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Detroit Tigers 2010 Minor Review
Overall farm talent ranking via Baseball America:
2010 (26) | 2009 (28) | 2008 (29) | 2007 (14) | 2006 (13) | 2005 (29) | 2004 (22)

Record of Major League Team and Affiliate
Majors: [81 – 81] AL Central
AAA: [70 – 73] International League Toledo
AA: [66 – 76] Eastern League Erie
A+: [71 – 67] Florida League Lakeland
A: [62 – 77] Midwest League West Michigan
A(ss): [38 – 37] New York / Pennsylvania League Connecticut
R: [30 – 28] Gulf League

The Run Down
The 2010 season was not great for the Tigers in the majors, but they did receive some surprising help from the minors. Austin Jackson joined Matt Cain in the Alliance against the Fan Graphs Database, Brennan Boesch went from my mini blurb in the 2009 Detroit Tigers Minor League Review to a usable outfielder in fantasy realms, Will Rhymes played like it was the mid-90s during some stretches, and Casper Wells had an impressive showing, but Scott Sizemore disappointed all fantasy players looking for hidden (or not so hidden depending on who you read) value in the middle of the diamond. That’s not even mentioning the mushroom cloud Rick Porcello left behind. Beyond what some rookies did in the majors, one of my (minor league) man crushes (sans Hellickson and Matt Moore among others) in the 2009 offseason was Casey Crosby. He ended up having Tommy John Surgery and returned this year to throw 12 1/3 IP with 10 strikeouts and four walks, along with 21 hits, 15 runs and 12 earned runs at the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League. He was John Sickels’ number 10 ranked pitching prospect in 2009. Returning to Scott Sizemore, look at these two slash lines:  298/.378/.472 in 299 AB with 33 XBH (9Hr) and a 77:31 K:BB and .308/.378/.473 in 292 AB with 31 XBH (8Hr) and a 49:29 K:BB. Notice any large differences? Me neither. Both of the lines are at Triple-A, the first set is from 2009 the second set is from his 2010 season. He could be a post-sleeper sleeper (numbers at the MLB level .224/.296/.336 in 143 AB with 10 XBH (3HR) and a 40:15 K:BB). Lastly, here is some park factor information before you start reading about the prospects:

  • Triple-A Toledo: depressed home runs this year, but is fairly neutral over the last three years
  • Double-A Erie: was an extreme hitters park this year, which is similar to the last three years
  • High-A Lakeland: extremely depressed home runs this year making it a pitchers parks, but last three years say park slightly depresses home runs.
  • Low-A West Michigan: extremely depresses home runs this year which is consistent with the last three years

Graduating Prospects*
#1 (OF) Austin Jackson; #5 (LHP) Daniel Schlereth; #6 (C) Alex Avila; #10 (2B) Scott Sizemore; #12 (RHP) Robbie Weinhardt; #16 (OF) Casper Wells; #25 (OF) Brennan Boesch; (2B) Will Rhymes; (UTL) Don Kelly; (SS) Danny Worth

Arizona Fall League Surprise Rafters
Hitters: #13 (SS) Cale Iorg; (3B) Francisco Martinez; #11 (1B/OF) Ryan Strieby
Pitchers: (RHP) Brooks Brown; (LHP) Matt Hoffman; (RHP) Chance Ruffin; (RHP) Brendan Wise

Players of Interest
Andy Dirks | OF | D.o.B: 1-24-86 | Stats (AA/AAA): .296/.352/.466 | 476 AB | 48 XBH | 15 Hr | .170 ISO | 22/4 SB/CS | 71:38 K:BB | .300 BABIP (AA) and .397 BABIP (AAA)
His prospect status vaguely resembles upside, think fringe upside like Felipe Lopez, but in the outfield. Not sexy, but there is potential 10/20 production. Neither of my main sources (Sickels and Baseball America) have anything on him, other than the fact he was ranked as the Tigers third best center fielder in the minors. Should return to Triple-A to start the 2011 season.

#11 Ryan Strieby | 1B/LF | D.o.B: 8-9-85 | Stats (AAA): .245/.323/.400 | 290AB | 25 XBH | 10 Hr | .155 ISO | 1/1 SB/CS | 85:33 K:BB | .311 BABIP
Has struggled with wrist injuries in the past (broken Hamate bone). Subsequently, Strieby hasn’t been able to display his “above-average power … [or good] bat speed.” He doesn’t project to hit better than .250 in the majors, but could be a .250 hitter with 30 home runs. That’s Carlos Pena in a good year. He is playing in the Fall League this year too. His long term position will be left field as there isn’t a reason to shift Miguel Cabrera. Look for him to return to Triple-A and possibly fill in for Boesch if he hits a sophomore slump. Could potentially vie for a roster spot with Magglio Ordonez on his way out.

