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 option Sizemore and Scherzer – Guillen to play 2B

The Tigers have optioned Scott Sizemore and Max Scherzer to Toledo. In their place come Armando Galarraga and Danny Worth. Worth wasn’t on the 40 man roster so his contract was purchased.

The Galarraga move isn’t the least bit surprising, he was the scheduled starter. The fact that the Tigers think Scherzer isn’t close enough to correcting his problems in side sessions is pretty telling and disappointing.

Also disappointing has been Sizemore’s performance offensively where he hasn’t been able to find that line drive stroke that produced an 889 OPS between AA and AAA last year.

Danny Worth was drafted by the Tigers in 2007 and his defense earned him a quick assignment at Lakeland. The question all along has been his bat. Worth is OPS’ing .665 for Toledo this year so it hasn’t exactly blossomed. My guess is this is a chance for Sizemore to fix some things while putting some pressure on Adam Everett as the defensive specialist.

Also, it should be noted that Worth was selected over Brent Dlugach who has very similar rate stats (673 OPS this year) but who is striking out at an epic rate with 52 K’s in 149 at-bats.

Also factoring into the middle infield situation is the fact that Carlos Guillen will need  a spot in a couple weeks and Brennan Boesch is playing too well to sit. Guillen has begun taking infield at both second base and shortstop.

UPDATE: Carlos Guillen will be the regular second baseman when he comes off the DL. When was the last season without a major position shift for Guillen?

A memorable inning

I think the scorecard tells the story (as scorecards should). The 4th inning was a thing of beauty and majesty and an inning that won’t be forgotten for quite some time.

The rookies were of course the story of the night. Scott Sizemore and Brennan Boesch both getting their first career homers in the 4th inning. Austin Jackson’s perfect 5 for 5 was exciting to see. It was a pretty special night and seeing Boesch’s emotion had to bring a smile to even the most jaded of sports fans.

I was at the game (some photos below), and can’t really judge Porcello’s location. What I do know is that he was a groundball machine and happened to give up a homer at the worst time, after 2 ground ball singles. So he was getting the grounders, but like in the other games a few too many balls were drilled as well. So maybe we call it improvement, but there’s still work to be done?

  • Johnny Damon was a homer shy of the cycle.
  • Ryan Perry game in throwing gas retired the first 3 hitters on strike outs.
  • I count eight “4-3” outs on my scorecard meaning it was a very busy night for Sxott Sizemore.
  • Phil Coke just couldn’t find the strike zone tonight. On another Coke related note, he seems to be the leader of the bullpen. At least the whole pen followed him down the left field line from the dugout.
  • I loved seeing the Tigers aggressive on the base paths late in the game. Austin Jackson stole second, and even Miguel Cabrera went when he wasn’t being held on (Boesch popped out on the pitch).
  • I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Gerald Laird’s first homer of the season. Good. I’m no longer remiss.
  • Surprised to see Jim Leyland go to his big bullpen guns with such a sizable lead.
  • Props to the fan who caught Sizemore’s homer. The bullpen guys offered him another ball in exchange and he willingly tossed Sizemore’s first career homer ball in.

Junkballing: Injuries and Verlander’s Workload

A journey through some links that will update us on the Tigers walking wounded, that will put limits on Justin Verlander’s workload, and other odds and ends including bullpen usage and Alex Avila.

Injuries

Word out of Lakeland is that Zach Miner is preparing to enter pseudo game action as part of his rehab assignment. Even with no set backs that would likely but him a couple weeks away from being ready to join the Tigers. And while the bullpen has been overworked and a fresh arm would be helpful, the bullpen has also been pretty effective.

Adam Everett is expected to be back any day now after taking batting practice yesterday. That could prove timely as Jim Leyland is still concerned about Scott Sizemore’s ankle and if he wants to spell him at second, he would have Ramon Santiago as an option with a healthy Everett manning short.

For those that were hoping to get a look at Brent Dlugach, he has cooled off at Toledo as his BABIP hasn’t been able to sustain his strikeout rate (31 K’s in 86 PA’s).

On the minor league injury front the Tigers are hopeful that Jacob Turner’s soreness is an adjustment to a pro pitching schedule and nothing ominous.

