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November 14, 2007

Future Shock

Tigers Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Five-Star Prospects
1. Cameron Maybin, OF
2. Rick Porcello, RHP
Four-Star Prospects
None
Three-Star Prospects
3. Casey Crosby, LHP
4. Cale Iorg, SS
5. Brandon Hamilton, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
6. Jeff Larish, 1B
7. Eulogio De La Cruz, RHP
8. Scott Sizemore, 2B/SS
9. Michael Hollimon, 2B/SS
10. Yorman Bazardo, RHP
11. Dallas Trahern, RHP

Just Missing: Matt Joyce, OF; Virgil Vasquez, RHP; Danny Worth, SS

1. Cameron Maybin, OF
DOB: 4/4/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2005, Roberson HS (NC)
2007 Stats: .571/.667/.571 at Rookie-Level (2 G); .304/.393/.486 at High-A (83 G); .400/.538/1.050 at Double-A (6 G); .143/.208/.265 at MLB (24 G)

Year In Review: When not sidelined with shoulder problems, the elite-level prospect impressed in the Florida State League, hit four home runs in six Double-A games, and spent the last six weeks with the big league squad, where he rarely played, and rarely produced.
The Good: When it comes to tools, Maybin is Home Depot. He has outstanding size and athleticism, projecting to hit for average and power, while also being a total burner. He covers the ground in center field effortlessly, and his arm is outstanding. He's shown a solid approach at the plate, has great instincts on the base paths, and backs up his natural ability with a strong work ethic.
The Bad: Maybin has accumulated lofty strikeout totals so far in his career, and his swing can get long at times. He understands the strike zone well, but needs to improve his pitch recognition, as he's prone to chasing breaking balls out of the zone, a weakness that big league pitchers picked up on quickly and exploited.
Fun Fact: During his week at Double-A, Maybin stepped to the plate five times with runners in scoring position, resulting in two walks, two singles, and a home run.
Perfect World Projection: A transcendent star who puts fannies in the seats.
Timetable: Despite his season-ending big league stint, the Tigers are the first to admit that Maybin is not ready yet, and not part of their immediate big league plans. He'll likely begin 2008 at Triple-A Toledo to put the finishing touches on his game.

2. Rick Porcello, RHP
DOB: 12/27/88
Height/Weight: 6-5/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2007, Seton Hall Prep (NJ)
2007 Stats: Signed late; did not play

Year In Review: Entering the year as the top high school player in the draft, Porcello earned national player of the year honors despite not living up to the almost impossible expectations set for him. With Scott Boras setting his price tag, many teams passed on him in the first round, which is how he fell to Detroit at No. 27, where he was an easy choice for David Chadd considering his affinity for big guys who throw hard. Porcello signed at the deadline for a major league deal worth around $7 million.
The Good: Some scouting directors saw Porcello as the top high school right-hander of the decade, and the best since Josh Beckett went second overall in 1999. He has the ideal pitcher's frame as well as clean, loose arm action. His fastball sits in the 92-96 mph range, touches 98, and some think there is plenty of room for more once his frame fills out. He throws two breaking balls, and scouts differ as to whether the slider or curve projects as the better pitch, as both already flash as plus at times. Despite never needing the pitch in high school, he knows what a changeup is and has some feel to it. He's also a terrific athlete who fields his position well and is a very good hitter.
The Bad: Porcello ran into occasional control issues this year, but few see it as a long-term concern. He'll need to improve his changeup, and some feel he'd be best served by focusing on just one breaking pitch.
Fun Fact: While Seton Hall Prep is famous for its athletics, producing a number of professional baseball and basketball players, it's also played a role in the indie rock scene, graduating Ted Leo (Ted Leo & The Pharmacists) and guitarist Matt Sweeney (Chavez, Guided By Voices, Zwan).
Perfect World Projection: Another young stud starter with staff ace possibilities.
Timetable: Despite signing too late to make his pro debut, Porcello might start his career in a full-season league, at Low-A West Michigan. He has the ability to dominate the league in the same manner Clayton Kershaw did this year.

