Detroit Tigers Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Pat Caputo
1. Eric Munson, 1B/C
Background: A second-round draft choice of the Braves out of San Diegos Mount Carmel High in 96, Munson opted not to sign with Atlanta and attended Southern California. Munson was slowed in his junior season of college by a hand injury, but the Tigers still thought enough of Munson and his bat to select him with the third overall pick in the 99 draft. After signing a four-year major league contract, Munson was sent to Class A West Michigan. A catcher in college, Munson played mostly first base and was a DH last season. He caught just five games. One reason is that he had a shoulder injury, but the main reason is that Detroit is deep at catcher throughout its organization. One of the systems best defensively is No. 5 prospect Brandon Inge, who was also at West Michigan in 1999. Tigers officials are hopeful Munson will move quickly because of his bat.
Strengths: Munson has an exceptionally quick bat and turns easily on balls, regardless of velocity. He has above-average power and good knowledge of the strike zone. He made a point to work out with a wood bat while in college, so the transition from aluminum has been smooth. He actually performed better in the Arizona Fall League than he did in low Class A in part because the pitchers were more around the plate and he was able to get better offerings to hit. He has the potential, if he progresses on the field, to be a team leader in the future.
Weaknesses: Because he has such a quick bat, Munson has a tendency to get pull-happy. He has shown that he can take pitches on the outer third of the plate and drive them the other way, but he will have to do so more consistently or his strikeout totals will rise as he moves up. Munson has good hands, but he projects out as an average catcher or first baseman. His lack of speed hurts him at both positions.
The Future: Munson will begin this season at Double-A Jacksonville and could be moved to the major leagues quickly with a good start. Detroit has not been shy about moving its top prospects up from Double-A to the major leagues without a stop at Triple-A Toledo. Munson has the emotional maturity to move that quickly, too.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB West Michigan (A) .266 252 42 67 16 1 14 44 37 47 3 Lakeland (A) .333 6 0 2 0 0 0 1 1 1 0
2. Ramon Santiago, SS
Age: 18 B-T: B-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 150
Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998 Signed by: Ramon Pena
Background: Santiago played briefly in Detroits summer program in his native Dominican Republic in 1998 before coming to the United States last year. At 17, he showed such poise and ability in clutch situations that he earned a promotion.
Strengths: Santiago rarely makes a false move in the field. His hands are soft and his arm is extremely accurate. At the plate, he already has a feel for how to take outside pitches and drive them to the opposite field. He has room to develop 20-homer power and has good instincts on the bases. Already fluent in English, he has suffered little culture shock.
Weaknesses: In an era in which the top shortstops are exceptionally gifted athletes, Santiago isnt. He has average to above-average speed and slightly above-average arm strength.
The Future: The mature Santiago will begin this season at low Class A West Michigan. While hell likely spend the entire season there, he could start 2001 as high as Double-A.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB GCL Tigers (R) .321 134 25 43 9 2 0 11 9 17 20 Oneonta (A) .340 50 9 17 1 2 1 8 2 12 5
3. Robert Fick, C/DH
Age: 26 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 189
Drafted: Cal State Northridge, 1996 (5th round) Signed by: Dennis Lieberthal
Background: Though an All-America catcher in college, Fick wasnt a premium draft pick because of his underwhelming tools. What was underestimated was his bat. He closed an injury-plagued 99 by hitting the last Tiger Stadium home run.
Strengths: Simply put, Fick can hit. He can turn on a good fastball or drive it the other way. He doesnt struggle against lefthanders, can handle breaking pitches and doesnt strike out a lot. Fick has soft hands and plays first base wellwhen he plays there.
Weaknesses: As a catcher, Fick is not a particularly adept receiver and his throwing is inconsistent. An emotional sort, he sometimes lets his emotions get the best of him.
