Starting off at number 20 is West Michigan Third Baseman Kody Kirkland. Kirkland came into the season as one of the Tigers top prospects, but hasn't quite built on his 2003 season with Oneonta. After 2003 in which he hit .303 with 4 Home Runs and 49 RBI, Kirkland has struggled to find his swing at the plate, while continuing to struggle defensively. But while his pure numbers are obviously down – the two biggest of concern are his slugging percentage (down from .496 to .366) and his on base percentage (down from .366 to .245). Kirkland needs to regain his patience and confidence at the plate if he still wants to be considered one of the Tigers top prospects.
On to 19, where a little known player occupies the slot. C Cody Collett has a .167 average in just 24 professional at bats, but that doesn't mean he's not a prospect with an extremely high ceiling. Defensively, he follows in the mold of many other Catchers in the Tiger system, although he has arguably the best tools of any of them. What separates Collett is his youth and body frame. Collett draws comparisons to Jason Kendall, only with the potential to hit with more power. He's still a long ways away from the big leagues, but could become one of the top prospects in the organization down the line.
Coming in at 18 is a very recent addition to the Tiger team, having just been drafted last month. OF Jeff Frazier, the Tigers 3rd round pick out of Rutgers, has already emerged as the top hitter for the Short Season-A Oneonta Tigers. He's average defensively, but his ticket to the majors is without-a-doubt his bat. Frazier is patient at the plate, and can hit for both average and power. Unlike Collett, Frazier has college experience under his belt, so he should be able to move quickly through the system.
The #17 prospect is a player that continues to excite everyone with his potential, but has yet to put it all together. After moving this offseason from Third Base to Second Base, Ryan Raburn has struggled a bit with the defensive change, but that was expected. What wasn't expected was his continued struggles at the plate, where he continues to show flashes of power, but hasn't consistently made contact, which has kept his average in the .220's. Raburn still has the potential to become a very good major league Second Baseman, but at some point Raburn will have to start turning his potential into production if he wants to see Comerica Park.
2B Michael Woods comes in as the Tigers 16th prospect. Originally a sandwich pick in the 2001 draft, Woods battled knee injuries for the 2002 and 2003 seasons, never being able to show the Tigers what he could do when fully healthy. Well, except for a couple of small injuries, Woods has been relatively healthy in 2004, and his stat line has followed. He currently has .281 average with a .393 slugging percentage. His defense has been good, but not great, and the Tigers would like to see a bit more patience from Woods. Woods will also need to repeat his performance next season when he gets the promotion (expected) to AA Erie. But for now, this one time top prospect appears to have his star shining again.
At 15 is another prospect more in the mold of Collett, someone not many have heard of. Third Baseman Wilkin Ramirez is currently hurt and will be out for the duration of the season – but that doesn't change the fact that he has arguably the most power potential of any bat in the Tigers minor league system – as evidenced by his .450 slugging percentage with the Rookie GCL Tigers as just an 18-year old in 2003. He's obviously very raw and has a long ways to go before he'd be ready to face major league pitching, but the pure power potential on his bat makes him worthy of being on the list.
The Tigers #14 prospect is a familiar name; former first round pick Kenny Baugh. Baugh was the Tigers top selection in the 2000 draft, but entered the Tiger system having been over-used by Rice, and lost a season because of it. Baugh is back now, in his 3rd season at AA Erie, slowly regaining his velocity, after pitching much of 2003 in the mid 80's (well below his low to mid 90's that he pitched coming into the organization). Baugh no longer carries the same potential he once did – but his 2004 season (6-6, 3.94 ERA) leaves hope that he can still become a major league starter.
The Tigers 13th prospect has yet to actually pitch for the Tigers – but his lofty draft status warrants his inclusion on the list. Starting pitcher Justin Verlander has yet to even sign with organization, but both sides have taken their time with negotiations and plan on allowing Verlander to sit out the 2004 season before starting up with his pro debut in 2005 – much like Kyle Sleeth, the team's 2003 first rounder. However, unlike Sleeth, Verlander isn't expected to move quickly. He has a great fastball, but must develop his off-speed pitches, and learn to harness his 98-mph fastball before he can jump to the top of the list.
The #12 prospect is yet another youngster – this one a pitcher. Jay Sborz was the Tigers 2nd round draft pick in 2003, and is coming along slowly. However, that does not change the fact that he has tons of potential. A big-framed kid with a mid-90's fastball, Sborz is spending the season pitching rookie ball for a second season around, trying to change himself over from a thrower to a pitcher. Sborz might not pitch a full season until 2006, but he nevertheless has an arm that everyone – especially the Tiger organization – is very high on.
Coming in at #11 on the prospect list is Humberto Sanchez. Sanchez was a draft-and-follow signee with the Tigers, and is having a good season in high-A Lakeland. Sanchez had a great start, then had a rough stretch, but appears to be back on track. Sanchez's stats certainly aren't amazing (6-9, 5.84 ERA), largely in part to his rough stretch, but Sanchez has shown he can control his fastball at times, now he just needs to show more consistency and he'll show he can be a solid starter in the big leagues.
On Wednesday, we'll take a look at the Tigers top 10 prospects, including an in-depth look at the Tigers #1 prospect.