Detroit Tigers: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: David Dombrowski
Farm Director: Glenn Ezell
Scouting Director: David Chadd

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

This was a tough organization to rank. There is very little in the system in terms of impact talent, aside from a couple of 2009 amateur draft picks (Jacob Turner, Daniel Fields), but ’09 picks were omitted from consideration for the Top 10 list. Casey Crosby has a chance to be an impact talent, but he’s just in low-A ball. The club has a couple of interesting catching prospects in Alex Avila, and Dusty Ryan, who just missed making the Top 10 list. The system is getting better but it’s a slow process, especially when the big-league club is trying to win now.

1. Casey Crosby, LHP, low-A
DOB: September 1988 Bats: R Throws: L
Signed: 2007 5th round – Illinois HS
MLB ETA: Mid-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-94 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Crosby is currently sandwiched in between Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner as the best young pitcher in the organization. He needs to keep developing if he’s going to avoid being surpassed by Turner in 2010. Crosby made just three appearances in his debut season in ’08 after being drafted in ’07 without making an appearance thanks to Tommy John surgery. That makes his numbers in ’09 all the more impressive. The walk rate of 4.13 BB/9 can be blamed partially on the long layoff. Beyond that, though, Cosby had few issues, as he posted a 2.80 FIP, 10.06 K/9 rate and allowed just three homers in 104.2 innings (0.26 HR/9). His 50+% ground-ball rate was nice, as was the line-drive rate of just 11.7%. There could be some concern with the huge increase in innings that Crosby pitched in ’09 compared to ’08 (4.2 IP) but he does have a big, strong frame.

2. Ryan Strieby, 1B, double-A
DOB: August 1985 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 4th round – University of Kentucky
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3

Injuries derailed his season, but Strieby still showed some improvements in ’09 over his ’08 season, with an excellent .445 wOBA in 86 double-A games. Overall, the first baseman hit .303/.427/.565 with a .262 ISO in 294 at-bats. His power will likely be muted somewhat by playing in Detroit, but his OPS has increased with each level he’s played at and his walk rate jumped from 9.9 to 16.2 BB% in the past year. On the down side, the strikeout rate was a little high, even for a power hitter, at 27.2 K%. Defensively, he saw time at both first base and left field, where his work left something to be desired. Strieby’s bat should be ready for the Majors in 2010, and he could see time at first base and designated hitter.

3. Alex Avila, C, Majors
DOB: January 1987 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2008 5th round – University of Alabama
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

Avila has shocked just about everyone with his quick development since turning pro in ’08. A fifth-rounder, he arrived in The Show in ’09 and promptly hit .279/.375/.590 in limited duty (61 ABs). He’s shown excellent patience in pro ball, including a walk rate of 13.6 BB% in double-A this past season. His strikeout rate was a little high at 23.4 K%, but he did post an ISO of .185. One knock on Avila is that he needs to improve against southpaws if he’s going to avoid the platoon; he hit just .216/.300/.392 against left-handers at double-A. Even if his batting average stays low in the .240-.260 range, Avila has value due to his patience at the plate and developing, left-handed power. He’s solid defensively and he threw out 44% of base stealers in double-A – but just 27% in the Majors.

4. Scott Sizemore, 2B, triple-A
DOB: January 1985 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 5th round – Virginia Commonwealth University
MLB ETA: Early-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3

He has yet to play in the Majors, but Sizemore is currently being considered for the everyday second base job in 2010, if incumbent Placido Polanco leaves via free agency, as expected. The keystone prospect rebounded from an injury-marred season in ’08 to hit .300-plus at both double-A and triple-A. At the lower level, Sizemore produced a triple-slash line of .307/.402/.535 in 228 at-bats. Then in triple-A, he hit .308/.378/.473 with an ISO of .164 in 292 at-bats. The right-handed hitter showed more power in ’09 than he has at any point in his career. He also has good patience at the plate with a career walk rate above 10%. Along with 15 homer potential, the 24-year-old prospect could steal 10-15 bases. Defensively, Sizemore will not come close to matching Polanco’s defensive value.

5. Wilkin Ramirez, OF, Majors
DOB: October 1985 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2003 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

Ramirez had a respectable season in triple-A in ’09, and he has an intriguing combination of speed (33 steals in 43 attempts) and power (.187 ISO). Quite possibly a future 20-20 guy if he gets the chance to play everyday, Ramirez likely won’t hit for a high average due to his high strikeout rates (32.9 K% in triple-A in ’09). The converted third baseman is also not a good fielder despite a strong arm that is good enough for right field; he’s stuck in left, thanks to poor routes and range. If the 24-year-old prospect can curb his whiffs and show a little more drive, he could develop into an above-average regular. Otherwise, he’ll likely never reach his full potential.

