Detroit Tigers: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Jon Paul Morosi

Detroit Tigers: Chat




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, 2009.

Moderator: Detroit Free Press Tigers beat writer Jon Paul Morosi will chat about Detroit's farm system beginning at 12 p.m. ET.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
Do you see Porcello becoming a better starter than Verlander in the next few years? Why?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm looking forward to answering your questions on the Tigers. This is a great day to talk about the farm system, since we have some ready-made news, with the team adding five players to the 40-man roster: righthanders Alfredo Figaro, Guillermo Moscoso and Zach Simons; and outfielders Wilkin Ramirez and Casper Wells. This is a very tough question on the comparison between Porcello and Verlander. I'll answer it this way: I envision Porcello having the same type of success in the big leagues as Verlander had in 2006 and 2007. Porcello is that good — with Roy Halladay-type stuff and the demeanor of an ace. If Verlander pitches like he did in his first two seasons, and Porcello continues to develop as I expect that he will, then I believe they will be on a par with one another in terms of performance. But if Verlander pitches like he did in '08, then Porcello will probably pass him by.

 Q:  Jean-Paul from Midwest asks:
Where would you guesstimate Detroit's farm system would rank overall? 25-30?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: It's hard for me to say where the Tigers' farm system ranks among all those in baseball, because I don't study the other 29 clubs on the same level. But I will say this: Based on the pitching they have, I'd be very surprised if this was truly one of the worst farm systems in the game. The organization has some impact arms on the way: Porcello, Perry, Crosby Satterwhite, Moscoso, to name a few. And then you have Fien and Darrow, who I believe could be in the bullpen on Opening Day. Jacobson had a great summer at West Michigan and looks like a much better pro pitcher than he was at Vanderbilt. At the same time, I can see why some people question the overall strength of the farm system: A lot of those prospects I mentioned are relief pitchers, and the Tigers do not have many impact position players on the way. Cale Iorg fits that description, but you would not have to look too hard to find scouts who wonder if Larish or Ramirez will be everyday guys in the big leagues.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
At this point, who would you say got the better of the Maybin-Miller-Willis-Cabrera trade?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: Great question. I look at the Cabrera-Willis trade in two ways: the deal itself and then the contracts. I have a very hard time believing that the Tigers came up on the short end in the trade itself. The headline player in the deal led the American League in home runs. Critics can say what they will about his slow start. But that's pretty impressive. Meanwhile, none of the six players sent to the Marlins were big-impact guys for Florida, on the major-league level, this year. Will that change in the future? Very possibly. I still believe Maybin could be a star. But nothing happened with those six players this year that made you say, "Boy, the Tigers really underestimated that guy." (The Atlanta deal was different.) The contracts, of course, were another issue. Willis failed miserably in 2008, and now the Tigers are stuck with trying to move the $22 million remaining on his deal. And for all his talent, Cabrera's contract could be considered a burden before it is through. It's a long way from here to 2015.

 Q:  Ace from Detroit, MI asks:
It seems the last few drafts in particular have focused on College Relievers. Will this focus continue in 2009 and do you think Ryan Perry can contribute in the bullpen this year?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: It's tough to know at this stage who the Tigers are looking at for the '09 draft. David Chadd has a philosophy of taking the best player available, and he seems to stick to that. Time will tell in that regard. To answer the second part of your question: Yes. Perry may not begin the season in the big leagues, but I expect him to see Detroit by the end. He has too much talent, and the Tigers' relief pitching needs are too great.

 Q:  Ace from Detroit, MI asks:
Who will be the better hitter long term- Matt Joyce or Jeff Larish...could one be traded for pitching help this year?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: Tough question. Joyce has too much service time to be considered for the Top 10 list this year, so I didn't have to wrestle with that — until now! I'll say this: I think Larish will be the more "productive" hitter in the long term. "Productive," in this case, is code for "RBIs." Larish has a knack for driving in runs, and that's the primary obligation of a corner infielder/outfielder. As for Part II: Yes, I believe one (perhaps both) could be traded for pitching help this off-season. The Tigers do not want to trade them, of course, but they do have a surplus of talent at each of their positions. They could deal them without causing a major disruption to their 2009 plans. In one of my recent Free Press columns, I mentioned the possibility that the Tigers could move one or both of them to Seattle in a trade for J.J. Putz. I think that type of deal would make a lot of sense for both clubs.

