Looking to Bounce Back

After taking a look at those prospects looking to forge ahead on the paths of success they established in 2003, Part 2 brings about the time to take a look at those players who are trying to round back into form after a 2003 season in which most of them would rather forget ever happened.

Bouncing Back – Preston Larrison – RHP
The highly regarded pitcher out of Evansville was taken in the 2nd round by Detroit in the 2001 draft. On the surface, Larrison has great size and the ability to be a dominating pitcher for the organization. That ability became very evident during his 2002 season at High-A Lakeland. Finishing the year at 10-5, with a 2.39 ERA in 19 starts, Larrison was considered one of the top pitching prospects in the organization. While his basic statistics looked impressive, his secondary statistics were just as good. Larrison finished the season with twice as many strikeouts as walks, while only allowing 86 hits in over 120 innings. Larrison came into spring training 2003 as an afterthought with regards to heading north as a part of the rotation. Preston proceeded to put together a spring that defied all expectations, nearly making the Detroit roster. After being sent to the minors, Larrison struggled mightily to display the form that put him on the verge of a big league debut. He never seemed to catch fire during his 24 starts at Erie, becoming a disappointment or flash-in-the-pan in the minds of some. The movement on his fastball that had made him so successful seemed to be diminished, and it was believed he was over-throwing, trying too hard to get to the majors with one great outing. After an abysmal season where he walked more than he struck out, and gave up 35 more hits than innings pitched, Larrison was sent to the Arizona Fall League to try and work out some of the kinks. In 12 appearances out of the pen, Larrison picked up two wins, but suffered a significant decrease in his strikeout numbers. The Tigers will look for Preston to rebound, hopefully putting together a solid season, beginning at AA-Erie.

Bouncing Back – Scott Moore – 3B
Drafted 8th overall out of Cypress High School (CA) in 2002, Moore was touted as a sweet swinging shortstop with potential to develop into an impact player. The Tigers couldn't wait to get this youngster some at-bats in the Gulf Coast League. Upon reporting to the rookie level affiliate, Moore showed glimpses of what made him such a high draft choice. Unfortunately, some minor, nagging injuries forced him to miss several games towards the end of the rookie league season. During his brief 40-game stint, Moore showed promise, posting an 0.808 OPS. On the heels of this performance, Moore headed off to West Michigan for the 2003 season, where it was hoped his development would continue. Much to the dismay of many fans, Moore struggled mightily against Midwest League pitching, posting a well below average 0.688 OPS, while striking out 110 times in only 372 at-bats. Moore's struggles were not confined to the batter's box as he had difficulty adjusting to his new defensive home, third base, committing 28 errors in 102 games at the position. Despite his struggles at West Michigan, Moore will advance to Lakeland of the Florida State League, paving the way for Kody Kirkland to fill his third base slot with the Whitecaps. This season, Moore needs to display the sweet swing, and raw power that made scouts feel he was deserving of a top ten pick. The cards are in the fold for Scott to bounce back in a huge way this season, now it's up to him to translate talent into results.

Bouncing Back – Omar Infante – SS
It's difficult to consider Infante a prospect after spending half of the 2003 season with the Tigers, but don't forget he is merely 22 years old, and probably should not have been in the Major Leagues last season. With a probable return to AAA-Toledo in 2004, Infante will look to re-establish himself as a player with the potential to help Detroit in the middle of the Comerica Park infield. The summer of 2003 was one to forget as far as Infante is concerned. Not only did the struggles become extremely evident in Detroit, but a demotion to Toledo didn't seem to improve his performance at all. Omar finished the season with a combined batting average below .225, and a combined on-base percentage of less than .300, both numbers considered abysmal no matter how young you are for the level at which you are playing. It was thought that even if Infante struggled at the plate, he could hold his own defensively, but for some reason, his defensive prowess deserted him in Detroit, committing 13 errors in only 63 games at shortstop. After a disastrous season, Infante headed off to the Venezuelan Winter League to see if he couldn't right the ship and restore his lost confidence. Omar did just that, tearing up the league and exciting Tiger's management all over again. He again showed flashes of his 2001 season in Erie at age 19, where he hit .302. Despite some minor back trouble early in spring training, Infante has carried his offensive success from Venezuela over to the spring season. Although he continues to struggle in the field, Infante seems to be figuring some things out with the stick. Hopefully Infante can gain consistent at-bats in Toledo to start the year, continuing to build confidence not only in himself, but within the organization. If Infante shows that he has made great strides this season, it is possible the organization could let Carlos Guillen walk at the end of the year, allowing Infante to once again step up to the big leagues.

