Tigers Prospect Profile: Jair Jurrjens

Jair Jurrjens hasn't received the same fanfare that big name, big arm prospects like Joel Zumaya and Andrew Miller have. But after having made it to Double-A ball at just 20 years of age, Jurrjens is a legit top prospect in his own right. Could 2007 be the year in which Jurrjens finally establishes himself among the elite?

Jair Jurrjens
Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Height: 6-1
Weight: 165
Born: 1/29/1986
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Jurrjens was signed by the Tigers as a 17 year old out of Curacao. Signed as a bit of a project, the Tigers were prepared to be patient with the still developing hurler. Working primarily as a reliever in his first 7 games with the Gulf Coast League Tigers in 2003, Jair posted some very impressive numbers for someone so young, logging 28 innings with a 3.21 ERA, 20 strikeouts and only three walks. During a return trip to the GCL in 2004, Jurrjens dominated his competition, forcing the organizations hand in promoting him to Oneonta of the New York-Penn League. While Jair struggled some against more advanced competition, he still maintained solid strikeout rates, low walk rates, and didn't give up any home runs.

In his first taste of full-season ball, Jair continued to excel, turning a season that made him a legitimate prospect by any measure. After taking home the April TigsTown Pitcher of the Month Award, Jurrjens continued to dominate the Midwest League. In a career high 142.2 innings, he posted a 12-6 record with a 3.41 ERA at the ripe at of 19. While Jurrjens may have burst on the scene in 2005, the 2006 season was his real coming out party, as he absolutely dominated two leagues.

Starting the season with High-A Lakeland, Jurrjens took home the April and May, TigsTown Lakeland Pitcher of the Month awards. After going 5-0 with an ERA just over two for the L-Tigers, Jair was promoted to AA. The stiffest challenge of his career didn't seem to phase him, as he proceeded to take home both the June and August, TigsTown Erie Pitcher of the Month awards, on his way to the Organizational Pitcher of the Year award as well. Jurrjens finished the season at 9-3 with a 2.69/1.10 line between the two levels.

Scouting Report
Jurrjens stock has continued to climb throughout the past two seasons. His fastball has inched up to the 92-94 range consistently, and he was on the gun as high as 96 last summer. He controls his fastball exceptionally well, spotting it to all four quadrants easily, moving the ball around and changing the hitter's line of sight. He has started to turn his two-seamer over more, inducing more groundballs and avoiding homeruns. His four-seamer lacks movement, but he can ramp it up for extra velocity up in the zone.

His curveball and change are solid-average offerings that he will use at any time. His curveball has solid late bite, and he controls it well low in the zone. He rarely elevates his breaker, preferring to work from the middle of the thigh, down. He can bury the pitch in the dirt when necessary, understanding how to set hitters up. His change has made good progress in recent seasons, but must continue to make more. He can get in trouble elevating the pitch against lefties. If he can routinely generate good fade down in the zone, he should become more effective against lefties, improving his stock even more.

Jair has played with a slider in recent seasons, but nothing consistent has developed with the pitch. If he can make progress with either his curve or change, he shouldn't need the slider at all. His poise on the mound is outstanding, and he works hitters into bad positions with ease. He is a solid athlete who fields his position and repeats his mechanics well.

"JJ" profiles as a solid #2 or #3 starter in time. If one of his secondary offerings becomes a plus pitch, he could elevate that projection, becoming a big time pitching prospect.



































Health Record
Jurrjens was in an auto accident late in the 2006 season, sustaining a minor neck injury that hampered his performance for a short time. There were no lingering effects as Jair returned to form. His mechanics are clean and he puts relatively minimal stress on his arm.

The Future
Jurrjens should start the '07 campaign with AAA-Toledo, and the neutral home park should play well for him throughout the season. There is little room for Jurrjens to break onto the Detroit staff this season, but at least one slot could be open in 2008, when he is likely to be primed for the challenge of the big leagues. Despite much doubt early in his career, Jurrjens has silenced critics with continued stellar play, and he has solidified himself as one of Detroit's top prospects.

There is little to suggest that Jair will not continue his success of recent seasons. He has made improvements and adjustments at every level, and I expect that trend to continue in 2007. Jair should help anchor the Toledo staff this season, making the Mud Hens a contender in the International League yet again.

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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