Tigers Prospect Profile #15: Jordan Tata

Just a couple years ago, Jordan Tata was one of three top Tigers prospects to be going north with the big league club on Opening Day, along with Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya. Unfortunately, things have been a battle for Tata since that point, as he's battled shoulder problems. Can Tata get things back on track in '08?

Jordan Tata
Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Height: 6-6
Weight: 220
Born: 9/20/1981
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

After a solid career with Sam Houston State (and previously with Oklahoma Weslyan), the Detroit Tigers took Tata in the 16th round of the 2003 draft. His senior season wasn't stellar, but still earned him 3rd Team All-Southland Conference. As an experienced college pitcher, Jordan started his professional career with Low-A Oneonta, where he posted some very inspiring numbers, including a 2.58 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 73 innings.

Early in the 2004 season, Tata struggled with his control, velocity, and with the overall transition to full-season ball at West Michigan, but he eventually figured things out. The second half saw a breakthrough performance from the second-year pitcher. Through the last two months of the season, Jordan backboned a West Michigan rotation that dominated the Midwest League and brought the championship to Grand Rapids. After finishing the season on such a roll, Tata was named the TigsTown West Michigan Pitcher of the Year.

With a promotion to Lakeland, Tata figured to be challenged to great lengths in 2005. However, he is the one that did the challenging, dominating FSL hitters to the tune of a 13-2 record, 2.79 ERA, and over a 3:1 K:BB ratio, and capped it by being named TigsTown.com's Lakeland Tigers Pitcher of the Year; his second yearly award in a row. In a surprise move, and with an injury to Todd Jones, Tata debuted the 2006 season in the Detroit bullpen. After spending a little over a month with the big club, Tata was optioned to AAA-Toledo, where he spent the bulk of the season. Though unspectacular, Jordan routinely got the job done for the ‘Hens, and took home yet another yearly award; the TigsTown Toledo Pitcher of the Year.

After spending the fall in the Arizona Fall League, Tata was sent back to Toledo for the 2007 season. Though he started the season on the disabled list with shoulder problems, Tata put together a solid season, posting a 3.05 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in over eighty innings. Jordan also made three starts with the big club, but struggled to replicate his minor league success, notching a 7.71 ERA.

Scouting Report
Tata's bread and butter is an 89-91 mph sinking fastball that can be dominating when he's controlling it well to all parts of the zone. While the pitch has had more velocity in the past – being reported in the mid-90s – he is still able to be effective with less velocity. Jordan has dramatically improved his control over this pitch during the last several years, and he now has confidence to throw it to all parts of the strike zone. He could stand to spot it better within the quadrants, but that should come with additional experience.

His second best offering is his cutter that has reached 94, but sits in the 87-89 range. His cutter has good movement and explodes as it reaches the plate. His only change of pace offering is a weak curveball that must improve significantly to maintain its effectiveness. His overall arsenal, without improvement from the curveball, screams bullpen, and I think that's where his long term future may lie. He is an average athlete who fields his position well, and has good composure during all situations on the mound.

With erratic control, and velocity that has seemed to fluctuate significantly in recent seasons, Tata seems even more destined for the bullpen. He could possibly fill the back of a rotation at some point, but at 26-years old he's quickly reaching a time when he must get to the big leagues and establish himself.
























Health Record
Jordan suffered a slight tear in his labrum last spring, and though he was able to rehab and work through it, there were still effects present in his velocity. This spring, Tata is again expressing concerns over his shoulder, and to compound things, he is now out for at least six weeks after breaking a bone below the little finger of his pitching hand, punching a door in the dugout. The hand injury should not affect Tata's ability going forward, but the lingering concerns over his shoulder will remain until he is able to conduct a full season of work without incident.

The Future
With the uncertainty in the Detroit bullpen, Tata had an excellent chance to break camp with the Tigers and establish himself at the big league level. Unfortunately, his poor performance and now his broken hand, have left him wondering what could have been. Tata will start the year in extended spring training, and after completing the rehab for his hand, he will return to Toledo for another season of work.

As much as Tata's broken hand has made headlines in recent days, this issue will not be a determining factor in his big league future. Whether his shoulder holds up, and whether his breaking ball makes enough strides to keep hitters off balance will be the keys to Jordan's career. Once he returns from his current injury, the 2008 season will be one of the most critical of Jordan's professional career. Expect to see him in Detroit at some point this season, but without an impressive performance he could become trade bait next offseason.

Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.

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