#40 – Erik Averill – Starting Pitcher
After debuting in the GCL last year, Averill made the leap to full-season ball in 2006, playing with the West Michigan Whitecaps. The soft-tossing lefty proved his mettle early on, and finished the season as one of the ‘Caps most consistent and durable options in the starting rotation. Erik lacks the fastball to dominate games, but he toys with hitters and finishes them with good control and the ability to keep the ball down in the zone. Averill should get a chance to start for Lakeland next season.
#39 – Kyle Sleeth – Starting Pitcher
A first round choice in 2003, Sleeth has fallen on hard times since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2005. After stepping back on the mound this season, Kyle struggled to command a fastball that sat at a disappointing 88-91, and had even further struggles with anything that moved. If he can regain his health and control, he still has the raw potential to be a useful Major Leaguer, but his chances are likely running out.
#38 – Jose Fragoso – Relief Pitcher
It is common for minor league pitchers to bounce between the rotation and the bullpen, but it isn't all that common for pitchers to have dominated in both roles. Fragoso has managed that feat over the last two seasons, and he could start to move through the system at a quicker pace, if he can settle into one role. Jose has a plus fastball to go along with improving command, and a tenacity that scouts and pitching coaches' love.
#37 – Jordan Newton – Catcher
Although a candidate to move to the outfield down the line, Newton has seen improvements in his game behind the plate. Jordan's bat should carry him at any position, as he has easy power to all fields, good command of the strike zone, and can hit for a solid average. In addition, Newton runs very well for a catcher, and has demonstrated the ability to man all three outfield positions. The only thing holding him back from professional success is his attitude.
#36 – Matt Rusch – Relief Pitcher
Rusch joined the Tigers as an undrafted free agent in 2005, and has made quite an impression in his short Tiger tenure. He uses an average fastball with good sink and tremendous control, to consistently dominate his opponents. After a stellar season at West Michigan, the Tigers will look to see if Matt can continue his success at Lakeland in 2007.
#35 – Ryan Raburn – Outfielder
While transitioning back to his collegiate position in the outfield, Raburn posted yet another solid offensive season at AAA. When healthy, Ryan has continually pounded the ball all over every minor league park he's ever called home. He has the stick, but not the defensive ability to be a solid big leaguer and his chances may be running out with the Tigers.
#34 – Ryan Strieby – First Baseman
Strieby joined the Tiger organization after winning SEC Player of the Year honors in 2006, and has been touted as having a potent power bat. While Ryan's adjustment to the pro game did not generate the power results many expected, he is still thought to be the top power threat drafted by the Tigers in 2006.
#33 – Kody Kirkland – Third Baseman
There has never been any doubt as to how great Kirkland's power potential was, and he proved it with yet another solid slugging season at AA-Erie. However, the rest of his game lags way behind, as he continues to strike out a ton, hasn't learned to recognize pitches, and his defense has never been considered good. Kody will continue to get chances to put it together, just because the raw potential is so great.
#32 – Clete Thomas – Outfielder
After a dynamite debut campaign for the Tigers in 2005, Clete was challenged with an assignment to the Advanced-A Florida State League. That challenge didn't go quite as well as the organization would have expected, as Thomas struggled both at the plate, and a little bit in the field. He's always had the tools to be a solid player, but he must gain some consistency before he's exposed in a big way at higher levels.
#31 – Eleazar Aponte – Starting Pitcher
Aponte was the less-heralded Dominican pitcher coming stateside this year (trailing Alfredo Figaro in hype), but he performed exceptionally well, and projects to remain in the rotation longer. After a dominating stretch in the Gulf Coast League, Aponte was called up to fill two emergency starts at Lakeland, where he equipped himself very well.