Roundtable: Minor League Sleeper for '06

Ready to talk Tigers? Want to hear the opinion of the TigsTown staff on some of the hot button topics of the offseason? Welcome to the TigsTown Roundtable! This week's question: Which prospect that has been flying under the radar do you expect to break out?

Paul Wezner, Senior Editor
As always, there are any number of candidates that can be propped up as a sleeper ready to break out, but I'm going to go with 20-year old Josh Rainwater. Rainwater hasn't had the easiest first couple years in the organization; pitching very poorly in Oneonta (mostly due to poor conditioning on his part), then missing most of the first two months of 2005 with a knee injury. His 4.24 ERA is good, but his strikeout rate was very strong, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was even better, showing remarkable control for someone so young with limited experience. If Rainwater can continue to progress (and keeping working hard on the field and in the training room), Rainwater could be set for a big year, likely pitching for the Lakeland Tigers.

Mark Anderson, Minor League Editor
It's tough for a minor league junkie like me to pick just one prospect in response to a question like this, but since the boss says I have to; I will. Lost in the shuffle of Michael Hollimon's breakout season at Oneonta was a second baseman posting an incredible .328/.391/.420 line as Hollimon's teammate. A 2005 draft choice out of William & Mary College, Will Rhymes has been flying under the radar for quite some time. Before his impressive campaign at Oneonta, Rhymes posted a .413/.451/.574 line during his senior season. He may not have elite tools at his disposal, but throughout his baseball career he has consistently hit the ball, and hit it hard. He has serious pop for a player of his size, and uses all fields with regularity. His best offensive attributes are his pitch recognition skills and amazing hand-eye coordination, enabling him to avoid strikeouts and get on base at very high rates. His defense is a bit above average, and he has shown increased arm strength on the pivot in recent seasons. There is a slim chance that Rhymes could be pushed to Lakeland to start the 2006 season, but the more likely scenario is that he forms a middle infield tandem with Hollimon at West Michigan. Look for Rhymes to do the same thing he's done since high school; just keep on hitting in 2006.

Jason Avery, Amateur Baseball Editor
The prospect that I'm going with is P.J. Finigan, a right-hander drafted last June from Southern Illinois. He was a two-way player for the Salukis, but should take off now that he is focusing solely on pitching. He has three solid average pitches with his fastball, slider, and changeup. He pitched well out of the bullpen after signing at West Michigan and could put up stellar numbers at pitcher-friendly Fifth Third Ballpark. If things come together for Finigan, he could definitely see time in Lakeland this year and make quick progress through the system.

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