Verlander’s workload

With Justin Verlander throwing over 120 pitches in each of his last two starts and not seeing the sixth inning in either, it turned out to be a clubhouse topic yesterday. Leyland says he is going to put a limit on Verlander in his next start regardless of the inning. Verlander acknowledges that he needs to be more efficient but says pitch counts are overrated.

Verlander's Pitch Counts by Game 2009

We’ll see what happens with this limit. I’m sure that Leyland doesn’t want Verlander getting hurt on his watch, but he also had him throw over 120 pitches in 6 of his last 8 outings last season. Verlander has always proven up to the task, I just doubt that Leyland is going to reign him in too much.

The rest

Wins in unexpected places

When your team turns to an emergency starter and you get a win, the aesthetics of such a win become irrelevant. Which is fortunate because this wasn’t exactly a pretty victory.

With Dontrelle Willis battling a stomach virus the Tigers turned to Brad Thomas to try and eat some innings. Thomas wasn’t good the first two innings. He either missed the strike zone or got hammered. Even factoring in an Austin Jackson misplay, you had the feeling that the Rangers should have scored more than 4 runs in the first 2 innings. But Thomas did manage to come out for a quick and painless 3rd inning.

The Tigers then got frisky in the 3rd and 4th innings. They strung together 3 hits, an RBI ground out to get the game within 1 run in the 3rd.

In the 4th inning it was Tigers patience and a screwy wild pitch that gave the Tigers the lead. Ramon Santiago scored from second on a pitch that went through Taylor Teagarden’s 5-hole.* That was enough for the lead, but the Tigers added some more runs as they batted around.

*Does anybody else remember another game in Texas where Nook Logan scored from first base on a wild pitch?

Bullpen Dominance

The story of this game though is probably the bullpen. Eddie Bonine followed Thomas and allowed just 2 baserunners in 3 innings while getting 9 ground ball outs. Bonine threw his knuckler 7 times, all for strikes and 2 resulted in ground outs.
Joel Zumaya was next and recorded 5 of his 6 outs with strike outs. Jose Valverde handled the 9th inning allowing just an infield single.

The final line for the pen was 6 innings, 3 singles, 1 walk, and 5 K’s.

Because Bonine and Zumaya in particular were able to chew up 5 innings, it means that the rest of the pen is available tomorrow.

  • The bullpen would have had one more hit surrendered were it not for a spectacular leaping grab by Jackson. It may be his best catch of the season.
  • Jackson did keep his strikeout streak alive. It’ll end some day.
  • I liked seeing the Tigers taking advantage of the defense and picking up 2 bunt hits. I hate the sacrifice, but love seeing a guy drop one down when the 3rd baseman is playing deep.
  • Adam Everett left the game with a hamstring strain.
  • Scott Sizemore didn’t play due to ankle soreness.
  • Johnny Damon’s hit streak extends to 11 and he reached base 4 times.

What I Think About the 2010 Season

I’m not going to do a big prediction post this season. I did make some predictions for Baseball Daily Digest. I have the Tigers finishing second behind the Twins, and pretty much have the AL Central finishing the same as last season. I think the Tigers are about an 82-83 win team with enough upside and risk that the basement and first place are both within reach in a narrow division.

Having said that, here are some thoughts (almost like predictions) about what we’ll see this season from Detroit.

  • Scott Sizemore will succeed. I’m not predicting ROY awards (though I wouldn’t be shocked) but he’ll hit well enough that his average fielding won’t be an issue. Plus he’ll say the right things and do all those little things that are so popular that fans will love him.
  • Magglio Ordonez’s contract will be an issue once again this season as he approaches his vesting milestones. He’ll hit over .300 and be productive enough that cutting him won’t be a viable option.
  • The Tigers will use at least 9 starters this year.
  • Andy Oliver might not be one of those starters, but I bet he sees big league innings this year.
  • Clete Thomas is the first Mud Hen to be called up.
  • Adam Everett will struggle with the stick (even for his standards) and there will be calls for Brent Dlugach by mid May.
  • Jeremy Bonderman gets more starts than Dontrelle Willis
  • Verlander wins the Cy Young award

Because the centerfielder has to leadoff

With spring training underway there has been a flood of news bubbling up from Lakeland (and of course there are those pesky Johnny Damon rumors). But one that caught my eye was Jim Leyland’s dismissal of Scott Sizemore as the number two hitter. Somewhat understandably I suppose he doesn’t want rookies batting in the top two spots . But why pencil in Austin Jackson as the leadoff hitter in the first place?

