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Detroit Tigers Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams

By Pat Caputo

1. Nate Cornejo, rhp

Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HS–Wellington, Kan., 1998 (2nd round). Signed by: Ray Hayward.

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Tigers Top Prospects

1992 Greg Gohr, rhp
1993 Greg Gohr, rhp
1994 Justin Thompson, lhp
1995 Tony Clark, 1b
1996 Mike Drumright, rhp
1997 Mike Drumright, rhp
1998 Juan Encarnacion, of
1999 Gabe Kapler, of
2000 Eric Munson, 1b/c
2001 Brandon Inge, c

Background: Few doubted Cornjeo’s arm strength as the 1998 draft arrived. It was considered first-round all the way, perhaps the best in high school baseball 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 proven unfounded because Cornjeo has been durable to this point. Considered one of the Tigers’ top prospects since signing, he took a dramatic leap forward last season, winning a combined 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.

Strengths: 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 of his 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. Cornejo is athletic given his size.

Weaknesses: 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.

The Future: 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. Cornjeo could become a No. 1 starter in the future.

Erie (AA)1232.6819193012410741105
Toledo (AAA)402.1244003024722

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