Roundtable: Prospect Cause for Concern

Ready to talk Tigers? Want to hear the opinion of the TigsTown staff? Welcome to the TigsTown Roundtable! This week's question: What slow start from a highly regarded prospect has you concerned?

Paul Wezner, Executive Editor

It's hard not to look at the start of the season for Daniel Fields and not be a tad concerned. After not getting so much as a sniff in big league camp, despite injuries and playing time available, he's off to a slow start in Toledo, hitting just .238 while striking out 35 times in 105 at-bats. Fields is hitting for a fair amount of power and does have five stolen bases, but he's again not making solid, consistent contact, and to make matters worse, his walk rate has dropped from a very solid 9.5% BB/PA to 4.4%. And for those clamoring about sample sizes for his average; his average on balls in play is right at his career norm, so this isn't simply a matter of being unlucky. Fields remains a promising athlete and has big league potential because of it, but the trends over the last couple months after a strong 2013 are worrisome.

Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting

I tend to be a very logical and rational person, so struggling through the first month of the season rarely gets me too worked up, particularly when we're talking about prospects that are at varying stages of their development. That said, I have significant concerns that have been building for the better part of six months now regarding Harold Castro; ranked 12th by TigsTown. Castro has all the tools to be a batting-average driven offensive performer with above-average speed, gap power, and the tools to play a solid second base. Yes, he has all those tools, and that's why he ranked highly. The problem centers around his natural feel for the game and his desire to be a quality player. There are at least some minor makeup concerns surfacing with Castro and when combined with his inability to make adjustments to what more advanced players are trying to do to him, that can lead to major problems. Castro has the tools and I am still highly intrigued by his raw talent, but we're approaching a point where I have to start sliding him in my rankings and recognizing that he may not be able to translate the raw tools to on-field success over long periods of time.

James Chipman, Senior Lakeland Correspondent

Although it's far from panic time, Drew VerHagen's slow start is undoubtedly concerning. On a positive note, VerHagen is still pounding the zone with strikes and avoiding walks (2.8 BB/9 which is considered above-average). The right-hander also continues to often generate weak contact, a ton of groundouts and keep the ball in the yard which is encouraging. Unfortunately, the lack of development with his secondary offerings has VerHagen continuing to fail at missing bats; resulting in a well below-average strikeout ratio of 5 K/9. That being said, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that VerHagen has possibly been a little unlucky thus far. VerHagen's .323 BABIP is a tick above league average, and his 4.00 FIP suggests that he's been a better pitcher than his current 5.65 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. Averaging just over 4 2/3 innings through his first six starts, it's important for VerHagen to learn to pitch deeper into games to be a productive starter. Furthermore, the development of VerHagen's breaking ball is imperative as he needs to miss more bats moving forward. Then again, as I've said before, I've always like VerHagen's stuff more as a reliever.

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