With the July 31 trading deadline fast approaching, there has been a lot of talk about the Tigers trading prospects for players that can help them down the stretch this year. Below is my list of Tigers top prospects put together after analyzing statistics and reports from TigsTown, Baseball America, Take 75 North, and other sites.
1. Second baseman Scott Sizemore has bounced back nicely from a wrist injury which sidelined him the second half of 2008. The 24 year old right-handed batter is batting a combined .295/.386/.503 for AA Erie and AAA Toledo. He has good plate discipline with a 46/66 BB/K ratio in 332 at bats. He is only an average defender so he will need to continue his hitting in the majors if he is going to be a regular. He has a chance to win the Tigers keystone job next year if Placido Polanco leaves via free agency.
2. Left-handed hitting catcher Alex Avila jumped to AA this year after batting .305 for Single A West Michigan in 2008. The 22 year old son of Tigers assistant GM Al Avila has responded with an excellent season for Erie batting .287 with 23 doubles and an excellent 43/66 BB/K ratio in 282 at bats. Avila is still a work in progress as a defender but has the potential to be a strong all around catcher. He could be starting for the tigers by 2011.
3. Left-handed pitcher Casey Crosby missed most of 2008 recovering from Tommy John surgery but has rebounded well this year. The 20 year old Crosby has a 3.18 ERA and 86/40 K/BB ratio in 76 1/3 innings with West Michigan. Casey throws hard but is inexperienced and needs to work on his control and continued development of his breaking pitch and change-up.
4. Big first baseman Ryan Strieby is doing for Erie this year what he usually does - tearing the cover off the ball. Scouts are still a little hesitant about hyping the 23 year old right-handed hitting slugger but you can't ignore his stats. He is second in the Eastern League with 17 homers, a .427 On Base Percentage and a .570 slugging average and first in OPS at .997. Last year, in a tougher environment for power hitters, he blasted 29 homers for advanced single A Lakeland. The 6-5 235 pound first sacker moves well for a man his size and has been tried in left field. He is blocked by Miguel Cabrera at first for the next several years which makes him a potential trading chip.
5. After batting .303 with 19 homers for Erie in 2008, the toolsy Wilkin Ramirez is having an up and down season for Toledo this year. The 23 year old outfielder is batting .269 with 10 homers and an alarming 93 strikeouts in 290 at bats. He has been coming on strong as of late posting a robust 1.096 OPS for the month of July. The speedy Ramirez has 27 steals in 35 attempts but is not a strong defender. He still has a high upside but he will need to make more frequent contact to be a regular corner outfielder in the Majors.
6. Dave Dombrowski raves about Cale Iorg calling him a future all-star shortstop. Those who have seen him play frequently think he can be an elite defender in the majors and, based on limited viewing, I concur. He looks to me to have the athleticism of Brandon Inge defensively. The problem is he has also hit like the 2008 version of Brandon Inge. The 23 year old Iorg is batting .228 with an awful 20/96 BB/K ratio for Erie this year. He has decent power for a middle infielder - 10 homers for Lakeland last year and 9 so far this year - but he'll need to make better contact before I move him up the list.
7. Mauricio Robles is a talented but raw left-handed pitcher currently pitching for Lakeland at the age of 20. He can throw in the mid 90s which is very hard for a lefty but needs to work on his control. His change-up and curve also need more work. He has struckout 10.4 batters per nine innings for West Michigan and Lakeland this year but also has walked 4.4 batters per nine innings.
8. Alfredo Figaro had two outings with the Tigers earlier in the year with mixed results but he's still a decent prospect. The 25 year old right-hander has a 4.10 ERA and impressive 59/17 K/BB ratio at Erie this year. Last year, Alfredo posted a combined 2.60 ERA and 119/42 ratio for West Michigan and Lakeland. He has a good fastball and curve but needs a third pitch.
9. Lucas French has pitched well enough in his three Major League starts to maintain a spot in the rotation for the foreseeable future. The big left-hander entered the season as a fringe prospect but has upped his status at age 23 with an improved slider. After striking out just 4.7 batters per nine innings for Erie in 2008, his k rate was 7.9 for Toledo this year. His control has improved as well - 3.2 walks per nine innings in 2008 and 2.2 in 2009.
10. At 24 years old, second baseman Brandon Douglas is a little old for West Michigan and needs to be challenged more. He makes excellent contact - just 26 strikeouts in 264 at bats - and is batting .345. He is said to have some gap power potential but has only 10 extra base hits this year. Last year, he hit .328 at four different levels as a shortstop. The move from shortstop was appropriate as his range and speed are more suited to second base.
Honorable mentions: Pitchers Luis Marte, Cody Satterwhite, Brett Jacobsen and Casey Fien, Robbie Weinhart, catcher Dusty Ryan, third basemen Francisco Martinez and Wade Gaynor and outfielder Casper Wells.
Note: Rick Porcello, Ryan Perry, Jeff Larish and Clete Thomas have too much time in the majors to technically be considered prospects. Unsigned draftees such as pitcher Jacob Turner are not eligible for the list.