Detroit Tigers: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Detroit Tigers: Scouting Reports

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2008.

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Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are clearly in the midst of a win-now era, after back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1987-88. The farm system, supported by an ample draft budget, is shouldering great responsibility in their pursuit of sustainable success.

Detroit has needed quality prospects for the major league roster and trades, and the supply of talent has been good. The emergence of Curtis Granderson, Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya fueled the Tigers' 2006 World Series run. Their depth was tested during 2007, when they tried gamely, though unsuccessfully, to reach the postseason for a second consecutive year.

With injuries to key players, several prospects made their major league debuts, led by star-in-the-making Cameron Maybin and righthanders Eulogio de la Cruz, Jair Jurrjens and Virgil Vasquez. Others with very little big league experience entering the season, such as lefthander Andrew Miller, righthander Yorman Bazardo, catcher Mike Rabelo and outfielder Ryan Raburn, were relied upon at various times.

During the offseason, the Tigers used many of those players to bolster their big league club via trades. They addressed their biggest need less than 24 hours after the World Series, when they dealt Jurrjens and fleet center fielder Gorkys Hernandez to the Braves for all-star shortstop Edgar Renteria. That was merely a prelude to an eight-player blockbuster at the Winter Meetings.

Detroit's willingness to surrender Maybin and Miller allowed it to pry both Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from the Marlins. The Tigers also included de la Cruz, Rabelo and righthanders Dallas Trahern and Burke Badenhop. Now they'll have seven former all-stars in the 2008 lineup, not to mention three in their rotation.

Those deals, along with the trade that sent three pitching prospects to the Yankees for Gary Sheffield after the 2006 season, have had an obvious effect on the system.

Detroit has attempted to fill any gaps in their farm system by spending big in the draft. On Aug. 15, the first uniform signing deadline day in draft history, the Tigers invested $9.4 million to sign righthander Rick Porcello (first round), lefthander Casey Crosby (fifth), shortstop Cale Iorg (sixth) and lefthander Matt Hoffman (26th).

The expenditure demonstrated Tigers owner Mike Ilitch's willingness to sustain a winning team. And the club has scouting director David Chadd, whose draft picks during his tenure with the Red Sox included Jonathan Papelbon and Dustin Pedroia. Similar over-slot spending landed Maybin and Miller, without whom the Cabrera/Willis trade would have been impossible to pull off.

"You can spend your money toward talent in various ways," Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski said at the deadline. "One place we can compete—and I feel like we do an outstanding job—is scouting at the amateur level, and developing those players."

The Tigers are enjoying record revenues, having just drawn more than three million fans for the first time in franchise history, and their player payroll is on its way upward of $125 million, which would be another club record. The system is unlikely to offer any immediate help after the rash of trades, though that's also less important with all the additional veteran talent that has been brought on board.

1.  Rick Porcello, rhp   Born: Dec. 27, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—West Orange, N.J., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Bill Buck
Rick PorcelloBackground: Porcello first was tabbed as a can't-miss prospect as early as age 15, and he maintained that status for the rest of his high school career. He entered 2007 ranking with Connecticut's Matt Harvey as the top prep arms in the draft class, then clearly separated himself. Porcello went 10-0, 1.18 with 112 strikeouts in 71 innings, leading Seton Hall Prep (West Orange, N.J.) to a 32-1 record, a state championship and a final No. 2 national ranking. Porcello was considered the best high school pitching prospect since Josh Beckett, but signability concerns caused him to drop to the Tigers with the 27th overall pick in the draft. Detroit hadn't planned to exceed MLB's slot recommendations again but decided it couldn't pass on Porcello. He and Harvey had planned to room together at North Carolina, and while Harvey became a Tar Heel, Porcello signed at the Aug. 15 deadline. The Tigers made the decision easy for him, doling out a club-record $3.58 million bonus as part of a $7 million major league contract, matching Beckett's record guarantee for a high school pitcher. Now he'll try to become the second member of his family to reach the majors, following grandfather Sam Dente, who played for the Indians in the 1954 World Series.

Strengths: Porcello could be another Justin Verlander in the making. His clean, repeatable delivery resembles Verlander's, and his power stuff is also reminiscent of the Tigers' ace. Porcello's fastball rides up on righthanders and sits at 94-97 mph. He's able to keep that velocity deep into games. He throws two breaking balls, a power slider in the low 80s and a big-breaking curveball at 70-74 mph. He also shows good arm speed on his promising changeup. For a teenager, he has very good feel of multiple pitches and mixes them effectively. He has a tall, athletic body and good mound presence. The Tigers believe very strongly in Porcello's makeup, and he reinforced all the lofty comparisons with a strong showing in instructional league.

