Tigers Minor League Wrap 5.20.2010

Durham 0 Toledo 4
Max Scherzer made his first start since being sent down to work on his mechanics. I think it is working. Scherzer pitched a 1 hitter for 8 innings. He walked one guy while fanning 10 in 103 pitches. Robbie Weinhardt preserved the shut out. Jeff Frazier homered and doubled. Ryan Raburn added his 6th double and a single.

The Tigers have sent 3 players to Toledo. So far the early returns have been good. We covered Scherzer, but Ryan Raburn and Scott Sizemore are also finding their way so far.

  • Ryan Raburn: 444/483/667 line in 7 games.
  • Scott Sizemore: 286/333/429 in 4 games

Erie 1 Richmond 5

There was no offense to speak of with only 6 singles and 2 walks for the Seawolves. Thad Weber went 7.2 innings and allowed 4 runs on just 5 hits and 3 walks despite his defense turning 4 double plays behind him.

St. Lucie 4 Lakeland  5 (11 innings)
Charlie Furbush starred again with 10 strikeouts in 6.2 innings. He allowed 2 runs on 2 hits and a walk. Furbush has a 39:4 K:BB ratio and a 1.67 ERA in his last 4 starts .Brent Wyatt went 3 for 4 with 2 walks and 2 steals. Gustavo Nunez also had 3 hits including a double. Daniel Fields doubled and tripled. Francisco Martinez had 2 hits. Martinez and Jimmy Gulliver were added from EST with Josh Workman and Bryan Pounds hitting the DL.

Lake County 15 West Michigan 5
Hernan Perez had 2 hits. Alexis Espinoza singled and walked. Lots of pitchers got beat up pretty good, but Ramon Lebron was the starter. He fanned 6 in 3 innings, but he also allowed 5 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks.

Tigers Minor League Wrap 5.16.2010

Indianapolis 5 Toledo 6
Alfredo Figaro started and lasted 6 innings despite walking 4. He allowed 5 runs on 6 hits with 4 strikeouts. Robbie Weinhardt allowed 2 hits and a walk in 3 shut out innings and got the win. Ryan Raburn and Jeff Frazier each went 2 for 4 with a double. Incidentally, the Mud Hens faced Wil Ledezma in relief and got to him for 2 runs.

Erie 4 Bowie 0
Justin Henry went 3 for 4 with 2 doubles and 2 stolen bases. Michael Bertram singled, doubled, and walked. Brooks Brown went 5 innings and didn’t allow a hit while walking 2 and fanning 5 and getting 9 ground ball outs. Ramon Garcia pitched the other 4 innings and allowed just 2 hits.

Lakeland 3 Jupiter 0
Kody Kaiser went 3 for 4 and stole a base. Luke Putkonen had another strong start going 7.2 innings with just 4 hits and a walk allowed. Cory Hamilton finished the shut out allowing a single baserunner.

South Bend 6 West Michigan 5
Jacob  Turner wasn’t touched for the first 5 innings. He gave up 2 runs in the 6th and his final line was 5.1 IP, 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, and 7 K’s. Jamie Johnson, Michael Rockett, Wade Gaynor, Mike Gosse, and Hernan Perez all had 2 hit games.

Tigers Minor League Wrap 5.14.2010

Indianapolis 8 Toledo 1
The largest crowd in Toledo Mud Hen history saw a clunker. Ryan Raburn went 2 for 4 and Brent Dlugach and Robinzon Diaz added two hit games as well. Ryan Ketchner allowed 4 runs on 5 hits (2 were homers), 3 walks, and 2 strikeouts in 5.1 innings. Scot Drucker struggled and allowed 5 baserunners and 3 runs in 1.2 innings.

Erie 2 Bowie 3
Cale Iorg homered. Andy Dirks, Michael Bertram, and Shawn Roof had the other hits. Andy Oliver pitched only 1 inning due to an hour rain delay that hit in the second inning. Anthony Shawler allowed 1 run on a solo homer in 3 innings of relief while striking out 4.

Lakeland 5 Tampa 1
Alden Carrithers, Rawley Bishop, Bryan Pounds, and Josh Workman all had two hit games. Adam Wilk had his second strong start in a row with 1 run surrendered on 4 hits and a walk to go with 5 K’s in 7 innings. He’s walked one batter in his last 25.2 innings.

South Bend 3 West Michigan 4
Wade Gaynor doubled and singled and has seen his season line climb to 276/340/410 after notching 7 extra base hits in his last 10 games. Avisail Garcia tripled and singled and Jamie Johnson added 2 hits. Ramon Lebron allowed 2 runs on 2 hits, 2 walks and 8 strikeouts in 5 innings. Kevin Faulk pitched 3 innings of scoreless ball with 3 K’s to win the extra inning affair.

