Iorg joined the Tigers on the back of the largest signing bonus in history for a sixth round pick. The Tigers signed Cale for a bonus just shy of $1.5 million. Iorg, the son of former Toronto infielder Garth Iorg and brother of Astros prospect Eli Iorg, spent two years on a Mormon mission through Portugal before coming back to the states. Prior to his mission in Portugal, Cale had begun to make a name for himself as a freshman at Alabama, where he posted a .280/.331/.415 line that included 19 extra-base hits and 15 steals. For his efforts, he was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team.
Leading up to his lone season at Alabama, Cale played for his father with the Knoxville Yard where he posted an impressive .486 average with six home runs and 20 stolen bases. As one of the nation's elite prep middle infield prospects, Iorg hit .495 with 15 home runs and 57 RBI during his senior season at Karns High School in Knoxville, TN. Following his senior campaign, the Devil Rays selected him in the 16th round of the amateur draft; much lower than he likely would have gone without a commitment to complete his two-year mission. During his standout senior season, he was named a 1st Team All-American, 1st Team All-Knoxville, and 1st Team All-State by the Knoxville News Sentinel.
As he returned from his mission, Cale faced a difficult decision; sign to play professionally with the Tigers, return to the University of Alabama and re-enter the 2009 draft, or transfer to Arizona State for his second collegiate season. In the end, the decision came down to playing for the Sun Devils or signing with the Tigers, and with a million dollar plus bonus staring him in the face, the 21-year old shortstop opted to turn pro.
Debuting with the GCL Tigers, the rust was very evident on Iorg's game, as he only notched two hits in eleven at-bats for the rookie-level affiliate. The Tigers promoted Cale to Lakeland for a stiffer test, and he responded with a .278/.316/.389 line in five games with the Flying Tigers. In an attempt to get additional at-bats under his belt, the Tigers sent Iorg to play for the North Shore Honu during the Hawaii Winter Baseball season. After a rough start that included a number of errors at shortstop, Iorg was forced to shut down due to a hamstring injury.
The Tigers sent Iorg back to Lakeland for the 2009 season and though it was a very rocky season, including a shoulder injury, Iorg flashed fantastic tools en route to a .253/.331/.410 line in 376 at-bats. Iorg finished the season by tying for fifth in the Florida State League with seven triples, and tying for tenth in the FSL with 22 steals. Once healthy at the end of the season, the Tigers opted to have Cale work in the fall instructional league rather than head to a fall season in Arizona or Hawaii, and the reviews were top notch for all of his work during that time.
You will not find anything that Iorg cannot do on the baseball field. His tool box is overflowing with skills and they are all above-average tools. He is an impressive player that you watch and simply walk away impressed every time.
Defensively he has tremendous actions and instincts in the field. He moves well to both the glove and backhand side, and has soft hands with incredible knowledge of when to charge, when to stay back, and when to try and make difficult plays. His arm is very strong and as his footwork has improved with more game experience; his throws have gained additional accuracy.
Cale is an above-average runner with excellent base running instincts that should led to 15-20 stolen bases annually. He gets the most out of his speed and defensive tools with an uncanny head for the game that can only come from growing up in a baseball family as he has.
Offensively, Cale has the ability to make contact on a variety of pitches, but he is currently limited in his ability to hit for average by his struggles with pitch recognition. Cale can struggle with recognizing breaking balls and is prone to chasing them out of the zone. When he is locked in, he is capable of hitting for a reasonable average (.275-.285) with above-average power for a middle infielder. He has a compact, quick line drive stroke that can spray balls to all fields.
Cale has the makings of an All-Star shortstop, but he must refine his approach at the plate to truly become a star. At worst, his defensive ability and bloodlines will get him a chance in the big leagues, but anything short of being an above-average regular will be seen as a disappointment.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A
The hamstring injury in 2007 was a freak thing that didn't hamper him at all in spring training 2008. A shoulder injury caused him some trouble last summer in Lakeland, but he was recovered completely and looked at full strength both during instructs and this spring. Cale is an aggressive player whose desire to make plays can sometimes leave him in an awkward position; a trait that may leave him prone to minor, nagging injuries throughout his career.
Iorg is locked in as the shortstop at Double-A Erie this season and there will be a ton of focus on how he performs. With General Manager Dave Dombrowski's strong off-season words touting his potential, and the Tigers decision to only sign Adam Everett to a one-year contract, there will be pressure to demonstrate a readiness for Detroit in 2010.
There is little doubting his potential as a player, it is just a matter of time as he continues to come back from two years away from the game. As things begin to click, we could all be witnessing the growth of a special player. Don't be shocked if Iorg gets some time in Detroit in September, just as a preview of what may be coming in 2010.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.