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January 19, 2007

Future Shock

Detroit Tigers Top Ten Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Excellent Prospects
1. Cameron Maybin, cf
2. Andrew Miller, lhp
Very Good Prospects
3. Gorkys Hernandez, cf
Good Prospects
4. Jair Jurrjens, rhp
Average Prospects
5. Jordan Tata, rhp
6. Ronnie Bourquin, 3b
7. Scott Sizemore, 2b
8. Brent Clevlen, of
9. Eulogio De La Cruz, rhp
10. Ed Campusano, lhp

1. Cameron Maybin, cf
DOB: 4/4/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2005, North Carolina HS
What he did in 2006: .304/.387/.457 at Low A (445 PA)
The Good: On sheer athleticism and tools, Maybin is the total package, with a brutal home park hurting his nonetheless impressive numbers, as evidenced by road line of .333/.416/.517. Excellent hand-eye coordination and big time raw power that should begin to show up more in games as he improves his pitch recognition. Plus-plus runner who almost effortlessly covers the outfield from gap to gap and has a strong arm.
The Bad: Maybin has trouble with breaking balls, and is prone to chasing pitches, which led to a lofty strikeout total. He needs to improve the accuracy of his throws.
The Irrelevant: In 11 at-bats with the bases loaded, Maybin had three singles, a double, two grand slams and 16 RBI.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A healthy Eric Davis.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: High. Maybin will likely start the year in the Florida State League, which means the power surge might have to wait another year.

2. Andrew Miller, lhp
DOB: 5/21/85
Height/Weight: 6-6/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted: 1st round, 2006, University of North Carolina
What he did in 2006: 0.00 ERA at High A (5-2-1-9); 6.10 ERA at MLB (10.1-8-10-6)
The Good: Considered by many to be the best talent in the 2006 draft. 92-96 mph fastball has touched 98, while height and angular delivery add downward plane and strong deception. Hard slider features depth and tilt, with late, quick break out of the zone.
The Bad: While Miller's stuff is there in every outing, his control is not, and he clearly had problems finding his rhythm while coming out of the bullpen during his big league debut. His changeup needs work.
The Irrelevant: A third-round pick by the Devil Rays in 2003, Miller was the highest unsigned pick from that year's draft.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: An All-Star lefthander.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. Miller will likely be on the Justin Verlander plan, beginning the year in the Florida State League and quickly moving up to Double-A once things warm up in the Eastern League cities.

3. Gorkys Hernandez, cf
DOB: 9/7/87
Height/Weight: 6-0/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Signed: Venezuela, 2005
What he did in 2006: .327/.356/.463 at Rookie level (217 PA)
The Good: Five-tool Venezuelan teenager had impressive stateside debut, showing the holy trinity of bat speed, raw power and the ability to make consistent contact. Plus runner who should develop into an above-average center fielder.
The Bad: Despite his production, Hernandez is still raw in many phases of the game. His swing-at-everything approach will hurt him against more advanced pitching. He needs to improve his jumps and routes in the outfield.
The Irrelevant: In 59 GCL at-bats against lefthanders, Hernandez was the anti-Three True Outcomes hero with one home run, one walk, and three strikeouts.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: Hernandez has star potential, but it's too early to say in what role.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Very High. Hernandez will make his full season debut at Low-A West Michigan, not the easiest place to have a breakthrough season.

4. Jair Jurrjens, rhp
DOB: 1/29/86
Height/Weight: 6-1/160
Bats/Throws: R/R
Signed: Curacao, 2003
What he did in 2006: 2.08 ERA at High A (73.2-53-10-59); 3.36 ERA at AA (67-71-21-53)
The Good: Top righthander in the system has been moved aggressively, holding his own at Double-A before his 21st birthday. Has lived up to his projections by adding velocity on his fastball over the past 24 months, now sitting at 90-93 mph and touching 95. Strike-throwing machine who mixes in his curveball and changeup at any point in the count.
The Bad: Jurrjens can be accused of throwing too many strikes and needs to work more on setting up hitters and using his breaking ball as a chase pitch. Scouts wonder if any of his pitches projects as a big league out pitch.
The Irrelevant: Likes the home cooking: In seven home starts for Double-A Erie, Jurrjens had a 1.76 ERA. In five away starts, his ERA ballooned to 5.88.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. Jurrjens has been a pleasant surprise to the Tigers, but with pitching being a strength in the majors and minors for the organization, there's no need to push him any further. He'll likely begin the season by returning to Double-A.

