Tigers Prospect Profile #21: Duane Below

Duane Below was a largely unheralded prospect coming up the ranks, but the homegrown product from Michigan worked his way all the way to Detroit, making his big league debut in 2011. Can Below compete for a job in the rotation, or is he destined for the bullpen?

Duane Below
Position: Left-handed Pitcher
Height: 6-2
Weight: 205
Born: 11/15/1985
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

Background
The Tigers picked Below in the 19th round of the 2006 draft out of Lake Michigan Community College. He is a local product, born and raised in Britton, Michigan.

After a solid pro debut in 2006, Below exploded on the scene in 2007 with a 2.97 ERA in 26 starts for West Michigan. For the season he allowed less than a hit per inning and struck out nearly ten hitters per nine innings.

Below struggled some after a promotion to High-A in 2008, posting only a 4.46 ERA in 26 starts at that level. His regression could have been a sneak peak at what was coming in 2009 as Below made just eight starts before going under the knife for Tommy John surgery.

After a quick rehab Below was back on the hill in 2010. He moved up to Double-A Erie and struggled throwing strikes consistently, leading to a 4.93 ERA in 28 starts. He did post the best strikeout to walk ratio of his full season career but was also more hittable than he had ever been.

Below moved up to Triple-A in 2011 and eventually made his Major League debut. In 18 starts for Toledo, Below sported a 9-4 record and 3.13 ERA while limiting the opposition to less than eight hits per nine innings.

Called up in July to fill a spot at the back of the rotation, Below was moved to the bullpen after just two starts. He finished his big league time with a 4.34 ERA in 29 innings, allowing 28 hits and eleven walks while striking out 14 batters.

Scouting Report
Below's stuff spiked in 2010 when he came back from surgery. He showed scouts a fastball that topped out at 95 mph on occasion while sitting at 90-92. He has good size from the left side and gets good angle to the plate, helping compensate for his lack of movement on the fastball.

Behind his fastball Below throws both a curveball and change-up. His curveball has tight spin that helps fuel plus 12-6 break. He doesn't always get over the ball enough to have consistent break but when its working it gives him an easily above-average pitch.

His change-up remains below-average and only occasionally shows the sink and fade necessary to miss bats. He has good arm speed with the pitch but he lacks the feel for locating it low in the zone.

Since his injury, Below has improved his ability to command the ball within the zone. He consistently works his fastball to both sides of the plate and will show an ability to elevate at times. The command of his breaking ball has improved as well, as he can throw it for strikes or use it as a chase pitch.

Below is a solid athlete that does the little things well on the mound. He has a decent pickoff move and fields his position well.

With two reliable pitches and a third show-me pitch, Below has enough in his arsenal to remain a starter and his ceiling rests at the back of a big league rotation. If the Tigers opt to keep him in the bullpen, he could fill a variety of roles, ranging from being a solid second lefty to the long man that eats innings.

Performance

Level

Team

W-L

ERA

G

GS

SV

SO

BB

IP

WHIP

AAA

Toledo

9-4

3.13

18

18

0

83

37

115.0

1.18

ML

Detroit

0-2

4.34

14

2

0

14

11

29.0

1.35


Health Record
Below has been extremely strong and durable since coming back from his surgery in 2009. His arm bounces back quickly and he handled the changes in workload that came with the move to the bullpen very well.

The Future
Below enters spring training with a chance to land in the Tigers Opening Day bullpen. He will be competing with Collin Balester, David Pauley and several other prospects to be the long man for the club. Both Balester and Pauley are out of options which puts Below at a slight disadvantage out of the gate.

If he doesn't make the Tigers roster to start the season, he will likely head back to Toledo and work out of the rotation in case injuries or ineffectiveness strikes in Detroit.

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