#4 Andrew Oliver | LHP | D.o.B: 12-3-87 | Stats (AA/AAA): 8.2 K/9 | 3.5 BB/9 | 3.45 ERA | FIP (see below) | 1.28 WHIP | .9 Hr/9 | 8.1 H/9 | BABIP (see below)
Oliver has a 92 to 93 MPH fastball that can reach the upper 90s with some movement, a two-seam fastball, a good curveball that he doesn’t throw often, a cutter/slider and a changeup. In the past, he doesn’t throw much beyond his fastball. Looking at the stats this year, I’d say he started trusting one of his breaking pitches. His stats this year were good, but his stats became increasingly less impressive at each stop: at Double-A: 3.58 FIP .312 BABIP; at Triple-A 4.29 FIP, .269 BABIP, in the majors, 22 IP with a 7.4 K/9, 5.3 BB/9, .343 BABIP. Each step up the minor league ladder saw his walks increase from 2.9 BB/9 at AA to 4.5 BB/9 at AAA to 5.3 BB/9 at the majors. With Jacob Turner taking all the headlines and hype, I believe Oliver could provide some quality starts in the majors by mid-June or July if the Tigers need a pitcher. Look for him to start at Triple-A with an opportunity to prove himself in Spring Training.

#15 Alfredo Figaro | RHP | D.o.B: 7-7-84 | Stats (AAA): 8.1 K/9 | 2.2 BB/9 | 124 IP | 4.14 ERA | 3.61 FIP | 1.46 WHIP | .9 Hr/9 | 10.3 H/9 | .355 BABIP
Another fringe starter, Figaro throws a 92 to 95 mph fastball that tops out at 98 MPH, a curveball and a slider. He has the make-up of a perfect power reliever, and I believe that is where he’ll be long term.

Charles Furbush | LHP | D.o.B:4-11-86 | Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 10.4 K/9 | 2.3 BB/9 | 159 IP | 4.25 ERA | FIP (see below) | 1.245 WHIP | 1.2 Hr/9 | 8.9 H/9 | BABIP (see below)
Want to know who challenged Matt Moore for the minor league lead in strikeouts for a good portion of the year? You’re looking at him. Furbush, however, was pitching against hitters that were several years his senior to start the season and it showed (High-A: 12.74 K/9, 1.64 BB/9, 77 IP , 3.39 ERA). Double-A still produced good numbers (9.99 K/9, 2.70 BB/9, 33 1/9 IP, 3.24 ERA). Whether it was fatigue or his 87 to 90 mph fastball, slider, changeup combination, Furbush struggled at Triple-A, (6.84 K/9, 2.96 BB/9, 48 2/3 IP, 6.29 ERA). He is more of what his Triple-A ratio line shows, but a better earned run average. Something along the lines of 7.5 K/9 and 3 BB/9 is what Furbush’s upside will be.

Honorable Mentions
#9 Daniel Fields | SS/CF | D.o.B: 1-23-91 | Stats (A+): .240/.343/.371 | 375 AB | 27 XBH | 8 Hr | .131 ISO | 8/9 SB/CS | 119:55 K:BB | .328 BABIP
Considered to be the best pure hitter in the 2009 draft, Fields also scores as the fastest baserunner and best athlete in the Tigers minor league system. He has natural lift on his swing, top end speed (Baseball America says he’s slow out of the box), and good work ethic. His first season was definitely successful, especially considering he was 19 playing at High-A. Moving to center field is almost a certainty for his frame and his speed. There are a lot of strikeouts in only 375 at-bats, but there is some power potential – think 20/20 potential. At only 20 next year, Fields has a bright future.

#24 Wade Gaynor | 3B | D.o.B: 4-19-88 | Stats (A): .286/.354/.436 | 514 AB | 53 XBH | 10 Hr | .150 ISO | 13/5 SB/CS | 111:46 K:BB | .345 BABIP
Has plus-power and was the Tigers top power hitting prospect in the 2009 draft. In college, Gaynor had a 20/20 season but will have to refine his “noisy” swing in professional ball if he wants to repeat those numbers. Has the power potential to turn those 43 doubles into more home runs. Not a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio, but nothing to worry about yet. Look for him to start the year at High-A and potentially move to Double-A if all goes well.

#1 Jacob Turner | RHP | D.o.B: 5-21-91 | Stats (A/A+): 8.0 K/9 | 1.8 BB/9 | 115 1/3 IP | 3.28 ERA | FIP (see below) | 1.12 WHIP | .5 Hr/9 | 8.3 H/9 | BABIP (see below)
Yes, he has the potential to be in the big leagues in 2011. Do I think he makes it there, yeah, but I am not buying that he’ll help you win fantasy championships in 2011. With a 92 to 94 MPH fastball that he can run up to 97 to 98 MPH, there’s a lot to be excited about. Turner also throws a 12-to-6 curveball that needs some work but projects as a plus pitch, and a solid changeup. His sabermetric stats were good at both levels (A: 2.83 FIP | .326 BABIP; A+: 3.20 FIP | .285 BABIP) and could be in the mold of Justin Verlander. He profiles as a top of the rotation pitcher. John Sickels had him rated at the 19th overall pitcher, and he should rise fast on the list. If he was one level closer, he’d receive a high ranking on my new Top 50 list coming out in the beginning of the 2011 year.

