Oneonta will be the stop for some of the organization's hope for the future on the mound. The Tigers' second round pick in 2003 (#40 overall) Jay Sborz (0-2, 4.85, 35/14 K\BB ratio in 26 innings in the Gulf Coast League) will probably begin his season here after some extra work in extended spring training. Sborz showed signs of having a future in the bigs despite the below average numbers. The extra work out of spring training will allow him to keep working on developing another pitch. Sborz needs work but is still very young out of Langley HS in Virginia and is definitely worth watching.
Another young high school arm the Tigers took in the upper rounds of the 2003 draft will probably follow the same route as Sborz. 4th Round pick (100th overall) Josh Rainwater (1-2, 4.78, 40\20 K\BB ratio in 37 innings in the Gulf Coast League) out of DeRidder HS in Louisiana should be the second part of a talented duo in Oneonta. Rainwater's stats match up with Sborz' very closely and the two will hopefully benefit from the competition between them. Rainwater started 9 of his 10 appearances, while Sborz started 7 of his 8. It will be interesting to see if the Tiger front office pulls the trigger to move one – or both – of these arms into the bullpen. This season could be key in their development.
A young arm definitely slated for work out of the pen is Eulogio Delacruz (1-2, 7 SV, 2.74, 30\13 K\BB ratio in 23 innings in the GCL). Delacruz received a brief callup to Oneonta last year (3.1 innings, 10.80, 4 K) and will probably start there this season. His 23 total appearances were all strictly in relief. Delacruz could also move to West Michigan, but will probably work out of Oneonta.
Outfielders Bo Flowers (.177, 42 K, 9BB in 124 AB at Oneonta) and Robbie Sovie (.200, 33 K, 7 BB in 130 AB at Oneonta) will probably repeat in the NY-P. Both were drafted out of high school two years ago and battled to mature in the system last year. The club still sees the two as potential stars, but the growth has been slow. Sovie and Flowers both fit the "athlete-learning-baseball" mold. The Tigers hope one (or both) will accelerate the learning curve this season.
Look for Oneonta to also be the landing site for one of the jewels of the system – Wilkin Ramirez (.275, 13 BB, 51 K, 5 HR, 35 RBI in 200 AB in the GCL). The 18-year-old third base prospect represents the Tigers' new dedication to finding and pursuing players in places they have struck out in formerly. Ramirez, according to scouts, played better than his stats showed last year. He may be the top power prospect the Tigers have in the minors. Ramirez has a lot of work to do before hitting the majors, but he could be on the way to a solid career.
Next stop: West Michigan!