Brian Rogers (11) came onto the draft scene after recording a 0.40 ERA in 2002 in the Cape Cod League and the Tigers drafted the Georgia Southern right-hander the following June.
After signing, Rogers worked out of the rotation at Oneonta, going 3-2 with a 3.34 ERA in 12 starts. In 56 2/3 innings, he allowed just 49 hits, walked 18, and struck out 66. Rogers stayed in the rotation at West Michigan and went 6-8 with a 4.55 ERA in 25 starts. He was very hittable, allowing 163 hits in 142 1/3 innings of work, but he posted a solid BB/K ratio of 44/120.
Rogers moved to the bullpen in 2005 at Lakeland and flourished, going 4-1 with two saves in 52 games. In 65 2/3 innings, he allowed just 50 hits, walked 21 batters, and fanned 65. Rogers relies more on location than pure stuff, as his heater sits in the high-80's and touches 90. He also has a good slider and changeup. Rogers may have found his niche as a middle reliever and could factor into the Tigers' future plans with a good year at Erie in '06.
One could argue that Jeremy Laster (12) has the highest ceiling of any player the Tigers drafted in 2003, but one thing that is for certain is that Laster was the furthest away from tapping into his considerable talents. Drafted out of a Nashville-area high school, Laster would've been a draft-and-follow selection had he attended Walters State CC, but he elected to sign with the Tigers.
Laster has yet to reach full-season ball in his three years, but he still shows flashes of his speed/power combination. He hit .240 in his pro debut with the GCL Tigers and hit just .242 in a return stint in '04, but led the club in extra base hits with 14 and placed second in RBIs with 17.
Promoted to Oneonta in '05, he struggled with the advanced pitching in the NY-PL, hitting .208 in 142 at-bats. If Laster is going to ever improve, he must make better contact and take more walks. He has a career numbers of walks and strikeouts in AB's. Laster continues to be a work-in-progress, but he needs to start making some progress. He could move up to West Michigan in '06, but a return trip to Oneonta could be in the offing.
Luis Sabino (14) appears to be a diamond in the rough for the Tigers, who snagged him from Wabash Valley JC in Illinois. Sabino hit just .240, but smacked five homers, drove in 28 runs, and stole 11 bases in his debut with the GCL Tigers. Sabino went to West Michigan in '04, where he hit just .234 and struggled to make contact, fanning 144 times in 384 at-bats.
He did show his power potential by finishing third on the team with 37 extra base hits and he also stole 10 bases. Sabino made a return trip to the 'Caps last year and again, he didn't hit for a high average (.238) or make consistent contact (111 K's) but showed much more patience at the plate with 70 walks in 399 at-bats.
Like Laster, Sabino is a tools-oriented player who is beginning to scratch the surface of his talent and should get an opportunity at Lakeland next season.
In three seasons, Jordan Tata (16) has gone from obscure senior sign to one of the Tigers' top prospects. Drafted out of Sam Houston State, he first opened eyes in his debut at Oneonta going 4-3 with a 2.58 ERA in 16 games (12 starts). In 73 1/3 innings, he allowed just 60 hits, walked 20, and fanned 60.
Tata went to West Michigan in 2004 and had a brutal start to the season. On June 19, his record fell to 1-10 with a 5.33 ERA. Tata rallied in the second half with a great finish, going 7-1 down the stretch and lowering his ERA by two full runs.
Tata had a banner season with Lakeland last season, going 13-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 25 starts. In 155 innings, he allowed 138 hits. He walked 41 batters and fanned 134.
Since June of '04, Tata has been spectacular, going 20-3 in that period and he does it with a 90-93 fastball with a knuckle-curve that is a strikeout pitch, and a changeup. Tata earned a spot on the 40-man roster this winter and will head to Erie, where a good season there could land him in Detroit in September, should the Tigers wish to get a glimpse of their future.
Australian native Andrew Graham (19) didn't get much of an opportunity to showcase his skills behind the plate after he signed because of the limit on work visas issued by the government in 2003.
Graham played the role of backup to Danilo Sanchez at West Michigan in 2004, where hit .253 in 83 at-bats. Graham returned to West Michigan in '05 and again was a backup, splitting time first with Dusty Ryan, and then with Chris Robinson. He hit .190 in 100 at-bats with the 'Caps and also got 14 AB's at Lakeland. Graham could be the backup catcher at Lakeland with a good spring.
Nick McIntyre (20) just might follow in the footsteps of Tata by being a late-bloomer type player. After finishing his career at Purdue, McIntyre went to Oneonta and hit just 245 in 102 at-bats. He didn't get much playing time with West Michigan in 2004, receiving just 129 at-bats and hitting just .240. However, a return trip to West Michigan did wonders for McIntyre, who hit .303 with seven homers, 42 RBIs, seven steals, and showed surprising pop with 39 extra base hits.
