TigsTown.com Top Prospects: 10-1

The time has finally come – TigsTown.com announces its Top 10 prospects for the 2004-05 offseason. Take a look inside, to get a peak at who the top players in the organization are, including the top prospect in the entire organization!

10.) Ryan Raburn, Second Base, Erie (AA)
An incredible second half of the season was tempered slightly by a rough stint with the big league club in Detroit as well as an underachieving season in the Arizona Fall League; Raburn still possesses incredible raw power, although his strikeout totals remain high. The biggest concern with Raburn seems to focus on whether or not Raburn's hard swinging approach will be able to keep up with big league hitters, and whether or not Raburn will be able to fully adjust to life at Second Base – because Raburn's value decreases considerably if he's forced to move to the Outfield. 2005 will be important for Raburn, both to show he's capable defensively, and can continue to hit good pitching.

9.) Scott Moore, Third Base, Lakeland (A+)
Moore remains in the top 10, but does so mostly on potential. Moore has the raw power and the patience at the plate to become a very dangerous hitter down the road – but he has yet to turn that potential into production. His defense is also a concern, as Moore has yet to fully adjust to the hot corner defensively. Moore did more than double his Home Run total (6 to 14), which is an excellent sign that Moore's power will come around (as most scouts predicted). Now, Moore just needs to concentrate on making more consistent contact, as well as developing more on defense to avoid a move to the Outfield.

8.) Humberto Sanchez, Starting Pitcher, Erie (AA)
Sanchez didn't put up good numbers in high-A Lakeland, but save a rough 6 week stretch, Sanchez was absolutely excellent. Sanchez continued to show well after getting the promotion to Erie, where he got a win in 2 starts – he'll return to Erie in 2005 where he'll hope to anchor the staff. Sanchez really just needs to continue developing, working on his accuracy and making sure he doesn't have any long lapses like he did with Lakeland in 2004 – which was a sore spot, although not completely unexpected as he he didn't even turn 21 years old until May of this past season.

7.) Juan Tejada, First Base, Erie (AA)
After producing adequately for his first few seasons in the organization, Tejada finally broke out with a monster 2004 season in which he finally displayed the power in which the organization was waiting for him to show. Tejada had slugged over .400 in every season for the organization, but he had yet to display the Home Run power necessary of any legitimate First Baseman. Tejada blasted 23 Home Runs and 29 doubles in 457 at bats, still at just the young age of 22 years old. Tejada isn't spectacular defensively, but good enough that he could handle the position. The key for Tejada will be to continue to show that he can drive the ball into the gaps and over the fence as the pitching improves.

6.) Justin Verlander, Starting Pitcher, Old Dominion
After holding out for an extended period of time, and having his offer withdrawn for a short period of time, Verlander finally ended his holdout this past October and came to terms with the organization. Verlander signed a major league contract, but don't expect him to move quickly – Verlander makes this list based on draft position, a 99 MPH fastball and a nasty curveball. Come next spring, it will be time for Verlander that he was worth all the hassle – and convert his incredible repertoire into the arsenal for a top-of-the-rotation starter.

5.) Joel Zumaya, Starting Pitcher, Erie (AA)
Typically when a player does everything expected above him, improves where necessary, and continues to play in leagues well above his age, a player's stock would continue to go up, and in turn go up the charts. Zumaya's stock certainly hasn't fallen, but he has dropped a little on many lists, more due to the emergence of the prospects ahead of him as opposed to his struggles. Zumaya spent most of 2004 in Lakeland, where he did struggle at times, but showed well as a 19-year old playing against much more advanced hitters in the Florida State League. Possibly the best news for Zumaya was that he was able to stay healthy all year long, and started to be able to last longer into games. Zumaya will now need to try and get his ERA back down after he saw it jump 2 points from '03 to '04.

4.) Tony Giarratano, Shortstop, Lakeland (A+)
After his first season in the organization, fellow Oneonta Tiger teammate Kody Kirkland received all the hype. But after 2004, its Giarratano, not Kirkland, sitting at the top of the charts and threatening to crack Top 100 lists across America. Giarratano was solid but unspectacular for West Michigan, before a midseason promotion to Lakeland, partly due to readiness, and partly due to need. After the promotion however, Giarratano absolutely exploded, carrying an OPS well above .900 for the L-Tigers. Unfortunately, Giarratano's season ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury, putting a damper on a breakout season. But make no mistake about it, Giarratano is quickly becoming a player – and if he can show no ill effects of the injury while continuing where he left off at Lakeland with Erie, watch out.

3.) Kyle Sleeth, Starting Pitcher, Erie (AA)
It was and up-and-down first season for the Tigers 2003 first round draft pick. Sleeth pitched well for Lakeland in the Florida State League, but got by largely on talent alone, and was bumped up to Erie to face stiffer competition. Sleeth struggled with the move up, as adjustments in his mechanics as well as advanced hitters proved for a tough second half of the year for Sleeth. Sleeth's control was a bit erratic and he wasn't able to get hitters out on a consistent basis. However, despite his struggles, there are very few that doubt his half season at Erie was just a bump in the road, and that 2005 will produce better results for the Demon Deacon.

2.) Chris Shelton, First Base/Designated Hitter, Detroit
Shelton didn't get much of a chance to show his talent in 2004, as he spent almost the entire season parked on the bench in Detroit. But that didn't mean Shelton had lost his hitting ability. And after the season concluded, Shelton headed to Arizona for the Arizona Fall League and promptly crushed the ball every chance he got, earning the league's MVP award for his performance. Shelton will probably get the opportunity to earn his way back onto the Tigers roster, but would best served by spending at least half of the 2005 season in Toledo to get some at bats that he lost from 2004. But if he continues his hitting trends from the AFL, the club won't be able to keep him out of the big leagues for long.

1.) Curtis Granderson, Outfielder, Erie (AA)
Coming into 2004, Granderson had it all – except a big Home Run stroke. Granderson was solid defensively, could swipe a base, was very patient at the plate, and could hit the ball all over the diamond. This trend continued through the first half of the season, until a switch was flipped, and Granderson suddenly exploded at the plate, with an incredible power surge for the second half. Not only did Granderson blast 21 Home Runs, he also took 80 walks, while continuing to show the solid defense in Centerfield that helped make a him a legitimate prospect, simply for his ability to man Center. Granderson's solid contact and patience at the plate coupled with his increased power send him straight to the top of the list, and make him TigsTown.com's #1 prospect.


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