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There were few doubts about Cornjeo's arm strength as the 1998 draft arrived. It was considered first-round all the way, perhaps the best in the high school ranks that year. The questions about him centered on his knees. He blew both of them out during a high school career in which he also starred in football and basketball. Those concerns have been unfounded because Cornjeo has proven to be durable to this point. Considered one of the Tigers' top prospects since signing, he took a dramatic leap forward last season, winning 20 games in the upper minors and the majors. He dominated Double-A hitters and was even better in Triple-A before his promotion to the big leagues in August. With Detroit, Cornejo ran the gamut from very good to very bad. He comes from a baseball family, as his father Mardie pitched for the Mets and his brother Jesse pitches in the Devil Rays system. Both Cornjeo's fastball and breaking ball are excellent pitches. His fastball has exceptional movement, breaking down and in on righthanders. During his first three pro seasons, he consistently threw his fastball at 90-91 mph. Last year, his velocity rose to 93-94 and he didn't lose any life on the pitch. Cornejo also has an outstanding breaking ball, which is a cross between a slider and a curveball. He has good command of it. Despite his height, his mechanics are consistent, and he is athletic for his size. After throwing a lot of innings in the minor leagues, Cornejo didn't flash quite the same stuff once he reached the majors. His fastball didn't have quite the same zip and his breaking ball suffered after the big league staff ill-advisedly told him to change his grip. His changeup is not nearly as good as his other two pitches. Command of his fastball could be a problem because his ball moves so much. Unless he doesn't pitch well during spring training, Cornjeo will start 2002 in the major leagues. Scouts compare him to Kevin Brown because of the velocity and sink on his fastball. Though it would be a stretch to expect it this season, Cornjeo could become a No.1 starter in the future.
Driven by the shooting death of his brother Asdrubal, a pitcher in the Tigers organization, Infante has taken big steps the last two seasons. In 2000, he came out of nowhere to hold his own as an 18-year at high Class A Lakeland and became the youngest player ever in the Arizona Fall League. Managers rated him the best defensive shortstop in the Eastern League. Infante has excellent hands and smooth actions at shortstop. He was bothered by a sore throwing shoulder for most of 2001 but still threw accurately. He has a quick initial step and good range. As a hitter, he punches the ball into right field with authority and at times will turn on pitches. He's an exceptionally intense and focused player. His speed is just average for a middle infielder. At this stage of his career, he might struggle if pounded inside with good fastballs. He doesn't walk enough and strikes out too much for the type of hitter he needs to be at the major league level. Less than three years after the Tigers signed him, Infante could be their starting shortstop on Opening Day. He'd provide more defense than Deivi Cruz, who was designated for assignment in December.
A catcher at Southern California, Munson was converted into a first baseman after signing a $6.75 million big league contract as the No. 3 overall pick in the 1999 draft. He missed most of the second half of the 2000 season with a back ailment, which also kept him from playing in the Arizona Fall League. In 2001, Munson played every day and got better as the season went on. He showed much more power during the second half of the season, hitting 21 homers in his final 72 games. Quick hands are Munson's forte. As far as he's concerned, the harder a pitcher throws, the better. He'll center the ball on his live bat regardless. When he makes contact, the ball jumps off his bat with extraordinary velocity. Like a lot of hitters with fast hands, Munson is prone to trying to pull everything. He strikes out too much even for a power hitter. At best, he's an average defender. He is the Tigers' first baseman of the future, but there has been a logjam at his position that was only partially relieved when Tony Clark was waived in November. Whether Munson opens the season in the major leagues or at Triple-A Toledo could depend on the numbers game.