Bouncing Back – Ryan Raburn – 2B
This former Tiger's third base prospect has had a rocky road through the minor leagues. Considered an outstanding talent, Raburn seemed to be on the track leading directly to a Major League debut. That appeared to be the case anyway, until a horrific ATV accident nearly derailed his entire career. After diligently rehabilitating himself, Raburn returned in 2003, attempting to reclaim his status within the organization. Prior to his injury, Ryan was considered by many around the organization to be a player with the potential to develop above average power and on-base skills, while also being a solid glove-man. Upon his return to professional baseball, Raburn began not only his transition to again playing every day, but soon thereafter he began the transition to second base. If the switch to the right side of the infield proves successful, the change of location alone will increase his status as a prospect. Offensively Raburn projected to be adequate at third base, but with a move to second, Raburn could potentially turn out to be an outstanding offensive double-play partner. Despite struggling with his average at Lakeland in 2003, Raburn showed promise by hitting 12 homeruns and walking 45 times in only 325 at-bats. Ryan was recently assigned to Erie of the AA-Eastern League, and will likely start at second base for the Sea Wolves. If the transition to his new home in the infield goes smoothly, and his offensive game continues to develop, Ryan could be lining himself up to replace Fernando Vina following the 2005 season.

Bouncing Back – Mike Woods – 2B
Thought to be a steal as a 2001 supplemental first round choice, Woods excelled while at Southern University. The slick hitting, slick-fielding two-bagger was supposed to be an impact player in the Tiger's organization. However, injuries have caused significant setbacks to Woods' career, and many now doubt whether he will ever be a successful professional, at any level. Faulty legs have caused Mike to miss large portions of the last two seasons, and even when ‘healthy', his performance has not warranted all the hype. With a career minor league average of .229 in nearly 700 at-bats, Woods has not displayed the sweet stroke scouts saw while at Southern. Throughout all the trials, Woods has somehow maintained his ability to work the count and draw a walk, but at the same time, his once low strikeout rate has increased drastically. With Ryan Raburn's assignment to AA, it's likely that Woods will return to Lakeland for a third try at mastering High-A ball. This could very well prove to be a make-or-break year for the 24-year old infielder. If injuries persist and poor performance continues, Woods could find himself quickly becoming organizational fodder. If Mike can somehow recapture the form that had scouts drooling over his raw abilities, he could still make his way up the organizational ladder, but he will need a sensational season to put his name back into the fray as a top prospect.

Bouncing Back – Kevin McDowell – LHP
After a 4-year career at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, the Tigers took Kevin in the 15th round of the 2001 draft. Kevin struggled with his control during both his senior campaign as well as his professional debut in the New York-Penn League. In his second season, his control improved, and his strikeout rates rose against Midwest League hitters. Posting a 2.60 ERA at Low-A West Michigan, McDowell appeared to be on the verge of gliding up through the organization. Following the typical progression, McDowell made the jump to Lakeland in 2003, unfortunately he made this jump without the accompaniment of his past success. Kevin's strikeouts dropped, his batting average against rose, and his ERA nearly doubled. Overall, Kevin's performance at Lakeland didn't bode well, considering his age compared to the majority of his competition. The big lefty could repeat Lakeland or could be promoted to AA-Erie for the 2004 season. Either way, at 25-years old McDowell needs to regain his 2002 form in order to resume his climb up the organization. If Kevin can get back to being an effective lefty, he has a shot to contribute in Detroit, but he can't afford to waste any more time.

Tigs Town Top Stories