The Future: Though he missed most of last year with a shoulder injury, Fick likely will start 2000 as Detroits DH against righthanders while seeing spot duty in the field.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Toledo (AAA) .313 48 11 15 0 1 2 8 8 5 1 GCL Tigers (R) .333 9 2 3 1 0 0 2 2 0 1 West Michigan (A) .273 11 2 3 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 Detroit .220 41 6 9 0 0 3 10 7 6 1
4. Neil Jenkins, 3B
Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-5 Wt: 215
Drafted: HS--Jupiter, Fla., 1999 (3rd round) Signed by: Tim Grieve
Background: Jenkins was considered one of the top power-hitting prospects available in last Junes draft. But the fact that hes a diabetic seemed to scare some teams away. Detroit, though, selected him with the 87th overall pick and gave him $900,000 to sign.
Strengths: After signing Jenkins, the Tigers brought him to Detroit to take batting practice and he looked anything but out of place. His raw power is considerably above-average and when he drives the ball up the gaps, the ball moves with extraordinary velocity.
Weaknesses: Its not certain if third base will be Jenkins position in the future, or the outfield. His footwork is not good and he may outgrow the position. He doesnt run well, so playing the outfield doesnt seem to be a viable option, leaving first base if he doesnt improve defensively.
The Future: Jenkins will be at West Michigan in 2000. When the Tigers drafted him, it was strictly with the future in mind. They will not rush him.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB GCL Tigers (R) .297 111 18 33 13 3 2 15 16 37 2
5. Brandon Inge, C
Age: 22 B-T: R-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 185
Drafted: Virginia Commonwealth, 1998 (2nd round) Signed by: Rob Guzik
Background: A shortstop in college, Inge immediately moved to behind the plate as a pro. Focused on learning a new position, he struggled as a hitter in his first two years before hitting .407-8-28 and winning a batting title last fall for Lancaster in the California Fall League.
Strengths: Inge has had few problems adjusting to his new position. Hes an athletic catcher in the mold of Brad Ausmus, but he doesnt run nearly as well. Inge has a strong arm, a quick release and good footwork while throwing. He also frames pitches well, considering his experience level. As a hitter, he has started to drive the ball better and make more consistent contact.
Weaknesses: Even with a more compact stroke that eliminated his high leg-kick, Inge doesnt show enough patience at the plate. Defensively, he needs to gain a better grasp of pitchers and calling a game.
The Future: If Inge proves that his CFL showing wasnt a mirage, he could skip a club and start 2000 in Double-A.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB West Michigan (A) .244 352 54 86 25 2 9 46 39 87 15
6. Nate Cornejo, RHP
Age: 20 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-5 Wt: 200
Drafted: HS--Wellington, Kan., 1998 (Supplemental 1st round) Signed by: Ray Hayward
Background: The Tigers have shown a propensity to take players who fell in the draft because of health concerns. Cornejo had surgery on both knees in high school but had one of the best arms in the 1998 draft. He proved to be durable in his first full professional season and his past knee trouble has not been a problem.
Strengths: Cornejo throws a heavy ball from a high angle with a lot of sinking action. His fastball usually sits at about 90 mph, but he is capable of knocking bats out of hands. Hes shown a willingness to battle through less-than-perfect innings.
Weaknesses: When Cornejo gets the ball up, it flattens out and he gets hit hard. His fastball sinks so much sometimes that its difficult to command. He has the makings of a good breaking ball and changeup, but falls behind too often.
The Future: If anything, Cornejos further along than was expected when Detroit drafted him. However, the Tigers have no plans to push him past Lakeland this season.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO West Michigan (A) 9 11 3.71 28 28 4 0 175 173 67 125
7. Adam Pettyjohn, LHP
Age: 22 B-T: R-L Ht: 6-3 Wt: 190
Drafted: Fresno State, 1998 (2nd round) Signed by: Jack Hays
Background: Pettyjohn and Fresno State teammate Jeff Weaver were Detroits top two picks in the 1998 draft. Pettyjohns name has been brought up by other organizations in trade talks, but the Tigers arent anxious to part with him.