It was viewed as something of a reach and a signability pick when the Tigers drafted Baugh 11th overall last June. A fifth-round pick by Oakland in 2000, he opted to return for his senior season and was named Western Athletic Conference pitcher of the year. After signing for $1.8 million, he justified Detroit's faith by pitching well and reaching Double-A Erie before being shut down with a tired arm. His changeup already is an above-average pitch. His fastball, which occasionally reaches 94 mph, has good sink and he commands it well. He's an excellent athlete, which helps him repeat his delivery and throw strikes with ease. Most pitchers drafted in the upper half of the first round consistently throw harder than Baugh. While he tops out at 95 mph, he more often works at 88-91. His curveball is far from ready for the major leagues at this time. Baugh will begin this season in Double-A or Triple-A. If he performs reasonably well, he likely will make his big league debut at some point in 2002. He's the frontrunner to be the first player from the 2001 draft to reach the majors.
Santiago starred defensively during his first two years as a pro, but he tore his labrum in 2000. The injury cut short that season, and shoulder surgery relegated him to DH duties last year. He got off to a slow start in high Class A as a teenager in 2001, before closing strong and posting respectable numbers. Santiago made great strides as a hitter last season by shortening his stroke and making more consistent contact. He's more quick than fast, but he's a smart baserunner who can steal bases. Before his arm injury, he was a brilliant fielder with good range, excellent hands and exceptional arm strength. He needs to get stronger. He hits too many fly balls and doesn't walk enough to suit the style of player he is. His arm has regained its strength since the surgery, but he has struggled to relearn his throwing mechanics. With Omar Infante also on hand, Santiago may be moved to second base at some point. He and Infante figure to be Detroit's doubleplay combination of the future. Santiago will start this season in Double-A.
Torres ran a lot of track and played little baseball during his youth in Puerto Rico. He didn't begin switch-hitting until he was at Miami-Dade Community College North. Following a breakout season in high Class A in 2000, he had an up-and-down year in Double-A in 2001 that was cut short by surgery on his sore throwing shoulder. Torres has excellent speed. He's consistently timed at 4.0 seconds from the right side of home to first base and has plenty of range in center field. He has improved as a hitter, particularly from the left side. His arm injury shouldn't cause long-term problems, and he makes accurate throws. To take full advantage of his speed, he needs to make more consistent contact. He needs better basestealing technique because he gets thrown out too often. Though he can cover vast amounts of ground, Torres often gets turned around or takes poor angles on balls hit directly over his head. At times, he has shown a lack of maturity. The Tigers desperately need a center fielder at the major league level and Torres is the prime candidate coming through the system. He likely will start 2002 at Triple-A Toledo and will get a chance in the majors as soon as his performance warrants.
Logan's first full season of pro ball went about as expected. He had moments where he looked like a future star and others in which his rawness was evident. Drafted as a shortstop in 2000, he was moved to center field during instructional league that fall. The Tigers also turned him into a switch-hitter. Logan is long, lean and exceptionally fast. He stole 67 bases in 86 attempts last year and is capable of being more prolific in the future. He took to center field well. Considering his lack of experience at the position, he misplayed few balls. He needs to get stronger and continue to develop as a switch-hitter. A natural righthander, he hit just .254 from the left side in 2001. He strikes out way too much for a player with his speed, and though he draws walks he will need to get on base more often. He seemed to wear down toward the end of last season. Logan is slated to spend all of this season in high Class A. If Torres eventually can't handle the center-field job, Logan could get the next opportunity.
A year after drafting him in the third round, the Mariners traded Van Hekken to the Tigers for outfielder Brian Hunter. Van Hekken has done nothing but win games, going 41-15 as a pro and 35-12 in the Detroit system. His 31 victories over the last two years are the most among minor league pitchers. Van Hekken has excellent command of his fastball and works the outside half of the plate exceptionally well. His fastball tails in on lefthanders and away from righthanders, making it difficult to hit with authority. His curveball is sharp and he also can spot it where he wants. He doesn't throw hard, pitching in the high 80s most nights, and doesn't appear to have enough pop on his fastball to challenge big league hitters near the heart of the plate. His changeup isn't a quality pitch yet. To start 2002, Van Hekken will return to Double-A, where he went 5-0 last year but didn't pitch particularly well. He could reach Detroit quickly if he continues to experience success.
