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November 24, 2009

Future Shock

Tigers Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Five-Star Prospects
1. Jacob Turner, RHP
2. Casey Crosby, LHP
Four-Star Prospects
3. Scott Sizemore, 2B
Three-Star Prospects
4. Daniel Fields, SS
5. Andy Oliver, LHP
6. Alex Avila, C
7. Cody Satterwhite, RHP
8. Wilkin Ramirez, OF
9. Ryan Strieby, 1B
10. Gustavo Nunez, SS
Two-Star Prospects
11. Casper Wells, OF

Four More:
12. Alfredo Figaro, RHP: The undersized righty is a big league-ready middle reliever, but that's also his likely ceiling.
13. Melvin Mercedes, RHP: Mercedes is a teenager who is loaded with projection, but he needs plenty of refinement.
14. Cale Iorg, SS: The athletic, slick-fielding shortstop looked completely overmatched at Double-A, but he might have been rushed.
15. Brennan Boesch, OF: He's a massive outfielder with massive power and massive holes in his swing.

1. Jacob Turner, RHP
DOB: 5/21/91
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Westminster Christian Academy (MO)
2009 Stats: Did not play
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Seen by many as the top high school arm in the draft, Turner signed at the deadline for a $4.7 million bonus as part of a big league package.
The Good: With his size, stuff, and mechanics, Turner is almost a blueprint for what scouts look for in a high school arm. His fastball sits at 92-95 mph, but he touched 97-98 on several occasions this spring, and that could become more common as he matures. His slow, looping curveball features heavy break, and he already has good arm action on his changeup. He's highly poised and mature beyond his years.
The Bad: Turner just needs innings and experience. While the curveball is good, some would like to see a second power pitch out of him. He had occasional control issues this spring, but nothing that was uncommon for a 17-year-old.
Ephemera: Turner's pitching coach at Westminster was former Cardinals closer Todd Worrell.
Perfect World Projection: Turner certainly has an ace-level ceiling, to some comparing quite favorably to current Tigers ace Justin Verlander.
Path to the Big Leagues: How about letting him pitch one inning as a professional first?
Timetable: Turner signed too late to make his pro debut, but that shouldn't prevent him from beginning the 2010 season in Low-A.

2. Casey Crosby, LHP
DOB: 9/17/88
Height/Weight: 6-5/200
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2007, Kaneland HS (IL)
2009 Stats: 2.41 ERA (104.2-70-48-117) at Low-A (24 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 4

Year in Review: The high-ceiling lefty made an impressive return from Tommy John surgery, limiting the Midwest League to a .195 batting average in his full-season debut.
The Good: Crosby dominated at times with a 93-95 mph fastball that touches 97 consistently. He throws a hard curveball with biting downward action, and a changeup that projects as average down the road. He tends to work in the lower half of the strike zone and gave up just three home runs during the year.
The Bad: Like many Tommy John survivors, Crosby struggled with his command during his first year back, although his walk rate dropped as the season wore on. He can overthrow his breaking ball at times, causing it to hang, and his changeup will need refinement to avoid getting cast as a reliever.
Ephemera: Left-handed batters facing Crosby in 2009 drew 21 walks in 113 plate appearances, but they also went just 14-for-89 (.159) with 38 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: Crosby has front-of-the-rotation potential, or he could turn into a lefty closer.
Path to the Big Leagues: Who doesn't need a big lefty with power stuff?
Timetable: After staying on a strict pitch count and barely exceeding 100 innings in 2009, the Tigers will ease up on the reins a bit with Crosby at High-A Lakeland.

3. Scott Sizemore, 2B
DOB: 1/4/1985
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2006, Virginia Commonwealth University
2009 Stats: .307/.402/.535 at Double-A (59 G); .308/.378/.473 at Triple-A (71 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked (Just Missed)

