Tigers Prospect Profile: LJ Gagnier

LJ Gagnier has been one of the unsung workhorses in the minor leagues for the last few years, and he has gotten off to a nice start with Double-A Erie this year. What should fans expect from him in the future?

LJ Gagnier
Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Height: 6-2
Weight: 215
Born: 2/28/1985
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Signed by the Tigers for $67,000 as a 10th round pick in the 2006 draft, Gagnier brought plenty of big time college experience to the table after pitching at college baseball power Cal State Fullerton. In his final year on campus, Gagnier was tied for tops in the nation with 14 wins, was named a 3rd team All-American, and earned All-Big West Conference honors with his 2.80 ERA.

Signing later that summer, Gagnier reported to Oneonta for his professional debut, seeing action in 25 1/3 innings, spanning nine games. He posted a 0.70 ERA and struck out 21 hitters in his first taste of pro ball.

Gagnier's first full season in pro ball saw him working from the West Michigan rotation for the bulk of the season, starting 22 games for the Whitecaps, and finishing with a 5-11 record. Gagnier battled his command throughout the year, walking 60 hitters and throwing 15 wild pitches in just 143 2/3 innings.

Back in West Michigan to start the 2008 season, Gagnier struck out 79 in 75 1/3 innings over 14 starts; posting a 4.42 ERA. Throughout the remainder of the summer, he bounced around between Lakeland, Erie, and Toledo, making another 13 starts.

Though some in the organization were eager to push to Double-A Erie to start the 2009 season, he began the year in High-A Lakeland and posted a 3.83 ERA in 134 innings before being promoted to Double-A. He walked only 40 hitters while in Lakeland, and struck out 123. The Tigers named Gagnier their Lakeland Pitcher of the Year. In his two starts with Erie, Gagnier was 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA.

Back in Erie to start this season, LJ was posting some impressive numbers before he was promoted to Triple-A to backfill the loss of Alfredo Figaro to Detroit. It is likely he will be shifted back down to the Erie rotation once things settle out from all the moves between Erie and Toledo.

Scouting Report
Not the impressive stuff guy that many of the Tigers pitching prospects are, but Gagnier can throw strikes with as many as five pitches. He throws both a four-seam and two-seam fastball. The four-seamer will work consistently at 87-89, and touch 91 on good days, while the two-seamer tends to work a little lower but with more movement late.

Several scouts have reported seeing both a slider and curveball that can work as slightly below-average to fringe-average pitches. He knows how to mix both pitches in and use them off of his fastball well. His change-up is an potential above-average pitch with rolling action, and he can consistently work it low in the zone.

Gagnier is a durable pitcher with thick legs and a nice arm action. He ball comes out of his hand clean and he repeats his delivery well. He holds the running game pretty well, and fields his position with ease.

He is a low key guy, but he competes hard and has a good head for the game. He thinks on the mound and works to keep hitters off balance with both location and pitch selection.

Though he's showed quite well as a starter at times throughout the system, Gagnier projects more as an organizational arm or maybe a middle reliever at the big league level. He doesn't have the raw stuff to really stand out, and he's likely to be lapped by better prospects. His greatest asset to the organization may be his durability, which will allow him to take the mound regularly in the upper minor leagues.
























Health Record
Gagnier has been largely healthy as a pro, and managed the same while in college. He uses his thick legs well in his delivery, and his mechanics are pretty smooth. His arm has the resiliency to bounce back in both a starting and a relief role, which gives him added versatility and value.

The Future
Gagnier's immediate future probably involves a trip back to Erie to work in the Double-A rotation. His stuff doesn't overwhelm, but there's enough there in terms of intangibles and know-how that he could carve out a nice job in the Double-A/Triple-A range. If some manager falls in love with him or if injuries plague a team at some point, he could get a brief big league look as a middle reliever.

Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @TigsTownMark or Twitter.com/TigsTownMark.

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