Figaro to join team Wednesday

Figaro has been formally recalled and Ryan Raburn has been optioned to Toledo where he’ll stay for at least the requisite ten days unless a DL stint is required. It could be longer however if Carlos Guillen is ready to return. Presumably Figaro is here short term just to get through the doubleheader with Thomas unavailable and the team probably preferring to give Bonine the day off as well.

With the double header scheduled for Wednesday, it appears that Alfredo Figaro will be joining the team in Detroit. Dontrelle Willis was reportedly still sick today, and the team is probably concerned about getting thin if Rick Porcello and Jeremy Bonderman struggle to put up innings.

It’s unclear at this point if Figaro has been activated or if he will just be in Detroit and available should the need present itself in game 2.

Clearing up some roster confusion

The Tigers have some roster decisions looming with the imminent return of Jeremy Bonderman and Marcus Thames. In both cases there aren’t clear cut performance based decisions on who gets sent down so things like options come into play. There has been some confusion about the option status and service time of various players so let’s clear that up.

MLB roster rules are never simple and chuck full of exceptions. While salary data and service time data is generally findable, options are harder to find and often requires combing through transaction lists. Fortunately for Tigers fans Eddie Bajek compiled this information during the offseason.

Continue reading Clearing up some roster confusion

Porcello and Perry make the team

It appears the Rick Porcello and Ryan Perry will be breaking camp with the Tigers. Details are still thin beyond that. I’ll update as more information floats North. Also, Mike Hessman was placed on outright waivers and Ryan Raburn was optioned to Toledo. That leaves 29 players in camp including Scott Williamson, Brent Clevlen, Jeff Larish, Eddie Bonine, Juan Rincon, Zach Miner, and Nate Robertson battling for one spot in the rotation, a couple in the pen, and one on the bench.

UPDATE: Juan Rincon and Eddie Bonine are also in. Dane Sardhina and Scott Williamson were assigned to minor league camp.

UPDATE 2: Clay Rapada was optioned to Toledo and your second lefty in the pen is Nate Robertson. It’s down to Brent Clevlen and Jeff Larish for the last roster spot.

So…the pitching staff looks like this:

Rotation: Verlander/Jackson/Miner/Porcello/Galarraga (I’m guessing on the order to start the season)
Bullpen: Lyon/Rodney/Seay/Rincon/Perry/Bonine/Robertson

Willis slips on to the DL, Guillen to miss time

Dontrelle Willis is landing on the disabled list because he didn’t land correctly on Friday night. The initial diagnosis was a hyperextended knee and that was confirmed today by an MRI that revealed no structural damage. He’s not expected to miss significant time, but he wasn’t going to make his next start. Armando Galarraga will get the call, but he hasn’t been placed on the roster yet. That spot went to Ryan Raburn who will provide some positional flexibility to Jim Leyland.

Miguel Cabrera has been hobbled for the last week, and Carlos Guillen strained a hamstring that will require him to miss a few days. With uber sub Brandon Inge set to give Pudge Rodriguez his first day off behind the plate, Leyland would probably like to have someone man 3rd and do the same for Cabrera. Plus, Raburn deserves to be on the team regardless.

But back to Willis, this leg injury may be a blessing in disguise. We know the story about the 7 walks in his first start, and he wasn’t close to the strike zone in his limited time in the second start. An extra week might not be sufficient to find that elusive control, but it certainly can’t hurt. As for Galarraga the fact he’s contributing is a surprise. If he’s productive the trade in which Dombrowski acquired him might be his best of the season. All the Tigers gave up was an A ball hitter Michael Hernandez who they signed out of a tryout camp. Hernandez was subsequently released by the Rangers.

MRI reveals no tears but Willis placed on the DL; Galarraga will start | Freep.com | Detroit Free Press
Guillen’s injury not serious enough for the DL; Inge to catch for first time this year | Freep.com | Detroit Free Press

Tigers Minor League Wrap 4-8-2008

Charlotte 9 Toledo 7
Ryan Raburn homered and knocked in 3 while Mike Hessman doubled and tripled. Brent Clevlen went 3 for 4 and continues a promising start to his season. Matt Joyce hit his second homer of the year to go along with a walk. Virgil Vasquez was knocked around for 7 hits but limited the damage to 2 runs while fanning 6 in 5 innings. Clay Rapada and Preston Larrison combined to allow 6 runs in 3 innings.

Erie 3 Harrisburg 2
Wil Rhymes 3 run homer was the offense. Wilkin Ramirez doubled and walked. Josh Rainwater went 5 2/3 innings allowing just 1 run on 3 hits, no walks, and 6 K’s. Brett Jensen recorded his first save of the season with a scoreless 9th inning.

