As we all are well aware, Jose Valverde’s contract expires following this season, and for most people, this comes as a welcome relief.  Valverde, while he’s been better than most people would have you believe, is a roller coaster ride of a closer who will be too expensive for the Tigers to retain in 2013.  That begs the question: Who should close for the Tigers in 2013?  I did a similar post a few weeks ago regarding who should be the Tigers RF in 2013, and since the closer role, like the RF role, will involve the discussion of prospects, that makes it logical for me to discuss.

There is a variety of in house options for the Tigers to consider, ranging from veterans to younger guys to prospects, all of whom have been argued for by someone at some point this season.  Let’s go through them one by one:

Joaquin Benoit:

Probably the easiest, most logical choice at this point.  Benoit will be in the final year of his contract in 2013, and will undoubtedly be pitching for a new contract, be it from the Tigers or someone else.  He was absolutely dominant in 2011, and has been pretty good in 2012, despite trouble with the home run ball when he leaves pitches up.  This is a problem a lot of pitchers have: they have great stuff, but even great stuff at the belt and above can get drilled.  Benoit has expressed his desire to NOT close, and that to me is a large red flag to not make him the closer, since you have to have somewhat of a killer mentality to do so.

Brayan Villarreal:

Villarreal had an outstanding 2012, really bursting onto the scene with a plus-plus fastball that sits 96-97 and has been clocked as high as 99, as well as a developing slider that is turning into a legitimate swing and miss pitch.  Earlier in the season I was quoted many times as saying “he has closer stuff”, and I still believe that.  However, Villarreal actually got left off the postseason roster in favor of Rick Porcello, and I’m assuming his struggles with walks down the stretch played a large role in that decision.  So, bottom line, do I think that Villarreal has closer stuff? Yes. Do I think that Villarreal will close in his career? Probably not, unless in 2013 he takes another giant step forward, this time with his command.

Al Alburquerque:

This is an intriguing choice to me.  Al-Al offers easily the best breaking ball in the Tigers bullpen, with his dynamic 70 slider.  He also has a plus fastball that he throws consistently in the mid-90’s.  Al-Al’s problem in his brief Detroit tenure (1+ years) has been command and durability.  Last season he burst onto the scene and pitched some huge innings for the Tigers, but his command became an issue at times and the walks mounted.  Furthermore, he had offseason elbow surgery that kept him out of action until September, but when he did come back, he was the same “Amazing Al” that we all grew to love in 2011.  If you had to pick a guy to come in at a crucial point in a game and record a K, Alburquerque is your man.  That reason, combined with the durability concerns, lead me to believe that Al-Al is better suited for a set up role.  I remember in 2006, when all of Detroit was clamoring for Leyland to make Joel Zumaya the closer over Todd Jones, that Leyland said something to the extent of “Look, in a crucial situation, like men on 2nd and 3rd with 0 outs in the 7th inning, I want to bring in Zumaya to get me out of the inning with 0 runs allowed.  Todd Jones is not suited for that role.  Zumaya is. So that’s why I haven’t flipped them.”  I take the same stance with Al-Al, due to his proficiency at getting K’s.

Bruce Rondon:

This is probably the sexy pick, as Rondon has yet to pitch an inning in the major leagues, but has blown away (no pun intended) scouts and hitters alike with his legitimate 80 fastball and projectable slider/change combo.  His fastball sits comfortably at 97-99, and he was clocked at the Futures Game (by 10+ scout guns, not the stadium gun) at 100-101.  Rondon undoubtedly has closer stuff and closer potential, but I don’t like the idea of throwing him right to the wolves in 2013.  I think there’s little doubt that he will pitch out of the bullpen in 2013, but I think the Tigers will take the Zumaya route with him, allowing him to set up for a more experienced closer, and then eventually take over the closer role in 2014-2015 (barring injury, of course).  Rondon is the closer of the future, just not the closer of 2013, at least for me.

