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Granderson proved he could hit in 2002. He finished second in the NCAA Division I batting race with a .483 average, trailing only Rickie Weeks (.495)--who would become the No. 2 overall pick the following year. After signing for $469,000 as a third-round pick, Granderson again finished runner-up for a hitting crown, this time with a .344 average in the short-season New York-Penn League. But for all his hitting ability, scouts weren't impressed by the rest of his game. Though he skipped a level and had a solid if unspectacular performance at high Class A Lakeland in 2003, he still didn't win scouts over. Even some Tigers officials began to lose faith in him. But Granderson quickly gained believers with his breakout year at Double-A Erie in 2004. He ranked fourth in RBIs and eighth in batting in the Eastern League, and his other tools all seemed to climb a notch. His September callup made him the first Illinois-Chicago player to reach the majors. Granderson is a classic line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter. He has a quick and compact batting stroke, a good grasp of the strike zone and identifies pitches early. He made an adjustment to become more selective upon reaching Double-A, as reflected in his career-best 80 walks. His gap-hitting approach seems tailor-made for Detroit's spacious Comerica Park. Once labeled as a corner outfielder who wouldn't have enough power to play every day in the majors, Granderson nearly doubled his previous career high in homers and made defensive strides in center field. He gets good jumps and takes correct routes to the ball. His range is average for center and above average on the corners. Granderson's arm is accurate, and he's a smart player who throws to the right base. His makeup and work habits are outstanding, as evidenced by his decision to complete his college degree after signing as a junior. He shows the potential to be a clubhouse leader if he continues to perform on the field. Granderson isn't going to produce big-time power. He benefited from playing his home games at Erie's cozy Jerry Uht Park, though 13 of his 21 homers and 27 of his 48 extra-base hits came on the road. Another rap on Granderson was that many scouts considered him a fringe-average runner who lacked the speed of a true center fielder. Now there are just as many scouts who say that knock is overstated, however, and that his speed may actually rate a tick above average. If the Tigers had decided to nontender Alex Sanchez, Granderson would have been the frontrunner to take over in center field. But Detroit re-signed Sanchez for one year, allowing Granderson to begin 2005 at Triple-A Toledo. He still could push for Sanchez' job by midseason.
The winner of an NCAA-record-tying 26 straight decisions at Wake Forest and the second overall pick in the 2003 draft, Sleeth ranked as the organization's top prospect before throwing his first pro pitch. He didn't sign until August 2003, when he received a $3.35 million bonus. He was very inconsistent after a promotion to Double-A, with seven quality starts but he had a 9.50 ERA in his other six outings. Sleeth has the makings of an electric arsenal with above-average major league pitches. He runs his fastball between 92-94 mph and tops out at 96. His sharp, mid-80s slider is an out pitch, and his curveball has put-away potential. Sleeth needs to improve his changeup to complement his power pitches. He's still working on smoothing out his mechanics so he can consistently repeat them. He throws slightly across his body and elevates too many fastballs, one of the factors affecting his command. Despite his problems in Double-A, scouts still project Sleeth to have a high ceiling and become at least a No. 3 starter. He'll try to rebound when he returns to Erie to begin 2005.
Verlander had as electric an arm as anyone in the 2004 draft, though he went just 21-18 in three college seasons. The Tigers drafted him second overall, then broke off negotiations with him and his agent in October. Verlander's father jumpstarted the talks the following week, and Verlander signed a five-year big league contract with a $3.12 million bonus and $4.5 million guaranteed. Equipped with a lightning-quick arm, Verlander regularly pitches in the mid-90s and touched 99 mph several times during the spring of his junior year. His curveball is a knee-buckling hammer with vicious downward bite, and his changeup could give him a third plus pitch. The Tigers will have to make up for lost time and start reshaping Verlander's delivery when he reports to spring training. His command is affected by his upright finish and short stride, which causes him to leave too many pitches up in the zone. He doesn't use his changeup as much as he should. Verlander has the stuff to front a rotation, but scouts are divided on whether he profiles better as a closer. Detroit hopes he'll remain a starter and will begin his career in high Class A.