Jackson certainly has a number of tools and is deservedly ranked on many top 100 prospect lists. Plate discipline hasn’t been one of those strengths though. He has a respectable .356 OBP as a minor leaguer, but he also fanned 2.3 times for every walk he took.

Sizemore’s greatest asset is his bat. He has maintained a .383 OBP throughout his minor league career supported by a .305 batting average and drawing walks in 13% of his plate appearances. His K/BB ratio is 1.3.

I won’t pretend to know who will have the better season and who will adjust quicker to big league pitching.  But based on all the available data it would point to Sizemore having the better chance at putting up at least a league average on base percentage. The difference though in Jim Leyland’s mind is that Jackson plays center and accordingly he should hit leadoff so he can make things happen.

I couch this all in the fact that I don’t really believe lineups make that big of a difference, and Leyland’s quotes on pitcher and catcher reporting day probably mean even less. But it a suspicious thought process where Jackson has the leadoff spot to lose while Sizemore is pushed to the lower rungs of the lineup.

Photo Credit: Roger DeWitt (hueytaxi on Flickr)

Arbitration offers for Lyon, Rodney

The Tigers decided to offer arbitration to relievers Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney, but not to take the risk with second baseman Placido Polanco. We didn’t really learn too much by these moves that we weren’t already expecting. If nobody were offered it may have signaled that the Tigers were as poor as everyone speculated. If everyone were offered it would either mean the Tigers weren’t really financially restricted or that Scott Sizemore’s injury wouldn’t allow him to be ready. Instead we’re somewhere in the middle.

The good news with Lyon and Rodney is that the Tigers stand to gain high draft picks if either player is signed by another team. If they accept arbitration the Tigers will have a couple relievers on one year deals for about $5 million apiece. However, Dave Dombrowski doesn’t expect either player to accept but he also didn’t rule out signing either player. With Lyon in particular I could see the team willing to sign him to a 2 year deal.

With Polanco it is one of those tough decisions, but one that is right. Polanco was part of the renaissance of baseball in Detroit and was an easy guy to root for. He played hard, never complained, and was remarkably steady. And while he was probably overrated by many fans for his batting average, he was the guy I felt most comfortable with at the plate in a key situation (yes, I know his career .307 BAISP isn’t appreciably different than his overall .303 BA it is still a pretty good clip and the fact that he’d find a way to put the ball in play made me “feel” better).

But for a change the Tigers actually have a position player prospect poised to take over a position of need in Scott Sizemore. He isn’t being rushed or pushed up for a spark or as an injury replacement. Scouts feel he can hit at the big league level now and his minor league numbers show he can transfer his tools to production.

Now the decision to let Polanco go is different than the decision to offer him arbitration. By not offering him arbitration Polanco will not fetch the team additional draft picks. The lack of a compensation pick also makes Polanco much more attractive to potential suitors. So when he ultimately signs a 2-3 year deal with someone, there will be complaints that the Tigers missed out. The complainers though have to realize that Polanco’s market shrinks with a compensation pick attached and that multi-year offer likely wouldn’t be there.

Tigers add 4 to the roster

The Tigers have added Scott Sizemore, Ryan Strieby, Brennan Boesch, and Audy Ciriaco to the 40 man roster, protecting them from the Rule 5 draft. The roster was at 42, but with the 6 free agents off the roster, and the addition of these 4 players it is now full at 40.

The additions of Sizemore and Strieby are not the least bit surprising. Strieby was one of the best hitters in the Eastern League last year while he was healthy. He’s seemingly blocked at first base and will see increased work in the outfield, but regardless he is too good of a hitter to let walk.  Sizemore of course is the heir apparent at second base with the likely departure of Placido Polanco.

