When you talk about players shining, you obviously have to start with Humberto Sanchez. Sanchez has constantly battled injury problems and weight concerns, especially in 2005, when he missed more than two months of the season, than was largely unimpressive in the few months he did pitch.
But Sanchez reinforced in the Tigers the reason why they gave him a seven figure signing bonus as a draft-and-follow player a few years ago. Sanchez sported a 2.15 ERA in seven Arizona starts while averaging nearly a strikeout per inning (29 K's in 29 1/3 innings).
There's no doubt that Sanchez's impressive season played a big part in the Tigers adding him to the 40 man roster this past week. The Tigers very likely would have done it regardless of his performance, because it's very difficult to leave a player some compare to Bartolo Colon unprotected, but a pitcher with a career minor league ERA of 4.73 doesn't scream ‘keeper' either.
Another that did enough to impress was infielder Don Kelly. Kelly's errors were yet again an issue (he led the Solar Sox with seven). But he makes good contact with few strikeouts (.294 average, six strikeouts). He only took six walks and didn't hit for a lot of power (just 3 doubles in 85 at bats), but power isn't necessarily a priority for a middle infielder.
Kelly also saw himself added to the 40 man roster this past week, in large part because of his performance. He doesn't walk a ton (six walks) or hit for a lot of power, but the fact remains he's capable of playing all the infield positions, and for a backup, making contact is often a key ingredient. Kelly has likely solidified himself as the team's future utility infielder with his versatility and AFL performance.
Kody Kirkland was a late addition to the roster, but did well for himself in the playing time he received. Kirkland only got into half of the team's games, but a .293/.383/.463 line is nothing to frown about, especially when Kirkland was dealing with the uncertainty of never knowing when he would get playing time.
Kirkland was yet another player the Tigers elected to protect on the 40 man roster. The Tigers like his potential despite his struggles of two years ago and the lack of development in his defense, which means he'll continue to get opportunities to shine, likely doing so next season at hitter-friendly Jerry Uht Park in Erie.
While those three stepped up with big falls to gain a guarantee of being a Tiger (barring a trade) in 2005, the other three Tigers that flew south didn't have quite the same luck.
TigsTown has been very clear in its assessment of David Espinosa, and how the Tigers don't have the same confidence in him. Espinosa has proven to be arguably the most patient hitter in the system, but with few "tools" so to speak, Espinosa has been buried, as was evidenced this summer when the team elected to play Dewayne Wise (who is no longer with the organization) over him.
A strong fall might have helped make a case for himself, but instead, it was more of the same. A late power run got his slugging percentage up above .400, but in a hitter's league, his .410 slugging percentage still left him well below average. That's an even greater concern when one considers the fact that Espinosa is a corner outfielder, a position where power is placed at a premium.
The bottom line is that until Espinosa can put together a full season in which he uses his patience to his advantage and posts solid power numbers, it'll be tough to truly consider Espinosa a key part of the Tigers' future. The Tigers leaving him unprotected once again for the Rule 5 draft shows that as well.
Adam Peterson was acquired off waivers earlier this spring, and after a year of observations, it is becoming obvious to many observers Peterson likely wasn't worth the investment (at least not compared to another waiver claim; Bobby Jenks, the young flame-throwing world champion closer).
In nine relief appearances, Peterson carried a 5.11 ERA while giving up another two unearned runs and sporting a WHIP of 1.54. None of those numbers are reassuring for someone you would hope to bring in to shut down the opposition.
That along with his 6.58 ERA for Erie in '05 are likely the big reasons for the Tigers electing to drop Peterson from the 40 man roster and designate him for assignment.
The final member of the Tigers six man group in Arizona was Mark Woodyard. Woodyard started out as a darkhorse candidate for the Tigers bullpen this past spring, but was unimpressive in the spring and continued that in the fall with an ERA over 10 for Mesa.
It was a bit of a surprise that the Tigers decided to keep him on the 40 man roster after having placed him on it last year. Woodyard did allow just one run in three appearances for the Tigers in a few appearances late in the season, which could have been the lone thing that kept him in contention for a bullpen spot come 2006. But regardless of that, Woodyard did little to help his stock in Arizona, and will have to turn things around quickly next year.