Zumaya wasn't an unknown in the talent-rich San Diego area, but he lasted until the 11th round out of high school because few scouts projected his velocity would spike so quickly. His fastball jumped from the low to mid-90s right after he signed. Filling a void created by injuries, he reached Double-A at age 19. Zumaya has pure power arm strength and has shown the ability to overpower more experienced hitters at each stop in his three-year career. His fastball tops out at 98 mph, and his hard slurve has late depth. His intensity would serve him well in a late-inning relief role. Zumaya's shortcomings also may lead him to the bullpen. His maximum-effort delivery makes it difficult for him to command his fastball and breaking ball and also leads to questions about his durability. He barely has averaged five innings per start as a pro. He lacks a changeup. For now, the Tigers plan on leaving Zumaya in the rotation and seeing whether he can improve his secondary pitches and control. He's heading back to Double-A in 2005.
Sanchez moved from the Dominican Republic to the Bronx when he was 10. Taken as a 31st-round draft-and-follow out of Rockland (N.Y.) CC in 2001, he garnered some first-round interest the following spring after transferring to Connors State (Okla.) JC. He signed before the 2002 draft for $1 million. Sanchez presents an imposing figure on the mound and has drawn comparisons to Roberto Hernandez. His fastball can overpower hitters at 92-95 mph with hard sink. His curveball shows flashes of already being an above-average strikeout pitch. Sanchez has spotty control and finds himself behind in the count too often. He needs to build confidence in his changeup. He spent last offseason working his way into shape at the Tigers' spring training complex. They were pleased with his progress, but he needs to keep an eye on his body and maintain his focus. After handling his first taste of Double-A well, he'll return to Erie. Sanchez has middle-of-the-rotation potential, but needs to show better feel to avoid going to the bullpen.
Giarratano lasted until the third round of the 2003 draft in part because of lingering doubts from his sophomore season, when he hit .238 at Tulane and .187 in the Cape Cod League. He has had no problems as a pro, with a career .333 average. He injured his left shoulder in August, ending his season and requiring surgery. Giarratano has pure shortstop actions with outstanding glovework and soft, quick hands. He has answered questions about his ability to hit with wood, employing a contact approach and producing consistent line drives to all fields from both sides of the plate. He runs well and has the instincts to reach double digits in steals annually. The lone hole in Giarratano's game is his power. His other tools are solid, and he showed improved patience after walking infrequently in his pro debut. Middle infield is one of Detroit's few areas of depth. Giarratano is poised for a jump to Double-A, and if he keeps producing the Tigers will find a spot for him.
Frazier batted .382-13-59 as a junior and set Rutgers' career home run mark with 34 before signing for $500,000. His pro debut ended after 20 games when an errant pitch broke his left forearm. His older brother Charlie is an outfielder in the Marlins organization and his younger brother Todd (the MVP of the 1998 Little League World Series) is a freshman third baseman at Rutgers. A good all-around hitter who uses the entire field, Frazier has the strength and leverage to turn on pitches and drive them out to any part of the park. His makeup is outstanding. He has a chance to be an above-average outfielder with a strong, accurate arm. Frazier had to tone down a deep hand hitch in his swing to avoid getting under too many balls. He's a solid athlete, but he doesn't get down the line very well. Though his instincts help him on the bases and in the outfield corner spots, his speed and range are somewhat limited. Frazier likely will start 2005 at low Class A West Michigan. He's advanced enough to get pushed to high Class A after a strong first half.
Raburn's career was sidetracked in 2002 when he dislocated his hip falling off an all-terrain vehicle. He moved from third base to second in instructional league after 2003, then missed the first six weeks of the 2004 season after dislocating his left pinky in spring training. He recovered from the injury and a slow start to hit .381 in July and August and join the Tigers in September. Raburn hits the ball to all fields with authority and has elicited comparisons to Jeff Kent as an offensive-minded second baseman since he shifted from the hot corner. He was a poor defensive third baseman, but his hands are good and he has an average arm. Raburn is making progress at second base but must get more consistent on routine plays. He strikes out in bunches, and pitchers at higher levels may be able to exploit him. He has below-average speed and his maturity has been questioned at times. The Tigers have a greater need at third base, but Raburn will stay put at second. He'll begin 2005 in Triple-A.
West Michigan won the low Class A Midwest League championship without a can't-miss prospect on the playoff roster. De la Cruz has the best future among the Whitecaps and emerged as their closer in June. He faded in August, however, and served as a set-up man in the postseason. De la Cruz routinely blows his heater in the high 90s and occasionally touches triple digits on the radar gun. In one outing, he hit or topped 100 mph with four straight pitches. His control is good for someone this young who throws this hard. His strikeout totals aren't high because de la Cruz essentially operates with one pitch. He lacks deception in his delivery, in part because he has a small build and his pitches arrive on a flat plane. His fastball is straight and his curveball hasn't progressed as quickly as expected. The Tigers desperately need bullpen help, and de la Cruz made a positive first impression on big league manager Alan Trammell in instructional league. They could rush him, but he needs to develop a second pitch and will work on that in high Class A in 2005.