3. Casey Crosby, LHP
DOB: 9/17/88
Height/Weight: 6-5/200
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted: 5th round, 2007, Kaneland HS (IL)
2007 Stats: Signed late; did not play

Year In Review: The top high schooler in Illinois, Crosby fell in the draft due to bonus considerations, and Detroit scooped him up in the fifth round, then signed him to a nearly $750,000 bonus.
The Good: On pure talent, Crosby was one of the top three high school lefties available this June. Like Porcello, he represents Chadd's affinity for tall power pitchers, as he's got the height and can touch 94 mph with his fastball. He throws a hard slider that some rank as plus, and gets high scores for his makeup. Like Porcello, he's also an excellent athlete.
The Bad: Crosby's secondary pitches need work, as his slider can get sweepy at times, and his changeup is rudimentary. His three-quarters arm slot turns off some scouts, and his release point can vary when his multi-part mechanics get out of sync.
Fun Fact: He's from a small town (Maple Park, IL) in the far-western suburbs of Chicago. Crosby is the first player ever to be drafted out of Kaneland High School.
Perfect World Projection: A solid middle-of-the-rotation star, with some star potential.
Timetable: Another 2007 draftee who signed too late to play, Crosby's 2008 assignment will be dictated by how he looks in spring training. He's not nearly as polished as Porcello, and will likely need a short-season stint for the first dip of his toes into the pro waters.

4. Cale Iorg, SS
DOB: 9/6/85
Height/Weight: 6-2/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 6th round, 2005, University of Alabama
2007 Stats: .182/.308/.182 at Rookie-level (3 G); .278/.316/.389 at High-A (5 G)

Year In Review: An All-SEC Freshman in 2005, Iorg spent the last two years on a Mormon mission, but was draft-eligible because he turned 21 during his time away from the game. The Tigers drafted him in the sixth round and then surprised many by giving him a $1.5 million bonus--first-rounder money, when most had previously evaluated him as a second- or third-round talent.
The Good: Despite some feeling that the bonus was excessive, it was required to prevent Iorg from transferring to Arizona State, and he does have the tools and size to fit into the new mold of the modern shortstop. He has a quick bat, smooth swing, and could develop a bit of power with the necessary adjustments. He's a tick above average as a runner, and a very good defender with excellent actions and a solid, accurate arm.
The Bad: Iorg hasn't played the game for two years, so he was understandably raw in his return. He's now 22 years old and has just one year of college baseball under his belt, so he's well behind the standard development curve, with his combination of age and inexperience presenting a significant challenge.
Fun Fact: Iorg's older brother Eli Iorg, a prospect in the Astros system, spent his two-year mission in Argentina, while Cale spent his in Portugal.
Perfect World Projection: An above-average everyday shortstop.
Timetable: Iorg's showing in spring training will be the first extended look the team has gotten of Iorg in almost three years, and it will determine if he begins the year in Low- or High-A; the latter is more likely.

5. Brandon Hamilton, RHP
DOB: 12/25/88
Height/Weight: 6-2/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2007, Stanhope Elmore HS (AL)
2007 Stats: 3.10 ERA at Rookie-level (20.1-12-12-23)

Year In Review: Alabama's top high school arm had an up-and-down senior year, but (and I realize this is sounding like a broken record) as an arm-strength guy with good size, he fit well with the Tigers' draft strategy and was very impressive in his pro debut.
The Good: Hamilton's raw stuff is arguably first-round caliber, as he relies primarily on a 90-93 mph fastball that has touched 96 mph, as well as a slider that features depth and tilt and already ranks as a plus pitch. He works low in the zone and generates a good number of ground balls.
The Bad: Hamilton's mechanics are far from ideal, leading to both command problems and injury concerns. All of his pitches can be inconsistent, and he'll need to develop a changeup in order to remain a starter. He has a high ceiling, but many see him as no more than an arm strength guy who is too unrefined to develop into a star.
Fun Fact: During his brief pro debut, batters with runners in scoring position went 2-for-18 with seven strikeouts against Hamilton.
Perfect World Projection: A power pitcher; it's too early to say anything more.
Timetable: Hamilton isn't ready for a full-season league yet. He'll most likely begin the year in extended spring training to work on the rougher edges of his game before reporting to Detroit's New York-Penn League squad in June.