Some scouts liked Ross better as a lefthanded pitcher coming out of high school, but the Tigers zeroed in on him as an outfielder. He started to display power in 2001, hitting 15 home runs in the spacious stadiums of the high Class A Florida State League. Twelve of those 15 longballs came in the second half of the season. A competitive player, Ross never takes at-bats off, runs the bases hard and hustles as a corner outfielder. His bat is surprisingly live and he consistently drives the ball. Ross doesn't strike out as much as most power hitters. His arm is both strong and accurate. His size is a concern, especially given that he has only average speed. His power is good but not great, and he doesn't have one tool which stands out. He'll need to show a little more patience at the plate as he advances. Ross could be in for a big Double-A season in 2002. Erie's Jerry Uht Park is friendly to righthanded hitters and could magnify his numbers.
Like Joe Mauer, the No. 1 overall pick in last June's draft, Hannahan starred in baseball and football at St. Paul's Cretin-Derham Hall. The 2001 Big Ten Conference player of the year, Hannahan also had a huge pro debut like Mauer did. Hannahan spent most of his summer at low Class A West Michigan, impressing Midwest League managers with his all-around game. He has good bat control and looks capable of hitting for a high average. He stays behind the ball well and can lace line drives into the gap. He's also an above-average third baseman, showing steady hands, an accurate arm and solid instincts. He was considered the University of Minnesota's best defensive third baseman since Terry Steinbach, who became an all-star catcher with the Athletics. Hannahan will have to hit for a high average if he is going to be an effective major league player because he doesn't have much home run power. His other shortcoming is that he doesn't run well. Some scouts think he could follow Steinbach's path to the majors as a catcher, but third base is a position of need for the Tigers. He could move fast at the hot corner, possibly reaching Double-A quickly in 2002.
The Tigers felt fortunate to get Larrison in the second round of last June's draft with the 55th overall selection. Coming off an impressive summer in the Cape Cod League, Larrison seemed like a certain first-round pick entering his junior year at Evansville. When he didn't dominate during the spring, his stock fell to a degree. After signing, Larrison pitched well at short-season Oneonta and displayed a live arm. His fastball usually works in the 92-94 mph range and has good sinking action, plus he throws it for strikes. The makings are there for Larrison to have a good breaking ball and changeup as well. Some scouts questioned his demeanor before the draft, feeling he's too passive on the mound. Detroit hasn't found that to be a problem, instead praising his work ethic and intensity. He'll probably open 2002 in low Class A.
Wheatland has pitched just 69 innings since signing as the eighth overall selection in the 2000 draft, as injuries have held him back. During his first summer in pro ball, he developed circulation problems in his right hand. His index finger would go numb, apparently caused by the grip on his breaking ball. In 2001, his throwing shoulder became loose and he missed most of the season. When Wheatland has thrown, he has been impressive. He works consistently in the low 90s with his fastball and has an outstanding breaking ball, considering his experience level. He has a good changeup as well, and his command and feel for pitching are strengths. It's just a matter of whether he'll get healthy or be a pitcher who consistently breaks down. Detroit will see what Wheatland looks like in spring training before determining his 2002 assignment.
During the 2001 season, Rivera took a major step forward in three significant areas. He improved his power to the point where he became one of the most feared hitters in the Eastern League. Defensively, he got much better at receiving and throwing. And he also was more consistent, both in terms of his performance and makeup, than he had been in the past. Rivera isn't the second coming of Ivan Rodriguez defensively, but he has progressed to the point where he's capable of being a bona fide everyday catcher in the major leagues. The biggest question in regard to his future probably involves his bat. He's a dead-pull hitter who benefited greatly from Erie's bandbox Uht Park, where 23 of his 33 homers came last year. He also tailed off his second time around the Eastern League, hitting just six longballs in his final 42 games. Comerica Park is probably the least forgiving place in the big leagues for a righthanded pull hitter.