Weaknesses: Porcello's command isn't major league average yet—but he's also 19 and has yet to throw his first official pro pitch. He harnesses his fastball better than his secondary offerings at this point. He tends to throw across his body slightly, and with better extension out front he could add more life to his pitches.

The Future: The Tigers are looking forward to the day when they can pitch Porcello and Verlander in the same big league rotation, giving them two youngsters with filthy stuff. Porcello didn't sign in time to pitch in the minors last summer, but there's no reason he can't handle an assignment to a full-season club. Low Class A West Michigan would be a logical fist step, though Detroit may send him to high Class A Lakeland so he can pitch in warmer weather. While the Tigers won't rush him, it will be difficult to hold his undeniable talent back. Beckett reached the major leagues at the end of his second minor league season, and Porcello could do the same.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
2.  Cale Iorg, ss   Born: Sept. 6, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 175
 Drafted: Alabama, 2007 (6th round)Signed by: David Chadd
Cale IorgBackground: Iorg's father Garth and uncle Dane played in the major leagues, and his brother Eli is an outfielder in the Astros system. Cale hadn't played since hitting .280 as a freshman at Alabama in 2005, taking two years off to go on a Mormon mission to Portugal. The Tigers drafted him in the sixth round and signed him for $1,497,500.

Strengths: Iorg has the body frame and actions of a natural shortstop. He's an instinctive player with enough power to hit between 15-20 homers per year in the majors. He has a smooth swing and should hit for average as well. He's a plus runner who showed an average to slightly above-average arm during workouts last summer.

Weaknesses: He has the tools to be an everyday shortstop, but it's unclear how long it will take Iorg to compensate for the long layoff. The Tigers hoped he would gain experience in Hawaii Winter Baseball, but a hamstring injury in early October forced him to miss almost all of the season.

The Future: Detroit believes Iorg's solid bloodlines and good makeup will offset his inexperience. He should begin his first full pro season in low Class A.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Tigers (R) .182 .308 .182 11 1 2 0 0 0 0 1 6 0
Lakeland (Hi A) .278 .316 .389 18 0 5 2 0 0 5 1 5 0
3.  Scott Sizemore, 2b   Born: Jan. 4, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 185
 Drafted: Virginia Commonwealth, 2006 (5th round)Signed by: Bill Buck
Scott SizemoreBackground: Sizemore overcame a slow start last year to reinforce his projection as a sound hitter with good bat control. The most polished position player in Detroit's 2006 draft class, he played second base on West Michigan's Midwest League championship club and saw action at shortstop (where he played during his pro debut) in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .356.

Strengths: Sizemore demonstrated strong makeup by preventing an early slump from disrupting his confidence. He batted .311 in the second half, thanks to a short swing path, impeccable eye and sound approach. He walked more than he struck out, showed good hit-and-run ability and generally looked like a classic No. 2 hitter. He has average speed and can steal a few bases thanks to good instincts.

Weaknesses: Sizemore's arm and hands are just adequate at second, and his range is average at best. It's not clear if he has the defensive tools to play regularly in the big leagues. With his line-drive, gap-to-gap stroke, he probably won't hit more than 10 homers per year in the majors.

The Future: Sizemore is a gamer who should hit his way to the big leagues, even if his eventual role is as a utility player. He could reach Double-A Erie this year if he continues performing.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
West Michigan (Lo A) .265 .376 .390 438 78 116 33 5 4 48 73 60 16
4.  Michael Hollimon, 2b/ss   Born: June 14, 1982B-T: B-RHt: 6-1Wt: 185
 Drafted: Oral Roberts, 2005 (16th round)Signed by: Steve Taylor
Michael HollimonBackground: Since signing for $5,000 as 16th-round pick in 2005, Hollimon has demonstrated the early-round ability he showed in high school. The Tigers love his makeup, and he has performed at every stop he has made in the system.

Strengths: Hollimon is a patient hitter whose at-bats often culminate with walks, strikeouts, or extra-base hits. He swings well from both sides of the plate and could have double-digit totals in doubles, triples, homers and steals if he plays everyday in the majors. He's an average runner with decent range as an infielder.

