2004 Toledo Mud Hens Preview

The Tigers highest minor league club over the past years has typically reflected the big league club - and the results obviously haven't been good. However, this year, the Tigers have made some significant improvements and hope to improve on one of the worst season's ever in 2003. Will the Hens follow suit?

Well, the answer to that one is never easy, but indications of the team aren't too promising. When glancing at their opening day lineup, a scary realization came to fruition; the Tigers only have one prospect among the position players; and he's hitting 9th (that player being Centerfielder Nook Logan).

The Tigers didn't plan for it this way. Hope was the Tigers would be looking at a solid top 4 in the order with Logan and Andres Torres at the top of the order, SS Omar Infante hitting in the 3rd hole, and top OF prospect Cody Ross sitting in the cleanup role. Unfortuately for Mudhen fans, Logan's bat didn't look too promising, Torres ended up getting a call-up shortly after getting sent to Toledo to replace DH Dmitri Young on the 25 man roster, Infante made the big league club as the backup Infieler after the Tigers decided they could get him enough at bats to warrant carrying him, and Ross was shipped to the Dodgers for lefty reliever Steve Colyer.

So, who is making up the Toledo lineup? A collection of 4-A players and career minor leaguers for the most part. 2B Warren Morris was the Tigers starter last season, but was sent back to the minors after the Tigers upgraded with 2B Fernando Vina. Jason Smith and Danny Klassen make up the left side of the infield after losing out on the utility infielder role - and that would be the only role they'd ever fill for the big league club. Leo Daigle takes over at First and Guillermo Rodriguez behind the dish, but neither have much of a future at the big league level.

The Outfield meanwhile is more of the same. Logan has great speed, but very few other skills, and will need to make better contact and lower his strikeout totals before he'll get a shot with the Tigers. Rich Gomez and Ben Petrick fill out the rest of the Outfield, but again, they carry little promise.

But, surely, the pitching has to look better prospect-wise, right? Well, not really. The closest thing to prospects the Tigers have in the rotation is RHP Shane Loux and LHP Andy Van Hekken; and both of them have already had shots and failed miserably. Despite that, with a good season, either could get another shot with the Tigers if one of the current starters goes down with an injury.

The bullpen has a similar situation. Lefty Eric Eckenstahler, and righties Matt Anderson and Franklyn German have had chances with the Tigers, but have come up short when called upon to produce. Anderson obviously is the most recognizable, as the former Tiger closer. However, he has lost 10 MPH off his fastball and without a legitimate 2nd pitch, his future looks bleak. Eckenstahler has never given the Tigers any consistent production, and the same goes for German.

Realistically, German is the only one with a legitimate shot at making the big league club and sticking long-term. German has the heat on his fastball and a devastating splitter that make him a potential closer; unfortunately that will never happen until he can keep the ball aroun the strike zone.

So, if you're looking for a good minor league game to check out this summer - the Mudhens will provie great entertainment. They have guys who will give their all and keep the team competitive. But, if you're looking for the next group of Tiger stars, might want to start somewhere else, because there isn't much as far as prospects go with this group.

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