6. Jeff Larish, 1B
DOB: 10/11/82
Height/Weight: 6-2/200
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted: 5th round, 2005, Arizona State
2007 Stats: .267/.390/.515 at Double-A (132 G)

Year In Review: Following a solid but somewhat disappointing year in the Florida State League, Larish broke out in 2007, leading the Eastern League in home runs (28) and RBI (101).
The Good: Larish has the necessary secondary skills to be a big league first baseman. He has a patient approach, and draws walks in droves. Incredibly strong, he has plus power to all fields, and doesn't have to make contact on the sweet spot of the bat in order to muscle it out of the park. While his range is below average at first base, he's otherwise a good defender with soft hands and a knack for picking throws up out of the dirt.
The Bad: It's hard to project Larish as any kind of future star, as his swing has a natural uppercut that helps his power, but also limits his long-term ability to hit for average. He's a below-average runner.
Fun Fact: A highly-regarded player after his junior year who went unsigned by the Dodgers as a 17th-round pick in 2004, by playing four years of college baseball, Larish's name is all over the Arizona State record books, as he ranks second in career home runs, trailing only Bob Horner, and second in career walks, behind Alvin Davis.
Perfect World Projection: A starting first baseman for a second-division team, or outstanding bench player in the mold of Craig Wilson, back when he was good.
Timetable: Carlos Guillen's move to first base leaves Larish blocked for now. He'll begin the year at Triple-A Toledo, and could be one of their primary trading chips come July.

7. Eulogio De La Cruz, RHP
DOB: 3/12/84
Height/Weight: 5-11/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: NDFA, 2001, Dominican Republic
2007 Stats: 3.41 ERA at Double-A (66-54-19-57); 3.52 ERA at Triple-A (38.1-41-18-25); 6.75 ERA at MLB (6.2-10-4-5)

Year In Review: The hard-throwing Dominican righty put together some dominating starts at Double-A, and spent a couple of weeks in the big league bullpen before going back down to a relief role at Triple-A.

The Good: De La Cruz's stuff has always far surpassed his statistics. His heat sits consistently in the 93-96 mph range, touched 98 this year, and has hit triple digits in the past. His hard-breaking curve gives him a second plus pitch, and he has an acceptable changeup.
The Bad: De La Cruz's fastball will never be as effective as his velocity would indicate, as the pitch comes in on a flat plane because of his smallish stature, features little movement, and is often elevated. He prefers to break his curveball into the dirt, and more advanced hitters have learned how to lay off the pitch and sit on the heater.
Fun Fact: In three big league road games, De La Cruz retired eight of the nine batters he faced. At home, 13 of 23 reached base.
Perfect World Projection: A late-innings reliever, but not a closer.
Timetable: De La Cruz will compete for a bullpen role in spring training, and will start the year at Triple-A if he doesn't earn a big league job.

8. Scott Sizemore, 2B/SS
DOB: 1/4/85
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 5th round, 2006, Virginia Commonwealth
2007 Stats: .265/.376/.390 at Low-A (125 G)

Year In Review: The advanced college hitter got off to a surprisingly slow start in full-season debut, but came on strong at the end of the season, hitting .311/.396/.469 after the All-Star break.
The Good: Sizemore's bat is his best tool. He works the count well, rarely strikes out, and has gap power. Defensively, he's fundamentally sound at second, turns the double play well, but he can also play shortstop in a pinch.

The Bad: Sizemore will never hit many home runs. He's no more than an average runner and can't play on the left side every day, meaning he has to project as an everyday player on the right side.
Fun Fact: When batting first or third in the West Michigan lineup, Sizemore went 5-for-37 (.135).
Perfect World Projection: An average starter at second base, with some possibilities to develop into a utility player.
Timetable: Sizemore has been impressing scouts in the Arizona Fall League, where he has been playing exclusively at shortstop. While he's slated to begin 2008 at High-A, the Tigers hope to have him at Double-A by midseason.

9. Michael Hollimon, 2B/SS
DOB: 6/14/82
Height/Weight: 6-1/185
< b>Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted: 16th round, 2005, Oral Roberts
2007 Stats: .282/.371/.478 at Double-A (127 G); .211/.250/.368 at Triple-A (5 G)

Year In Review: After putting up big Low-A numbers in 2006 that were somewhat mitigated by his age, Hollimon skipped High-A, but didn't skip a beat offensively at Double-A.
The Good: Hollimon has an above-average offensive skill set for a middle infielder. He works the count well and has at least average power. He's a very good base runner who is fundamentally sound with the glove. He's a hard worker who sets an example for other players in terms of both behavior and commitment to the game.
The Bad: Hollimon is not especially fast and has already been moved from shortstop to second base; even there, his range is a little short. Because he played four years at college, he's already 25, so he's behind the curve developmentally and has no more projection.
Fun Fact: Hollimon his .262/.362/.440 as a second baseman, but was at .339/.389/.585 when in the lineup as a shortstop.
Perfect World Projection: A second-division starter or utility player.
Timetable: Hollimon will begin the year at Triple-A, and his ability to fill in at multiple positions will put him on the short list for a call up should the need arise.