Octavio Dotel:

Dotel signed a 1 year contract with a club option for a 2nd year before the 2012 season, and I think there is little doubt that the Tigers will pick up that option.  Dotel may be a bit long in the tooth, but he’s proven that he’s still a legitimate, effective, and very solid bullpen option.  He strikes out a good amount of hitters, walks very few, and the life on his fastball allows him to get weak contact when the ball is down in the zone (sound familiar?).  Dotel has closed in the past, and while he had a disastrous outing as a closer for the Tigers in Seattle early in the season, he has undoubtedly been very effective as a Tiger.  He should be back, and I wouldn’t actually be surprised to see him start the season as closer, especially if Benoit makes it known that he would prefer to stay in the 8th inning.  I’m not saying that he’s my pick, but he is a decent option.

Free Agents:

The free agent market for closers is rather light for the 2012-2013 off season, but there are some intriguing names.  Several interesting names have club options for the 2013 season, among them Joakim Soria and Grant Balfour, either of whom would help the Tigers bullpen, but for the sake of this post, I’d like to determine a potential closer from the list of names already within the Tigers organization.

Conclusion:

As of right now, I’d say that Joaquin Benoit begins the 2013 season as the closer, with guys like Villarreal, Alburquerque, and Dotel manning the 7th-8th inning roles.  I don’t think that Villarreal will ever be the closer, barring a slew of injuries, but that’s not to say he can’t be an outstanding set up man, which I believe he will be.  Dotel works well in the 7th inning role, and I see no reason to change that, should the Tigers pick up his option.  Alburquerque, like I said, provides the Tigers with a gigantic strikeout weapon out of the bullpen, and I think that he should be saved for really high leverage situations, and may be wasted as the closer.  Rondon may come into spring training and set the world on fire, and push for a large role on the 2013 Tigers, but I don’t think it will be as closer.  Obviously, all of this becomes a moot point if Benoit tells Leyland that he doesn’t want to close, at which point other options will be explored.  I expect the Tigers to go after a reliever in free agency, but I don’t think they will go after a closer.

So there you have it, 1200+ words on a topic that won’t become an issue for 6 months or so.

Per usual, feel free to comment on this post with your thoughts, or follow me on twitter @TigersProspects and @B_Sakowski

Thanks for reading, and Go Tigers!!!

 

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Aaron Westlake, the Tigers 3rd round pick in 2011 from the University of Vanderbilt, posted some decent numbers this year at West Michigan. His line in 2012 goes as follows, .249/.320/.391/.711/ 123 Games. 465 AB, 116 H, 35 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 69 RBI, 56 R, 47 BB, 105 K, 4 SB. Aaron is big guy (6’4″ 235) so, you’d expect to more home runs. Although, he did rack up 35 doubles in his first full season in the minors. Aaron plays the first base position so, if he’s going to make it to the big leagues, he’ll have to either hit or field his way there. Nevertheless, he’ll be a nice organizational player.

Here is an interview Aaron and I had back last Winter before Spring Training. Hope you enjoy.

TPR: What’s the one thing you have to have on long road trips?

AW: Have to have an iPod or some type of device that plays music.

TPR: Any Pre-Game superstitions?

AW: Don’t have any superstitions.

TPR: Who was the person you looked up to growing up?

AW: I looked up to my parents growing up. They have taught me the right way to live life and to live it to the fullest.

TPR: Who influenced you as far as playing the game of baseball?

AW: My Dad influenced me the most. He would always find time to help me any way he could with the game, whether is was throwing BP to me, hitting me ground balls, or simply playing catch.

TPR: Why did you choose the number you chose, any special reason or was it just given to you?

AW: I did not choose the number I was given.

TPR: Best manager you have ever played for throughout your career?

AW: Tim Corbin at Vanderbilt has been the best manager I have played for throughout my career so far. He taught me not only lessons about baseball, but life lessons as well.

TPR: Best player you have played with or against?

AW: I have had the opportunity to play with and against many great players. I would have to say the best player I was fortunate to play with so far has been Sonny Gray who I played with for 3 years at Vanderbilt, and who was drafted by the A’s in the first round in last year’s draft.