Year in Review: Sizemore's an offensive-oriented infielder who stayed healthy until the Arizona Fall League, hit at both upper-level affiliates, and has put himself on the verge of the big leagues.
The Good: It's hard to find a scout who doesn't have confidence in Sizemore's bat. He has outstanding hand-eye coordination and rifles the barrel of the bat into the hitting zone, leading to plenty of doubles and projecting to hit 12-18 home runs annually. He understands the strike zone well, and his average speed plays up due to his instincts. He's plays with a quiet intensity, and scouts love his makeup.
The Bad: Sizemore's defense remains a bit sloppy. He gets bad breaks on balls and many of his errors come on seemingly routine plays. While his offensive game is good all-around, nothing about it really stands out as plus-plus.
Ephemera: The all-time home run leader for players drafted out of VCU is current Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge, with 123. No other player has more than 10.
Perfect World Projection: Sizemore can be an above-average everyday second baseman who hits in the .280 range with 15 home runs and 60 walks annually.
Path to the Big Leagues: Placido Polanco's expiring contract couldn't be timed better.
Timetable: Sizemore broke his ankle in an ugly collision in Arizona, but he's expected to be ready for spring training following minor surgery. If he performs well there, he has a good shot opening 2010 in the big leagues.

4. Daniel Fields, SS
DOB: 1/23/91
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 6th round, 2009, University of Detroit Jesuit HS (MI)
2009 Stats: Did not play
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Seen as undraftable by most clubs due to bonus demands and a strong college commitment, the Tigers got the local product (and son of former Tiger Bruce Fields) to sign, but at $1.625 million, he hardly gave them a hometown discount.
The Good: Fields has the highest ceiling among the position players in the organization, as he fits the new mold of the big, athletic shortstop. He has strong wrists and long arms, with plus power potential, and he's also a well above-average runner. His arm is another plus tool, and as the son of a big leaguer, he's already been exposed to the major league lifestyle and necessary work ethic.
The Bad: Fields' bat is well above his glove at this point, and many question his ability to stay at shortstop long term. His instincts are poor and his actions sloppy, with some feeling he'd be best served with a quick transition to center field.
Ephemera: Established in 1877, University of Detroit Jesuit High School has produced a number of NFL players, but Fields is the first baseball player ever drafted out of the school.
Perfect World Projection: No matter what the position is, Fields has impact potential as a power/speed type.
Path to the Big Leagues: It's probably going to be a long one, as Fields is quite raw, and nobody is expecting big things for a while.
Timetable: The Tigers will evaluate Fields this spring to see if he's ready for a full-season assignment, or best served by beginning 2010 in extended spring training.

5. Andy Oliver, LHP
DOB: 12/3/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/209
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2009, Oklahoma State University
2009 Stats: Did not play (debut in AFL)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Possibly distracted by drawn-out legal problems with the NCAA over his use of an agent, Oliver had a disappointing junior year, but his tools alone still generated a bonus just short of $1.5 million.
The Good: Oliver is a classic power pitcher with the added benefit of coming from the left side. He parks his fastball at 93-96 mph, with the pitch featuring good movement. He does a good job of working all four quadrants of the strike zone. He's tall and strong, maintaining his velocity deep into games. His change has good arm action and a nice amount of drop, and it could turn into a true swing-and-miss offering with some refinement, and many scouts feel that getting out from under the thumb of the NCAA will play a big role is his development.
The Bad: Much of Oliver's future will revolve around the development of his breaking ball. He throws a slider, but it's sweepy, rarely shows two-plane break, and Oliver clearly has no confidence in the offering, leaving many scouts to prefer him much more out of the bullpen.
Ephemera: In his last ten Arizona Fall League appearances, Oliver allowed one earned run over 15 innings.
Perfect World Projection: Oliver could be an above-average starter or late-inning reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: Depending on his role, Oliver could be a quick-mover or a bit of a project.
Timetable: Oliver will likely begin his first full season at High-A Lakeland, with the goal of reaching Double-A at some point during the second half of the year.