The first pick in the 2003 major league Rule 5 draft, Shelton spent all of last season on the Tigers' 25-man roster but saw little playing time. He wasn't protected by the Pirates despite being named their minor league player of the year and the high Class A Carolina League MVP. He has a career .332 batting average in the minors, and continued his torrid hitting in the Arizona Fall League, where he led the circuit in hitting (.404), on-base percentage (.470), slugging percentage (.667) and RBIs (33) and won another MVP award. In the minors, he hit all types of pitching, used the entire field and did an excellent job of working counts and drawing walks. He rarely stung the ball with Detroit, though he did grow rusty sitting on the bench. If Shelton is going to have an impact in the major leagues, his bat will have to continue to carry him. He's a below-average catcher in every way and likely will be used in that role only in an emergency. He also is limited at first base because he's stiff and lacks athleticism. He has had unsuccessful trials in the outfield and at third base, and likely profiles as a DH or righthanded bat off the bench when he returns to the majors. Shelton needs some time in Triple-A after getting just 108 at-bats last season.
After signing for $300,000 out of the Dominican Republic prior to the 2003 season, Ramirez had a promising pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. But he wasn't able to build on it last year because he tore the labrum in his right shoulder, sidelining him for the entire season. He returned for instructional league, though he still wasn't able to throw. He was impressive at the plate, hitting a couple of tape-measure blasts. Ramirez has one of the highest offensive ceilings in the system. For his age, he's exceptionally strong, has good knowledge of the strike zone, recognizes pitches well and handles breaking stuff. He has average speed and had arm strength to match before his injury, which has put his chances of sticking at third base at risk. If he can't make the throws from the hot corner, he'll move to first base, where he should still have enough power to project as a regular. Even before the injury, he wasn't a sure thing at third base, making 21 errors in 42 games in 2003. He's advanced enough at the plate to go to low Class A despite missing a full season.
When the Tigers had no desire to go to arbitration with Randall Simon following the 2002 season, they were able to trade him to the Pirates for three minor leaguers. First lefthander Adrian Burnside and then third baseman Kody Kirkland appeared to be the prize of that deal for Detroit, but now it's Novoa who looks like the biggest keeper. He became the first of the trio to reach the majors, doing so last July. A starter throughout his career before last season, Novoa moved to the bullpen and took a step forward. He gradually grew into the closer role in Double-A, but his future is as a long reliever or setup man. Tall and gangly, Novoa consistently throws in the low 90s and up to 95 mph with sinking action on his fastball. He has solid command of his hard, slurvy breaking ball. When Novoa keeps his fastball down in the strike zone, he's effective. When he gets the ball up, which he did too often with the Tigers, he gets hit hard. Pitching out of the bullpen, he didn't worry about his changeup or splitter as much as he did while in the rotation. Detroit needs relievers, so Novoa could begin 2005 in the majors if he has a good spring. If not, he'll bide his time in Triple-A.
Trahern starred as a two-way player while leading Owasso High to the Oklahoma 6-A state title, the school's fifth in seven years. A second-team High School All-American, Trahern batted .450-13-50 as a shortstop and went 11-0, 1.37 on the mound. Scouts preferred him on the mound but believed he was set on attending Oklahoma, so he dropped all the way to the 34th round. But when the Sooners fired pitching coach/recruiting coordinator Ray Hayward, a former Tigers scout, Trahern did an about-face. He signed with Detroit and had an excellent pro debut. Trahern has good command of three pitches: a lively 90-92 mph fastball, a curveball and a changeup. His considerable athleticism--Oklahoma planned on playing him both ways--allows him to throw more strikes than the typical teenager, and he's also poised beyond his years. The Tigers believe he could handle a jump to low Class A in his first full season.
The top position player and the No. 2 prospect on this list a year ago, Clevlen's star dropped as he struggled mightily in high Class A. He had far more strikeouts than hits, didn't show his anticipated power and topped Florida State League outfielders with 15 errors. Coming off two solid seasons as a pro, he hit .283 in the first two months last season but just .187 the rest of the way. Pitchers repeatedly got him out by working him on the outer half of the plate. A solid all-around athlete who had college potential as a quarterback, Clevlen still endeared himself to scouts by playing hard throughout his slump and showing aptitude in other areas of the game. His speed and arm are above-average tools, and he should hit for at least average power. He controlled the strike zone well in 2003, so there's hope he can recover. Clevlen will return to Lakeland to start the 2005 season.