TPR: If you could have gone pro or played any other sport besides baseball, what would it have been and why?

AW: Would have played golf. I grew up playing golf a lot as well, and like playing the game.

TPR: Best/worst parks to play in? (or cities to travel to)

AW: Since I signed later, I missed most of the away trips at Short Season in Norwich. For the places I went, State College (Penn State) and Lowell, were some fun cities we traveled to.

TPR: Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

AW: Coaching or some sort of financial management.

Thanks again to Aaron for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for the TPR. The writers and readers of the Tigers Prospect Report thank you as well. Good luck on your journey to the Big Leagues.

Follow Aaron on Twitter

– Travis aka Tiger Travie

The 2012 season has cleared up the picture regarding the future of the shortstop position in Detroit.  Jhonny Peralta may still be an above-average defensive shortstop (albeit with no range) but his miserable season at the plate (.239/.305/.384/.689, 13 HR and 63 RBI in 531 AB) might result in a change coming sooner than expected.

“Who’s available?” Well that’s part of the problem.  There is a dearth of good shortstops on the market.  Stephen Drew and Jimmy Rollins leap to mind, but Drew can’t hit and Rollins is getting old and has attitude issues.  So Peralta may very well come back in 2013.

So we’ve established that the shortstop of the future is in-house.  May I present to you Eugenio Suarez.

Suarez is a 6’0’’, 180 pound, 21 year-old Venezuelan who played his 2012 season with Single-A West Michigan.   He had an excellent season there, hitting .288/.380/.409/.789 in 135 games.  He’s not a power threat (only 6 homers in 511 at-bats) but he has doubles power already (he roped 34 of them) and is pretty fast as well, recording 5 triples and 21 steals.  He displayed good discipline, working out 65 walks.  Most importantly perhaps, he became a plus defender this season, recording a .971 fielding percentage, up from .923 in 2011 (which he split with the GCL Tigers and Connecticut).

At this point there are really only two drawbacks to Suarez: his size and his strikeouts.  He’ll need to put on weight if he’s going to play everyday. He struck out 116 times in 511 at-bats in A-ball and that’s obviously going to need to come down.  But if he puts on some weight and reduces his strikeouts, he could be a Tiger by 2014.

Go Tigers.

I posted something on twitter last night saying that Putkonen getting his first MLB save may be a foreshadowing of things to come, simply because I liked his profile as a potential late innings reliever.  You’d have thought that I praised Satan or said that Miguel Cabrera was awful, based upon the amount of backlash I received.

I’m rather new to this whole scouting/prospecting thing, but I’ve never been someone to backpedal away from my beliefs if the reception of those beliefs isn’t a positive one.  So, I’ve assumed that I’ll take my lumps when it comes to my opinions on players, and I figured that I would write an article explaining my opinion of Putkonen.

Keep in mind, I did say that Putkonen’s success hinges upon his developing consistent command of both his fastball and curveball, but that more or less goes without saying to anyone that pays any attention to the Tigers.

Here we go:

Frame/Makeup:

Putkonen is a big dude with the prototypical power pitcher’s frame, standing 6’6″ and weighing about 210-215 lbs.  He gets a very good downward angle with his slot release, and I’m a fan of the leg drive he is able to generate, especially when throwing from the stretch.  Putkonen was originally a starter in the Tigers system, where he was more of your typical sinkerball type pitcher, sitting 90-92 on his fastball with solid sink/heaviness, and a fringy curveball/changeup combination.  He has some history of injuries which influenced his move to the bullpen, where he has reinvented himself as a pitcher.

Fastball:

Putkonen now sits comfortably at 95-96 with the ability to reach back and get 98 on occasion.  His ball still has some heaviness to it, but not as significant as when he was 91-92, but that’s to be expected.  When he throws to the arm side, there is marginal arm-side run on the pitch, which runs in on the right handed batters.  When he throws to the glove-side, the pitch straightens out without much movement, but can still be effective with command.  Putkonen’s biggest issue this season has been leaving his fastball up in the zone.  In the major leagues, even if you throw hard, with no command its going to get hit (Verlander in the All-Star Game).