6. Alex Avila, C
DOB: 1/29/87
Height/Weight: 5-11/210
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2008, University of Alabama
2009 Stats: .264/.365/.450 at Double-A (93 G); .279/.375/.590 at MLB (29 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Avila is the son of the Tigers' assistant GM. He entered the year as a sleeper, but he reached the big leagues in his first full season.
The Good: Avila has already exceed all expectations as a fifth-round pick. He has arguably the best plate discipline in the organization, and he has surprising gap-to-gap power. He compensates for an average arm with a quick release, and he led the Eastern League by gunning down 44 percent of potential basestealers. Considering his bloodlines, it's no surprise that he has a high baseball intelligence.
The Bad: One scout called Avila a "maxed-out prospect," as he's not athletic, even for a catcher. He's slow to the point of being a base-clogger, he doesn't move well behind the plate, and he needs to improve his receiving skills. He needs to learn how to shorten his swing when behind in the count, and he'll likely always rack up a high strikeout rate.
Ephemera: Alex's brother Alan was a 47th-round pick by the Tigers in 2008, but he also decided to go to college, where he received limited playing time at Nova Southeastern College.
Perfect World Projection: Avila will be an average-to-slightly-above-average everyday catcher.
Path to the Big Leagues:Much of it depends on what the cash-strapped Tigers do with Gerald Laird.
Timetable:While Avila could be a big league backup in 2010, he might be best served with daily at-bats at Triple-A while preparing for the big league job the following year.

7. Cody Satterwhite, RHP
DOB: 1/27/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2008, University of Mississippi
2009 Stats: 3.47 ERA (49.1-46-27-52) at Double-A (34 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 9

Year in Review: Satterwhite was a 2008 second-round pick who was used sparingly, but he impressed in short stints during a full-season debut at Double-A.
The Good: Satterwhite fits well into the Tiger template of big guys who throw hard. He unleashes mid-90s fastballs with a bit of tailing action, with the pitch reaching 97 mph at times when he reaches back for a bit more. His hard slider comes in at the low to mid-80s with plenty of bite, and his exaggerated delivery creates a bit of deception.
The Bad: Satterwhite can get around on his slider at times, causing the pitch to flatten out. His delivery has a lot of moving parts, and he has problems throwing strikes at times. He was shut down at the end of the year with shoulder soreness, leading to more questions about his mechanics.
Ephemera: Beyond his baseball exploits at Hillcrest Christian High School in Mississippi, Satterwhite also led the school to a state title in basketball, was a first-team All-District player in soccer, and was a member of the National Honor Society.
Perfect World Projection: Satterwhite's stuff is almost closer-worthy, and he could still develop into that with refinement of his slider.
Path to the Big Leagues: Power arms rarely have to wait long.
Timetable: Satterwhite will begin the year at Triple-A Toledo, and he should reach the majors at some point during the year, provided he stays healthy.

8. Wilkin Ramirez, OF
DOB: 10/25/85
Height/Weight: 6-2/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2003
2009 Stats: .258/.326/.445 at Triple-A (113 G); .364/.385/.445 at MLB (15 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: Always one of the toolsiest players in the system, Ramirez was solid but unspectacular at Triple-A, though he did some good things during his brief big-league debut.
The Good: Ramirez still intrigues scouts just because of his raw athleticism. He's long and wiry with plus raw power and could hit upwards of 20-25 home runs a year. He's a plus runner, maybe even more when he gets going, and his arm is another plus tool.
The Bad: After six years in the minors, Ramirez has made little progress with his approach at the plate, as he still swings at far too many bad pitches, and has averaged more than a strikeout per game. He needs to improve his instincts both on the basepaths and in the field.
Ephemera: While Ramirez appeared in 15 big-league games in 2009, he only got a plate appearance in five of them.
Perfect World Projection: He's not completely unlike former Tigers outfielder Juan Encarnacion, who also had plenty of unrefined tools but still carved out an 11-year big-league career.
Path to the Big Leagues: There's no immediate room for Ramirez, but with whispers of a possible fire sale in Detroit, things could change between now and next season.
Timetable: Depending on how the numbers game plays out, Ramirez could be a big-league starter in 2010, a bench outfielder, or back in Triple-A.

9. Ryan Strieby, 1B
DOB: 8/9/85
Height/Weight: 6-5/235
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2006, University of Kentucky
2009 Stats: .303/.427/.565 at Double-A (86 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 8

