This is the first of a two part series composed by DTW member Nick D. Look for Nick to cover the minors in detail in the upcoming season(s).
As any Detroit Tigers fan knows, most of the organization’s top prospects spent a significant amount of 2010 wearing the Old-English “D”. Names like “Rhymes”, “Boesch”, “Jackson”, and “Sizemore” surely bring back memories of summer.
While the top prospects made more news than usual this year, the rest of the farm system shied from the limelight. In fact, according to MLB fanhouse, it was in the stale, dark, depths of a cellar. http://mlb.fanhouse.com/2010/01/26/2010-farm-system-rankings/. It should be noted, however, that Detroit’s pitching prospects, headlined by Turner and Crosby, should give Tiger fans something to look forward to in the coming years.
What follows is part 1 (pitching), of a 2 part series, examining the year that was. It should be noted that the rankings below are based on scouting predictions and historical performance as well as 2010 stats. Without further ado the pitching prospects:
1. Jacob Turner, RHP
At 6’5’’ and 210 lbs. he’s got the frame of a big-time hurler. Turner pitched in 24 games for West Michigan and Lakeland with an ERA of 3.28. He logged 115.1 innings while striking out 102 and only walking 23. Turner featured a 90-94 MPH fast ball last year but has reached as high as 97-98 MPH. He’s also got a quality curveball and a plus changeup. At only 19, and just one season with professional pitching instruction, Turner’s upside is enormous. Look for him to impress during spring training and start the season with Lakeland and probably end up in Erie.
2. Casey Crosby, LHP
Crosby’s season was almost entirely lost to injury. He opened the season at West Michigan with pain in his forearm and elbow. This is especially troubling because Crosby underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007. After recovering, he was given a rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League where he went 0-1 with an ERA of 8.76 over 3 starts. He was shut down for the season in July. Crosby still has tremendous upside. He features a fastball between 94-97 MPH, a changeup, slider, and curveball. If he can avoid the injury bug, 2011 should be a great year for the young lefty.
3. Adam Wilk, LHP
Wilk started the season in Lakeland and ended by pitching 3 quality games in Erie. He posted a cumulative record of 11-5 with an ERA of 2.74. Wilk struck out 114 batters and only walked 24. In his last three starts he pitched at least 7 2/3 innings and allowed a total of 3 earned runs on 6 hits. Wilk features a 4-seam and 2-seam fastball, a curveball, changeup, and cutter. He’s shown continuous improvement throughout his tenure on the farm and looks to continue the trend in 2011. Wilk is set to begin the next campaign in Erie, but, if Tiger injuries require a lefty at some point this season, look for Wilk to get a surprise call to the bigs. Otherwise, I imagine he’ll continue to get better and move up the ranks of Tigers pitching prospects.
4. Cody Satterwhite, RHP
Another pitcher ravaged by injury during 2010, Satterwhite sat out the entire year after undergoing shoulder surgery in May. In 34 appearances in 2009 Satterwhite averaged an impressive 9.49 K/9; however, he’s had problems with the command on his fastball giving up 4.93 BB/9 through 2009. Fans interested in the Tigers farm system should keep an eye on Erie to see how Satterwhite’s rehabbed shoulder fares this season.
5. Andy Oliver, LHP
Last year Oliver spent time between Erie, Toledo, and the Tigers. He wasn’t quite ready for the show, going 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA in the majors. Oliver features a mid to high 90’s fastball with life, a slider, changeup, and splitter. His arsenal proved effective at the AAA level as Oliver struck out 49 in 53 innings of work while maintaining a 3.23 ERA. Dave Dombrowski seems to be a fan despite Oliver’s rough trip to the majors and I look to see Oliver tested again at the Major League level at some point in 2011.
6. Daniel Schlereth, LHP
After coming over from Arizona last year, Schlereth got to work at AAA Toledo. In 38 relief appearances, he maintained an ERA of 2.37. At the big league level, Schlereth continued to have some success. He recorded 1 save and went 2-0 while posting an ERA of 2.89 over 18 2/3 innings. Schlereth needs to improve his BB rate – it’s hung around 4.5 per 9 throughout his time in Toledo and Detroit. If he can improve the command on his fastball, Schlereth will be a big-league ready middle relief pitcher.
