Paul Wezner, Senior Editor
I can't attribute the struggles just to one thing. A lot of our productive hitters last season are going up against far greater challenges (the jump from A-ball to AA-ball is always significant). A number of our hitters just aren't patient enough at the plate, and in turn don't see good pitches because they swing too often at bad ones. Part of it is just slow starts that will begin to turn around as the season moves on. But a big part of it is that while our pitching talent has grown by leaps and bounds, our position player talent can't claim the same. It's not a shock; up until last year, most of our draft picks and money had gone toward investing in pitchers. Before Cameron Maybin, of our previous five first round picks, four were pitchers, and the fifth (Scott Moore) was traded. The only non first rounder we threw big money at was Humberto Sanchez as a DFE. Only Curtis Granderson and Brent Clevlen have had notable success amongst our hitters from our previous recent drafts, and Granderson is already in Detroit, while Clevlen is adjusting in Erie. The recent returns on our most recent draft are encouraging (especially fifth rounder Jeff Larish), but if the Tigers hope to produce everyday major leaguers, they can't keep missing on players like Michael Woods.
Mark Anderson, Associate Editor, Minor Leagues
The simple, albeit likely unpopular, answer is the fact that the bulk of our offensive prospects, simply aren't that talented. We have a lot of low "grade B" and "grade C" position player prospects in our system, and routinely expecting them to perform at a high level is a risky proposition at best. Combine that simple fact with the idea that many of those players that carried great expectations (Clevlen, Kirkland, Sanchez, Hollimon, etc.) are getting significant tests from big jumps in competition. The jump from short-season ball to the Midwest League is quite significant. The jump from Lakeland to Erie, is enormous. When you have a system full of offensive players with significant flaws or a lack of polish, you are destined to see players struggle extensively. The organization has (and continues to) place an emphasis on tools, rather than players with tools who also possess actual baseball skills. That's a dangerous recipe to play with over the long haul. I'd expect several players to begin emerging with better numbers as the season increases, but there are likely to be many disappointing performances at season's end. It's just the reality of a system that hasn't improved as dramatically as last season's minor league success would have you believe.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I think one of the reasons many of the Tigers prospects are struggling is due to seeing more advanced pitching. Guys like Brent Clevlen and Kody Kirkland are seeing AA pitching for the first time, and that is a big step, especially for guys that have a tendency to be free swingers. The only other issue I believe is with the Tigers' hitting philosophy. If you look at the collective stats from the affiliates, the BB/K ratio is flat-out awful for several players, and this stems from a poor approach. Until the hitters become disciplined, why would any pitcher throw a strike to them, knowing they will get themselves out by swinging at bad pitches.
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