Year in Review: The massive slugger kept on putting up big numbers, but he also kept on struggling with constant wrist issues.
The Good: First basemen have to mash, and Strieby does just that, with more raw power than anyone in the system. He works the count extremely well, putting himself consistently into hitter's counts, and he knows how to pull fastballs while driving other pitches to the opposite field. The Tigers have experimented with him in left field at times, and some think he could stick there, while being below average but acceptable.
The Bad: The bat is Strieby's only tool. He doesn't run well, and his arm is below average. There are significant holes in his massive swing, and he'll always strike out. Wrist problems have limited him to just 198 games over the past two years, and while his performance with that problem is admirable, there are some long-term concerns.
Ephemera: When he was in the lineup as a left fielder, Strieby hit .390/.520/.695 in 59 at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: Strieby could be a true big-league run producer, but he has to stay healthy.
Path to the Big Leagues: Left field has to work out for Strieby to have a future in Detroit, because barring a blockbuster deal designed to save money, Miguel Cabrera isn't going anywhere.
Timetable: Detroit is hoping that an offseason of rest will help Strieby with his wrist issues, and he'll begin the 2010 year at Triple-A Toledo.

10. Gustavo Nunez, SS
DOB: 2/8/88
Height/Weight: 5-10/148
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007
2009 Stats: .190/.261/.333 at Rookie-level (6 G); .315/.360/.425 at Low-A (112 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Nunez is a little Dominican shortstop who finished second in the Midwest League batting race while also finishing in the top five in hits and stolen bases.
The Good: Nunez is a contact hitter who sprays balls all over the field and creates extra-base hits by using his plus-plus speed to turn singles in the gap into doubles. He's dangerous on the bases, and his wheels give him true shortstop range to go with a solid arm.
The Bad: Nunez is tiny, and he will never hit for power. He needs to develop a more patient approach at the plate, or he's doomed to the bottom part of a batting order. Nunez has been caught stealing 50 times in the last two years and needs to improve his jumps and leads, while his fielding fundamentals also need work. He was suspended in the middle of the season for his conduct, but team officials see it as a one-time incident.
Ephemera: Nunez swiped 20 bases in May, but just 25 while being caught 18 times during the other four months of the year.
Perfect World Projection: Nunez is likely a utility type, with an outside chance of turning into a second-division starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's the best shortstop in the system, but that says more about the Tigers' system than Nunez's talent.
Timetable:Nunez's development will continue at High-A Lakeland in 2010.

11. Casper Wells, OF
DOB: 11/23/84
Height/Weight: 6-2/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 14th round, 2005, Towson University
2009 Stats: .260/.369/.489 at Double-A (86 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 10

Year in Review: The late bloomer continued his development with a solid showing at Double-A and some surprisingly strong reviews in the Arizona Fall League.
The Good: Wells certainly has tools. His raw power is well above average, and despite a bulky frame, he's a very good athlete. His speed rates as average to a tick above, and he can steal the occasional base when a pitcher gets lazy. He's a solid outfielder with a very strong arm.
The Bad: With Wells' power come the usual issues, as there is a lot of swing-and-miss to his game. He's been injury-prone throughout his career, and he turns 25 in November while still needing some development with his approach.
Ephemera: Of the 18 players ever drafted out of Towson University, only former Expo Chris Nabholz reached the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Wells should be a solid second-division corner outfielder, or perhaps a good fourth outfielder who provides power off the bench.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Tigers have a lot of players with the same profile as Wells, so he still needs to stand out from Ramirez and possibly Strieby.
Timetable: Wells will get a long look this spring, but he'll likely begin 2010 at Triple-A Toledo unless there are some major changes at the big-league level.

The Sleeper: Right-handed reliever Robbie Weinhardt's fastball/breaking ball combination will probably keep him out of the late innings in the majors, but he still could help the Detroit bullpen as early as mid-year.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)
1. Rick Porcello, RHP
2. Jacob Turner, RHP
3. Casey Crosby, LHP
4. Ryan Perry, RHP
5. Scott Sizemore, 2B
6. Joel Zumaya, RHP
7. Daniel Fields, SS
8. Andy Oliver, LHP
9. Alex Avila, C
10. Cody Satterwhite, RHP

There were a lot of questions this year about Porcello's ability to miss bats and what that would mean for him long-term. Don't worry, the strikeout rate will steadily rise, and he's still a future ace; it's easy to forget that's he's actually three months younger than Crosby. Perry's fastball sits at 95-97 and he has an excellent breaking ball, and one has to have more faith in him figuring it out than the even harder-throwing Zumaya, who always seems to be one pitch away from another visit to the trainer's room.

Summary: The Tigers organization remains packed with power arms, but they are exceedingly light on position players. When the two are balanced out, it remains a well below-average system.

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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