Q: In one of the profiles you mentioned that a pitcher had performed well in the pitcher friendly West Michigan league, which minor leagues are considered pitcher friendly? Which is the toughest?
A: Traditionally speaking, nearly all of the short-season leagues are considered "pitcher friendly." In addition, the Midwest and Florida State Leagues both, in large part, favor pitchers. It is difficult to quantify which of the leagues is the most difficult for hitters, and that definition often varies from one year to the next, based on talent present in the league. The lower level leagues often appear more difficult because young hitters must adjust to seeing quality pitchers much more often, leading to lower offensive numbers.
Q: In reading the profile on B Rogers do you anticipate him staying in a relief role or eventually moving to starter (granted he doesn't fit the DD mold at all).
A: Rogers was explicitly a start his first two years in the organization, with Oneonta and West Michigan, and successfully made the transition to the bullpen last spring with Lakeland. As a pitcher who relies on deception and movement, rather than velocity and pure stuff, I don't envision Rogers making it back to the rotation any time soon. A trip to Erie in 2006 will be a huge test for him. It is not unprecedented for "soft-tossing" righties to succeed in relief roles, but it is much more difficult.
Q: How high is the ceiling for Audy Ciriaco? What current MLB player provides the best comparison?
A: It sounds clichéd, but Ciriaco has a nearly unlimited ceiling. He has very little competitive baseball experience, and as a result is extremely raw, but he has shown the raw tools needed to become a top flight prospect. If he can continue to harness his tools as he did late in the GCL season, Ciriaco could begin to realize some of his potential as soon as next year. It is very difficult to project players as raw as Audy, but a conservative comparison would be Edgar Renteria. If everything were to break well for him, he could move well past that projection.
Q: I live in Grand Rapids and was wondering which players on the list will be sent to the Whitecaps next year?
A: With the knowledge that a lot can change during the off-season and spring training, I think you can look forward to a lineup along the following lines:
C – Dusty Ryan
1B – Ryan Roberson
2B – Will Rhymes
3B – Cory Middleton
SS – Michael Hollimon
OF – Matt Joyce
OF – Justin Justice
OF – Cameron Maybin
It is possible the organization could hold Larish back with West Michigan rather than challenging him with an assignment to Lakeland. In addition, depending on the progress made this off-season by Maybin, they may opt to send him to Oneonta to start the year. The rotation could again be the highlight of the ‘Caps team, including pitchers like Kevin Ardoin, PJ Finigan, Luke French, Burke Badenhop, and Matt O'Brien.
Q: I'm surprised Kody Kirkland isn't in the top 50. What makes him less of a prospect than Hannahan?
A: I was a bit surprised at Kody's fall in the rankings. I expected him to fall a significant amount, but not quite this much. His biggest faults are his inability to manage his strikeouts, a general lack of plate discipline, and little-to-no improvement on defense. Kirkland put together a phenomenal month of April, posting a .384/.423/.658 line, but then mustered only a .243/.327/.432 line the rest of the way. Until Kirkland can take a step forward offensively, I don't expect to see him moving back up this list. Hannahan brings the ability to hit for a higher average, better control of the strike zone, and phenomenal defense to the table, making him a better all-around prospect. The only area where Kirkland surpasses Hannahan is in power production and potential, and until Kody has something to go with that, he's not much of a prospect.
Q: In one of the prospects listed in your top 50 you stated: "pitch to contact" to an extreme. A few questions on this:
Who started this philosophy with the Tigers, was it Cluck? Is that who determines the pitching style for each team?
How many other teams use it?
If it was Cluck does this mean the philosophy, in all likelihood, will change with the addition of Leyland and the yet to be named pitching coach?
A: Cluck was in fact the main force behind this effort within the organization. Often times, the organization will try to implement the pitching philosophy of the Major League pitching coach, throughout the system, but not always. Pitching philosophies tend to go in cycles, and there was a time where many teams instructed pitchers to "pitch to contact," but that time is generally past. Not many teams do this any longer. Whether or not this edict leaves the organization with the departure of Bob Cluck will largely depend on the philosophy of Chuck Hernandez. If he does not force a new pitching strategy down through the organizational ranks, some minor league pitching coaches may continue instructing prospects in this manner.
Q: In top 30 you have two catchers listed; do you expect one to jump over the other in the near future?
A: It is possible that Chris Robinson will leapfrog Danilo Sanchez as early as next spring, but he'll need to prove that his bat can come alive as a professional before that happens. The difficult thing with Sanchez is that he will be a 6-year minor league free agent again this off-season, and the organization will have to bring him back in the fold if they want to see how he progresses with his first assignment to AA-Erie.