Weaknesses: Though he's adept at hitting outside fastballs, Hollimon can be pitched inside. The Tigers lack depth on the left side of the infield, but it doesn't appear that Hollimon has the arm to play at shortstop or third base on an everyday basis.

The Future: A natural leader with a winning reputation, Hollimon likely will play in the majors, but his future role is unclear. Second base would be his best position, but the Tigers have Placido Polanco under contract through 2009. Hollimon is athletic enough to play in the outfield, but Detroit has no plans to move him there this year in Triple-A.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Erie (AA) .282 .371 .478 471 91 133 34 8 14 76 64 121 17
Toledo (AAA) .211 .250 .368 19 2 4 1 1 0 2 1 4 0
5.  Yorman Bazardo, rhp   Born: July 11, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 220
 Signed: Venezuela, 2000Signed by: Miguel Garcia (Marlins)
Yorman BazardoBackground: Bazardo already has pitched for three organizations—and he's only 23. He was a top prospect with the Marlins before being sent to the Mariners in a deal for Ron Villone at the 2005 trade deadline. Seattle took him off the 40-man roster just prior to spring training last year, and the Tigers acquired him in exchange for minor league outfielder Jeff Frazier.

Strengths: Bazardo had a solid season in the Triple-A rotation and pitched effectively as a starter and reliever for the Tigers. His fastball ranges from 90-94 mph with good sink, and his primary out pitch is a changeup with depth and armside run. He has good command to both sides of the plate, throws a lot of first-pitch strikes and has a herky-jerky motion that keeps hitters off balance.

Weaknesses: Because he lacks a consistent breaking ball, Bazardo doesn't rack up strikeouts. Without an improved slider, his ceiling likely will be as a middle reliever. He still was able to limit righthanders to a .143 average in the majors with his fastball and changeup alone.

The Future: He's out of options, so the Tigers will give Bazardo every opportunity to make the Opening Day roster. It would come as no surprise if he opened the season as Detroit's fifth starter.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Toledo (AAA) 10 6 3.75 23 21 2 0 137 134 8 43 69 .263
Detroit 2 1 2.28 11 2 0 0 24 19 2 5 15 .218
6.  Jeff Larish, 1b   Born: Oct. 11, 1982B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 200
 Drafted: Arizona State, 2005 (5th round)Signed by: Brian Reid
Jeff LarishBackground: What was true of Larish at Arizona State remains true today. There's no consensus among the scouting community about him, yet everyone seems to have an opinion. He keeps his chin turned completely to his right shoulder and both eyes focused on the pitcher, with his hands remaining still until the ball is on its way to the plate.

Strengths: Larish has tremendous raw power and can hit the ball out from foul pole to foul pole. He patiently waits for a pitch to hammer and won't give in if pitchers don't challenge him, as evidenced by his 87 walks last season. He has soft hands at first base and a good arm for the position.

Weaknesses: Though he's selective, Larish won't alter his approach with two strikes, leading to whiffs. He's susceptible to good breaking pitches and gets too pull-happy. The key for him is swinging hard without overswinging. He has below-average speed.

The Future: There's not a lot of projection involved with Larish. He simply has to keep hitting. Detroit's new everyday first baseman, Carlos Guillen, is signed through 2011, so Larish's path to becoming a big league regular is blocked for now. Larish also played third base and left field in college, but the Tigers will keep him at first in Triple-A.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Erie (AA) .267 .390 .515 454 71 121 25 2 28 101 87 108 6
7.  Matt Joyce, of   Born: Aug. 3, 1984B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 185
 Drafted: Florida Southern, 2005 (12th round)Signed by: Steve Nichols
Matt JoyceBackground: Joyce helped West Michigan win the Midwest League title in 2006, then skipped a level and helped Erie make the Eastern League playoffs. He was pulling off the ball early in the season and batted .193 during the first two months. But then he settled back into his overachieving ways, started allowing the ball to travel deeper into the zone and batted .293 with 13 homers over the final three months of the season.

Strengths: Joyce has a smooth lefthanded stroke and a knack for driving in runs. He generally hits gap to gap but possesses some home-run power and has the potential to top last year's career high of 17. A well above-average right fielder, he gets great jumps and has a strong, accurate arm. He can play an adequate center field if needed.

Weaknesses: Like many of the Tigers' top position prospects, Joyce needs to cut down his strikeouts. He chases low changeups from righthanders. He doesn't use his average speed as well on the bases as he does in the outfield.

