20.) Dusty Ryan, Catcher, Oneonta (SS-A)
Dusty Ryan didn't receive anywhere near the same publicity that some of the draft-and-follows from this past summer, but he certainly produced nonetheless. Emerging as Oneonta's top catcher, Ryan hit .274/.369/.433 in 157 at bats. The 20-year old displayed good patience at the plate, and did well as the backstop as well. The only thing holding Ryan back is his size which could potentially make it an issue for him to continue catching.
19.) Jack Hannahan, Third Base, Erie (AA)
After being hyped as the Tigers third baseman of the future, Hannahan struggled for two straight reasons, leaving him to fall hard in the rankings. However, in his 3rd appearance in the Eastern League, Hannahan finally seemed to put things together. He bounced back with an excellent defensive year, and improved with the bat as well, as his slugging percentage jumped almost 50 points, and his average went up as well. Hannahan will probably never have the power to reach power hitter status, but a respectable bat coupled with spectacular defense gives Hannahan a shot at the hot corner.
18.) Kenny Baugh, Starting Pitcher, Erie (AA)
After battling arm problems due to extreme overuse at Rice University, Baugh appears to be back on track to pushing for a starting spot in the Tigers rotation by Spring Training ‘06. Baugh worked on regaining his velocity after falling into the mid to high 80's in his return season in 2003. Baugh also got his K/9 innings ratio up to 6.75, somewhat closer to 2001 levels when he averaged nearly 10 K/9 innings. The battle for Baugh will now be to continue his success in 2005 at AAA, as he's already nearing the point where he needs to start making an impact, being a 26-year old at the start of next year.
17.) David Espinosa, Outfielder, Erie (AA)
Espinosa had a great start to the 2004 season, as he broke out hitting, taking plenty of walks, and even displaying some power. However, a sluggish second half of the year dropped him down some. Espinosa carried an OPS over .800 for the first time since being drafted by Cincinnati in the 2000 draft. Espinosa struck out plenty, but his high walk total helps balance that out, and even bigger for Espinosa was his development of his power swing (probably largely due to his body filling out, as despite his minor league experience, is still just 22 years of age). Now, much like Hannahan, Espinosa will have to show that 2004 wasn't just a fluke season in a hitters' park, but an indication of where he's headed as a prospects.
16.) Matt Roney, Starting Pitcher, Toledo (AAA)
Like Espinosa, Roney had a great start to the year, followed by a decline in the second half of the year. Roney, a Rule-5 selection in 2003, had a great start, even impressing some more than fellow Rule 5 pick Wil Ledezma. But by midseason, Roney had started his decent while Ledezma was emerging. Roney still struggles with the same problems he had with his season with the Tigers, as he's not overly consistent, and also is without a great out-pitch. Roney probably will never make it as a top-of-the-rotation starter, but if he can iron out some problems, he could fill a role as a Brian Moehler type.
15.) Eric Beattie, Starting Pitcher, University of Tampa
Beattie was the Tigers 2nd round selection in the 2004 draft, but after signing was rested for the remainder of the season. So, Beattie has yet to throw a pitch as a Tiger, but still ranks among some of the higher-ups in the organization. Beattie is your classic sinker/slider pitcher, who many project could move quickly up the system. We'll see how he does as well as where he starts (probably West Michigan, although a strong Spring Training could send him right to Lakeland, depending on where he's needed.
14.) Colby Lewis, Starting Pitcher, Texas (AL)
Lewis was claimed off waivers by the Tigers shortly after the completion of the season. Lewis had season ending surgery early on, but is expected to be ready to go by Spring Training. Lewis had his share of struggles in 2003, but seemed to be starting to turn them around in 2004, before his injury. The Tigers deemed him worthy of a spot on the 40-man roster, which obviously means the time has a high regard for his future. Lewis will probably head to Toledo to start the year, but could be ready for the jump soon, especially if the Tigers have a need, whether that be in the bullpen or the rotation.
13.) Byron Gettis, Outfielder, Kansas City (AL)
Another waiver claim by the front office, Gettis was the Royals 2003 Minor League Player of the Year, but the Royals apparently thought less of him after a not-as-good 2004 as expected. The team tried to get him through waivers, but the Tigers claimed him, and will now look forward to his future. Gettis isn't a huge power hitter, but is solid defensively, is patient at the plate, and has great doubles power. Gettis will be given the opportunity to make the big league club out of camp, but expect for him to start the year at Toledo.
12.) Brent Clevlen, Outfielder, Lakeland (A+)
It was a huge step back for Clevlen after a breakout 2003 season for Clevlen. Clevlen lost the patience he displayed in 2003, regressed defensively, and saw his hitting numbers across the board drop. Too much might have been expected from the youngster at such a high level, but in any case, Clevlen didn't make the strides many expected, and took a step back in many instances. Clevlen will probably be heading back to Lakeland in 2005 to try and improve and get back to his 2003 performance when he looked like the Tigers future starting Right Fielder for the next 10 years.
11.) Wilkin Ramirez, Third Base, GCL Tigers (R – 2003)
It's rare to see a player miss an entire season yet still move up in the rankings after just a couple hundred at bats of rookie ball. But that's exactly what Wilkin Ramirez is doing. Ramirez showed plenty of potential as a youngster with GCL Tigers in 2003, but a shoulder injury sidelined him for all of 2004. However, Ramirez is fully healed and had an absolute monster appearance in the Fall Instructional League, leading many to believe that this youngster is just a full season away from sky-rocketing up the charts. Ramirez's power potential is unreal, and even more impressive, is that he just turned 19, well before most players fully develop their power. He'll be one to watch in 2005.
This is the 4th in a 5-part series, breaking down the Tigers' top 50 prospects. On Monday, TigsTown.com will release its Top 10 prospects in the entire organization.