30.) Kelly Hunt, First Base, West Michigan (A-)
It's rare that a 23-year old receive lots of publicity in the low-A Midwest League. But, then again, there aren't many hitters that blast 20 Home Runs and 100 RBI while playing in Fifth Third Ballpark. For this reason alone, Hunt deserves mentioning among some of the top prospects in the organization. Hunt needs to make a concerted effort to improve his patience and increase his walks (as well as lower his strikeouts), but a .441 slugging percentage leaves many optimistic for this youngster.
29.) Fernando Rodney, Relief Pitcher, Detroit (2003)
Rodney was originally expected to battle for the closer role for the big league club this season. Unfortunately, an elbow injury resulted in Tommy John surgery for the young righty, and sidelined him for the season. The now 27-year old still carries plenty of potential, including a devastating change-up, but at some point the Tigers will need to see production out of him at the big league level, including getting batters out consistently.
28.) Preston Larrison, Starting Pitcher, Erie (AA)
Larrison, who might be higher up if not for undergoing season ending Tommy John surgery in August, will probably miss a good part of 2004 rehabbing his arm. Larrison came back strong after a rough 2003, to put up a good ERA (3.05), however, he won just 4 games in 20 starts for a playoff team and he proved to be more of a Brian Moehler type pitcher, striking out just 4.5 batters per 9 innings. It's hard to say where Larrison will be in a couple years, as the injury certainly puts his status up in the air. For now, it'll be a wait-and-see approach as he recovers from his surgery.
27.) Jair Jurrjens, Starting Pitcher, Oneonta (SS-A)
After an impressive start to the year at the GCL, Jurrjens got bumped up to Oneonta, where he struggled some in closing out his season. The 18-year old was excellent in 6 starts for the GCL Tigers, including 2 complete games. But after his promotion, he struggled as he sported an ERA over 5 for his 7 starts in the New York-Penn League. His numbers suffered a bit, but he was only 18 years old pitching in A-ball, so the poor numbers aren't surprising. He'll probably be looking to return to Oneonta and improve on those numbers in '05.
26.) Virgil Vasquez, Starting Pitcher, West Michigan (A-)
Vasquez, TigsTown.com's 2004 Pitching Prospect of the Year, had a breakout year as the ace of the West Michigan staff. The 22-year old compiled a 14-6 record, including 120 strikeouts for the Whitecaps. Vasquez doesn't have outstanding stuff, but has improved his control, lowered his wild pitches, and in general just pitched much better after a first season with Oneonta in which he'd rather forget. The UC-Santa Barbara alum will now look to duplicate his performance for the Lakeland Tigers in 2005.
25.) Kody Kirkland, Third Base, West Michigan (A-)
Kirkland had a tremendous start to his 2003 campaign, but ever since then has been going downhill. With a stronger second half, Kirkland was able to pull his slugging percentage over .400 for the year, but his average (.236) and lack of patience continue to be a huge concern for Kirkland, on top of his continued struggles in the field, where he continues to both routine plays at the hot corner. Overall, a huge year of regression for Kirkland, who will need to straighten things out in 2005 as he will probably repeat the season at West Michigan, Kirkland is still young, just 21, but will need to figure things out sooner or later.
24.) Nook Logan, Centerfielder, Detroit
Logan wasn't exactly impressive in the first half of the season with Toledo – he continued to struggle with his average, as well as with his patience at the plate. Nonetheless, injuries forced the Tigers to make the move to call up Logan, and he actually showed fairly well, displaying his solid defense as well as showing a bit more patience and kicking things off with a hot streak at the plate. The most notable improvement was his increased patience (for comparison, he took 13 walks in 133 at bats for the Tigers, while he took 23 walks in 427 at bats). However, the key for Logan will be continue to demonstrate that he can keep being patient at the plate if he hopes to get an everyday job with the big league club.
23.) Jordan Tata, Starting Pitcher, West Michigan (A-)
Tata's numbers aren't quite as impressive as those of fellow teammate Virgil Vasquez, but still very good. However, while his numbers might not have been quite as good, Tata stepped up immensely over the course of the 2nd half of the season, becoming arguably the team's best starter down the stretch. Tata was extremely inconsistent with Sam Houston State in college, but Tata seems to have ironed out his issues in the professional ranks, and the now 23-year old seems to have put himself well on his way to making a push into the upper echelon of Tiger prospects.
22.) Eulogio Delacruz, Relief Pitcher, West Michigan (A-)
Yet another promising Whitecaps pitcher, this particular pitcher comes from the bullpen ranks however, instead of the rotation. Delacruz had an up-and-down season in 2004 for the Whitecaps, earning the closer's job, only to lose it back down the stretch. However, his demotion from the role is more due to the Tigers forcing the flame-throwing Delacruz to begin to go to his off-speed pitches more often, where as he'd prefer to rely solely on his mid-to-high 90's fastball. Delacruz is still very much a project, but a project with an extremely live arm gets him on the verge of cracking the top 20.
21.) Jeff Frazier, Outfielder, Oneonta (SS-A)
After a very productive career for Rutgers, Frazier was taken by the Tigers in the 3rd round and produced very well at the start of the season – before a broken arm ended his season early. However, despite his small sample size (79 at bats), Frazier still showed well, hitting .304 with a Home Run and 13 RBI. The Tigers are very anxious to see Frazier produce over the course of a full season, which he'll be set to do next season at West Michigan. Until then however, he just misses the top 20.