As with Preston Larrison, the Tigers were pleased to land Woods on draft day 2001, when he slid from a projected mid-first-round pick to 32nd overall. He finished third in NCAA Division I with a .453 average last spring and stole 32 bases in 35 attempts despite hamstring problems. While he held his own in full-season ball, he's still a raw talent in need of refinement in most areas of his game. Woods hit the ball hard in his pro debut, but not with much consistency. He struck out too often, though he showed good ability to draw walks and get on base. The Tigers expected Woods would have hit with more power, but he doesn't lift the ball much at this point and went homerless in 200 pro atbats. His speed is average for a middle infielder and his arm strength is adequate for second base. His movements in the field aren't fluid and he needs work on the double-play pivot, but he doesn't make many errors. Woods will begin 2002 at one of Detroit's Class A affiliates.
Petty learned a valuable lesson last season about being prepared. He came to spring training out of shape and paid for it with a sore arm. His stock fell in the eyes of team officials, who were surprised because they expected more from Petty based on his pro debut in 2000. After recovering and putting in the necessary work, Petty returned for his second year in the Rookielevel Gulf Coast League, where managers rated him the No. 1 prospect. He's a tall, athletic lefthander. He isn't overpowering at this point, usually throwing in the high 80s, but he's very projectable. He easily could develop more pop to his fastball as he matures physically and his pitching mechanics become more consistent. Petty does spot his fastball well, but struggles to command his breaking ball and changeup. He'll probably start this season in low Class A.
The hardest thrower in the organization, Rodney joined the 40-man roster in November after reaching Double-A during the regular season. Though he made 10 starts last year, the Tigers project him as a closer or setup man down the road. His calling card is his fastball, which sometimes lights up radar guns at 98 mph. There's not much deception to his delivery, though, and his fastball is as straight as an arrow. He's going to have to spot the pitch to be effective as he moves up the ladder. Rodney has a good changeup, though he doesn't throw it often while working in short relief. He has yet to develop a third pitch, struggling mightily to throw his breaking ball over the plate. He also hasn't been especially durable, never pitching more than 83 innings in a pro season. He'll return to Double-A this year.
Kalita's promise wasn't all that evident during 2000, when he struggled in high Class A. The problem was his lack of command, as he simply didn't throw strikes early in the count. It seemed like every hitter took him to a full count, with the payoff either a fat pitch down the heart of the plate or ball four. Kalita got himself together last year in Double-A. He led the Eastern League in wins, starts, complete games and innings. Though there still are times when he falls into a rut, he did a much better job of getting ahead of hitters in 2001. There's no need for Kalita to nibble. His fastball is consistently in the 90 mph range, which is above average for a lefthander, and his delivery is somewhat deceptive. His breaking ball should be his out pitch when he reaches the major leagues, but only if he develops it to the point where he throws it over the plate more consistently. Kalita did allow 25 homers last year, tied for the most in the EL, reinforcing the fact that he can't put himself in hitter's counts. He'll move up to Triple-A in 2002.
Another member of Detroit's banner 2001 draft class, Raburn wasn't drafted in 2000 because he was at the University of Florida but went in the fifth round last June. His brother Johnny is an infield prospect in the Angels organization. A fundamentally sound hitter, he drove in 42 runs in 44 games in the short-season New York-Penn League. His stroke is compact and quick, while his pitch recognition is excellent. He's strong and has good power potential. A shortstop in high school and an outfielder at Florida, he moved to third base at South Florida CC. He made 23 errors at Oneonta because he struggles with his footwork, both when he fields grounders and when he sets to throw. He does have a good arm and is relatively athletic. Raburn will start this season in low Class A, where he'll be watched closely for his defensive progress. If he still struggles at third base, a return to the outfield could be in order.