Lakeland 3 Sarasota 7
Rick Porcello made his 2nd start and was excellent again. He was tagged for 4 runs, but all were unearned and came in a 3 error 4th inning. He allowed 4 hits, one of which was an infield single, while fanning 4 and walking none. Cale Iorg, who made 2 errors, went 3 for 5. James Skelton and Scott Sizemore each added 2 hits.

Great Lakes 5 West Michigan 1
Kyle Peter doubled and walked and Jordan Newton added 2 singles. Ramon Garcia gave up all 5 runs on 7 hits, no walks,and 6 K’s over 6 innings. Wilton Garcia fanned 4 in 2 scoreless innings of relief.

The odd Beltran-Raburn move

That didn’t take long. The Tigers are already raiding the Mud Hens bullpen promoting reliever Francis Beltran. Beltran was a non roster invitee this spring and one of the last cuts. He should be your basic replacement level type arm in the pen. But I don’t understand the corresponding roster move at all.

To make room for Beltran Ryan Raburn was optioned to Toledo. Now Raburn’s only time on the field was in a pinch running role on Friday. And the emergence of Clete Thomas has made Raburn somewhat redundant. Still, with Gary Sheffield injured the Tigers bench consists of Marcus Thames and Ramon Santiago now. So there will be no apprehension on the part of the opposing manager when it comes time to bring in a different armed pitcher.

There was a time when I suggested the Tigers might go with an 8 man bullpen to avoid losing players who were out of options. Of course at the time Fernando Rodney was healthy, Tim Byrdak hadn’t imploded, and there was every expectation that Francisco Cruceta would get in the country.

It may be a short term move with Jim Leyland knowing that the bullpen had been taxed the previous day and he may have been expecting a short outing from Dontrelle Willis. He probably also knows he can’t (or at least shouldn’t) use Jason Grilli again for the rest of the homestand.

The move came down the same day that Fernando Rodney suffered another set back. I view this as nothing more than coincidence because I doubt that Ryan Raburn was only on the team because Rodney was injured. Sadly, given Rodney’s lack of progress and our earlier conversation with Will Carroll, I doubt that we see Rodney at all this year – or perhaps ever again. The fact that his shoulder problems showed up so early this year, after a season which was injury plagued to begin with, can’t bode well. At this point I view a Joel Zumaya return as more likely than a Rodney one.

Granderson to DL – Arghhh

Remember when the Tigers made the Edgar Renteria trade and everyone was so happy? Meanwhile Joel Zumaya was being evaluated from having his shoulder crushed and the news he’d be out put a big damper on the euphoria. Well, now Curtis Granderson’s finger (middle no less) is sticking it to Tigers fans basking in the Miguel Cabrera glow.

Jason Beck reports that when he was hit by a pitch yesterday, it fractured his finger. This means a couple weeks in a splint and a couple weeks of missed time. And to make things even better, it’s his right hand which is kind of important for someone who throws right handed.

This could be that regular playing time that Inge was looking for. Or it could solidify Ryan Raburn’s spot on the team. Or it could open the door for Freddy Guzman.

Long term this doesn’t figure to be significant. Short term it is irritating to say the least.

Why Ramon Santiago

I don’t get it. It seems as if Ramon Santiago is a lock to make the roster but I can’t figure out a good reason why. Lynn Henning said that Santiago’s job is the safest of the bench candidates. Danny Knobler also has Santiago slotted into the bench as an automatic. But should it be a given? Shouldn’t Santiago’s spot be tenuous at best?

I don’t enjoy writing these types of posts. The posts where I spend a few hundred words talking about why a player shouldn’t be with the team. I’m the type who is usually rooting for people, and this is the opposite of my normal tone. But Santiago simply shouldn’t have a guaranteed job on a club of this caliber.

I’ve already looked at the roster crunch and when I drew up my bench it was pretty easy to leave Santiago in Toledo. The Tigers have a back up shortstop in Carlos Guillen, who would be perfectly fine there on a limited basis. They have a back-up second baseman in Ryan Raburn. They have a back up third baseman in Brandon Inge. Aside from designated sacrifice bunting duties I fail to see what Santiago brings to the table.

He is often referred to as a defensive whiz, and admittedly he does look silky smooth in the field with a plus arm. But looking at advanced defensive metrics like Ultimate Zone Rating, Santiago rates fairly poor. From 2003 to the All Star break last season Santiago was -23 runs per 150 games at second base and -28 runs per 150 games at shortstop. The data is far from conclusive because of Santiago’s limited playing time. Still, this is aggregated over several season so it can be dismissed either.

Offensively Santiago brings little other than the aforementioned bunting ability and some speed as a pinch runner. For his career Santiago is a 231/294/306 hitter which is good for an OPS+ of 63. For those unfamiliar with OPS+, 100 is an average player. Inge, who’s offensive struggles have been well documented is an 85 OPS+ for his career.