Curveball:

Putkonen’s curve has become a legitimate swing and miss pitch since his move to the bullpen.  It has sharp break, tight spin, and legitimate downward action to it, and it’s actually pretty hard at 81-82 MPH.  Again, command is the issue here, with too many of these curveballs being left up in the zone.  Verlander can occasionally get away with hanging a curve, but Luke Putkonen cannot.  He needs to develop the command to throw the pitch not only for strikes, but also burying it down and away to right handed hitters, resulting in swings and misses.

Changeup:

Putkonen had a changeup when he was a starter that was never really graded as better than fringy, but he seemingly has eliminated it from his repertoire as a reliever.  At least, I haven’t noticed him throwing it.  As a starter it’s important to have 3 pitches, even if one of them is merely a show-me pitch (Bonderman!!!!!), but as a reliever, you can get away with 2 pitches, especially if both of them are effective (as Putkonen’s can be)

Future:

I see Putkonen as having a 7th-8th inning set up man ceiling.  This is, of course, dependent upon him developing at least average command of both his fastball and curveball.  He has the potential to be a good late innings reliever that can not only get groundballs, but also miss bats.  His floor is the up and down long reliever that we saw this season.  Likelihood to reach ceiling is probably pretty low, but the fact that we’ve already seen Putkonen’s floor is a good indication that as he develops more as a reliever, he’ll improve.  Right now, I’d project him to get one of the Tigers bullpen spots in 2013, probably in the Luis Marte/Colin Balester long relief/mop up role, with the obvious potential for more.

 

 

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Austin Schotts, drafted straight out of high school, is one of the Tigers up and coming prospects. During his tenure in HS, Austin played mostly short stop. But once he was drafted by the Tigers, he was converted to a center fielder. Schotts spent most of the 2012 season playing for the GCL Tigers (Rookie) in Florida. He was called up to the Lakeland Tigers (Class-A) later in the year but only played in a few games.

Austin took some time earlier this year out of his busy schedule to partake in an interview for the readers of the Tigers Prospect Report. Here are the questions with Austin’s answered applied:

TPR: When we’re you first exposed to the game of baseball?

AS: My dad actually brought a baseball and a football to the hospital when I was born and introduced me to both. My dad played baseball in college and my older brother played so I was around the game right away. I think the first actual team I was on was when I was four or five years old. I remember watching home videos of my second birthday and I was swinging a dust pan while my grandpa pitched me balls in the living room.

TPR: Being a two-sport athlete in high school, what made you go the baseball route instead of football?

AS: That was a really tough decision. I always have loved both so much. I had some offers to play both. It was after my senior football season when I decided that I was going to play baseball only. I just felt like I could have a career on the baseball field.

TPR: How would you describe your game?

AS: I would say aggressive. I play hard every time I am on the field. I want to hit the ball, get on base and use my speed. I am excited to keep learning and to get better every day.

TPR: You were drafted in the 3rd round by the Tigers, did that surprise you at all? Or, were you just happy to be drafted?

AS: I had decided that if I wasn’t drafted in the first three rounds that I would play ball in college. I had a great scholarship to Oklahoma State and was just happy knowing that I would be playing for a great school or be blessed enough to start living my dream after high school. So to answer your question I was MORE than happy that I was drafted and glad it happened in the first three rounds.

TPR: What were your first initial thoughts when you heard your named called?

AS: I wasn’t called until pick 121 which was toward the end of the third round. I was actually figuring that I wasn’t going to be called and that I was going to Oklahoma State instead. I have no idea what my initial thought was. I just remember jumping out of my chair when my name was called. We were all screaming and crying. My phone was blowing up. I couldn’t believe it. It was one of the best days of my life for sure.

TPR: In high school you played shortstop and since being drafted by the Tigers, you moved to centerfield. How has that transition been so far?