 Q:  Ace from Detroit, MI asks:
Is Dusty Ryan the long term answer at Catcher and if not who is?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: We'll see. He has a lot of work to do behind the plate, as far as blocking balls, and he's currently batting .100 after nine games in the Puerto Rican Winter League. That said, I like his power, arm strength and demeanor. If he improves as much in 2009 as he did in 2008, the Tigers will have their future catcher. Beyond Ryan, I think the Tigers' best catching prospect is Alex Avila. He had a good offensive season at West Michigan and continued to develop his receiving skills at instructs. I love James Skelton's plate discipline and left-handed bat, but I'm not sure if he profiles as an everyday catcher in the big leagues. The Tigers left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft despite having two roster spots to spare, an indication that he may not be a key part of their future plans.

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:
How close was Casper Wells to making the list? Is he a legit prospect? He tore up the AFL, so what is his ETA? Thanks.
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: I'll be honest with you. When I started ranking the Tigers' prospects this year, I thought Wells would be right around No. 30. Now, I think he may be closer to No. 20 or even the mid-teens. The guy has had an incredible year. If you add up his two minor league stops and the AFL, he has 34 home runs and 100 RBIs in 147 games. That's really impressive. My prediction: He's going to play in the big leagues this year. He's a gamer type who plays with a lot of energy. He's a very good defender with a great arm. Scouts who like him a lot see five tools. Let's put it this way: Anyone who slugs .671 in the Arizona Fall League is very close to playing in the major leagues.

 Q:  Adam Hunt from Mount Pleasant, MI asks:
Hello, thanks for the chat... How confident did the Tigers officials seem that Wilkin Ramirez will learn to recognize breaking pitches? A homegrown outfield of Ramirez, Granderson and Matt Joyce would be sweet... Leading to my other question what do you think are the chances that Magglio gets traded this offseason? Say for Gerald Laird and a couple of the Rangers young pitchers...
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: I think the organization believes that Ramirez has the *ability* to hit breaking pitches. He'll be given every chance to do so, and it's the key to his big-league future. Let's be honest: The Tigers are not going to bring him up to the majors because of his versatility as an outfielder. He's improved defensively, but he's not comparable to Thomas, Wells, Clevlen or Joyce in that regard. He's a leftfielder, and a leftfielder only. Ramirez is going to have to put up big-time numbers in order to stick in the big leagues for many years. And he needs to hit sliders and curves in order to do that. He's on the 40-man now, so the clock has started. As for the Magglio trade scenarios: My thoughts on that issue have not changed since September. Do they want to trade him? No. Does he represent their best chance to bring back talent at multiple positions and relieve payroll commitments? Yes. Dave Dombrowski said last week that he's not looking to trade Magglio. I believe that to be true. But he may change his thinking if the Tigers don't have a quality starting shortstop or closer by late December or January. Let's put it this way: Plan A does not involve trading Magglio. But some of the less likely plans probably do.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Do any of the Tiger's recent Latin American signing look like they can develop into top prospects?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: Glad you asked! I looked over my notes on international signings last night, because I knew there would be some questions on this. Now that the Tigers have affiliates of their own in the VSL and DSL, I believe we will start seeing more Top-30-level prospects come from Latin America. Mauricio Robles pitched in the VSL in '07 and had a very impressive season at West Michigan this year. I expect others will be able to make a similarly quick jump to the U.S. Among the names to watch this year: Avisail Garcia, OF — He was among the VSL leaders in home runs and slugging percentage this year. And he's only 17 years old. I'm told that he has a strong build (at 6-foot-3) and throws well from the outfield. Carlos Melo, RHSP — He turned 17 during the DSL season and has an explosive fastball at 92-96 mph. He also has the makings of a good curveball and change.

 Q:  Steven from Kalamazoo, MI asks:
Thanks for taking my question Paul. Can you explain the difference in stuff between Satterwhite and Brett Jacobson. I felt Jacobson was the better pitcher with a better secondary stuff. I must have missed something.
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: Satterwhite has the better fastball (94-97, touches 98), but you're right: Jacobson worked on a 12-to-6 curve in instructs and had a lot of success with it. And Jacobson's fastball (93-95 mph, top out at 96) is pretty good, too. They're both very good prospects. They both could move quickly. At this point, though, I see Satterwhite as being a little bit ahead of Jacobson.

