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, 2009.

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Detroit Tigers

The Tigers spent most of the 2009 season looking down on the rest of the American League Central. They moved into first place on May 10 and held a seven-game lead after they won their first six games in September. Detroit then went just 11-16 the rest of the way, allowing the red-hot Twins to catch up on the final day of the season and force a one-game playoff.

That game turned out to be an epic 12-inning affair that Minnesota won 6-5. The loss was a bitter disappointment for the Tigers, obscuring many of the positive developments that happened during the season.

Eight players made their major league debut with Detroit before rosters expanded in September, led by Rick Porcello, who ranked No. 1 on this list a year ago. The Tigers drew the ire of Major League Baseball when they gave Porcello a $7 million big league contract as a first-round pick in 2007, matching the record guarantee for a high schooler established by Josh Beckett. The investment already has proven justified, as Porcello jumped from high Class A to win 14 games as a rookie and make a strong start in the final loss to the Twins.

Detroit also expedited the development of a pair of 2008 draftees. First-rounder Ryan Perry spent the entire season in the big league bullpen, striking out 60 in 62 innings and looking every bit like the club's closer of the future. Fifth-rounder Alex Avila, who joined the club in August to add another catcher and lefthanded bat, delivered five homers in 61 at-bats.

After setting a franchise record by spending $136 million on player salaries in 2008 and opening last season with a $115 million payroll, the Tigers entered the offseason looking to reduce their expenditures for 2010. Detroit has committed $65.5 million alone for the salaries of Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson, whose recent performance has rendered them virtually unmovable.

As a result, the Tigers had to deal one of their most popular players and one of their most effective starters. At the Winter Meetings, they sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees and Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks in a three-team trade that brought back outfielder prospect Austin Jackson and Phil Coke from New York and Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from Arizona. The Tigers' hope is that Jackson, Scherzer and Schlereth will team with Miguel Cabrera, Porcello and Justin Verlander to give them a solid core around which they can build a contender at reduced rates.

Detroit may be trying to save money at the major league level, but it wasn't afraid to spend to acquire young talent in 2009. The Tigers went from the second-lowest draft bonus total ($3.7 million) in 2008 to the third-highest (a club-record $9.4 million) last summer. They gave a $4.7 million bonus (the largest ever for a high school pitcher) as part of a $5.5 million big league contract to first-rounder Jacob Turner, $1.495 million to second-rounder Andy Oliver and $1.625 million to sixth-rounder Daniel Fields.

Turner, Jackson, Oliver and Schlereth claim four of the top five spots on this list. The only prospect on the top five who was with the organization before 2009 is lefthander Casey Crosby, who signed for $748,500 as a fifth-round pick in 2007 and has recovered from subsequent Tommy John surgery.

1.  Jacob Turner, rhp   Born: May 21, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 210
 Drafted: HS—St. Louis, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Marty Miller
Jacob TurnerBackground: After an excellent summer on the showcase circuit, which included striking out five straight batters at the Aflac All-America Game, Turner positioned himself as a mid-first-round pick for the 2009 draft. He looked sharper and sharper as the spring progressed, boosting his stock to where he was the consensus top high school righthander available in a standout class of prep arms. His price tag and choice of Scott Boras as his adviser scared some teams off, but the Tigers aren't afraid to gamble in the draft and selected him with the ninth overall pick. He signed at the Aug. 17 deadline, getting a $4.7 million bonus—the highest ever for a high school pitcher—as part of a $5.5 million major league contract. Signing that late didn't allow Turner to make his pro debut in 2009, but he enters the system more polished than most high schoolers. His pitching coach at Westminster Christian Academy (St. Louis) was former all-star Todd Worrell, and ex-big leaguers Andy Benes and Mike Matheny also had sons on the team. Turner's older brother Ben formed the other half of his battery growing up and now catches for Missouri. If Turner hadn't signed, he would have attended North Carolina, which also had a commitment from Missouri's top prep pitcher in 2008, Royals righthander Tim Melville.

Strengths: At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Turner has an ideal pitcher's frame and the stuff to match. He throws his four-seam fastball at 92-94 mph and will touch 97-98 multiple times per game. He gets good, late action on his fastball and locates it to both sides of the plate. He'll also mix in two-seamers on occasion. Turner's curveball isn't as good as his heater, but it projects as a future plus pitch. He throws it between 78-83 mph with good depth and sharp 12-to-6 break. His changeup should be a solid third pitch as he gets more experience with it. A good athlete, he has smooth mechanics and the ball comes out of his hand cleanly with explosive late life.