AS: I miss the fast pace in the infield but I am liking centerfield too. I still have things to learn but have my coach, Basilio Cabrera, and my roommate, Ismael Salgado, are helping me a lot. I am just happy to be playing and will play wherever they feel I am needed the most.

TPR: Your GCL (Gulf Coast League) stats are pretty impressive thus far ( .310 3HR 21RBI 15SB), what has been the key to your early success?

AS: I just give 100% every time I am on the field. Every day I learn something new. Some days are good and some days aren’t. I just have to believe in myself and keep playing the best I can every day. I just play the game pitch by pitch.

TPR: Turning things away from baseball a bit, what are some of your favorite things to do in your free time?

AS: I like to hit and play pool and ping pong.

TPR: Person you looked up to growing up?

AS: There wasn’t just one person who I looked up to. Obviously my big brother, T.J., has always been there with me every step of the way. T.J. was always better than me at sports so I had to work hard to keep up with him. My parents and my grandparents were also always there too. I also believe that God has a huge part in everything I do and He has been a big influence on the person I am today.

TPR: Favorite baseball player? Then and now?

AS: I always liked watching Rickey Henderson and Pete Rose clips. Now I would have to say that Mike Trout is one of my favorite players. He has done so well at such a young age and is a lot of fun to watch.

TPR: Favorite sports teams? Professional and collegiate?

AS: I was raised a Chicago Bears fan and a Notre Dame fan. When I was born my room was all Notre Dame and as I got older I switched to Chicago Bears. It was always football. I never really watched much baseball for some reason. I guess I was too busy playing outside. Now my favorite team is the Detroit Tigers for sure!

TPR: Any pre-game rituals?

AS: No. I just try and get as focused as possible and pray that I do the best that I can.

TPR: Favorite music to listen to and or artists?

AS: I listen to all different kinds of music. Rock, rap, country, oldies…just depends on the mood I am in and who I am with. Now that I have a roommate from Puerto Rico I even listen to his Spanish music. LOL

TPR: If not for being a pro baseball player, what would your profession be?

AS: If baseball wasn’t an option I would have for sure kept playing football. There is just something about football that I can’t explain! The adrenalin, hitting people, running by people…it is all just so much fun.

TPR: Final question, where do you see yourself in 30 years?

AS: I will be 48 so I don’t know if I will still be playing or not but if my body lets me I will be on the field still! If not, I want to be coaching or doing something where I can be on a field or around the game of baseball the rest of my life. It’s all I ever want to do if I am blessed enough to.

I’d like to personally thank Austin for taking the time to do this interview. It was great getting to learn some new things about and up and coming Tigers player.

Welp, that’s it for this installment of the Tigers Prospect Report Interview Segment. Be sure to tune in next time when we’ll be bringing you more great interviews from Tigers prospects.

– Travis aka Tiger Travie

Be sure to follow the Tigers Prospect Report on Twitter.

The Connecticut Tigers, the Detroit Tigers’ Class A-Short Season affiliate, finished the 2012 season with a record of 35-40.  Their roster consisted of some solid pitching prospects without any real stars, and a few very good positional prospects, with depth among the lineup being the real issue.

Let’s start with the position players:

OF Danry Vasquez:

Everyone knows of Vasquez by now.  Very young, still very raw, but a potential star in the making.  Vasquez, still only 18, began the season at West Michigan and struggled mightily.  He was sent back to extended spring training, and then assigned to Connecticut when their season started.  He played very well in Connecticut, hitting 3rd for the Tigers and led the team in BA, OBP, SLG, 2B, and RBI (among players who played everyday and were in Connecticut for the majority of the season).  Scouts rave about his hitting ability, and he shows the potential to be able to hit for solid power as well.  So far, similar to Castellanos, his power hasn’t really developed beyond doubles, but as we saw with Castellanos this season, Vasquez’s power will surely develop as he matures and adds strength.  He still struck out a bit too much and didn’t walk enough, but the hit tool is already above average with the potential for plus.  He plays a solid-average LF, and could mature into a legitimate middle of the order hitter once his power develops.  I expect we’ll see him start 2013 in West Michigan, and ideally he stays there the entire season with good results.  Baseball America recently ranked him the #9 best prospect in the NYPL, and his stock will only rise as he matures.