McIntyre profiles as a utility player, but if he shows his '05 campaign was no fluke, the Tigers will need to keep him in the lineup. The former Boilermaker will head to Lakeland in 2006.
When someone talks about the relief pitching prospects the Tigers have, Chris Homer's (24) name doesn't come up very often, but the Marist product has done a solid job since signing as a senior.
In his pro debut at Oneonta, Homer went 2-1 with a solid 2.60 ERA and 15 saves in 26 games. in 27 2/3 innings, he allowed just 17 hits, walked 10, and fanned 30. He wasn't expected to close at West Michigan in 2004, but when Eulogio de la Cruz began to falter in the heat of the Whitecaps' playoff push, Homer was summoned to the closer's role and he did a solid job, finishing with 12 saves for the year.
Homer had a terrific season at Lakeland last year, going 7-4 with 3.09 ERA and 29 saves in 54 games. In 64 innings, he allowed just 55 hits, walked 25, and struck out 50 batters. Homer gets good sink on his fastball, which sits in the 91-92 range, has a solid slider, and will get an opportunity to close at Erie in 2006, where a good season could vault him to the majors.
Lavon Lewis (26) was another long-term project the Tigers took out of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Lewis made immediate dividends after signing by going 3-3 with 3.17 ERA in the GCL. Promoted to Oneonta in 2004, Lewis went 1-5 with a 4.90 ERA. Control was an issue for Lewis, as he walked 27 batters in 60 2/3 innings. A trip to the bullpen turned Lewis around in 2005, as the right-hander went 2-0 with a save in 24 games at West Michigan. In 45 1/3 innings, he allowed just 33 hits, walked 17 and struck out 31. Lewis has made solid and steady progress and should up to Lakeland's bullpen next year.
Kelly Hunt (29) had solid credentials as a slugger at Bowling Green, finishing with a career .399 average and 45 homers (both school records) with the Falcons.
After signing with the Tigers, Hunt hit .257 with two homers and 21 RBI's at Oneonta, but busted loose with the Whitecaps in '04, setting a club record with 21 homers and 102 RBI's, while hitting .275. Hunt was also second on the team with 28 doubles. Being a slugger who is always in attack mode at the plate, Hunt is susceptible to swinging at bad pitches and not having a lot of patience He walked just 22 times and struck out 107 times with the 'Caps.
Hunt continued to show his power at Lakeland this past season with 18 homers and 86 RBIs, but his average fell to .216 and he fanned 122 times, while drawing just 29 walks. Hunt could be in for a huge year at cozy Jerry Uht Park from a home run standpoint, but if his plate discipline doesn't improve, he will be struggle mightily against more seasoned pitchers.
Anthony Tomey (30) first gained notoriety as one of the top prep pitchers in Michigan and was drafted by Cleveland in 1999, but went to Eastern Michigan instead of signing with the Tribe.
After signing with the Tigers, Tomey split time between the rotation and the bullpen, going 3-2 with a 5.43 ERA in 20 games (seven starts). In 53 innings, he allowed 46 hits and fanned 56 batters. Control was an issue, as he walked 34.
Tomey did a solid job in middle relief with West Michigan in 2004, posting a 2.72 ERA in 41 games. Tomey continued to flash his overpowering repertoire with 61 K's in 49 2/3 innings, but command was still a problem with 37 walks issued.
Inexplicably, Tomey was sent back to West Michigan in '05, where he was solid again with a 2.98 ERA in 59 games. Tomey also recorded eight saves and held the opposition to a .194 average. Tomey likely won't get the chance to close because of his command, but he is ready to move up and grow into a solid middle-relief prospect.
Obviously, it's far too early to tell exactly how the '03 draft looks, but on the surface, it looks like the unheralded players are going to have to pick up the slack for the higher-round players who have struggled thus far. Kyle Sleeth can still be a solid prospect if he can recover from Tommy John surgery, and Giarratano has already reached the big leagues, but his light dimmed some with his offensive struggles at Erie.
On the bright side, Rainwater is certainly a sleeper to watch, Tata has emerged as a late-round steal, and the Tigers have gotten more mileage out of McIntyre, Homer, and Hunt than most teams do for players selected that late in the draft.
On the down side, the Tigers had four premium draft-and-follows and none of them signed. Besides Trent and Henry, the Tigers had the rights to Ronnie Martin, a lefty with solid stuff, and Josh Wahpepah of Cowley County CC, who was committed to Texas. The right-hander blossomed in his sophomore year, but the Tigers deemed his bonus demands too excessive and the Brewers signed him after taking him in the third round. The Tigers could've added some solid talent to add depth to this class, but as of now, this class appears to have little in the way of impact talent.