Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
The Tigers have a lot of very talented players getting in some work this fall and winter, but none are more important to the Tigers in 2009 than Dusty Ryan. Ryan showed enormous improvement in his 2008 campaign with both Erie and Toledo, and certainly has the tools to be a big league catcher. However, Dusty has shown flashes of excellence before, and then quickly faded away after a breakout season. It's vital for Dusty to prove not only that he can handle the competition at that level, but that his 2008 season was more than a blip on the radar. Continuing to demonstrate he can produce, especially at the plate, at a high level this winter will leave the Tigers feeling good about their future behind the dish.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
There are quite a few guys that absolutely must have strong performances in the various fall and winter leagues, but they player for whom this is most imperative, is probably right-hander Guillermo Moscoso. Moscoso burst on the scene this summer, after overcoming some mild shoulder tendonitis, to have an explosive season that vaulted him up prospect lists. His strong summer came at a good time, as Guillermo must be added to the 40-man roster this month, or be subject to the Rule 5 draft in December. Despite his strong performance in High-A and then in Double-A this year, his early performance in the Venezuelan Winter League may well determine his 40-man roster fate. Moscoso is a candidate to help in a multitude of capacities next year in Detroit, and I believe the Tigers may look for any reasonable justification for protecting him from the Rule 5 draft.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
If Dontrelle Willis pitches in winter ball, he'll certainly be watched closely to see what kind of progress he has made, and Freddy Garcia will be watched by a number of teams to see how his shoulder is holding up. Among Tiger prospects, I'd look at Matt Joyce and Dusty Ryan, who are both slated to play in Mexico. I'll be interested to see how these guys fare offensively and what kind of adjustments they've made at the plate since the end of the major-league season. In any case, all of these guys should be monitored because they all could play significant roles for the Tigers, and how they perform could dictate what actions the organization may take to see whether the team believes Ryan and Joyce are ready to play full time, or if Garcia should be re-signed and Willis can rediscover his previous form.
Lee Panas, Blogger/Publisher, Tiger Tales
With so many questions surrounding the Tigers current and future catching situation, I'm watching two backstops this fall/winter. The first one is James Skelton who has taken his high OBP, low power show to Hawaii with a chance to convince the Tigers he is ready for Toledo. Playing additional games in a winter league may also help to allay concerns about his durability. While Skelton's fall season is winding down, Dusty Ryan is just getting started in Puerto Rico. Ryan, who made great strides as a hitter this year, is currently the only healthy full time catcher on the Tigers 40 man roster. It is hoped that Dusty will continue his progress as a hitter while working on improving his pitch blocking skills. Ryan's performance this winter should help determine how much of a role he can play for the Tigers next season and what kind of catcher they need to acquire through trade or free agency.
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