2B Devon Travis:

This is one of my favorite selections of the 2012 draft by the Tigers, Travis shined in the College World Series, showcasing his athleticism and solid hitting ability.  He got hurt after 25 games at Connecticut, so his season was cut short, but in his limited playing time he hit for some solid power, stole a few bases, didn’t strike out very often, walked a good amount, and showcased his above average defense at 2B.  To me, he projects as a solid middle infield utility guy who can hit pretty well, but with some added development I could see him becoming an everyday player in the major leagues.  He’ll probably start 2013 in extended Spring Training, but I could easily see him in West Michigan or even Lakeland by the time the season ends.

CF Jake Stewart:

The selection of Stewart, similar to the selection of Travis, was one of my favorite selections in the 2012 draft by the Tigers.  Similar to Mark from TigsTown, I’m pretty high on Stewart, higher than most of the reports I’ve read on him.  He’s a toolsy outfielder who hasn’t quite put all of his tools together, but we’ve seen flashes of his good athleticism and solid pop.  He lead Connecticut in both HR’s (7) and SB (11), but also led the team in strikeouts (66), while batting leadoff for the majority of the season.  When he makes contact, he barrels the ball very well, and I’m a big fan of his hands, which are very quick through the zone.  The only issue is that he doesn’t make a significant amount of contact, but once he improves upon his strike zone recognition and plate discipline, he has a 4th OF profile and could move rather quickly through the organization.  I think we’ll see him start 2013 in West Michigan, playing alongside Schotts and Vasquez.

There are several guys who show some projection from what I’ve read, but don’t know nearly enough about to write up.  These guys include, most notably, OF Pat Smith and OF Zach Kirksey (Who arguably has the best power of anyone the Tigers selected in 2012).  Also keep watch on C Bennett Pickar who was widely regarded as one of the top defensive catchers in the 2012 draft, but doesn’t hit very much.

And now for the pitching staff:

SP Edgar De La Rosa:

De La Rosa, the Connecticut staff ace, led the team in IP, ERA (among starters), and K’s.  He was a bit older at 21, but was very solid for the entirety of the season.  His fastball sits 93-94, but he’s been clocked at high as 98, and has some projection to sit even higher in the mid 90’s, especially if he puts on some weight.  He throws a slider and a change as well, both with the projection to be above-average pitches. De La Rosa is definitely one to keep an eye on, especially in 2013 where he’ll probably begin the season in West Michigan.

RP Hunter Scantling:

Scantling is massive, at 6’8″ 275, but for a guy his size, his fastball is rather fringy, generally sitting 89-91 and not going much above 93.  For someone so big, I would expect higher velo than that, and perhaps he can add a few more ticks as he works with professional pitching coaches.  He posted outstanding numbers this season at Connecticut, and will probably man the pen in West Michigan in 2013.  Right now, his ceiling for me is that of a middle reliever, but that could increase with added velocity.

RP Joe Rogers:

Rogers is a guy that I was excited about when drafted, and after his 2012 season, I’m even more excited.  He’s a LHP that can get his fastball up to 94-95, but sits in the low 90’s, and for a LHP that’s very solid.  He also flashes a plus curveball that grades out consistently as above average, but is a legitimate bat-missing pitch when its on.  He posted great numbers in his first pro season, and could be a fast mover, especially if he stays in the bullpen and adds velo to his fastball.

RP Josh Turley:

Arguably Connecticut’s best reliever, Turley posted outstanding numbers throughout the season and earned a trip to NYPL All-Star game.  Turley’s best pitch is his plus changeup, that offers exceptional deceptiveness.  His numbers back up this claim, but I’d still like to see more strikeouts.