Strengths: Pettyjohn has a three-quarters delivery that gives his fastball a tailing action. One of his best pitches is a backdoor fastball which tails in over the outside corner against lefthanded hitters. He gets most of his strikeouts on his slider when it dives into the dirt. He has good control.
Weaknesses: Pettyjohns fastball is usually in the 87-89 mph range, which means he doesnt have much margin for error. Sometimes the movement on his fastball is a curse because the ball will occasionally tail over the heart of the plate.
The Future: The Tigers see Pettyjohn as a No. 3 or No.4 starter, not just a situational reliever. Hell likely get his first major league opportunity this season after beginning at Triple-A Toledo.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO Jacksonville (AA) 9 5 4.69 20 20 0 0 127 134 35 92
8. Javier Cardona, C
Age: 24 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 185
Drafted: Lake Land (Ill.) JC, 1994 (23rd round) Signed by: Juan Lopez
Background: After taking a step backward in 1998, when he played poorly in Triple-A, Cardona had a breakthrough season in 1999. He hit three more home runs last year than he had hit in his previous five seasons combined, and hed never had more than 56 RBIs in a season.
Strengths: Cardona has usually made consistent contact, but last season he started turning on the ball and driving it. He filled out physically and got much stronger.
Weaknesses: Defensively, Car-dona is an average receiver with an average arm. Hes a good hitter, but not really the type youd pencil into the lineup for his bat alone. The Tigers are hoping he can become a major league regular on the basis of his power.
The Future: Cardona has a shot to stick with the major league club out of spring training. It depends on whether new Detroit manager Phil Garner goes with two or three catchers and what he thinks of Robert Ficks receiving skills.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Jacksonville (AA) .309 418 84 129 31 0 26 92 46 69 4
9. Chris Wakeland, OF
Age: 25 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-0 Wt: 185
Drafted: Oregon State, 1996 (15th round) Signed by: Dave Roberts
Background: Drafted after his senior year of college, Wakeland has hit well at every level so far, including in the Arizona Fall League in 1999. After a fast start last season, he fractured the hamate bone in his wrist. He returned for the end of the regular season and the AFL and didnt seem to be hindered much.
Strengths: Wakeland has the classic lefthanded stroke. He doesnt turn on the ball as much as drive it into the gaps, particularly left center. His longest home runs have gone to the opposite field.
Weaknesses: Wakeland has average speed, yet there have been times when hes had puzzling lapses on the bases and in the field. Because he doesnt turn on the ball that often, hell have to prevent his gap power from becoming warning-track power in the big leagues.
The Future: Like Tigers outfielder Bobby Higginson, Wakelands an older college player who has been noticed because of his bat. Hell likely start the year in Triple-A.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Lakeland (A) .412 17 3 7 1 0 0 7 0 0 1 Jacksonville (AA) .321 212 42 68 16 3 13 36 35 53 6
10. Shane Loux, RHP
Age: 20 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 205
Drafted: HS--Gilbert, Ariz., 1997 (2nd round) Signed by: Jack Hays
Background: Loux dazzled in 1997, but its been downhill since. He reported overweight to spring training in 98 and was 7-13, 4.64 at West Michigan. Last season, he started slowly and became frustrated with the fielding behind him. Moved up to Lakeland, his attitude and his performance improved.
Strengths: Loux has a good sinking fastball that he commands well. He throws in the 91-93 mph range and is capable of throwing good offspeed pitches. Loux has a good feel for pitching.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent both in his performance and his emotions, Loux doesnt deal well with the up-and-down nature of the game. He is a short righthander with a blocky body, so his conditioning is a concern, though it appears hes learned his lesson in that area.
The Future: With a solid spring, Loux could be in Double-A to start the season. He almost definitely has the stuff to move quickly up the ladder, but he has to show the makeup, too.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO West Michigan (A) 1 3 6.27 8 8 0 0 47 55 16 43 Lakeland (A) 6 5 4.05 17 17 0 0 91 92 47 52
Rest of the Best:
11. Kris Keller, rhp
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