7. Robbie Weinhardt, RHP
Weinhardt was one prospect who benefited from Tigers injuries during 2010. He spent time between Connecticut, Toledo, and Detroit. He impressed while in the minors, posting an ERA of 1.64 over 38 1/3 IP. His minor league WHIP of .95 surely impressed Tiger brass. Weinhardt struggled in Detroit going 2-2 with 2 blown saves and posting a bloated ERA of 6.14 over 29 1/3 IP. It will be interesting to see if Weinhardt can take the lessons learned in the big leagues into the off season and show quality improvement in spring training.
8. Alfredo Figaro, RHP
Baseball Prospectus believes that Figaro’s ceiling is an average middle-relief pitcher.
His 2010 numbers seem to support this conclusion and were somewhat pedestrian. In 23 minor league starts he went 10-6 with a 4.14 ERA. However, Figaro did manage to strike out 112 batters in 124 innings. Figaro spent some time with the Tigers last year and did not fare well: in 14 2/3 innings he struck out 5, walked 8, allowed 8 earned runs, and lost 2 decisions. Figaro’s problems with control have followed him into the winter leagues where he’s walked 5 in 12 2/3 innings of work. Figaro has the arm to be a successful big league reliever but needs to master his control issues in 2011.
9. Wilsen Palacios, RHP
Palacios posted great numbers in 2010: a 2.43 ERA over 74 innings of mostly relief work. He also struck out 67 while only walking 13. Opposing hitters only hit .206 against him, which led the Tigers’ minor league system. Palacios also led the Tigers minor league with an impressive .95 WHIP. He features a good fastball and slider and will make a quality big league reliever at some point in the future. He’s shown improvement from 2007 with his control and has also improved his strikeout total. He’s starting 2010 assigned to Connecticut.
10. Miguel Mejia, RHP
Mejia split time between Lakeland, West Michigan, and Connecticut during 2010. He posted a cumulative ERA of 2.80 over 70 2/3 innings. Mejia really showed improvement in Connecticut, his last stop of the season, where he pitched in 13 games with 2 spot starts. During this time his ERA was an impressive 1.02. Like many young players, Mejia needs to improve his control before he will really excel.
11. Charles Furbush, LHP
Furbush sat out 2008 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. His 2009 numbers were pretty solid (111 1/3 IP, 93K, 3.96 ERA for Lakeland). However, 2010 showed that Furbush has the work ethic and upside to become a pretty decent big league starter. Over 159 innings and 27 starts for Lakeland, Erie, and Toledo, Furbush struck out an impressive 183 batters while only walking 40. His cumulative 183 strikeouts led the Tigers’ minor league system. He also posted ERAs of 3.39 and 3.24 at Lakeland and Erie, respectively. Furbush faltered somewhat at Toledo, giving up 34 earned runs in just 9 starts. Furbush features a low 90’s fastball, change up, and curve. He’ll need to refine those pitches against AAA level competition before getting a crack in the big leagues.
12. Brayan Villarreal, RHP
The 6’0’’ righty pitched 129 1/3 innings between Lakeland and Erie. In 24 starts he posted an ERA of 3.55 while striking out 136 and walking 39. In the winter leagues, he’s off to a hot start with a 1-0 record, .95 ERA and 1 save over 19 innings of work. Villarreal is still a prospect with room to grow but is worth keeping an eye on in 2011.
13. Ramon Lebron, RHP
Lebron split time between West Michigan, GCL Tigers, and Connecticut. He improved somewhat from his 2009 totals, although his ERA was substantially higher in 2010 (5.57 up from 3.73). He did manage to improve his strike out to walk ratio from 1.48 in 2009 to 2.03. Lebron has got a high-ceiling and a live arm but will need to continue to work on his control issues in 2011.