SP Hua-Wei Lo:

Lo is a converted position player who is reported to have a live arm.  He spent some time in the GCL before being promoted to Connecticut.  He still posted solid numbers at Conn, but they weren’t the dominating numbers we saw in the GCL, which is, of course, to be expected.  I don’t really know a whole lot about Lo other than what I’ve written above, but I have feelers into several scouts and should hear back soon.

Some pitchers that posted good numbers/have some projectibility that I don’t know very much about: Charles Gillies, Matt Davenport, and Alex Phillips

And now moving on to the hard numbers:

Positional Players:

-OF Danry Vasquez (18): .311/.341/.401/.742 (72 Games at Conn). 289 AB, 90 H, 16 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 35 RBI, 36 R, 13 BB, 45 K, 6 SB

-2B/3B Tyler Hanover (23): .274/.336/.365/.701/61 Games. 230 AB, 63 H, 12 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 25 R, 20 BB, 29 K, 10 SB

-OF Pat Smith (20): .214/.278/.313/.591/70 Games. 252 AB, 54 H, 11 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 26 R, 21 BB, 67 K, 6 SB

-OF Jake Stewart (21): .218/.268/.347/.615/63 Games. 262 AB, 57 H, 11 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 43 R, 19 BB, 66 K, 11 SB

-C Bennett Pickar (22): .205/.298/.263/.561/52 Games. 156 AB, 32 H, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 12 R, 20 BB, 47 K

-SS/2B Jordan Dean (22) (CMU): .200/.269/.262/.531/44 Games. 145 AB, 29 H, 3 2B, 3 3B, 0 HR, 15 RBI, 14 R, 14 BB, 34 K, 11 SB

Pitchers:

-SP Edgar De La Rosa (21): 4-4, 3,10 ERA, 72 2/3 IP, 66 H, 35 BB, 54 K, 1.39 WHIP

-SP Hua-Wei Lo (21): 2-4, 2.85 ERA, 66 1/3 IP, 55 H, 19 BB, 45 K, 1.30 WHIP (Split btwn GCL and Conn)

-SP Charles Gillies (22): 0-4, 3.40 ERA, 42 1/3 IP, 31 H, 17 BB, 42 K, 1.13 WHIP

-P Josh Turley (22): 4-0, 1.06 ERA, 34 IP, 23 H, 5 BB, 25 K, 0.82 WHIP

-P Alex Phillips (22): 1-0, 2.51 ERA, 32 1/3 IP, 28 H, 6 BB, 29 K, 1.05 WHIP

-P Joe Rogers (21): 2-1, 2.28 ERA, 23 2/3 IP, 20 H, 12 BB, 28 K, 1.35 WHIP

-P Matt Davenport (22): 2-1, 0.77 ERA, 23 1/3 IP, 14 H, 4 BB, 22 K, 0.77 WHIP

-P Hunter Scantling (23): 2-0, 1.23 ERA, 22 IP, 7 H, 6 BB, 21 K, 0.59 WHIP

That’s it for me, folks.  Any questions, comments, concerns, thoughts, etc, feel free to comment on here or contact me on twitter @TigersProspects or @B_Sakowski

Go Tigers!!

This has been a question that has been asked several times in the past few weeks, what with the emergence of Avisail Garcia, the continued solid performance of Andy Dirks, the polarizing presence of Quintin Berry, and the frustrating ineptitude of Brennan Boesch.  Yes, this site is dedicated to the coverage of prospects, but considering that there is a few prospects involved in this discussion, I figured I’d give you all my thoughts on the issue.

Let’s run down the candidates one by one:

Brennan Boesch:

Every teenage girls’ favorite fantasy, Brennan Boesch has been absolutely horrendous this season in a Tiger’s uniform.  His most notable tool is his plus raw power, but the fact that his hit tool has regressed so badly inhibits his ability to showcase that power.  He runs OK for someone who is 6’4″ 230-ish, but he’s a minus defender.  His arm is solid-average from a pure strength perspective, but it’s rarely accurate, so it plays as a minus arm.  I’ve written a few articles over the past year diagnosing the issues with Boesch’s swing from a mechanics perspective, but at this point, he’s somewhat beyond repair.  He doesn’t track the ball very well, he drops his back shoulder, gets too extended on his front side, wraps his bat, and is far too pull-happy.  At this point, barring some ridiculous turnaround, Boesch has no place on the Tigers in 2013.