Weaknesses: Turner is still a little inconsistent with his curveball, though that's typical for high school pitchers, especially those who can blow fastballs by their competition so easily. His changeup will need to be refined if he's going to turn over pro lineups a few times every five days. Mostly, Turner just needs to pitch more and face quality competition. He made just one outing in instructional league because he developed some shoulder stiffness and the Tigers shut him down. They were just being cautious, and there are no major concerns about his health.

The Future: Detroit scouting director David Chadd historically favors college players. When he takes a high schooler with an early pick, he has made some terrific choices, including Jon Lester in the second round in 2002 (with the Red Sox) and Rick Porcello in the first round in 2007. Turner profiles as a top-of-the-rotation starter and likely will begin his pro career at low Class A West Michigan. He may not race to the majors as quickly as Porcello—who was regarded as a slightly better prospect at the same stage of his career—but Turner shouldn't require much seasoning either. He could be pitching in Detroit by the end of 2011.
 
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
 
2.  Casey Crosby, lhp   Born: Sept. 17, 1988B-T: L-LHt: 6-5Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Maple Park, Ill., 2007 (5th round)Signed by: Marty Miller
Casey CrosbyBackground: The Tigers signed Crosby for $748,500 as a fifth-round pick in 2007, only to see him hurt his elbow in instructional league and require Tommy John surgery. Because he entered 2009 with just five innings of pro experience, they limited him to five innings or 75-80 pitchers per outing in low Class A. Crosby starred despite the short leash, going 5-2, 0.78 in the second half and drawing comparisons to Clayton Kershaw.

Strengths: Crosby has well above-average velocity for a lefthander, sitting at 92-95 mph and getting as high as 98 with late life. He also throws a true curveball with sharp downward break and tight rotation. His curve has the potential to be a plus pitch, and when he misses with it, he misses down rather than in a hitter's wheelhouse. He also shows some feel for a changeup. He has some deception and uses his height and high three-quarters arm slot to throw on a steep downward plane. A very good athlete, he was an all-state wide receiver at his suburban Chicago high school.

Weaknesses: Crosby needs work on the consistency and command of all of his pitches. Because his offerings aren't fully developed, he relies on blowing his fastball by hitters. He lost a chance to work on his secondary pitches during instructional league, as he was shut down after a couple starts with shoulder tendinitis.

The Future: Crosby has an electric arm and is one of the game's best lefthanded pitching prospects. Rick Porcello notwithstanding, Detroit typically moves its pitchers one step at a time, so Crosby figures to spend 2010 at high Class A Lakeland. If he can handle a full workload, he figures to accelerate his timetable.
 
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
West Michigan (Lo A) 10 4 2.41 24 24 0 0 105 70 3 48 117 .195
 
3.  Austin Jackson, of   Born: Feb. 1, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 185
 Drafted: HS—Denton, Texas, 2005 (8th round)Signed by: Mark Batchko (Yankees)
Austin JacksonBackground: A former Georgia Tech point guard recruit, Jackson signed with the Yankees for a then-eighth-round-record $800,000 in 2005. He had a mixed performance when he reached Triple-A in 2009, hitting .300 but showing little power and slumping in the second half. He came to Detroit in December as part of the three-team trade that sent Curtis Granderson to New York and Edwin Jackson to Arizona.

Strengths: Jackson brings his athleticism to bear defensively in center field, where he glides to balls with good range, and offensively, where he repeats his swing to produce gap power. He has shown the ability to hit for average, batting .300 or better in three of his five pro seasons. He's a tick above-average runner underway who has improved his basestealing ability. His arm strength is above average for center field and allows him to play right field as well.

Weaknesses: In an attempt to hit for more power, Jackson lost his rhythm, stopped making contact and had just nine extra-base hits in the second half of last season. He has hit just 30 homers in 565 pro games, and he's likely to have average power at best. He's not selective enough to take walks consistently, and he needs a better two-strike approach.

The Future: Jackson had reached a crossroads with the Yankees but will get the opportunity to replace Granderson in center field for the Tigers. He may be better suited to hit at the top of the lineup than Granderson was.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA) .300 .354 .405 504 67 151 23 9 4 65 40 123 24
 
4.  Andrew Oliver, lhp   Born: Dec. 3, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 206
 Drafted: Oklahoma State, 2009 (2nd round)Signed by: Chris Wimmer
Andrew OliverBackground: The NCAA tried to make an example of Oliver in May 2008, suspending him for having an adviser present during negotiations with the Twins two years earlier, when they drafted him in the 17th round out of high school. Oliver sued the NCAA, was reinstated for the 2009 season and received a $750,000 settlement. He had an up and down junior season at Oklahoma State, but the Tigers loved his live left arm and gave him a $1.495 million bonus as a second-round pick.

Strengths: Oliver throws harder than most lefthanders, pitching at 92-94 mph and occasionally reaching the upper 90s. He throws strikes and gets average movement with his four-seam fastball, and Detroit is having him add a two-seamer and emphasizing pounding the bottom of the strike zone. He pitches with clean mechanics and an easy arm action.