5. Jordan Tata, rhp
DOB: 9/20/81
Height/Weight: 6-6/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 16th round, 2003, Sam Houston State
What he did in 2006: 3.84 ERA at AAA (122-117-49-86); 6.14 ERA at MLB (14.2-14-7-6)
The Good: Big pitcher was surprise addition to 2006 Opening Day roster and pitched well at Triple-A. Fastball has average velocity but above-average location and movement, with Tata's size giving him a good downward angle on all offerings. Both curve and changeup are at least average big league offerings.
The Bad: Despite his size, Tata is more of a command and finesse pitcher as opposed to a power one. He's aware of his occasional struggles with left-handers and at times can be guilty of addressing the issue by pitching around them.
The Irrelevant: In his two years at Sam Houston State, Tata went 8-15 with a 5.49 ERA in 33 games.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A back-of-the-rotation starter who keeps his team in the game, but needs some help from the offense as well.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low. Tata is in the tough position of being ready for a major league team that has no room for him. To avoid stagnating in the minors, he'll compete for a long relief job in spring training.

6. Ronnie Bourquin, 3b
DOB: 4/29/85
Height/Weight: 6-3/205
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted: 2nd round, 2006, Ohio State University
What he did in 2006: .266/.391/.349 at Short-season (304 PA)
The Good: One of the more attractive 2006 draftees for those who highly value performance. Advanced hitter features outstanding approach and laces line drives from gap to gap. Good runner for size and above-average arm at third base.
The Bad: Bourquin has size and strength, but his level swing limits his power, and his power potential. He can be guilty at times of going from patient at the plate to passive. He needs to improve his footwork at the hot corner.
The Irrelevant: A three-sport star at Canton South High School, Bourquin was two-time all-state player as a defensive back, and a two-time second-team all-state honoree in basketball.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A starting third baseman whose offensive value is in reaching base and scoring runs instead of driving them in.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. The fact that Bourquin doesn't have the highest upside is mitigated by the fact that he could move quickly through the system. He should be able to handle an assignment to High-A in 2007.

7. Scott Sizemore, 2b
DOB: 1/4/85
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 5th round, 2006, Virginia Commonwealth University
What he did in 2006: .327/.394/.435 at Short-season (333 PA)
The Good: Disappointing junior year dropped Sizemore in draft, but Tigers feel they got a steal after his strong pro debut. Quick bat and gap power creates consistent hard contact and hitting skills are supplemented by good approach.
The Bad: Sizemore is not especially athletic and needs to improve his defensive fundamentals in order to stay in the middle of the infield. Limited power projection.
The Irrelevant: Sizemore went to Hickory High School in Virginia, the same school that produced David Wright and both of baseball's Upton brothers.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: An average starting second baseman with some utility possibilities as a backup.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. While he played shortstop in his pro debut, Sizemore's future is as an offensively-minded second baseman. Like Bourquin, his timetable will be designed to get him to Double-A by 2008.

