Mark Woodyard is making his case for the 2005 Tiger bullpen stronger with each successive outing. After a 2004 season in which Mark struggled to strike out a batter every two innings, Woodyard has seen his strikeout rate rise, and his results remain good. Despite coming out of the bullpen, Woodyard is second in the AFL in wins, with three, and has become a reliable bullpen option for the Grand Canyon Rafters.
As mentioned last week, Lee Rodney has gone in exactly the opposite direction. Lee has struggled mightily, seeing his ERA rise over 8.00. One can imagine that Rodney can't wait for this nightmare to end, with the hope that he will come back next spring able to hit his spots and pitch effectively. The organization still feels Rodney has a chance to be an effective reliever, but he will need to straighten things out with Toledo in 2005.
Pitching out of the bullpen, Tiger's starter Rick Kirsten is quietly putting together a solid AFL season. Sporting a 4.26 ERA in 10 appearances, Kirsten has steadily improved and become a dependable pitcher this fall. With success this fall, Kirsten is establishing some good momentum heading into the spring.
Ryan Raburn is beginning to show signs that he may be emerging from his three month slump. Raburn jacked his fourth homerun of the fall season, and continues to display very good strike zone judgment. Raburn's four homeruns are 4th on the Rafters, and his nine walks rank him in the top half of the team. With a little better luck and some more consistent playing time, it is possible for Raburn to still resurrect his season and head to Toledo with a load of confidence.
Well, Curtis Granderson and Chris Shelton are definitely making it clear that they are not only two of Detroit's top prospects, but that they are two of the top young players in the entire Arizona Fall League. Granderson continues to perform at a high level, displaying all the skills necessary to be Detroit's centerfielder of the future. Scouts and coaches are both talking about the improved speed and surprising power possessed by Granderson. All aspects of Curtis' game are clicking right now, and when that happens, he is certainly an exciting player to watch.
The hit machine that is Chris Shelton just keeps on going, and going, and going. Another week of batting over .400 and creating runs like no other player in the league, keep Shelton in the top five in most offensive categories. Chris' power has dipped a little as the season has gone on, but he is still third in the league in slugging percentage, and he continues to lead the AFL in RBI.
Save for the struggles of Lee Rodney, the Tiger prospects have all begun to show why the organization is high on them. As much fun as it is watching these players excel in Arizona, the Detroit front office is itching to see them in Lakeland next spring. With strong performances from several among the group, there could be some surprise players fighting for spots on the active roster next year.