After those two though there was a larger pool of players on the bubble. The Tigers decided to stick with the toolsy (and hopefully starting to translate to production) Ciriaco and the power of Brennan Boesch. Ciriaco finally started to tie those tools into some production late last year where he got his line drive rate up to the teens from June forward. And despite Boesch’s struggles controlling the plate (127 K’s and 34 BB’s last year) he did slug at a .510 clip. It’s interesting though that as Dave Dombrowski talks about improving plate discipline throughout the organization they protected two players who have the strike out and walk rates that Ciriaco and Boesch do.

Among those left off the roster were a handful of pitchers including Luis Marte, Bryan Villarreal, Scot Drucker, and Brett Jensen. I’m not necessarily surprised by the absence of any one of those pitchers, but that none were protected is a little surprising.

Things are likely to change yet as trade rumors swirl and the Tigers have to decide on a shortstop.

Sizemore needs surgery

The early encouraging returns on Scott Sizemore’s broken tibia have been replaced with a cringe inducing MRI report. During his examination today, it was determined that the injury will require surgery.

Sizemore told John Lowe and the Freep:

“The torn tendons cause instability in the ankle,” Sizemore said. “They are going to put in a few screws to lock everything into place.”

The team isn’t commenting yet. It looked like a sure thing that Sizemore, the Tigers likely second baseman in 2010, would be fully healed in a matter of weeks and the injury would be a non-factor by February. The prognosis isn’t dire at this point, but there is a possibility he won’t be all the way back by the time players report to Lakeland.

Based on the information available in the Free Press article, Baseball Prospectus injury guru Will Carroll said in an email:

“My guess is he’ll be back for ST, but maybe not 100% while he figures out the ankle. It depends on how he heals. It shouldn’t be too much of a long term issue. I’ve never seen a 2B with this, so it’s tough to judge.

Color me cautiously optimistic

Tigers prospect Scott Sizemore needs surgery | Detroit Free Press | Freep.com

Sizemore leaves AFL game with injury

Latest Update: Sizemore has a fractured tibia and is on his way to Detroit

Scott Sizemore, the heir apparent at second base left today’s game in the first inning due to an injury. He was trying to turn a double play when a hard slide by Danny Espinosa caused both players to exit. What we know right now is that Sizemore’s injury is to his left leg but I hope to know more shortly.

Mark Anderson’s sources say it is an ankle with no confirmation on severity

On a brighter note Casper Wells hit a 2-2 Stephen Strasburg curve ball out to left center for a grand slam.

Desert Update: Sizemore Shines

sizemoreThe Tigers representatives in the Arizona Fall League now have a week under their belts. Since the opener most have handled the challenge quite well so far with your likely 2010 second baseman Scott Sizemore leading the way.

Scott Sizemore

All he’s done is homer 3 times, double twice, and walk twice in 18 plate appearances. That’s good enough for a 375/400/1.063 slash line and prompting Kevin Goldstein to say “there isn’t really a glaring weakness in his game.”

Casper Wells

Mark Anderson of TigsTown thinks that a big fall could put Wells in the mix for the outfield rotation in 2010. So far he has a 444/450/889 line in 19 plate appearances. He has fanned 8 times though so it appears he’s either hitting the ball hard or not at all.

Cale Iorg

So far Iorg seems to be picking up his AFL season where his Erie season ended, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. He has a 182/182/250 line so far but I guess the good news would be that he’s only fanned 4 times. In Kevin Goldstein’s BP 10 Pack he listed this scout’s comment on Iorg:

I like the tools and what he does with the glove… but he just can’t hit.

Andrew Oliver

After getting knocked around a little bit in his first outing he bounced back nicely fanning 3 and walking 1 in his next outing which lasted 2 innings. He followed that up with a 1 inning stint that saw him allow 2 hits, but no damage while notching another strikeout.

Robbie Weinhardt

Weinhardt also improved with his second outing, but that was really the only way for him to go. But he still allowed 2 runs in 1.1 innings. Weinhardt has allowed 7 runs in 3 AFL innings on 9 hits and 3 walks. For someone who allowed just 8 earned runs in 30 AA innings this year this is certainly uncharacteristic.

Scot Drucker

Drucker isn’t really viewed as a prospect, but he has done well with this opportunity so far. He’s allowed just 1 run on 2 hits in 5 innings despite just striking out 2.