Tejeda always had hit for average and produced runs, but last season was the first time in his career that he showed home run power. Whether or not that was just a mirage caused by a favorable hitter's park at Erie (15 of his 23 longballs came at home) remains to be seen, however. Questions still abound as to how good a prospect Tejeda is because he's not athletic and doesn't have a particularly quick bat. Despite his success, scouts question whether he'll continue to rake at the upper levels against better pitching. Tejeda is a smart hitter with good knowledge of the strike zone, though his strikeout totals rose last season. He has poor speed and is limited defensively to playing first base, where he's adequate at best. If it turns out that he doesn't have more than gap power, he won't be a big league regular. Tejeda will begin 2005 in Triple-A as he tries to keep hitting his way into a big league role.
As a high school senior in 2002, Flowers was one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation and verbally committed to play football and baseball at Arizona State. The Tigers changed those plans, however, when they drafted him in the fifth round and signed him for $215,000. The best athlete in the system, Flower has a live body with an interesting combination of power and speed, but his baseball skills were very slow to develop before last year. He earned his first promotion to a full-season league in August, serving in a reserve role as West Michigan won the Midwest League title. Flowers has a quick bat, though he still chases too many pitches and will need to tighten his strike zone. His whole game needs refinement, as he's still learning how to use his speed on the bases and in right field. He led New York-Penn League outfielders with 10 errors and takes erratic routes to fly balls. Flowers' game is anything but refined, though he works hard and is receptive to coaching. He'll try to make more strides this year in low Class A.
Beattie topped NCAA Division II with 15 victories in 2003, but he really caught scouts' attention by dominating the Cape Cod League that summer. He led the Cape with a 0.39 ERA, the second-lowest in league history, and won pitcher-of-the-year honors. After a strong junior year at Tampa, he went in the second round and signed late in the summer for $800,000. He didn't see any game action for the Tigers, instead joining them for instructional league. While Detroit expected Beattie to be rusty, his control was so poor that it was scary. As an amateur, Beattie had shown excellent command of an 88-92 mph sinker, locating it at will and keeping it down in the zone. He backed it up with an effective slider that he also threw for strikes. He had shown much more feel than 2004 first-rounder Justin Verlander, and the Tigers are waiting anxiously to see if Beattie can regain it. Once he does, his main points of emphasis will be to improve his changeup and not overthrow when he gets into jams. Detroit originally thought Beattie could make his pro debut in high Class A, but where he starts will depend on how he looks in spring training.
Mahoney spent two years as a backup catcher at Clemson until he and a teammate were fooling around with a radar gun toward the end of the 2003 season. Trying to see how hard he could throw, Mahoney hit 94, which began his conversion to the mound. Mahoney pitched just five innings between his four years of high school and his first two seasons of college, and his inexperience shows. Though he attracted droves of scouts by repeatedly hitting 100 mph as a junior, he went just 1-3, 6.63 in 19 innings. The Tigers couldn't resist his raw arm strength, taking him in the fourth round and signing him for $375,000. They were pleased with his first pro summer, as they took a recoil out of his delivery and lengthened his follow-through. Mahoney showed better control, and though his fastball dropped to 90- 94 mph, Detroit expects his mid- to upper-90s velocity will return as he gets used to his mechanics. He reminds scouts of Troy Percival, a catcher-turned-closer who signed with the Tigers this offseason. To follow Percival's path, Mahoney will have to continue to improve his command, learn how to pitch and come up with something to back up his fastball. He uses a slider, but it's little more than a change-of-speed pitch at this point. Mahoney had a strong instructional league and will pitch in Class A in 2005.
The Tigers thought Kirkland was ready for low Class A in 2003, but with 2002 first-rounder Scott Moore ahead of him, he had to settle for tearing up the New York-Penn League. But even with another year under his belt, Kirkland proved overmatched in full-season ball in 2004. He struggled to make contact and lost all semblance of his strike zone, whiffing nearly 10 times for every walk. Kirkland has a compact stroke and had shown an ability to drive the ball to all parts of the field, but his approach needs a serious overhaul. Detroit also has become concerned about what his 2004 performance might have done to Kirkland's confidence because he gets down on himself too easily. An underrated athlete, he moves well at third base and has a strong arm. He still needs to improve the accuracy of his throws after topping Midwest League third basemen with 29 errors. Despite his struggles, he'll move up to high Class A this year.