The role he would play on the team would be as a sub and defensive replacement. The are more capable subs already on the roster, and as a defensive replacement who would he be replacing. He wouldn’t go in for Polanco, and I don’t see him usurping Edgar Renteria in the late innings. And in the even rarer case where Miguel Cabrera is lifted in the late innings that spot has to go to Brandon Inge.

The biggest reason for keeping Santiago is that he is out of options. However, Santiago has passed through waivers on several occasions and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t make it through again. I’m generally in favor of hording talent and playing the options game when everything else is equal (see Zach Miner getting the short option straw), but everything else isn’t equal this time. Ryan Raburn is the far superior player. His arm matches Santiago’s, and while he can’t play shortstop he still offers Leyland flexibility. And while I don’t expect Raburn to repeat his 304/340/507 line from last year, I think league average production is a reasonable assumption.

I know that Jim Leyland likes Santiago, but that hasn’t assured him a spot on the roster in the past. Santiago didn’t break camp with the team last year when Leyland chose the beleaguered Neifi Perez and Omar Infante in the spring. Even when Perez was suspended, it was Raburn who was promoted and not Santiago. Santiago didn’t get his call until late August when Guillen’s knees just couldn’t take shortstop on a daily basis. Santiago was also sent to Toledo in 2006. While Leyland may like Santiago, I don’t know that he likes him enough to hand him a spot when there are such clear upgrades available.

A trade of Marcus Thames or Brandon Inge would certainly open up a roster spot, but I’d view both moves as unlikely. Vance Wilson not being ready could also clear a spot, at least initially. But it wouldn’t shock me to see the Tigers actually take a 13th pitcher in that case due to the roster crunch in the pen, an area that is much more tenuous for the team than middle infield.

Back-up plans

The Tigers are fortunate to not have any positions really up in the air when they head to spring training. At least not for the starters. The bench on the other hand has a number of candidates competing for limited spots. Marcus Thames, Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, Freddy Guzman, Mike Hessman, and Ramon Santiago are all gunning for what amounts to 3 bench positions. How will it shake out?

Let’s start with some assumptions. These could be wrong, or you may disagree, but this is where I’m starting from:

  • Brandon Inge will break camp with the team
  • Vance Wilson will not have to start the season on the DL
  • Marcus Thames doesn’t get traded

Those assumptions leave very little wiggle room. With a bench of only 4 players that leaves only one spot up in the air.

Position Starter Backup Backup
C Pudge Wilson Inge
1B Guillen Thames Cabrera
2B Polanco ???
3B Cabrera Inge
SS Renteria Guillen Inge??
LF Jones Thames Sheffield
CF Granderson Jones Inge
RF Ordonez Sheffield Thames

The only position where the Tigers don’t have an established player to back-up is second base. I thought about penciling Inge in there, but seeing as he has never played the position and he’ll be busy re-learning to catch, that position provides the least amount of comfort. With that in mind that last spot likely goes to either Ramon Santiago or Ryan Raburn.

The strengths and weaknesses of the bench candidates are below:

  • Marcus Thames: Thames has big time power, and other than 2007 has shown an ability to take a walk. He also has a new contract meaning that Thames is still in the team’s plans. The downside is that he plays the positions lowest on the defensive spectrum and he is another right handed bat. Still, Jacque Jones needs a platoon partner in left field and Thames would be the first choice.
  • Brandon Inge: Unlikely to be moved and both Inge and the team need him to re-establish his value. He becomes very important if Wilson isn’t available.
  • Ramon Santiago: A Jim Leyland favorite for his defense and a switch hitter. Or at least a batter who stands on both sides of the plate. Out of options, but probably not a big risk to be claimed on waivers either.
  • Ryan Raburn: Very versatile and has a better bat than you’ll typically see on the bench. But again, like the rest of the team he hits right handed. He has options which could work against him, though it probably shouldn’t.
  • Mike Hessman: Excellent defender at the corners, but yet another right handed bat. Leyland seemed to take a liking to him, but he has serious contact issues. Short of an injury to a corner player, I don’t see a way the Tigers could justify putting him on the 25 man roster.
  • Freddy Guzman: Guzman is out of options which could work to his advantage. Also to his advantage is that he’s a left handed hitter, and he’s fast. But he also plays outfield where the Tigers have some considerable depth already. He’s out of options though and has an outside shot of coming North, but he seems more like a September call up type of player.

If I’m responsible for the roster, I take Marcus Thames, Brandon Inge, Vance Wilson, and Ryan Raburn given the assumptions above. Raburn would most likely end up thirsting for at-bats as the majority would go to Inge. Still, that bench gives you a pretty solid combination of offensive pop and defensive flexibility. This would require passing Freddy Guzman and Ramon Santiago through waivers though. Santiago has cleared a number of times and I don’t see that being a problem. As for Guzman, I’m not sure. The Rangers could claim him back I suppose, but I don’t see that as being too big of a concern.