 Q:  Derek from Little Rock, AR asks:
What if Luis Marte could stay healthy? He obviously has good stuff and Detroit's system is very weak beyond Slick Rick at the top.
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: If Marte had stayed healthy all year — and continued pitching as he had at Lakeland — we might be talking about how he did in Detroit over the second half of the season. He has good stuff, but his velocity has moved up and down all year. That has been the case in the Fall League, as well. Some people in the organization are very high on him, but I don't think he's going to be rushed. He wasn't Rule 5 eligible this year, so they can take some time with him.

 Q:  Otto from Erie, PA asks:
What can you tell us about Brandon Douglas?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: I've heard a lot of good things about Brandon Douglas. David Chadd compared him to Casey Blake, which is about the highest compliment that can be paid to an infielder from Iowa. He's got a great swing and a knack for getting the bat on the ball. He can adapt to higher levels of competition — after all, he won Midwest League Player of the Week honors despite playing only nine games for West Michigan. He may not play shortstop in the big leagues, but he is an adequate defender who could become a super-utility player down the line. Second base could be in his future. In short, he was a great 11th-round pick. He's got a shot to be a big leaguer.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
About how far off the Top 10 was Brandon Hamilton? What are your thoughts on his mechanics?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: He's around the late teens. He's got a very good arm but — as you alluded to — the delivery is max-effort and he has trouble repeating it. It's worth remembering that he's still young: He won't turn 20 until next month. He has a great curveball and high ceiling. It's also a good thing that he has plenty of time to develop, because it looks like he'll need it.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
No Ryan Strieby? He put together a great season, and seems to have the bat to carry him. Was his glove what kept him off the Top 10?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: I gave Strieby some strong consideration for the Top 10. In the end, he fell a little short. But there's a lot to like about him. An under-control swing, paired with tremendous raw power, generally equals a big leaguer. He's a guy that has not gotten a lot of recognition from the industry, for reasons that remain unclear. He was the SEC Player of the Year in '06 and led the pitcher-friendly FSL in home runs and RBIs this year. If he had not broken the hamate bone in his left wrist, we might be talking about how he set the league HR record. Think about it: If he hit 29 homers in the FSL this year, how many will he have in '09 if he plays his home games at hitter-friendly Jerry Uht Park in Erie? The only thing stopping him from reaching the majors quickly is that he's a one-position guy, and his one position happens to be the one that Miguel Cabrera plays.

 Q:  Harry from RI asks:
Biggest sleeper in the system in your eyes would be?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: As much as we talk about the Tigers' righthanded relievers, there are a few that would qualify as sleepers: Jay Sborz, Anthony Shawler and Jared Gayhart, to name three. Gayhart hasn't pitched much, but the Tigers are really excited about his arm.

 Q:  Nick from LI asks:
Brennan Boesch started out strong in short league and has never regained that form... Any chance this is his year? What are your thoughts on him as a prospect?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: Not sure what has happened with Boesch, to be honest with you. You're right: He has not had a standout season since '06. Actually, the Tigers' first three picks in that draft have not fared all that well for Detroit. Miller (1) was traded and has been inconsistent with the Marlins, while Bourquin (2) and Boesch (3) have been disappointments. Right now, the best prospects from that draft (still with the organization) are Strieby (4th round), Sizemore (5), Fien (20) and Darrow (32).

 Q:  Warren from Texas asks:
Afte a rebound year in 08, where does Clevlen fit into the Tigers' plans? Thanks for the chat!
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: In my view, Clevlen's future with the Tigers is uncertain. He'll be out of options at the end of this spring, and he won't have a great chance to make the team unless at least one or two other players are traded. Think about it: The outfield, right now, has Guillen in LF, Granderson in CF and Ordonez in RF. Sheffield is the DH. Leyland will probably carry a maximum of two extra outfielders. So, would you take Clevlen over Thames? Over Joyce? If not, then he might be headed for the waiver wire. Of course, the circumstances change if there is an injury, or if the Tigers move Magglio, Thames or Joyce. But I believe Clevlen will need to have a big spring in order to make this team. And now he must contend with Casper Wells, who has a similar skill set and doesn't strike out as much.

