Tigers Prospect Profile #10: Cale Iorg

Cale Iorg needs no introduction, being one of the most publicized Tigers' prospects, Iorg's career has been under harsh scrutiny. While his production was down and concern was warranted, there is plenty to still be excited about from the young shortstop.

Cale Iorg
Position: Shortstop
Height: 6-2
Weight: 180
Born: 9/6/1985
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Background
Iorg was the Tigers sixth round pick in the 2007 June draft, despite not having returned from a two-year Mormon mission in Portugal. Iorg still possessed multiple opportunities once returning to the states in July; with the ability to turn pro by signing with the Tigers or return to college to fill out his remaining eligibility at Alabama or Arizona State (where he was looking to transfer).

As the August signing deadline approached, the Tigers put a seven figure bonus on the table, and Iorg signed on the dotted line. After signing so late, Iorg made brief appearances in both the Gulf Coast League (three games) and Florida State League (five games) before the season ended. The Tigers sent Iorg to Hawaii Winter Baseball for additional work as he tried to shake off the rust from two years away from the game, but a hamstring injury prematurely ended his fall season.

In 2008, Iorg returned to the Florida State League as the everyday shortstop for the High-A Lakeland club, and his season was considered a resounding success given his hiatus. In 99 games, Iorg hit at a .251/.329/.405 clip but showed even more promise as he began to settle in and re-adjust to the speed of the game. Iorg was invited to big league spring training as a non-roster invitee the following spring.

Logically, Cale was promoted to Double-A Erie for the 2009 season, where things never got moving in the right direction. After pre-season comments from Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski, proclaiming Iorg to be a future All-Star, the then 24-year old never put things together. In 129 games against Eastern League foes, Iorg hit a dismal .222 with 149 strikeouts. He still displayed some pop with 17 doubles and 11 home runs, but it wasn't enough.

For further work, Iorg was sent to the Arizona Fall League to play for Tigers Infield Coordinator Kevin Bradshaw. Iorg's struggles continued in the high-octane offensive environment of the AFL, as he hit just .217 with 22 more strikeouts in 17 games.

Scouting Report
Though most fans have long since brushed aside the All-Star prognostications thrown around by the Tigers GM, that doesn't change the fact that Iorg still possesses that raw ability.

Defensive wizardry has become the calling card for Iorg, as he consistently shows a true plus-plus glove with Gold Glove defender. Nearly every observer I spoke with in 2009 insisted that Iorg could be one of the big leagues elite shortstop defenders, immediately. Iorg has outstanding instincts, excellent athleticism, fluidity of movement, soft hands, good range, and a very strong arm. He is the total package defensively, and he only continues to improve as he gets more time on the field.

For all his defensive skills and polish, his offensive game is both very similar and very different. He has a wealth of tools at his disposal when in the batter's box and on the bases, but he is still extremely raw. Iorg has above-average power potential as well as plus speed. What he lacks is consistent pitch recognition and the ability to square the ball routinely. He projects for a below average hit tool.

In speaking with Iorg and several of his instructors throughout the 2009 season, it quickly became apparent that they were working to change many things at once; including his hand position, stance, load, stride, and swing path. With that many changing parts, it was easy to see why Iorg never got things going at the plate.

Even with his struggles commanding the zone and lack of a high contact rate, Iorg still has the pop, speed, and defensive chops to be a big league starter at shortstop.

Performance

Level

Team

AB

AVG

2B

HR

RBI

SO

BB

OBP%

SLG%

AA

Erie

491

.222

17

11

41

149

32

.274

.336


Health Record
The hamstring that sidelined Iorg in 2007 and a little in 2008 has not been a significant problem since. Iorg is an aggressive player that does not back down, and he may be prone to ‘hustle injuries' from time to time. He is athletic, lean, and a diligent worker.

The Future
Despite struggling immensely at Erie in 2009, there is about a 50-50 chance he is promoted to Triple-A Toledo to start the 2010 season. The middle infield is becoming increasingly crowded amongst the prospect ranks, as both Audy Ciriaco and Gustavo Nunez are pushing close behind.

Iorg has some of the purest raw baseball skills of anyone in the organization, but he has yet to translate his offensive skills to the field on a consistent basis. He is never going to be a guy that hits much more than .250-.260 at his best, but combined with his power, speed, and defense, he could be a key component to a contending team.

The 2010 season is going to be a pivotal one in Iorg's career. Another year of stagnation at the plate, and he is likely to be lapped on the shortstop depth chart. A year of progress, improve strike zone control, and improved contact, and Iorg could well be the starting shortstop in Detroit about this time next year.

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


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