8. Brent Clevlen, of
DOB: 10/27/83
Height/Weight: 6-2/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 2nd round, 2002, Texas HS
What he did in 2006: .230/.313/.357 at AA (451 PA); .282/.317/.641 at MLB (42 PA)
The Good: Coming off an MVP year in the Florida State League, Clevlen was awful in Double-A, but impressive in a pair of short big league stints. Classic right field tool set with size, athleticism, plus raw power and an above-average arm.
The Bad: It's hard to get worked up over Clevlen's 39 big league at bats when the majority of the year was a Double-A nightmare. Clevlen's swing is designed for power only, leading to unacceptable contact rates, including 153 whiffs in 434 at-bats last year.
The Irrelevant: Clevlen has averaged 16.7 outfield assists per 162 games as a pro.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A power-hitting corner outfielder whose limitations keep him in the fifth or sixth spot in the batting order.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Disturbingly High. Clevlen hit just .224/.300/.350 in his first Florida State League go-around before breaking out, and now he likely needs to repeat Double-A.

9. Eulogio De La Cruz, rhp
DOB: 3/12/84
Height/Weight: 5-11/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Signed: 2001, Dominican Republic
What he did in 2006: 3.43 ERA at AA (105-103-45-87); 11.57 ERA at AAA (2.1-4-2-3)
The Good: Big arm in small package who was surprisingly more effective when moved out of the bullpen and into the rotation. 94-96 mph fastball has a little bit of sink; it touched 98 in 2006 and he has hit 100 mph in previous years. Curveball is second plus pitch, a hard-breaking tumbler featuring late horizontal fade.
The Bad: Stats don't match the stuff. De La Cruz's height can work against him, as the fastball--despite excellent velocity--can be surprisingly hittable as it lacks a strong downward plane. He has problems throwing his breaking balls for strikes, allowing hitters to lay off when they recognize it.
The Irrelevant: De La Cruz gave up just three home runs at Erie, two of which came in his final start for the SeaWolves.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A power starter or reliever.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. De La Cruz will begin the year at Triple-A and should be one of the first pitchers to get the big league call should a need arise.

10. Edward Campusano, lhp
DOB: 7/14/82
Height/Weight: 6-4/170
Bats/Throws: L/L
Signed: 2001, Dominican Republic (Cubs)
What he did in 2006: 1.21 ERA at Low A (29.2-16-9-47); 1.75 ERA at AA (25.2-22-8-34)
The Good: Rule Five pickup had more strikeouts (81) than base runners allowed (55) while proving himself at Double-A. Fastball/slider combination out of the bullpen and both are above-average offerings with the heater sitting at 92-94 mph and slider featuring strong horizontal sweep and late downward break.
The Bad: As a Rule Five pick, Campusano has to stick in the majors to stay with the Tigers and his track record for success at the upper levels consists of 25.2 innings. He has a tendency to elevate his fastball.
The Irrelevant: Midwest League lefthanders facing Campusano went 3-for-23 with 11 strikeouts.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A solid lefty bullpen option who is more than just a LOOGY.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low. Campusano needs to make the team out of spring training in order to stick with Detroit, but there are openings in the Detroit bullpen.

The Sleeper

2006 third-round pick Brennan Boesch is a big, athletic outfielder who never lived up to expectations during his three years in Berkeley with the Cal Bears. He's got plenty of power potential that is still just potential, unfortunately, to go with decent hitting skills.

The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies 25 Years Old Or Younger (As Of Opening Day 2007)

1. Justin Verlander, rhp
2. Jeremy Bonderman, rhp
3. Cameron Maybin, cf
4. Andrew Miller, lhp
5. Joel Zumaya, rhp
6. Gorkys Hernandez, cf
7. Jair Jurrjens, rhp
8. Jordan Tata, rhp
9. Ronnie Bourquin, 3b
10. Scott Sizemore, 2b

Obviously, developing pitching talent has been one of the keys to Detroit's turnaround, and with Miller, there is another stud coming. Ranking those first five was another challenge that was worthy of a Cleveland-style poll, so I'll get to that soon in an upcoming Unfiltered post.

While Detroit has an enviable hitter/pitcher pair in Maybin and Miller, the talent in the system drops off significantly after those two; by the end of the Top 10, one is left grasping for straws, as anytime a Rule Five pick makes a top 10, we're talking wading pool depth.

Next: The Kansas City Royals, another team with plenty on top and then a severe drop off...

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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