#5 - Kody Kirkland

Two years ago, the Tigers selected Scott Moore with the first round pick, immediately believing he'd be their top Third Base prospect for the next few years before he emerged to challenge Eric Munson for the job. Who knew the Tigers current top prospect would have come as an after-thought in the trade for 1B Randall Simon.

The Pirates selected Kody Kirkland in the 30th round of the 2002 amateur draft. Kirkland was more-or-less an after thought being drafted so late and coming out of little-known Pocatello, Idaho. After a solid first season for the Pirates rookie club, Kirkland got sent to the Tigers as the "future considerations" in the deal for Randall Simon. After being acquired, Kirkland immediately made his presence felt, becoming the top hitter for the Tigers short season A club Oneonta.

As mentioned above, Kirkland spent his first year with the Tigers in Oneonta. The 20-year old had an incredible season, displaying a .303 average with 4 HR's (not bad considering his youth and Oneonta's spacious confines – the team's HR leader had 5) and 49 RBI. He finished with an OPS just shy of .900 (.886) along with 14 SB's. In fact, the only downside to Kirkland's season was his Error total (also led the team in Errors with 15). Defense appears to be the only thing that could slow Kirkland down.

Kirkland, while still extremely young, has the potential to become an All Star for the Tigers at the hot corner – good enough to even force current incumbent Eric Munson out of the spot – assuming his defense develops. He obviously didn't have great Home Run numbers last year (and didn't hit a single one in rookie ball), however the Tigers believe his power will develop as he develops physically – and his team-leading 15 doubles also re-enforce the idea that Kirkland could eventually have 30-HR power.

Normally one would expect a player to go from short season A to low-A, however with Kirkland's incredible season and Scott Moore's struggles, there is a possibility that Kirkland will jump to high-A Lakeland and Moore will stay with the Whitecaps (although no decisions have been made yet). Kirkland is still young so don't expect to see him in the majors next year or anything (he still needs significant time on the field becoming an actual baseball player before he can challenge for a spot with the big league team), but his future is definitely bright.

Kirkland needs to learn to think a little more when he's on the field, and definitely needs to improve his fielding, but he has all the tools to become an excellent everyday Third Baseman. With a little time and a little more development of his power swing, Kirkland should be knocking on the Tigers' door sometime in 2006.

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