During the course of the year, I will be giving statistical updates and other information on the Tigers organization. I will cover all the consensus top prospects as well as other noteworthy perfomers. For daily recaps and other news on Tigers prospects, check out Matt Wallace's Take 75 North and Mike Cassidy's Tigers Minor League Blog.
Matt wrote an excellent article this week on ground ball and strikeout rates. In it, he shows how pitchers can be successful by trading strikeouts for ground balls. Like me, he is paying a lot of attention to ground ball rates of Tigers prospects such as Andrew Miller, Dallas Trahern and Burke Badenhop. He wonders whether prospects with high ground ball rates but not so high strikeout rates can carry their success into the majors. We know that ground ball rate is fairly repeatable from year to year in the majors but I'm not sure about the minors to majors translation. I'm sure that will be an interesting area of reasearch over the next couple of years.
Now on to the prospect report. This week , I'm going to take a look at the progress of the consensus pre-season Top 20 prospects. The consensus is based on pre-season analyses by prospect experts such as Baseball America, John Sickels, Tigstown and MotownSports. I'm not an expert on prospects but I used my own judgement in cases where there was a wide difference of opinion on a particular player. Remember that this is not a current Top Prospect list. It's an update on the progress of the pre-season consensus.
1. Cameron Maybin is making solid progress at Lakeland this year but expectations of his patrolling the Comerica Park outfield in 2008 are probably too optimistic. He is batting .311/.428/.486 with 16 steals in 20 attempts in 49 games. His strikeout rate is still very high (58) but he also gets a lot of walks (35). Remember that he is still only 20 years old.
2. Andrew Miller has pitched for Lakeland, Erie and Detroit this year. He struggled a bit for Lakeland but much of that was due to an extreme ground ball pitcher getting no support from his infielders. In 3 starts for Erie, he has an 0.78 ERA and a 17/4 K/BB ratio in 23 innings. He pitched well in his only Tiger start (1 run in 6 innings) despite having a little trouble with his control. I expect him to get an opportunity in Detroit fairly soon.
3. Jair Jurrjens is doing well for AA Erie posting a 3.36 ERA and a 40/18 K/BB ratio in 56 innings. The 21 year old right-hander will likely spend the full season in the minors.
4. Jeff Larish continues to show excellent patience and power for Erie but has not improved his contact rate. He is batting .240 with 10 homeruns and a 32/43 K/BB ratio in 51 games. He is still an interesting prospect but does not appear to be on the verge of becoming the next first baseman for the Tigers any time soon. He is 24 years old.
5. Brent Clevlen has had a miserable season batting .207 with 51 K in 37 games for AAA Toledo. He is currently on the disabled list with a broken finger.
6. Gorkys Hernandez is just 19 years old and is developing into a very exciting propesct. He is batting .300/.357/.378 with 21 stolen bases in 25 attempts. He is also a very good center fielder. His weakness right now is thast he lacks power but that is expected to come later.
7. Jordan Tata has missed most of the season with a shoulder problem. He pitched 3 scoreless innings in his first start this week. He probably would be pitching for Detroit right now if he had been healthy all year.
8. Scott Sizemore is playing second base for A level West Michigan. He is struggling so far batting .230/.360/.333 but his 27/22 BB/K ratio is encouraging. I still expect his other stats to improve substantially by the end of the season.
9. Dallas Trahern is one of those extreme ground ball pitchers having success (2.64 ERA) despite a low strikeout rate (30 K in 58 innings). He did get one AAA start when Virgil Vasquez was called up to Detroit and handled it just fine (2 runs in 6 1/3 innings). I think we may see him pitch for the Tigers in some capacity in 2008.
10. Eulogio DeLaCruz has had more success as a starter than as a reliever although his ultimate major league role might be in the bullpen. In 10 starts this year, he has a 3.57 ERA and an excellent 57/16 K/BB ratio in 63 innings.
11. Mike Hollimon jumped two levels to play second base at AA Erie this year. He is not hitting for contact but is drawing a lot of walks and has a .246/.376/.400 line with a 34/44 BB/K ratio in 50 games. Making such a big leap involves a lot of adjustment so we may see some improvement as the season goes along.
12. Brennan Boesch - is making a slow progress at 22 years old playing in West Michigan this year. Last year's third round pick is batting .268/.292/.355. He is doing better than last year's second round pick however...
13. Ronnie Bourquin - played himself off the Lakeland roster by batting .192 with just 2 extra base hits in 26 games at third base. He is still just 22 but right now he is looking like he may turn out to be wasted second round pick.
14. Sendy Vasquez - had an 8.20 ERA in 18 2/3 innings for Lakeland and then received a 50 game suspension after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. This isn't going to help his prospect status.
15. Jonah Nickerson has had a rough season with West Michigan. The 22 year old right-hander has a 6.14 ERA in 55 2/3 innings over 10 starts. His 44/16 K/BB ratio is encouraging however.
16. Wilken Ramirez has moved to the outfield and is playing his second season for Lakeland. He is still still struggling offensively batting .246/.273/.380 with 51 strikeouts in 48 games. There is still hope at 21 years old but he needs to start turning his physical tools into performance pretty soon.
17. Edward Campusano - came over from the Cubs system in the Rule 5 draft but is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
18. Kody Kirkland is still trying to turn his skills into performance at age 23 playing for Erie. He is batting .247/.316/.429.
19. Virgil Vasquez got off to a great start this year earning him a start for the Tigers but has not pitched as well since returning to Toledo. For the year, he has a 4.45 ERA and an impressive 67/16 K/BB ratio in 56 2/3 innings. He has been prone to the gopher ball giving up 9 homers so far.
20. Tony Giarratano has been on the disabled list all year after undergoing shoulder surgery. He also missed the second half of last season with a torn ACL. Once the 24 year old shortstop is finally healthy, he will play for either Erie or Toledo.