Heading to the American southwest will be infielders Michael Hollimon and Jeff Larish, top prospect Cameron Maybin, and pitchers Macay McBride, Eddie Bonine, and Jeff Gerbe. Both Hollimon and Larish could use the opportunity for additional at-bats, and could parlay good performances into a head start on earning jobs in Detroit to start the 2008 season. Both players put on outstanding offensive displays for AA-Erie this summer, and given the historically heightened offensive environment in the AFL, there could be some eye-catching numbers.
Maybin's trip to the AFL will serve a clear purpose, getting him at-bats he has missed this year because of a shoulder injury and being called up to Detroit in August. Despite his success at the minor league level to date, Cameron is in need of one thing; tons of plate appearances and time in the field. He is still very raw and the focused instructional time and additional at-bats he will get in the AFL could go a long ways to getting him ready to head back to the big leagues next season.
Jeff Gerbe was bounced from West Michigan to Erie this season and from the bullpen to the rotation on more than one occasion. Entering the 2007 campaign, Gerbe was being moved to the bullpen full time to help accelerate his prospect development. In the end, he excelled so much in the rotation this year; the Tigers are left with an interesting decision. His usage this fall could give some clues as to his future use within the organization. After a successful season as Erie's most consistent starter, Eddie Bonine will get some additional innings against some of the top offensive prospects in the minor leagues. His performance in an environment that has killed more pitchers than it has helped could signal whether he is truly ready if the Tigers need him next season.
Macay McBride will be taking the place of Jair Jurrjens on the Peoria roster this fall. McBride joined the Tigers from Atlanta, in exchange for lefty Wil Ledezma. The additional innings in Arizona should provide McBride with a good opportunity to re-establish himself and head into spring training ready to try and claim a bullpen role in Detroit.
Lakeland Manager Kevin Bradshaw will skipper the North Shore Honu in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League, and he will have two players he is very familiar with on his roster. After undergoing surgery on his knee in April, catcher Dusty Ryan will head to the HWBL to make up the at-bats he missed. Ryan has always had a high ceiling, but he has struggled to make the adjustments necessary to make the leap.
Joining Bradshaw and Ryan will be newly signed shortstop Cale Iorg. After returning from his two-year Mormon mission, Iorg received a full-court press from the Tigers, and eventually signed for a seven-figure bonus just before the August 15th deadline. The Tigers are moving wisely here, getting Iorg and his broad skill set plenty of at-bats and tons of opportunity to shake off the rust prior to spring training.
The last Tiger to join the Honu will be West Michigan outfielder Jeramy Laster. Coming off his strongest season as a pro, Laster will look to continue his success against a wide array of prospects. Jeramy has always had five-tool potential, and it will be very intriguing to see if this summer's success continues in Hawaii.
One final fall/winter league that will be getting underway shortly is the Mexican Pacific League, which should begin play in mid-October. As of now, the Tigers will only have one player participating in the MPL; infielder Max Leon. Max broke out at Lakeland this season, posting an impressive .299/.364/.371 line, and earning a late season call-up to Toledo for two games. Leon will play for Tomateros de Culiacan.
The Arizona Fall League starts play Tuesday, October 9th with Peoria taking on Scottsdale, while the HWBL starts play on Saturday, September 29th with the Honu taking on the West Oahu Canefires. Check back with TigsTown.com throughout the fall and winter for all the updates on Tiger prospects in all the fall leagues.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.