#11 - Preston Larrison

Last year in Spring Training, RHP Preston Larrison was receiving rave reviews. So much so, that there was even talk that Larrison might join fellow youngster Jeremy Bonderman in the Tigers 2003 rotation. The Tigers opted against it, and from there, everything went downhill as Larrison took a major step back after a very impressive 2002 campaign.

Preston Larrison was the Detroit Tigers 2nd round draft pick in the 2001 MLB Entry Draft out of the University of Evansville. Coming out of Evansville, Larrison was a high-ceiling prospect who was viewed as a bit of a gamble, but one well worth after selecting the supposed "sure-thing" Kenny Baugh (Baugh was overworked in college and had major arm surgery and now is struggling to regain his 2001 form).

Larrison's first two seasons gave every indication that he would be worth the gamble, as the 6-4, 225 lb. righty more than held his own against single-A competition. Unfortunately, 2003 was a major setback for Larrison, as he went 4-12 with an ERA over 5 at double-A Erie. Even more concerning was his K:BB ratio as he struck out only 53 while walking 59 and allowing a .322 average. Things were not completely bleak for Larrison however. He did earn the Win at the 2003 Futures Game and he did show some improvement going 2-0 in the Arizona Fall League along with raising his BB:IP ratio from 2 to 1 for AA-Erie to 3 to 1 for and lowering his average allowed to .239.

Larrison features a 94-mph Fastball as well as a devastating change-up and an average curveball that still needs to be refined before it can be effectively used at the big league level. His control seemed to be his biggest downfall in 2003.

Larrison's bread-and-butter is the Fastball which normally has good sink on it, but if he lets the ball get up in the strike zone it straightens out and becomes a very hittable pitch. The bigger problem is that he uses the fastball to set up his change-up, and without a good fastball, the change-up is useless.

He has a very good change-up that freezes hitters, assuming his fastball is working. His curveball however hasn't developed (the Tigers encouraged him to throw it more in games in 2003, a possible reason for his performance decline), and without a third pitch, he'll struggle to become a major league starter.

If he can regain his control and keep his fastball down, he could regain his original projection as a top of the rotation starter. If not, he could still become a very effective middle reliever with his power fastball and change-up.

There was talk about bumping him up to majors with 20-year old phenom Jeremy Bonderman this spring, but many thought a September call-up would not be out of the question in 2003. If he regains his form, he'll probably enter the rotation sometime in 2004 as he is still a highly regarded prospect within the organization.

2003 was a huge setback for Larrison, however, he still possesses all the tools to become a top of the rotation starter at the big league level. If he can put it back together, he'll definitely get a chance, especially with the lack of pitching prospects in the upper levels of the Tiger farm system and the weak rotation for the big league club.

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