Moore is fighting the notion it was a mistake for Detroit to select him eighth overall and hand him a $2.3 million bonus in 2002. His tools have played below average across the board, but he manages to keep the Tigers and scouts intrigued with his raw power potential, which is the best in the system. Despite a career-high 14 homers in 2004, Moore continued to be a disappointment. Though his batting stroke is sound, he hit a career-low .223 and struck out more than once a game. He has had problems making contact. He was compared to Eric Chavez as a high schooler, but Moore hit just .329 as a senior--and, in retrospect, that should have been a tipoff. Drafted as a shortstop, Moore shifted to third base after his first pro season. He continues to struggle with throws across the diamond because of inconsistent fundamentals--he led Florida State League third basemen with 28 errors last year-- though his arm strength is good. He doesn't run very well and lacks the lively actions found in most players taken in the upper half of the first round. If Moore moves up to Double-A this season, he'll face a major challenge in refining his approach against more advanced pitching. He may repeat high Class A in an attempt to build his confidence.
Though Kown was 6-foot-7 and won MVP awards at the 2000 Dizzy Dean World Series and the 2001 Continental Amateur Baseball Association World Series, he went undrafted out of high school. After blossoming as a junior at Georgia Tech in 2004, when he tied for the Atlantic Coast Conference lead with 10 victories, he signed for $224,500 as a fifth-round pick. Kown got stronger each year with the Yellow Jackets, throwing a low-90s fastball from a high three-quarters arm slot last spring. He tired in his introduction to pro ball, pitching mostly in the high 80s during the summer and working only sparingly in instructional league. Even without his usual velocity, Kown had little difficulty in short-season ball. He needs to refine all his pitches, achieving more sink and command with his fastball and more consistency with his slider and changeup. Kown has a lot of upside and could progress rapidly after beginning 2005 in low Class A.
Jurrjens has pleased the Tigers with his development since former scouting director Greg Smith signed him out of Curacao in May 2003. His best attribute is his ability to control three pitches as a teenager. Not only does he throw his fastball, breaking ball and changeup for strikes, but he also locates them well within the zone. Jurrjens moved from the bullpen to the rotation in 2004, and his fastball got stronger. It sat at 90-92 mph, up from 88-90 in his debut, and he projects to add more velocity as he fills out. His fastball is fairly straight, so it's his command that makes it effective. Jurrjens has so much feel and poise that he could move quickly. He may never have a dominant pitch, but he has enough savvy to project as a possible end-of-the-rotation starter in the major leagues. With a good spring, he could start this season in low Class A.
The Royals named Gettis their minor league player of the year in 2003, then removed him from their 40-man roster after he disappointed in Triple-A and the majors last year. He made his big league debut and had his first multihit game against the Tigers, who claimed him off waivers to fortify their Triple-A roster. They may have gotten more than they bargained for, as he went on to become one of the top hitters in the Puerto Rican League. A former University of Minnesota quarterback recruit and the cousin of former NFL linebacker Dana Howard, Gettis is more athletic than his 6-foot, 240-pound frame might indicate. He can punish fastballs and his arm, speed and right-field range are all solid. He struggles with offspeed pitches, and there are concerns that he carries too much weight. If his winter was for real, Gettis could find himself breaking through a la Craig Monroe later in the year.
Baugh went 11th overall in the 2001 draft and handled Double-A so easily in his debut that he seemed almost ready to step into the big league rotation. But his progress was halted by injuries, starting with shoulder problems that first surfaced that summer. He had surgery to fix a torn labrum and missed all of 2002, and it has been a slow climb back. Baugh still hasn't made it past Double-A, and he closed 2004 on the disabled list with a biceps ailment. The Tigers remain optimistic enough to have kept him on the 40-man roster. Baugh's velocity got back to 88-91 mph last year, enough to get by because he commands an average curveball and changeup. The key for him is to stay on top of his pitches, because his fastball and curve flatten out when he drops down. If Baugh can stay healthy in Triple-A this year, he could get his first shot in the major leagues.
The Marlins considered taking Espinosa with the No. 1 overall choice in 2000, but he lasted 23 picks because of signability worries. The Reds had spent most of their draft budget before the draft, so they gave him a unique eight-year big league contract with no bonus but a guaranteed worth of $2.75 million. Halfway through that deal, he's making only slow progress toward the majors. After repeating high Class A in 2003, he had the best year of his career in Double-A in 2004, but he tailed off in the second half of the season. Espinosa can drive balls a long way and also has slightly above-average speed. But he's indecisive at the plate and doesn't put the ball in play nearly enough. He'll take walks, but he strikes out too much and needs to develop a better plan at the plate. Drafted as a shortstop, he had severe throwing problems because of his footwork and moved to second base in 2002 and the outfield in 2003. He fits best in right field, though he has seen time in center. Shifting to the outfield helps him relax and improve both his offense and defense. His best chance for a big league role is as a utilityman. He likely will head to Triple-A this year.