Jenkins was considered the best power hitter coming out of the high school ranks in 1999, but he dropped down to the third round in part because of concerns about his diabetic condition. While that hasn't been a problem, a back injury shut him down after 23 games in high Class A last year. He didn't require surgery, but he has endured a long process of rest and rehabilitation. It was a key year for Jenkins, too, because it was his first as an outfielder after struggling defensively at third base. What he does best is hit the ball hard and far. He has a very live bat and enormous power potential. What he does worst is make contact. Jenkins has fanned 213 times in 608 professional at bats. He was a poor fielder at third base but had displayed signs of becoming an adequate outfielder, despite his lack of speed, before his back injury. He's destined to return to Lakeland in 2002.
Loux underwent surgery to clean out loose deposits in his elbow following the 2000 season. When he came back last year, his sinking fastball had dipped from its usual 92 mph to 88. The Tigers expected as much and believe he'll regain his velocity in 2002. In the meantime, Loux proved that he could pitch effectively at less than his best. He won 10 games in Triple-A while showing more maturity than in the past. Intensity had never been a problem, but channeling it properly had been. Loux' curveball and changeup are both effective, and he has a good feel for pitching. He didn't throw as many strikes last year as he had in the past, but that was another byproduct of the surgery that should be overcome with time. He'll be back at Toledo to start this season.
Rabelo was arguably as good as any college catching prospect in the 2001 draft. He blossomed offensively last spring after learning to switch-hit in college. He continued to hit in his pro debut. Rabelo hits the ball hard and uses the entire field, but he doesn't have much power at this stage. He does have good balance in his stance from both sides of the plate. His key will be cutting down on his strikeouts, increasing his walks and developing more strength so the line drives he hits now for singles find their way into the gaps for doubles and triples. A pitcher in high school, Rabelo didn't catch until college and still is smoothing out his defensive game. His arm isn't overly strong and he threw out just 26 percent of basestealers in the New York-Penn League. If he makes it to the big leagues, it will be his bat that gets him there.
It's not so much what Coenen does now which makes him an intriguing prospect. It's what he might do in the future. He's a 6-foot-5 lefthander whose fastball was clocked as high as 93 mph by Detroit's scouts before the draft. Like Preston Larrison, he was more impressive in the Cape Cod League during the summer of 2000 than he was during his final season of college. After turning pro, Coenen generally pitched at 88 mph. The Tigers aren't concerned because they expect he'll throw harder as he matures physically and hones his mechanics. He has a three-quarters delivery that causes his fastball to tail in on lefthanders and away from righthanders. His breaking ball, a cross between a slider and curve that he can throw for strikes, is a better pitch than his changeup at this point. Coenen's change likely will have to be revamped, something he'll work on this year in low Class A.
The knock against Merrill, a former teammate of Mike Rabelo's at the University of Tampa, is that he doesn't have a particular tool that stands out. He doesn't run well and isn't a threat to steal. He doesn't have good range or an overpowering arm. Drafted as a shortstop, he has mostly played second base in the minors. What Merrill does well, however, is produce. He's a pesky hitter who consistently has hit around .300. His value in the long run is as a utility player. Merrill can play adequately at second base, shortstop or third base. In order to become an everyday player in the major leagues, his bat will have to be considered a plus tool, which is probably a reach. He could be Ramon Santiago's double-play partner in Double-A this season.
Valentine's mid-90s fastball was the reason the Tigers wanted to pick up Valentine from the Expos in a straight cash deal, after Montreal took him fourth overall in the major league Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings. He'll have to stick on Detroit's 25-man roster all season, or else be exposed to waivers and then offered back to Chicago for half of the $50,000 draft price. A closer who posted 22 saves and a 1.79 ERA in Class A last year, Valentine will have to skip two levels to the big leagues, but he might have the stuff to do it. He has a good slider to go with his fastball. He lacks command at times, and he's going to have to do a better job of getting ahead of hitters in the majors. The jury is out on Valentine's makeup. He carries himself in a manner that some find cocky, while others just see him as confident.
