Five to Watch: Erie

Casual Detroit Tiger fans may enjoy seeing a minor league game, but aren't necessarily certain who, or what to be looking for when they go to a game. Not to worry, as has you covered. Not sure who to take a long look at who may be emerging in Detroit over the coming years? Read on for the players to watch for the SeaWolves.

1. SP Joel Zumaya. Zumaya, or ‘Zoom', is just 20 years of age, yet has already made a few starts in AA, and is likely on a fast track to the majors. Zumaya possesses two plus-pitches already with his fastball and slurve, the only problem he currently faces is a struggle with his command. Many believe Zumaya is destined for the bullpen, but at just 20, Zumaya is still building his endurance, and should he continue to do so, should have no problem becoming a full time starter – and so long as he has the endurance, he's far more valuable in the rotation than the bullpen.

2. SS Tony Giarratano. If you've paid attention to the Tigers spring training this March, then you've certainly heard Giarratano's name. The polished shortstop has emerged as one of the top prospects in the organization, being solid defensively and seeing his power numbers jump. Giarratano is currently blocked at the big league level by Carlos Guillen, so for now, Giarratano should get plenty of time to fully develop his trade in the minor leagues, starting with this season in Erie.

3. 1B Juan Tejeda. Tejeda just turned 23, but already has a full year of AA ball under his belt. Tejeda likely put up strong enough numbers to warrant a promotion, but Tejeda is currently being blocked by Chris Shelton, who the Tigers want to see get everyday repetitions at first base. The Tigers likely want Tejeda to get everyday reps as well, meaning he'll return to Erie, at least to start the year. While Tejeda may not look overly impressive and certainly doesn't appear to be the prototypical ballplayer, Tejeda simply hits the ball, and has done so at every level he's been at. He'll likely continue to do that again in '05.

4. SP Rob Henkel. Henkel is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum that sidelined him from May on last season. Henkel has battled his share of injuries, but hopes to be finally over all the injury problems he's had. Henkel was originally acquired in the trade for Mark Redman and Gary Knotts, and was easily regarded as having the best ‘stuff' of the three. When healthy, Henkel has arguably the best breaking ball in the entire farm system, and if he stays healthy, could put up impressive numbers for the SeaWolves.

5. SP Kyle Sleeth. Though he'll start the year on the disabled list with elbow soreness, Sleeth is one to watch. The Tigers 2003 first rounder, Sleeth had an impressive first half in Lakeland, before going through his share of struggles with Erie. The team looked to smooth out his delivery in order to avoid injury problems down the road, and it's likely that hurt his progress, needing to learn to throw the ball in a different fashion. But, in the long run it'll likely be helpful and avoid a potential serious injury. Once he makes it to Erie, he'll be one to watch, as he could very well put everything together and get on the fast track to Detroit.

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