only played in ten games. I'm not going to go crazy over 35 at-bats but those numbers are still very impressive. I'm guessing Parrott will start at Oneonta later in the year. I'll be interested in how he does against low A ball pitching.

36. Jonah Nickerson RHP A-

3/9/1985 (7th round 2006)

Nickerson was the hero of the 2006 College World Series. He was the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament and a two-time All-American pitcher. He started off pretty well at West Michigan but has struggled as of late. His ERA is 6.14 in 11 starts. The rest of his numbers are just as poor. I have a feeling that he'll end up being a Virgil Vasquez-type prospect where he comes on unexpectedly after a few years in the minors.

37. Matt Joyce OF AA

8/3/1984 (12th round 2005)

Joyce had a very productive '06 campaign at West Michigan. He had 86 RBI's in only 122 games. Interestingly, his other numbers weren't nearly as good. His OPS was only .750. He also only managed to hit 11 home runs which presents an almost unbelievable RBI to HR ratio of 7.8 to 1. Joyce is having an abysmal season at AA this season after skipping Lakeland entirely. With a lot of outfield prospects in the organization, Joyce could get lost in the shuffle if he continues to struggle.

38. Angel Castro RHP A

11/14/1982 (13th round 2006)

Castro was a pretty old pick in 2006. For comparison, Jeremy Bonderman is only two weeks older than Castro and this is Bondo's fifth season in MLB. Castro has been very good at West Michigan this season. He has a 2.02 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. His BAA is an amazing .217 especially considering his very low K/9 rate. I'm guessing Castro's age is helping him against the younger players in low A ball. It'll be interesting to see how he progresses at Lakeland and Erie.

39. Justin Justice OF A

2/19/1985 (31st round 2003)

Justice started off the season hitting well but has tailed off significantly. His numbers are not without a glaring problem; he is 1 for 25 against lefties this season. That won't get it done at the major league level let alone at AA. Still, he had a productive season at West Michigan last year and his OPS is still not terrible at .751 this season.

40. Joe Bowen C A-

9/25/1987 (12th round 2006)

Bowen received praise for his ability to call games last year with the GCL Tigers. His offensive numbers were not impressive. He is a player that could make a jump on the prospect list with a good season at Oneonta.

The following is a list of players that you may have heard of that didn’t make the list:

Jackson Melian—He has hit well at Erie this season but he would be the oldest player on the list by almost a year. If he can hit well at Toledo next season, then he could end up having a Marcus Thames-type existence. I don’t necessarily consider Melian a prospect considering he’s been in the minors for ten years.

Sendy Vasquez—He pitched well at West Michigan last season but got eaten up at Lakeland this year before being suspended for 50 games.

Clete Thomas—Thomas has struggled at each stop in the organization.

Kyle Sleeth—After hearing good things from Jim Leyland about Sleeth in Spring Training, he has continued to struggle in the minors.

Mike Hessman—Hessman has a whopping 16 home runs at Toledo. Unfortunately, he is 29-years old.

Roman Colon—Colon isn’t necessarily a prospect in my mind especially since he spent a good portion of ’05 and ’06 with the Tigers. He’ll be 28 in August.

Chris Shelton—I don’t consider Shelton a “prospect” anymore.

Zach Miner—See; Shelton


Matty Boy said...

raburn is a classic bill james type...multi-dimensional offensive skills but nothing spectacular. he's got some pop, draws walks, steals bases, but nothing that really, really jumps out at you. he's a good offensive player at second base. unfortunately, he came up as a third baseman, and has been...oh, what's the word? brutal. beyond brutal, actually, but i can't think of a worse oneonta - 23 errors in 42 games. at west michigan - 12 errors in 17 games. he's a sub-.900 fielder at third, which made him a dh for a few years, and he just doesn't have enough pop for that.

moving him to second has been a possible career-saver - he turned 63 dp's in 99 games there at toledo in 2005 and fielded .959, which is in the "we can live with it if he keeps hitting" category. he might have a future as a spare part in an other organization.

also - is the place to look for minor league stats. they've got full career totals for everyone in organized baseball. a wonderful, dangerous site...

nice rundown, tho.

Jake said...

Matty Blue,

The Baseball Cube is, indeed, a fantastic site. In fact, that is where I got all of the pre-2007 information for the post. I would have linked the player pages from that site but it does not update statistics until after the season is over. Since 2007 statistics are most prudent for the post, I decided to go with’s player pages. I will go back and include a link to The Baseball Cube home page in the post.

As for Raburn, if there is one position that a player can afford to be average or slightly below average, it’s second base. He is blowing up right now. Here is how he ranks in a number of categories in the International League:

OPS 5th
HR’s 3rd
RBI’s 2nd
TB’s 3rd
BB’s 3rd
SB’s 12th
OBP 6th
SLG. 2nd
Runs 3rd

I’m not sure a minor leaguer can do much more than that in terms of producing across the board. I understand the defensive concerns but I am shocked that there aren’t teams around the league that are willing to take that kind of production from the second base position. Plus, he just turned 26. It’s not like he’s an old man. You might be right about him being a spare part down the road but a guy with those kinds of numbers at AAA deserves a shot at starting somewhere.

I appreciate the comments.

Take care and go Tigers!


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