#18 Brayan Villarreal | RHP | D.o.B: 5-10-87 | Stats (A+/AA): 9.5 K/9 | 2.5 BB/9 | 129 1/3 IP | 3.55 ERA | FIP (see below) | 1.15 WHIP | 1.0 Hr/9 | 7.7 H/9 | BABIP (see below)
I’m quoting my 2009 blurb because much remains the same, “Great strikeout rate, average walk rate, nothing that makes you question his numbers. He’ll probably get promoted to advance-A and double-A next year. If he keeps similar numbers to these next year, he’ll be on everyone’s sleeper list for 2011 and 2010 September call-ups list.” The call-up didn’t happen, but the (middle of the season) sleeper list could happen. This past year was just what everyone in the Tigers system was hoping for. His advanced metric stats were solid as well (A+: 3.33 FIP | .300 BABIP; AA: 4.25 FIP | .287 BABIP). Look for a Double-A start and a possible call-up.

  1. Steve says:

    Furbrush? Dude should be called up on the strength of that alone.

    Seriously, reading thse posts makes you realise that for every guy that makes it to the majors and is feted or abused for his fantasy prowess (or lack thereof) there are thousads and thousands of guys slogging their guts out at the lower levels, who will probably never make it.

  2. Stephen says:

    @Steve: There were several innuendos that I could have used through the entire article too. Such a shame we’re a family site, or something like that. Also, there are at least 200 pitchers and hitters when you combine foreign leagues and short seasons for each. One of the most difficult things about these articles are ignoring those guys that will never make it. Sucks when the hype almost makes those guys unavoidable.

  3. Steve says:

    @Stephen: It’s kind of sobering to think that some of these guys absolutely dominated their peers in little league, in high school and in college. They were the best of the best wherever they played, yet they still won’t be quite good enough to make it.

    That said, it’s the same in a lot of sports. Any qualifying event for any golf or tennis tournament is stacked with people who can play better than 99.9% of the rest of will ever be able to, but yet they still aren’t quite good enough to bring it at the top level.

  4. Stephen

    Stephen says:

    @Steve: Concur. One of the main difference though about baseball is that they have an entire minor league system to house their prospect and aging veteran prospects. Furthermore, some prospects who never make it can play at Triple-A until they fulfill their dream to make the majors, or choose to retire. You have some minor league stars that play into their mid 30s who never sniff the majors. With the NFL you have college and practice squads. Typically, once they play at college and serve their time on the practice squads, if they haven’t played a down in a regular season game they probably will have to play in the Canadian League, if there at all. The NBA basically has college or the European Leagues, but with the smaller roster sizes and the ability for one superstar to carry a team, you’re either gonna be drafted and be a stud or you’ll get offer a 10-day contract at best. The NHL has a minor league system but I don’t know much about the AHL or the many European leagues (other than the fact that Russia, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and the Czech) have some good leagues.

    I feel baseball has more lifers than the other sports due to their expansive minor leagues (think of all the Dominican leagues and academies). There are baseball players that haven’t done anything since they were 16 but play baseball. If that is all you’ve ever done, toiling in the minors makes sense. Even if they were the best where they came from, to be the best of the best of the rest is difficult.

    I went to high school with one of these players (link is Here). He was awesome at basketball and a stud at baseball. But to be the best of the rest will become his challenge.

  5. Steve says:

    @Stephen: Yeah, you’re right. I guess you can have a rewarding baseball career without making it to the majors.

    And you’re part of an organisation that, depending on the level you’re playing at, looks after most of your overheads/needs.

    For golfers and tennis players, most of them (it’s different, obviously, for the Mickelsons and Tigers of this world) are pretty much on their own. Playing the tour is an expensive business (food, accomodation etc) and if you’re not making the main draw or getting into a tournament and making the cut, the money runs out pretty quick.
    I guess that’s what I was getting at – by any reasonable standards, these guys are fantaistic at what they do, yet they can’t make a living out of it.

  6. Stephen

    Stephen says:

    @Steve: I didn’t even think of the extra business expenses for a tennis player or a golfer.

  7. GopherDay says:

    @Stephen: @Steve: Yeah, sports like tennis and golf can get real expensive real quick. Because you’re playing for yourself. But I know in tennis (and probably golf too) the major companies offer sponsorship to the players (if they’re good enough) and they pay for some travel expenses.

    Basketball is pretty much if you’re not good enough to play in the NBA, then you go to play in Europe. I have a friend that plays on a team in Spain. They pay a good salary, provide room, and pay for all the travel expenses. If you aren’t good enough to play in europe then you go to China, but I don’t know anything about that.

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