Weaknesses: Part of the reason Oliver struggled last spring was that he was essentially operating with just one pitch, throwing 95 percent fastballs in some starts. He had shown a good curveball in the past but it was virtually non-existent. He also has a cutter/slider and a changeup, but he needs to throw them more to maximize his effectiveness. Oliver also has a few kinks to iron out in his delivery. He sometimes opens up too early and tends to land a little hard on his heel. The Tigers made some tweaks to help him use his strength and leverage more efficiently.

The Future: If Oliver develops his secondary stuff, he has the potential to be a frontline starter. If not, he could wind up as a closer. After getting some experience in the Arizona Fall League, he could make his pro debut in high Class A.
 
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
 
5.  Daniel Schlereth, lhp   Born: May 9, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-0Wt: 210
 Drafted: Arizona, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Rodney Davis (Diamondbacks)
Daniel SchlerethBackground: The son of former NFL lineman and ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth, Daniel overcame Tommy John surgery in 2006 to go 26th overall in the draft two years later. Ten months after signing with the Diamondbacks for $1.33 million, he was in the big leagues. Arizona shipped him to Detroit in December in a deal that brought Edwin Jackson to the desert.

Strengths: Schlereth has the potential to be a rare power-pitching lefty closer. He has a 93-96 mph fastball with riding life, and he can buckle knees with his hard 82-84 mph curveball. Though he didn't need it in college, he also flashes a changeup that dives and floats. He's intense on the mound and wants the ball late in games.

Weaknesses: Schlereth struggled in the big leagues because he battled his command. He couldn't maintain a consistent release point, hurting his ability to locate his pitches. He needs to throw more strikes, and batters shouldn't tee off on his swing-and-miss stuff if he does.

The Future: As soon as Schlereth works out his control issues, he'll be pitching in the late innings for the Tigers. There are few lefties with his pure stuff, and he eventually could become Detroit's closer.
 
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Mobile (AA) 0 0 1.01 21 0 0 4 27 14 1 16 39 .161
Arizona 1 4 5.89 21 0 0 0 18
15 1 15 22 .221
Reno (AAA) 0 0 0.00 1
0 0 0 1
1 0 1 1 .250
 
6.  Alex Avila, c   Born: Jan. 29, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 5-11Wt: 210
 Drafted: Alabama, 2008 (5th round)Signed by: Jim Rough
Alex AvilaBackground: The Tigers drafted both of assistant GM Al Avila's sons in 2008, Alex in the fifth round and Alan in the 47th. They signed Alex, who was in his first year as a full-time catcher, and he reached Detroit last year in surprisingly quick fashion. Not only did he get the call in August when the Tigers needed an extra catcher and lefty bat, but he responded with five homers in 61 at-bats.

Strengths: Avila can catch up to good fastballs and drive the ball to all fields, projecting as a possible .280 hitter with 15 homers in the big leagues. He has improved tremendously in a short time as a catcher, and one scout who saw him in 2009 couldn't believe Avila was the same guy he saw in college. He's agile and has solid catch-and-throw skills, and he led the Double-A Eastern League by throwing out 44 percent of basestealers last season. He has tremendous makeup and instincts after growing up around the game.

Weaknesses: Avila has yet to prove he can handle lefthanders, hitting .234/.316/.360 against them in 175 minor league at-bats. As is the case with most catchers, he's a below-average runner.

The Future: Avila leapfrogged since-traded Dusty Ryan on the organizational depth chart and profiles as solid regular. He'll likely split time with Gerald Laird in 2010 as he prepares to become Detroit's full-time catcher in 2011.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Erie (AA) .264 .365 .450 329 52 87 23 1 12 55 52 77 2
Detroit .279 .375 .590 61 9 17 4 0 5 14 10 18 0
 
7.  Gustavo Nunez, ss   Born: Feb. 8, 1988B-T: B-RHt: 5-10Wt: 168
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007Signed by: Julian German/Ramon Perez
Gustavo NunezBackground: After hitting .245/.304/272 in high Class A in 2008, Nunez was much improved after taking a step back to West Michigan last season. He emerged as the system's best infield prospect, with the lone negative a July suspension for what the Tigers deemed "conduct detrimental to the organization."

Strengths: Nunez is a very good defender with smooth actions, fluid footwork and one of the best arms in the system. He has good bat control, grinds out at-bats and finds a way to get on base and score runs. His speed rates a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale and he led Detroit farmhands with 48 steals last year. Despite the suspension, the Tigers regard him as a hard worker with great makeup.