The Tigers rolled the dice on the intriguing Woodyard, taking him in the 2000 draft's fourth round--far ahead of where he was expected to go. Detroit figured the product of tiny Bethune-Cookman might be a diamond in the rough, and to this point he has been neither a shining light nor a disappointment. He has merely held his own. Woodyard is raw and has gone just 8-17 as a pro, but he has shown flashes of potential. His fastball regularly reaches 90 mph or better, hitting 94 mph at times. His curveball is either very good or not good at all. There seems to be no in-between in that regard, especially when it comes to commanding his curve. Woodyard has struggled to find a consistent release point, which hurts his control, or a changeup. Yet he's athletic--he also played first base in college--and his work ethic has been good. He'll begin this season in high Class A.
Marx's greatest strength, his size, is also his biggest weakness. On one hand, he's an intimidating presence on the mound with a 90-mph fastball. On the other hand, like a lot of taller pitchers, he struggles to maintain his mechanics. Last season was a good one for Marx in the sense that he managed to start 27 games in high Class A and fight his way through adversity. It wasn't a good season in that his curveball and changeup, pitches he was starting to develop in 2000, both vanished. If Marx manages to get his offspeed pitches back on track, he'll have enough ability to pitch in the major leagues someday. Another question mark surrounding him is his durability. He was shut down after 18 starts in 2000 and wore down again last year. He'd probably be best served by returning to Lakeland in 2002.
Farnsworth joins Joe Valentine as major league Rule 5 draft picks who could make Detroit's pitching staff this year. A second-round pick in 1996, Farnsworth's career was put on hold as an elbow injury sidelined him for most of the next two years. He became a starter and dropped his arm slot down to a low three-quarters angle last season, showing significant progress in the second half of the season. He earned more notice by setting a Venezuela League record with 531⁄3 straight innings without a walk and leading the league in ERA this winter. The Tigers took him on the recommendation of Phil Regan, the former big league manager and pitching coach who managed in Venezuela this winter and will be the skipper at West Michigan in 2002. Farnsworth's fastball is in the low 90s and his breaking ball is serviceable. He may have an easier time sticking with Detroit out of the bullpen but also could get a look as a starter.
There are times when Keller lights up the radar gun at 97 mph. There are other times when he doesn't throw 90 mph. How hard he throws depends directly on his command. On the nights when Keller comes out throwing strikes, his fastball seems to get quicker with each pitch. When he can't find the plate, he starts guiding the ball and isn't nearly as effective. Keller's fastball is straight, so he needs the added velocity. He throws both a curveball and a slider, and the slider is the better of the two breaking balls. He threw a circle change regularly for the first time last season and got some outs with it. He has also flirted with the idea of developing a splitter. Until he can maintain his fastball from outing to outing, he won't be ready for Detroit. Keller will return to Triple-A in 2002.
After a decidedly underwhelming first pro season in 2000 after signing before that year's draft as a fifth-year senior, Eckenstahler dazzled the organization's coaches with the way he threw last spring training. He was consistently at 90-92 mph and maintained that velocity throughout the season, most of which he spent in Double-A. His breaking ball was also much improved, as he was able to throw it for strikes. Because he's a tall lefthander, Eckenstahler often is compared to Graeme Lloyd. He still needs to fine-tune his command and is projected as a middle or situational reliever, not as a closer. He's already 25, so he doesn't offer much more upside. He'll move up one step to Triple-A this season.
The Tigers are high on many of their middle-infield prospects. New York-Penn League batting champ Juan Francia and Juan Gonzalez, who finished second in the Gulf Coast League batting race, couldn't quite crack this list. Hernandez, whom managers rated as the No. 2 prospect in the GCL behind Chad Petty, just barely made it. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in April, Hernandez led the GCL in triples and steals in his pro debut. An athletic switch-hitter, he's not very big and will have to get stronger and more disciplined to be much of a threat at the plate. His speed and defense are his strengths. He has more than enough range and arm to stay at shortstop. Hernandez could start 2002 in extended spring before heading to short-season ball in June, or he could open the year in low Class A if the Tigers decide to be more aggressive with him.