The Rockies drafted Woodyard twice as a first baseman before the Tigers made him a surprise fourth-round choice in 2000. Because he was raw and inexperienced, Detroit knew it would take him a while to develop. After going 15-33, 5.09 in his first four seasons, he may have found his ticket to the majors when he moved full-time to the bullpen in 2004. Woodyard always has had a good arm, and he finally started to harness it last season. He sits consistently at 92 mph with his fastball, sometimes touching 95. He also has a solid power curveball and has developed a serviceable splitter. He still has work to do, as he struggles to put hitters away and his command is still inconsistent. He's also 26, so his stuff isn't likely to get much better. Woodyard's solid performance in the Arizona Fall League cemented the Tigers' decision to protect him on the 40-man roster for the first time. He'll begin 2005 in Triple-A, with a shot of reaching Comerica Park at some point.
Based solely on his arm strength and sturdy, projectable frame, Sborz projected as a possible first-round pick in 2003. The Tigers got him in the second round, because his high-effort delivery and immaturity caused clubs to back off. After signing for $865,000, Sborz has pitched erratically, with just one victory to show for 20 outings in Rookie ball. Sborz can light up a radar gun, pitching at 93-95 mph with room to throw even harder. He has an arm action conducive to a power breaking ball, and his slider shows flashes of being a plus pitch. But his throwing mechanics are flawed, affecting the quality and command of his stuff. His delivery often changes from pitch to pitch. In high school, Sborz got away with just rearing back and throwing. The Tigers are attempting to refine his mechanics, but he has struggled mightily to repeat a proper delivery. Also lacking an offspeed pitch, he may profile better as a reliever. Unless he makes a drastic and unexpected improvement in spring training, Sborz likely will begin 2005 in extended spring before going to Oneonta.
Drafted in the seventh round by the Rangers out of high school in 2000 and again by the Tigers after three years at UC Santa Barbara, Vasquez had never won consistently until 2004. He went 14-18 for the Gauchos and 3-4 in his pro debut before leading the Midwest League in victories and innings in his first full pro season. He also kicked off West Michigan's drive to the league title with eight innings of one-hit ball in the Whitecaps' playoff opener. Though he has a strong frame, Vasquez achieved his success with location--he has the best control in the system--rather than velocity. He doesn't throw hard, usually working in the upper 80s, and his curveball and changeup are ordinary as well. He pitches above his stuff because he mixes his offerings, moves them around the strike zone and challenges hitters. While Vasquez unquestionably has feel and poise, he also was a bit old for low Class A at age 22. He still has to prove himself against more advanced hitters. Vasquez probably will start 2005 in high Class A but could start to move quickly.
The third season in low Class A turned out to be the charm for Francia. He finished one hit shy of winning the Midwest League batting title and served as a catalyst for West Michigan's championship club. Francia is the fastest baserunner in the system, and some scouts think that tool is enough to carry him. He's still not a particularly effective basestealer, however, as he led the MWL by getting caught stealing 19 times (in 56 attempts). Despite his performance in 2004, there are plenty of concerns about Francia's hitting ability. He makes consistent contact, but at the expense of drawing walks or hitting for power. If he doesn't hit over .300, he's not going to be worth playing on a regular basis. Francia spent most of last season at shortstop, but fits better at second base--where he spent his first five seasons--because he lacks arm strength. He's finally ready for high Class A.
Dlugach might be 6-foot-5 and have committed 18 errors in his first 47 games as a pro, but there's no position change in his future. Though he's lanky, he's very fluid in the field, throws well and has surprisingly good footwork considering his size. He's a pure shortstop, which works in his favor because he doesn't have enough bat to play regularly at third base. Dlugach's offense remains an issue, as he never reached .300 in three seasons at Memphis and batted just .213 in his debut. He has little power, doesn't recognize pitches well and showed little discipline during the summer. He's also a below-average runner for a middle infielder. Dlugach is headed for West Michigan, where Fifth Third Ballpark favors pitchers. He'll need to make significant offensive strides to climb the ladder to the majors. His father Mike fell just short, topping out in Triple-A as a catcher in the White Sox system.
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