The Future: Joyce has moved swiftly since signing in 2005, and he'll move up to Triple-A this season. If all goes well, he'll challenge for a big league job in 2009.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Erie (AA) .257 .333 .454 456 61 117 33 3 17 70 51 127 4
8.  Danny Worth, ss   Born: Sept. 30, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 180
 Drafted: Pepperdine, 2007 (2nd round)Signed by: Tim McWilliam
Danny WorthBackground: Others may have received more acclaim, but no one in the Tigers' 2007 draft class made a greater immediate impact than Worth. He signed for $378,000 as a second-round pick, became the starting shortstop in high Class A and finished his pro debut with a late promotion to Double-A.

Strengths: Worth is a consistent, confident defender with reliable hands. A natural shortstop, he has an average arm that plays up because of his quick release and above-average range. He's not flashy but makes all the routine plays. A gap hitter, he has a quick bat and a good sense of the strike zone.

Weaknesses: Worth has limited power, projecting to hit some doubles but not many homers. Like many young hitters, he's susceptible to good breaking balls. His speed is maybe a tick below-average, though he looks faster on the bases because of good instincts.

The Future: His ceiling is comparable to that of Jason Bartlett, as a smooth-fielding shortstop who bats in the bottom third of an American League lineup and hits around .270 without much power. Worth will return to Lakeland or Erie to begin 2008 and could move quickly in a system that lacks depth at shortstop in the upper minors.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lakeland (Hi A) .251 .325 .363 171 22 43 9 2 2 21 18 39 6
Erie (AA) .429 .438 .714 14 4 6 2 1 0 4 1 1 1
9.  Francisco Cruceta, rhp   Born: July 4, 1981B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 215
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 1999Signed by: Pablo Peguero (Dodgers)
Francisco CrucetaBackground: Cruceta already had spent time in four organizations when he signed a major league contract in November with the Tigers, who believe he's ready to reach his ceiling. He tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance while in Triple-A with the Rangers in 2007, and the 50-game suspension didn't help his development.

Strengths: Cruceta throws a sinking fastball that sits in the low 90s and tops out at 94 mph. He has featured two secondary pitches since moving to the bullpen full time, a sharp splitter that he usually throws out of the zone and a 12-to-6 curveball that should become at least an average pitch.

Weaknesses: Cruceta has a reputation for throwing hittable pitches up in the zone. His arm slot wandered in the past and his command is still erratic at times. He appears to have little confidence in his slider and changeup and has removed those pitches from his repertoire. It would be useful to bring one of them back so he could break his pattern of two-strike splitters.

The Future: Detroit signed Cruceta with the idea that he'd pitch for their big league club in 2008. If he throws enough strikes, he could become a reliable middle reliever.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Oklahoma (AAA) 3 0 3.02 25 5 0 1 66 38 2 40 70 .164
10.  Brandon Hamilton, rhp   Born: Dec. 25, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 205
 Signed: HS—Millbrook, Ala., 2007 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Jim Rough
Brandon HamiltonBackground: The Tigers have rebuilt their franchise on power pitching, and Hamilton, their second pick in the 2007 draft fits the prototype. Detroit officials liked what they saw in his athleticism, durability and projectability, and signed him for $540,000 with the 60th overall pick, compensation for losing free agent lefty Jamie Walker to Baltimore.

Strengths: Hamilton isn't as polished as 2007 first-rounder Rick Porcello, but has the better curveball of the two. It's a power downer, and he throws it at 80-83 mph with hard, late, three-quarters break. He has shown an ability to repeat the curve and throw it for strikes, which bodes well for his long-term development. His fastball is an average pitch now, sitting in the low 90s, and more velocity should come. He has a strong, lean frame and clean mechanics.

Weaknesses: Hamilton gets little movement on his fastball and needs to find a way to add some life to make it a more effective pitch. His changeup is promising but inconsistent, and his command is still below average.

The Future: The Tigers will take their time with Hamilton, who won't be on the same fast track as Porcello. Nevertheless, they may send him to low Class A as a 19-year-old.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Pre-Order the 2008 Prospect Handbook
30 scouting reports on every team

Photo Credits:
Jerry Hale (Porcello, Worth, Hamilton)
David Stoner (Sizemore)
Kevin Pataky (Hollimon, Joyce)
Rodger Wood (Larish)
Steve Moore (Cruceta)