14. Melvin Mercedes, RHP
He has a quality reliever’s arsenal with a power fast ball; however, the 19 year-old righty needs to demonstrate he can consistently throw strikes. In 2010 he improved his BB/9 to 8.69 from 11.57 in 2009. He also K’ed more batters, at a rate of 5.49 per nine up from 3.86 the year before. Mercedes is still young and could be a decent big league set-up man if he can get his control issues down.
15. Luke Putkonen, RHP
In 27 games for Lakeland, Putkonen threw 152 2/3 innings with an ERA of 3.18. He struck out 87 and walked 44. His ERA ranked 4th best among Tigers prospects in 2010. He finished 2010 strong, going 6 or more innings in 8 of his last 10 starts and only allowing more than 3 runs once during the same period.
16. Luis Marte, RHP
Marte spent most of 2010 in Erie but made one appearance in Toledo. For the season, he threw 49 innings of relief with an ERA of 4.96. He struck out 53 batters and walked 27. Again, control seems to be his biggest problem.
17. Jay Sborz, RHP
Sborz made his major league debut in New York last season. It went about as well as Custer’s last stand – Sborz is the proud owner of a big league ERA of 67.50 after getting two outs and allowing 5 runs in a June game against the Mets. Notwithstanding, Sborz has “good stuff” according to Ol’ Smoky and was rewarded for his work in Toledo. In Toledo, Sborz produced better results, although nothing brilliant, with an ERA of 4.74 over 43 2/3 innings pitched. However, he did manage to save 19 games for the Mud Hens. He’s had problems locating the strike zone and needs to improve his control before attempting to pitch at the next level.
18. Austin Wood, LHP
Drafted in 2009 in the 5th round from the University of Texas, Wood has had high expectation since joining the organization. In his debut in April, Wood struck out the side in one inning of work. Wood only pitched in 2 games for Lakeland and did not allow an earned run or walk.
19. Jeff Ferrell, RHP
Ferrell split time between GCL Tigers and Connecticut, although he only threw 6 1/3 innings at the latter. His cumulative ERA was 3.25 with 64 K’s and 15 BB’s. In 11 starts he also managed to throw 2 CG shut outs. At only 20 years old, Ferrell is still young and has shown that he has great potential. Watch for him to rise quickly through the system.
20. L.J. Gagnier, RHP
The 6’2’’, 210 lbs. right-hander spent most of 2010 in Toledo where he went 7-7 and posted a 3.51 ERA. Over 120 2/3 IP while in Toledo, he struck out 94 while walking 44. That ratio was off his pace from Erie where he struck out 28 and walked 8 over 35 IP. He’ll need to find his command while pitching against higher quality hitters, but could improve this year as he benefits from the Toledo coaching magic.
21. Trevor Feeney, RHP
Feeney threw 184 2/3 innings for West Michigan. His strike out to walk ratio was other-worldly as he K’ed 123 and only walked 22. His ERA of 3.46 was pretty solid. Feeney will have to test his stuff against higher level hitting competition but has obviously shown good results thus far.
Other Notable Pitching Prospects:
Jared Gayhart, RHP – Got roughed up in Erie and showed improvement after being sent to Lakeland.
Brooks Brown, RHP – Went 12-9 with a 4.15 ERA for Erie. In 18 starts he threw 4 complete games, 2 of which were shut outs.
Lester Oliveros, RHP – Saved 23 games for Lakeland and Erie. His ERA and BB’s inflated after being promoted to Erie. Watch to see if he can continue to improve against better hitting this year.
Kenny Faulk, LHP – Saved 12 games and went 5-4 for West Michigan while producing an impressive 2.16 ERA over 58 1/3 innings. He also struck out 78. Another live arm with control issues.
Mark Sorensen, RHP
In 147 1/3 IP for Lakeland, Sorenson struck out 113 while only walking 29. His ERA was slightly high at 4.03, but he clearly demonstrated an ability to generate swings and misses. Watch for continued improvement in his second year of professional baseball.