Q: Any updates on the health of Zumaya, Verlander, and Baugh? How would you rate Baugh's chances of sticking with the major league club next season?
A: Verlander has pitched during the Instructional League season in Florida, and appears healthy at this time. Zumaya and Baugh are reported as feeling good at this time, but neither has tried to throw competitively since the end of the season. I would suggest remaining mildly skeptical until you see them all pitch at full strength in spring training. If healthy, I give Baugh a slim chance at breaking camp as a member of the rotation. A lot will depend on the organizational direction this off-season, but he certainly has earned his shot.
Q: Frazier joining Clevlen at Erie by the middle of next year, Great! What is the ETA in Detroit for the two outfielders?
A: For Frazier to make it to Erie next summer, he will have to avoid the rough start he encountered in 2005, where he hit .246/.321/.367 through the first three months. If he can play at a level closer to his second half numbers (.335/.383/.552), he should have no trouble seeing AA in his third season. If both Frazier and Clevlen experience success at AA in 2006, there will be an outside chance that they get a shot in 2007, but it is more likely they are in Detroit for good in 2008.
Q: Could you elaborate on your ranking of Jurrjens? After watching him pitch this year I was impressed by his control and poise on the mound. However, he didn't even crack the BA top twenty in the Midwest League.
A: Jurrjens is a very interesting prospect. His combination of youth, polish, raw "stuff," and potential for further development make him a player that could really surprise some people in the coming years. Few 19-year olds possess the poise and command that Jurrjens has displayed to this point, and furthermore, the likelihood that he adds velocity as he matures is very good. As for his absence from the BA Midwest League Top 20; the Midwest League was loaded with top flight talent this past season. At this time, Jurrjens projects as a #3 starter, which is rarely enough to crack a list of that caliber. His ranking here weighs heavily his youth, command, and projectable frame.
Q: Could you please assess Maybin, highlighting each of the five tools?
A: After the draft, I evaluated Maybin's skill set in an article that can be found at the following link: http://tigers.scout.com/2/388439.html. As the off-season progresses, I will be doing profiles on every prospect in the Top 50, including an updated and more in depth analysis of Maybin's tools.
Q: Unless I counted wrong it appears that the top 50 include 25 pitchers + 25 position players. Is this a coincidence is it really 2 top 25 lists? Both Preston Larrison and Jay Sborz are noticeably absent, have we given up on both?
A: The fact that 25 pitchers and 25 position players made the list is purely coincidence. The list was compiled after ranking every player in the Tiger's minor league system. It just happened that the breakdown ended up even. Larrison was very close to making the list, coming in at #52. I have not given up on Preston as a prospect, but his injuries (both Tommy John surgery and other nagging injuries), inability to stay in shape, and the fact that his "stuff" just hasn't returned yet, knocked him out of the Top 50. A strong return in 2006 and he could slide back up the list. As for Sborz, I have nearly given up on him. His inability to command his fastball, compounded with his inability to develop any consistent off-speed offerings has frustrated the organization beyond belief. They tried to challenge him with an assignment to the Midwest League, and it backfired. Not only was he bad with the Whitecaps, but he somehow managed to get worse after his demotion to Oneonta. After a season in which he posted a walk rate of nearly eight per nine innings, he will have to show some serious improvement to come close to the Top 50 next year.
Q: Can you expound on what outfielders you think will start the '06 season in Lakeland and Erie?
Do you think Maybin will being in Oneonta in '06, by management giving him time to advance while having extreme success in the beginning to build his confidence for the near future advancements?
A: I think the starting outfield for Erie in 2006 will be Brent Clevlen, Vincent Blue, and Garth McKinney. Blue and Clevlen experienced breakout seasons in 2005, and much to the surprise of many, McKinney finished relatively strong from June through September, posting a .254/.325/.516 line in a very pitcher friendly league and park. As for the Lakeland outfield, I think it is likely we see Clete Thomas, Jeff Frazier, and Luis Sabino. Everybody knows what Thomas and Frazier bring to the table, but Sabino is a bit of an unknown. If he can improve his ability to consistently drive the ball while playing winter ball, he has the plate discipline to become a very intriguing prospect.
Maybin's placement to start the 2006 will depend a lot how hard he works this off-season, and what he shows in spring training. If he excels at both times, he will likely start the year with West Michigan. I think the organization wants to be aggressive with Maybin, and there is a belief that he is talented enough to allow them to push him through the system quickly.
Thanks for all the great questions and for your continued reading. Any time you have questions regarding the Tiger's minor league system or players; do not hesitate to write me at email@example.com.