Prospect Profile: Kyle Sleeth

When the Tigers made Kyle Sleeth their top selection (and third overall) in the 2003 amateur draft, there were high hopes for Sleeth. Many expected him to move up the ladder quickly, and expected him to have already made his big league debut. But struggles against tougher competition and Tommy John surgery killed that plan, and now Sleeth has to re-establish himself as one of the top pitchers in the organization.

Kyle Sleeth
Position: Right Handed Pitcher Height: 6-5 Weight: 205
Born: 12/20/1981 Bats: Right Throws: Right

Background
Sleeth was the Tigers first round choice (3rd overall) in the 2003 draft out of Wake Forest. The Tigers made Sleeth the first pitcher taken in the draft, knowing he was by far one of the most polished starters available that summer. While at Wake Forest, Sleeth tied an NCAA record by winning 26 straight decisions. After signing late in the 2003 season, the Tigers gave Kyle the fall and winter off from game action, and invited him to Major League camp in 2004. After impressing the front office last spring, Sleeth was assigned to High-A Lakeland to begin his professional career. Despite solid numbers, Kyle struggled with consistency during his first pro test. After nine starts, the Tigers promoted him to Erie, where his struggles increased. Kyle posted a 6.30 ERA in 13 starts (80 innings) as the organization tweaked his mechanics to try and alleviate the strain being created by throwing slightly across his body. Having only logged 134 innings during the regular season, Sleeth participated in the Fall Instructional League, where he began to regain his form as a top starter. Kyle missed the 2005 baseball season after undergoing surgery in June.

Scouting Report
Sleeth's high ceiling stems from his dominating arsenal that includes a plus fastball and slider, along with a curveball and change-up. Kyle's fastball sits consistently in the 92-94 mph range, topping out at 96 on occasion. His fastball also has some late life that makes solid contact difficult, and provides enough deception that he doesn't have to be perfect with his location. Sleeth's slider/curveball combination make a potentially electric duo that should lead him to the top of a big league rotation. Kyle throws his slider hard, reaching the mid-80s with consistency, and his curveball has out-pitch potential. The change-up that provides a significantly different pace than his power pitches, needs work, but has the ability to develop into an average offering. Sleeth is a good athlete and a hard worker who should overcome the obstacles in his recovery from surgery. If he can regain his pre-injury form, Sleeth has top of the rotation potential, but he's got a challenging road back to elite prospect status.

Performance
Sleeth did not make an appearance in 2005.

Health Record
Kyle underwent Tommy John surgery last June, and missed the entire 2005 season. Kyle will begin throwing off a mound soon, and he has a shot to be ready for opening day of the minor league season.

The Future
Once Kyle proves that he's ready for game action, he'll likely head to Lakeland to start the 2006 season. While he's already experienced success at Lakeland in 2004, the Tigers will likely send him back there to break him back in, and also for weather related reasons. Once he has re-established himself there, he will quickly be promoted back to AA-Erie, where he will once again be tested in a big way. I expect Kyle to struggle early in the year as he attempts to regain his control and become confident that his arm is in fact, healthy. Kyle still has the potential to be an impact Major Leaguer, but he's got a tough road ahead of him; one that will show his true colors and how hard he's willing to work for his dream.

Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.


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