 Q:  Warren from Texas asks:
Where do Hamilton and Worth currently stand as prospects after falling out of the Top 10? Thanks for the chat!
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: I discussed Hamilton a minute ago ... As for Worth, he fell out of my top 10 because I was concerned to see that he wore down at Erie. He only played in 80 games this season because of bursitis behind his throwing shoulder. Is an injury reason enough to drop someone in the rankings? No. But I'm worried about his durability. That said, he told me at the end of the season that he plans to work hard on improving his overall strength during the off-season. If he does that, and if he's able to stay healthy over a full season in '09, then he'll be a top-tier prospect again. Leyland loves his glove, and he'll probably be back in big-league camp for a second straight year.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
The scouting reports I've read so far paint a flattering picture of OF Andy Dirks (28-game hitting streak and 73-game on-base streak in Wichita State). Is he someone to keep an eye on in your eyes, and did he crack the 30?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: To be candid, I probably would have given him more consideration for the Top 30 if I'd had the chance to see him play at West Michigan. But he came down with the injury, so he wasn't able to play his way onto the list. That said, I heard he performed well in instructs, so he's someone to watch in '09. I'm told that he has good overall tools — a little like Clete Thomas, maybe. I'll be interested to see where he begins next season. He'll be 23 when spring training starts, even though he has very little pro experience.

 Q:  Ron from Oxford, MS asks:
Justin Henry hits for average, has good speed and a projectable frame in the lower levels for the Tigers. How much of a prospect is he and does having Sizemore ahead of him hurt his chances of reaching the majors?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: Henry's an interesting guy. I saw him play a few games for the Whitecaps this year. At times, I thought his range at second wasn't great. Then you see that he stole 27 bases this year. He was better after the All-Star break than before, which is a good sign. He had more walks than strikeouts, too, and I remember West Michigan manager Joe DePastino telling me that he loved it when Henry came up in a big spot. Does he profile as an everyday second baseman? I'm not sure. I do think, however, that he could hit his way to the majors as a super-utility guy at the least. If you can bat around .300 from the left side, there's a job for you in the big leagues. I wouldn't say that Sizemore's presence hurts Henry's chances of making the majors. I tend to think that hitters eventually wind up in the majors if they're good enough, regardless of where they sit on a given organization's depth chart.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
How do you like Casey Crosby's chances of having a breakout season? Do you think he has the ceiling of a #2 starter?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: I think Crosby is a terrific prospect. The Tigers are going to take his development slowly, for a variety of reasons — he hasn't pitched much, he's young, and he's had TJ. But he has the highest ceiling of any starter in the system not named Rick Porcello. His fastball averages 94 mph from the left side. That pretty much says it all. He'll probably pitch at West Michigan or Lakeland in '09. Since he's from the Chicago area, he would probably embrace the notion of pitching on 40-degree days in April.

 Q:  Warren from Texas asks:
What are the systems strengths (if any)? Weaknesses ( I know you don't have all day but if you could list a few) Thanks for the chat!
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: Strengths — relief pitching, particularly hard-throwing righthanders; some promising high school starters (Porcello, Crosby, Hamilton, Jade Todd); first base (Larish, Strieby) Weaknesses — frontline, close-to-the-majors starting pitching (which is what they could really use right now); third base (unless you count Larish) Jury's out — The Tigers have a lot of middle infielders, but it remains to be seen how many of them will (a) play everyday in the majors and (b) develop into average-to-above-average defenders before they get there. Catching is still a question mark, even with Ryan, Avila and Skelton there.

 Q:  Mike from Portland asks:
How is Charlie Furbush progressing? What are the scout's thoughts on him?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: At this time last year, I thought Furbush could be a fast-mover — particularly if the Tigers thought about developing him as a left-handed reliever. But then he came down with the arm injury, which set him back one year. The last I heard, the Tigers were expecting him to pitch in '09. My guess — and it is only that — is that he will need to pitch at West Michigan or Lakeland, because he has very little pro experience.

 Q:  Nate from Richmond, RI asks:
Hi! What do you think is Scott Sizemore's offensive ceiling? Will he ever develop double-digit home run power? I see his plate discipline and like his chances of becoming a pretty good OPS guy.
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: I don't know that he'll ever hit for double-digit home run power. I look at him as a Polanco-type hitter — a convenient comparison, I know, but one that I think is pretty accurate. After his performance in the '07 AFL, I really thought he was in for a big season in '08, but the hamate injury foiled that. He's got a very low-maintenance swing, and I love his approach at the plate. If he makes it back from the injury without any effect on his hitting, I believe he'll justify the high ranking I gave him.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
If Perry's command improves significantly, is there any chance Detroit will eventually convert him to a starter once he gets the call?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: I wouldn't totally rule that out. But I think the Tigers plan to continue developing him as a starter for now.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Do you think that the Tigers would have had a top ten system if they hung on to Maybin and Hernandez?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: Hard for me to judge those things, as I mentioned earlier. But the Tigers lack high-impact position players, and those two fit that description.