10. Yorman Bazardo, RHP
DOB: 7/11/84
Height/Weight: 6-2/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: NDFA, 2000, Venezuela (Mariners)
2007 Stats: 3.75 ERA at Triple-A (136.2-134-43-69); 2.28 ERA at MLB (23.2-19-5-15)

Year In Review: Acquired from the Mariners for outfielder Jeff Frazier prior to spring training, Bazardo pitched at an acceptable level for Detroit's Triple-A team, and finished the year with some impressive showings in the big leagues.
The Good: Bazardo's got big league stuff--his fastball ranges from 91-95 mph, and both his curveball and changeup rate as average offerings. He works quickly, keeps his pitches down, throws strikes, and mixes his pitches well.
The Bad: Bazardo doesn't have that one go-to offering when he needs it, and he has trouble missing bats more often than not. There have been some makeup questions in the past with him, but those seem to be a thing of the past.
Fun Fact: During his 21 starts for Triple-A Toledo, Bazardo has a 5.57 ERA in the first inning, and a 1.31 mark in the second.
Perfect World Projection: Bazardo could be equally effective as a starter or reliever. His best role might be as a swingman.
Timetable: Bazardo will be given the opportunity to earn a big league job in spring training, but as with De La Cruz, it could be an uphill battle.

11. Dallas Trahern, RHP
DOB: 11/29/85
Height/Weight: 6-3/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 34th round, 2004, Owasso HS (OK)
2007 Stats: 3.87 ERA at Double-A (162.2-177-51-92); 2.84 ERA at Triple-A (6.1-5-3-2)

Year In Review: An obscure 34th-round pick three years ago, Trahern continued to get the job done, getting off to a great start at Double-A before a late-season slide brought his overall numbers down.
The Good: Trahern is a ground-ball machine, often giving outfielders the night off when his 88-91 mph sinker is on, which is more often than not. He mixes in a slider and changeup to keep hitters honest, but lives off the sinker. He's a good athlete who is especially adept at fielding bunts.
The Bad: Trahern doesn't strike out many hitters, and likely never will. His slider can flatten out at times, and his changeup needs considerable improvement. Left-handers feast on Trahern, hitting .308 against him this year with only 43 strikeouts in 318 at-bats. Many scouts are convinced that Trahern's arsenal will never work at the big league level.
Fun Fact: Trahern's high school alma mater drew throngs of scouts this year to see Cardinals first-round pick Peter Kozma, and draws throngs of country music fans year-round as stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood live on a ranch in the small town of Owasso.
Perfect World Projection: A back-of-the-rotation starter that does wonders for his infielders' range factors.
Timetable: Trahern will attempt to continue his conversion of non-believers at Triple-A in 2008, and could make his big league debut at some point during the season.

The Sleeper: People aren't really sure what to make of catcher Jamie Skelton. At 5-foot-11 and around 165 pounds, he's likely the slightest-built backstop you'll ever see at the pro level, but at the same time he hit .309/.402/.448 this year in the Midwest League while throwing out 42.5 percent of opposing basestealers.

The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies Under 25 (As Of Opening Day 2008)

1. Cameron Maybin, OF
2. Rick Porcello, RHP
3. Andrew Miller, LHP
4. Joel Zumaya, RHP
5. Casey Crosby, LHP
6. Cale Iorg, SS
7. Brandon Hamilton, RHP
8. Jeff Larish, 1B
9. Eulogio De La Cruz, RHP
10. Scott Sizemore, 2B/SS

Generally seen as the top arm in the 2006 draft class, Miller reached the big leagues quickly, but has failed to really impress, as mechanical inconsistencies have led to control problems and less effective secondary pitches. There's still plenty of optimism with him, but there aren't nearly as many projecting stardom for him as there were back when he was at North Carolina.

Already a below-average system, the Tigers' prospect list was hurt considerably by the Edgar Renteria trade, which cost them Gorkys Hernandez and Jair Jurrjens, players who would have ranked third and fourth on this list, respectively. Much of the organization's future improvement in this regard revolves around the 2007 draft class, for which scouting director David Chadd was given a blank check. The good news is that they are still a primarily young, talented team at the big league level. The bad news is that any real help after Maybin might be a while in coming.

Next: The Kansas City Royals

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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