6. Robbie Weinhardt, RHP, double-A
DOB: December 1985 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 10th round – Oklahoma State University
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-94 mph fastball, curveball

One of the many ’08 college relievers drafted by the Tigers organization, Weinhardt is my personal favorite. The right-hander has done a respectable job of missing bats while showing solid control (save for double-A in ’09), and he’s also posted nice strikeout rates, including a rate of 11.27 K/9 in 67.0 high-A innings over two seasons (’08-’09). In close to 100 career innings, Weinhardt has allowed just three homers. He posted a line-drive rate of 12.9% in ’09. The right-hander showed his late-inning moxie by allowing a batting average of .160 with runners in scoring position and a LOB rate of 87%. He could very well be helping out the big-league bullpen by mid-2010; although his stuff is not as electric as Ryan Perry’s, Weinhardt is a better all-around pitcher at this point.

7. Cody Satterwhite, RHP, double-A
DOB: January 1987 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 2nd round – University of Mississippi
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 92-97 mph fastball, slider, change-up

Satterwhite was one of the hard-throwing college relievers nabbed during the ’08 draft. The right-hander did not progress quite as well as hoped during his college career after demanding (and failing to get) big money coming out of high school. Command and control issues have always been a concern for Satterwhite, who posted a walk rate of 4.93 BB/9 at double-A in ’09. In 49.1 innings of work, he allowed 46 hits and posted a strikeout rate of 9.49 K/9. His ground-ball rate improved almost 10% over ’08 to 47%. Satterwhite did quite well against left-handed batters and held them to a .179 batting average, with a strikeout rate of 11.19 K/9. Because of his control issues, he’s probably going to top out as an eighth-inning guy if that doesn’t change.

8. Brennan Boesch, OF, double-A
DOB: April 1985 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2006 3rd round – University of California
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3

The lack of overall depth in the system – especially amongst the bats – helps to move Boesch up the depth chart. You cannot argue with his power, as the left-handed hitter posted an ISO of .235 at double-A in ’09. At 6’6”, Boesch could simply be a late bloomer, as larger hitters tend to need extra time to learn to repeat their swings. However, his walk rate of 5.9 BB% leaves something to be desired; the highest OBP he’s posted in the past three seasons is .318, with the lowest being .297. Not the fleetest of foot, the outfielder has shown that he’s a pretty smart base runner after stealing 11 bases in 13 attempts this past year, as well as 15 of 19 in ’07. His career OPS of .654 against southpaws suggests that a platoon role is in Boesch’s MLB future.

9. Alfredo Figaro, RHP, Majors
DOB: July 1984 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2004 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2
Repertoire: 89-93 mph fastball, plus curveball, change-up

Figaro has posted some solid FIPs in the minors without rising above 3.86 in the past four seasons. In ’09, he allowed just 67 hits in 80 innings of work in double-A, while posting a 3.67 FIP. He also continued to show solid command with a walk rate of 2.59 BB/9 and his strikeout rate hit its highest mark in four years at 7.76 K/9. Promoted to the Majors, Figaro struggled by allowing 23 hits, and three homers (1.59 HR/9), in 17 innings of work. The right-hander struggled with his control and posted a walk rate of 5.29 BB/9 in the small sample size. The 24-year-old hurler does not have the biggest arm in the system, but he’s got more than enough to offer in the back end of the rotation as a fourth starter – especially if he can get his ground-ball rate back above 50%, where it was in ’06-’08. He also needs to improve his change-up against left-handed hitters (.331 vs .218 in double-A).

10. Luis Marte, RHP, triple-A
DOB: August 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2005 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-93 mph fastball, slider, change-up

Perhaps a bit of a controversial pick to appear on the Top 10 list, Marte has shown solid control in his career, including a 2.39 BB/9 rate in ’09 at double-A. He’s hit a bit of a wall the past two seasons in double-A but he’s also struggled with his health. At just 5’11”, the slight right-hander may be better suited to bullpen work to help ease some of the strain on his body. It could also help him since he struggles against left-handed hitters when he cannot command his change-up, which is his third-best pitch. Marte needs to work down in the zone more often, as well, and he allowed a home-run rate of 1.54 HR/9 in ’09. It will be interesting to see what the 23-year-old right-hander can do during a full healthy season.

Up Next: The Pittsburgh Pirates

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Shooty Babbit
14 years ago

I wish you guys would give grades on the prospects so we could compare/contrast them with prospects on other teams. 1-10 scale or A-F. Something. Some systems are weak so being their #5 prospect isn’t the same as being #5 on a strong system.

Wouldn’t take much extra effort. The site still rocks though. 🙂