Position: First Baseman
Larish joined the Tigers as a 5th round choice out of Arizona State in 2005. Prior to ASU, Jeff was a standout high school player, garnering a litany of regional, state, and local awards as a junior and senior. Leaving high school, he was drafted in the 32nd round by the Chicago Cubs, but chose to honor his commitment to the Sun Devils. As a freshman, Larish posted a .328/.447/.477 line but only managed an Honorable Mention All-Pac 10 nod.
His stock began to soar as a sophomore, as he knocked an incredible .372/.528/.697 line, and took home more awards than one can count. He took home 1st Team All-Pac 10, NCBWA 3rd Team All-American, Collegiate Baseball 2nd Team All-American, ABCA 3rd Team All-American, and All West Regional honors. In addition, Larish set the ASU single-season record for grand slams with four, and became only the schools second member of the 70-70 club (RBI-BB). His efforts in 2003 landed him on the US National Team where he notched a .255/.381/.539 line while playing in 20 Pan-American games.
Despite his sophomore success and pre-season accolades (Street & Smith's Pre-season Player of the Year and Pre-season All-American), Larish's junior season came as a disappointment. His .308/.396/.468 line was hampered by a wrist injury that sapped much of his power. He still managed to earn Honorable Mention All-Pac 10 as well as the Mr. Sun Devil Award, but was only drafted in the 13th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jeff turned down a $660,000 offer to return to ASU for his senior season. As a senior, Jeff cam alive again, posting a much more impressive season and making the Golden Spikes Award watch list. After a three-homer game in the NCAA tournament, Larish's stock soared heading to the draft. In the end, he finished his Sun Devil career ranked 2nd on the career homerun list behind Bob Horner, 2nd on the career walk list, 3rd on the career runs list, and 4th on the career RBI list.
After a long final season at ASU, Larish's professional debut was delayed until August when he spent a brief 6-game stint with the GCL Tigers, before moving on to post a .297/.416/.625 line in 18 games for the O-Tigers. In his first full season, Jeff skipped all the way to High-A Lakeland, where he enjoyed a truly banner year, finishing in the league's top six in runs (76), doubles (34), homeruns (18), walks (81), and OPS (.838). He was easily Lakeland's best player last season, taking home Player of the Month honors in May, June, and August, while also being named the TigsTown Lakeland Player of the Year to complete his season.
Larish's strongest offensive tool is his exceptional strike zone judgment and ability to recognize pitches. He is a patient hitter who is focused on finding his pitch and driving it when it arrives. Larish has great strength in his wrists and snaps the bat through the zone with exceptional force, generating loads of power from pole-to-pole. He has a unique stance that sometimes precludes him from getting around on inside fastballs, but he's shown the ability to adjust without revamping his mechanics. Larish can hit pitches in all quadrants of the strike zone with great power, and is willing to drive tough pitches to all parts of the park in order to be a complete hitter.
Larish is an average athlete with moderate speed, but good instincts around the bag at first. He was a third baseman during his freshman season at ASU, and an outfielder during his junior campaign. He has a very strong and accurate arm that is hidden at first base, and his experience in the outfield could help facilitate a move to another position if necessary.
Larish is already an outstanding power prospect, and if he is able to translate this against advanced pitching at higher levels, he could establish himself as an elite power hitting prospect.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A+
Larish's minor hand injury during his junior season has not been a lingering concern. Aside from that injury nearly three years ago, Larish has been the model of health.
With Chris Shelton's struggles in 2006, there is absolutely nothing standing in the way of Jeff Larish and first base in Detroit. If he continues to progress this season at Erie, he should get a shot to win the job in spring training 2008. Its unlikely the Tigers will just hand him the job, but he could earn it with a huge Double-A campaign and a strong spring the following year.
Larish is the organization's only established first base prospect, and he is one of the few prospects in the system that projects to hit for big time power, while also controlling the strike zone exceptionally well. Jeff is not without his skeptics, but he can put them to bed with a continuation of his success at Lakeland. Look for him to post some monster power numbers in Jerry Uht Park, while still maintaining his ability to walk and play adequate defense.
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.