 Q:  Bryan from San Francisco asks:
Anything you can tell us about reliever Zach Simons? I heard the Tigers just added him to the 40-man. Any chance we see him in Detroit in 2009? Thanks!
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: Simons has a very good arm, and he impressed the Tigers with how well he adapted to the new organization after coming over from Colorado in the Grilli trade. His fastball has late life, and his power curveball is an impressive pitch. With better command, he could reach the big leagues soon. He may not pitch in Detroit this coming season — after all, he hasn't pitched above Class A. But he's a definite prospect, and I believe he'll get there eventually.

 Q:  Mark from Davis asks:
You spoke of the Atlanta deal earlier. How do you evaluate that one?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: Probably the same way most everyone else does: The Tigers made a big mistake. They lost a lot of money in the deal, not to mention a pitching prospect (Jair Jurrjens) who could have helped them in 2008 and beyond. Dave Dombrowski has made a lot of good deals in Detroit, but this was not one of them.

 Q:  Michael from Chicago asks:
Don't you think that strikeouts are an issue for Wells? Some games he has 1 home run and 3 strikeouts. That won't cut it in the Major Leagues.
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: You're right: Strikeouts are a weak spot for Wells. He has averaged almost one per game over the entire season. As I said earlier, though, he does not strike out as much as Clevlen — who fanned 166 times in 126 games at Triple-A this year.

 Q:  Lew from Raleigh, NC asks:
What do the Tigers think of Londell Taylor. Read some nice things about him during instructional league but in his limited time his numbers have been pretty bad.
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: Taylor has some really exciting tools, even though his performance has not matched up to this point. The Tigers are going to be patient with him. A successful 2009 season would probably involve him having success at West Michigan.

 Q:  Dave from Center Line asks:
Is Francisco Martinez better than Wilkin Ramirez?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: At this point, no. But he's one of the top hitters the Tigers have signed from Latin America recently. He has tools and can run. But he's too far away at this point to draw any comparison between him and Ramirez.

 Q:  Dave from Center Line asks:
Is Jay Sborz back on the Tigers map? Why wasn't he protected?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: He's definitely back on the map, after a strong season at Lakeland. I'm not sure of the reasons why he was left off the roster, but he's definitely regained prospect status. He's someone who teams will probably consider for the Rule 5 draft.

 Q:  DLew from Grosse Pointe Farms, MI asks:
Kyle Peter put up some nice numbers in Hawaii this Fall....are the Tigers high on him...and where do you see him starting 2009?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: Peter is an interesting player, largely because of his speed, and he hit well in Hawaii. From what I remember seeing at West Michigan, he's at least adequate in centerfield. At this point, my instincts say he will start at Lakeland. But I wouldn't be surprised if he is at Erie.

 Q:  John from DC asks:
With regard to Porcello, do you believe that the decision to lose the slider for now was the reason for the lack of strikeouts or was it something else? If they take him to AA, what is the likelihood that they will allow him to start mixing the slider back in? Does he have a true strikeout pitch?
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: The Tigers felt that Porcello would be best served by focusing on one breaking pitch this year. They chose the curve, and the results were very good. I asked Jon Matlack that question about the slider earlier this year, and he said that hadn't been decided yet. So, we will wait and see. But Porcello had such great results with the curve that I wonder how motivated the Tigers will be to reintroduce the slider. The key with Porcello is to have a good defensive infield behind him. If he pitches to contact and gets a lot of ground balls with that sinker, he can carve through lineups.

 Q:  Dave from Center Line asks:
What is your take on the SS situation right now? Seems to me DD wants to do a short term fix like last year, but it didn't work out well.
 A: 

Jon Paul Morosi: The plan, for now, is to find a shortstop for 2009 (and maybe 2010), with the idea that Cale Iorg will be ready by sometime in 2010, if not before. The reason Renteria did not work out, in my view, is that his defensive play was subpar. The Tigers need a good defensive shortstop to help the pitching staff along, and that's what they're looking for now. That's the last question for today, folks. Thanks so much for your interest in the rankings. Enjoy the off-season!