Weaknesses: Nunez has a tendency to jump at the first pitch and get behind in the count. He's undersized and doesn't project to hit for much power. After getting caught stealing 25 times last year, he needs to work on getting better reads and jumps. At shortstop, he sometimes lets the ball play him instead of being more aggressive.

The Future: One scout from outside the organization compared Nunez to Orlando Cabrera with less power. A top-of-the-order sparkplug and a terrific defender, he'll get a second crack at Lakeland in 2010.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
West Michigan (Lo A) .315 .360 .425 464 82 146 16 10 5 40 25 62 45
GCL Tigers (R) .190 .261 .333 21 5 4 0 0 1 4 1 5 3
 
8.  Wilkin Ramirez, of   Born: Oct. 25, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 190
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2003Signed by: Ramon Pena
Wilkin RamirezBackground: Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a third baseman in 2003, Ramirez moved to left field in 2007 and made his way to the majors last season. He homered off Matt Harrison in his first big league game, but for the most part came back to earth bit after having the best minor league season of his career in 2008.

Strengths: Ramirez continues to show off tantalizing if raw five-tool ability. Both his power and speed grade as above-average and he could be a 25-25 man in the majors. He has the bat speed to catch up with major league fastballs and the swing to hit .280-.300. He's capable of playing all three outfield positions and has a strong arm.

Weaknesses: Ramirez has a swing-hard-in-case-you-hit-it approach, so his power comes with a lot of strikeouts. His stroke can get a bit long at times and he's pull-oriented, leaving him vulnerable to breaking balls off the plate. He fits best in left field because he's still learning to play the outfield. He needs to take better routes on flyballs and get better jumps on the bases.

The Future: Detroit doesn't have an established left fielder, but Ramirez could use some more seasoning at Triple-A Toledo. He could push for a regular job in the majors by the end of 2010.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Toledo (AAA) .258 .326 .445 434 69 112 18 6 17 51 41 143 33
Detroit .364 .385 .818 11 6 4 0 1 1 3 1 3 0
 
9.  Daniel Fields, ss   Born: Jan. 23, 1991B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Detroit, 2009 (5th round)Signed by: Tom Osowski
Robert FieldsBackground: Fields grew up around baseball, as his father Bruce won three minor league batting titles and reached the big leagues briefly with the Tigers and Mariners. He was Detroit's big league batting coach in 2003, when he let Daniel take batting practice at Comerica Park and the 12-year-old wowed onlookers by homering with a wood bat. The Tigers lured Fields away from a Michigan commitment with an over-slot bonus of $1.625 million after selecting him in the sixth round last June.

Strengths: Fields is a quality athlete with the strength and natural lift in his lefthanded swing to hit home runs. Though he's a below-average runner out of the box, he grades out as plus underway. He runs the 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds and has the instincts to steal bases. His arm rates as average to a tick above. Detroit also praises his makeup and work ethic.

Weaknesses: Though he'll get every opportunity to stay at shortstop, Fields is big for the position and doesn't have a quick first step. He'll have to work hard to remain there, but most scouts project that he'll have to shift to third base or the outfield. He had a reputation for being more of a standout in showcases than games, but he erased that tag with a strong senior season.

The Future: The best athlete in the system, Fields excites the Tigers with his power-speed combination and good bloodlines. He'll get his pro career started in low Class A.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Did Not Play—Signed Late
 
10.  Scott Sizemore, 2b   Born: Jan. 4, 1985 B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 185
 Signed: Virginia Commonwealth, 2006 (5th round)Signed by: Bill Buck
Scott SizemoreBackground: A rare second-base prospect who was actually drafted at the position, Sizemore has batted .296 since signing as a fifth-round pick in 2006. He represented the Tigers at the Futures Game in 2009, when he easily handled the transition to Double-A and Triple-A and earned a spot on the 40-man roster.

Strengths: Sizemore is a blue-collar grinder who comes to the park ready to play every day. He has a compact swing and a knack for putting the barrel on the ball. His hitting ability grades as his lone plus tool, but his instincts help the rest of his game play up. He has average speed and a knack for stealing bases, succeeding in 21 of 25 attempts last season.

Weaknesses: The Tigers played Sizemore at shortstop in his pro debut, but gave up on that experiment after one season. Even at second base, his range is fringy and his arm is just adequate. He has trouble turning the double play, though he has shown improvement.

The Future: Sizemore broke his left ankle on a double-play pivot in the Arizona Fall League in October. Expected to be healthy for spring training, he's the frontrunner to take over for departed free agent Placido Polanco in Detroit. Sizemore profiles as a steady if not spectacular regular.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Erie (AA) .307 .402 .535 228 39 70 17 4 9 33 35 46 7
Toledo (AAA) .308 .378 .473 292 49 90 22 1 8 33 29 49 14

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