Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Bonine came to the Tigers during the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft prior to the 2006 season. Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 23rd round of the 2003 draft, Bonine brings an interesting skill set to the table. After two seasons at Glendale Junior College, where he was named All-ACCAC during his second season, Eddie transferred to the Pac-10 with the Washington State Cougars. By honoring his commitment to WSU, Bonine turned down the overtures of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who selected him in the 20th round of the 2001 draft as a DFE candidate. In 17 appearances (16 starts) for the Cougars, Bonine finished with an 8-8 record with three complete games, and earned Honorable Mention All-Pac 10 accolades. After only one year at WSU, he transferred again, this time to the University of Nevada, where he went 5-6; again in 17 appearances.
In his pro debut, Bonine managed an impressive performance in the Northwest League; seeing action in 31 games (tied for 5th in the NWL), and ranking third in the circuit with 14 saves. In 2004, he was moved back to the rotation while splitting his season between Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore. After struggling with an ERA over five at High-A Lake Elsinore, Bonine was held back to repeat the California League, without better results. After a token appearance with AAA-Portland to close the season, Bonine was taken by the Tigers in the Rule 5 draft.
The Tigers sent him to Lakeland for the 2006 season where he appeared in 41 games (11 starts), posting a 4-4 record with three saves and a 3.98 ERA. The Tigers promoted Eddie to Erie for one start to close the '06 season, where he was knocked around pretty good. Fortunately for the Tigers, that lone AA start wasn't a harbinger of his 2007 season. Thus far, Bonine has posted a 4-2 mark in nine starts and has helped lead the Seawolves towards the top of the Eastern League standings.
Bonine has an unusual skill-set, one that could land him on a Major League roster at some point in the future. He works consistently with an 88-91 mph fastball that has some solid late sink. His fastball velocity plays up because his second quality pitch is a tough knuckleball that floats over the plate, confounding hitters. He throws his knuckler harder than most, tossing it up there in the mid- to high-70s. He spots his fastball well, working to both sides of the plate with equal ability. He has intermittent control of his knuckleball, but for the most part he is able to throw strikes with it when needed.
Eddie also mixes in an average curveball-change combination that helps to keep hitters off balance. His curveball has a loose, slurvy break to it, and could stand to be tightened up a bit over the coming seasons. Bonine's mound presence is very good, as he controls the game well, and demonstrates a supreme confidence on the mound. He gets after hitters, and is not afraid to challenge them on the inner half of the plate, pushing them off to set up his secondary offerings.
One aspect of Eddie's game that could stand some improvement is his field awareness. He must improve his fielding ability off the mound, and his understanding of where he needs to be on the field during the action. Manager Matt Walbeck is confident that with additional experience, Bonine will get there, but also acknowledges that he's not Major League ready in this facet of his game.
Overall, his ceiling is that of a back-end starter; a guy that can eat innings with some quality performance, and help a Major League team. The more likely scenario has him moving to the bullpen, and becoming a key middle relief cog at the next level.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG AA
Bonine has demonstrated his durability so far in his career, and his clean mechanics should allow him to remain largely injury-free in coming seasons. His workload has been ramped-up slowly, and there are few concerns as he exits the most critical injury period of his career.
Eddie is likely to spend the entire '07 season working out of the Erie rotation, with a slim chance to see some time with Toledo, depending on the promotion of other pitchers and any injuries that may occur. A successful season at AA will get him on the Major League radar.
At just a hair under 26-years old, Bonine's prospect clock is ticking loudly. He'll be Rule 5 eligible again this fall, and with a dominant season at a more advanced level, he could garner some attention from a team looking for an innings eater with a little potential. In all likelihood, Bonine will remain with the Tigers through the off-season and may have a chance at a spring training non-roster invitation in 2008.
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.