Quintin Berry:

Berry has been a nice surprise this season, coming from minor league free agent all the way to everyday starter when Jackson was hurt, and now finds himself playing pretty much every time the Tigers face a RHP.  His only plus tool is his speed, which has been showcased by his 21 steals in 21 attempts.  However, he doesn’t run the bases particularly well, has minimal power, and his swing is very long, which causes him problems against increased velocity.  As a fielder, he’s simply not very good, but his speed allows him to make up for bad reads enough to at least be an average defender.  His arm also isn’t very good, but it plays as average from LF.  Since we’re discussing RF here, he would have a below-average arm from there.  I like Berry as a complementary player, and think he could find a spot as a bench player, mostly because of that speed, but as far as a starting OF in 2013, no, I just don’t see it.

Andy Dirks:

Dirks, to me, is playing a bit above his head in 2012.  I really like his swing, it’s short, quick, compact, and he’s able to barrel the ball up pretty well.  He struggles against LHP, but he kills RHP, so in essence, he’s an above-average 4th OF, but only an average everyday player.  He plays solid D, has a solid arm, runs decently well, and has some pop in his bat.  He’s one of those guys that isn’t flashy or outstanding in any facet of the game, but doesn’t have any big deficiencies either.  I’m fine with penciling Dirks into the starting lineup in 2013 in LF, but that’s under the assumption that the Tigers acquire at least an average RF to go along with him.

Delmon Young:

No

Avisail Garcia:

Avi has been one of my favorite prospects for a couple years now, mostly because I’m simply in awe of how athletic he is for someone who is exactly my size (6’4″ 240).  As soon as he joined the Tigers he automatically had the best arm in the OF, and became probably the 2nd or 3rd best defender in the OF.  He runs very well for a man his size, as evidenced by his 23 SB in the minors this season.  The issue with Avi is that I don’t think he’s ready to be an everyday starter yet.  He still needs to develop his power against advanced pitching, as well as improve his plate discipline and strike zone recognition.  The tools are all there, and in 2012 he began to put them all together, and the results were exciting.  But as for 2013, I’d really like to see him start the season in AAA and maybe be ready for the big time by the All-Star break.

Nick Castellanos:

Everyone knows about Castellanos, the crown jewel of the Tigers farm system.  Plus-plus hit tool, potential plus power tool, good athleticism, tore up High-A, Future’s Game MVP, and still only 20 years old.  Nick made the transition from 3B to RF halfway through 2012, and I think in time he could turn himself into a solid-average defensive OF, although I think he projects better in LF, especially with an obvious RF already in the system in Avi Garcia.  Castellanos struggled down the stretch at AA, striking out too much, not walking enough, and not really hitting for much power beyond doubles.  I believe that NC, while not exactly sparkling, would be an improvement over the Tigers infield defense at 3B in time, and should be moved back there soon.  So, in my estimation, no, Nick Castellanos will not be the Opening Day 2013 RF.

So where does this leave us? We’ve established that Boesch, Castellanos, and Young are “no’s”.  Berry has a role on the team, but not starting in RF.  Dirks could be a starter in LF, but then who do you play in RF?

Here’s my best guess as of right now: The Tigers take to the FA/Trade market in the offseason and acquire an even/+1-2 WAR RF, and take their chances (good chances, IMO) with Dirks in LF to open the season.  Avisail Garcia may push for a platoon job by mid-season, and perhaps even take over by season’s end.  A platoon of Dirks/Garcia depending on the pitcher may work as well, so long as their is another established OF on the roster.

Let me know what you think! I’d love to discuss this with you all.

Get at me on twitter @TigersProspects or @B_Sakowski

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Go Tigers!!

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