Prospect Profile: Justin Verlander

Verlander's professional debut could not have gone any better. After pitching in the Futures Game in Detroit, and making two spot starts for the Tigers, Verlander has set himself up for a real shot at the 2006 Detroit rotation. Check inside to see how Justin made such a speedy trip through the system, and what his chances for success are in 2006.

Justin Verlander
Position: Right-Handed Pitcher Height: 6-5 Weight: 200
Born: 2/20/1983Bats: Right Throws: Right

Verlander was the Tigers first selection (2nd overall) in the 2004 amateur draft. While at Old Dominion, Justin's statistics were less than dominating, but his raw potential was enough to shoot him up most draft boards. While the organization was in no hurry to get Verlander into the system and back on the mound, they never anticipated the contract squabbles they would later endure. The Tigers had made several very fair offers to Verlander, including an offer of a Major League contract; however, the sides appeared very far apart. In October, the front office pulled all offers from the table and ended negotiations with their first round pick, prepared to send him back into the 2005 draft. At this point, Justin's father became involved, relieving his agent and getting a deal done in only a week. Detroit sent Justin straight to High-A Lakeland to start the 2005 season, and he quickly moved on to AA-Erie after proving too much for A-ball hitters. During the 2005 season, Verlander also received two spot starts in Detroit, getting knocked around pretty badly despite his minor league dominance.

Scouting Report
Verlander's big ticket item is his high-octane fastball that can touch triple digits on occasion. Despite his impressive velocity, Verlander struggles to put hitters away, often falling behind in the count, putting himself in positions where it is difficult to succeed. In addition to his dominating fastball, Verlander uses a true "hammer curve" that has sharp, late bite. His curveball is not a consistent offering at this point, but it has the potential to be a second plus pitch. Verlander's change-up needs the most work, and should prove to be at least an average pitch with continued work. Justin's athleticism and work ethic have allowed him to adjust quickly to the changes the organization made to his delivery. By flexing his landing leg, the organization hopes to improve his control and allow him to become more consistent on the mound. Verlander has begun to throw more strikes, but still struggles to spot his fastball throughout the strike zone. Against minor league hitter, a blazing fastball is enough to get them out; but against Major League hitters, Verlander will have to improve his control further to remain effective. Justin is a smart player who fields his position well, and craves instruction and more knowledge. If he can simply improve his control just a touch, Verlander will nearly be a lock for the top of a big league rotation.
























Health Record
Justin was shut down at the end of the 2005 season with a sore shoulder, but both he and the organization insist he is healthy and ready to go for 2006. He is still a high risk for injury as his age and previous work levels, but the organization is likely to try and protect his young arm.

The Future
Heading into spring training, it appears that the 5th spot in the rotation is Verlander's to lose. He'll have to compete for the slot, and won't be handed anything, but with any kind of solid spring performance, he should be manning a spot on the Comerica Park mound ever 5-days this season. If Justin can continue to learn while at the Major League level, he'll likely improve dramatically as the season progresses. The Tigers are looking for him to team with Jeremy Bonderman to form a potent 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation for many years to come. Provided good health from the two of the, the 2006 season should be the first step in that direction.

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