Top Ten Prospects: Detroit Tigers
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Pat Caputo
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2004.
2. Brent Clevlen, of
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190.
Background: Clevlen was a versatile high school athlete who could have played college football as a quarterback if not for his prowess on the diamond, where he starred as an outfielder and pitcher. He outdueled Expos 2002 first-rounder Clint Everts in the Texas 5-A playoffs shortly before signing for $805,000. A second-round pick, he has outperformed No. 8 overall selection Scott Moore, his teammate in each of his first two pro seasons.
Strengths: Clevlen is a fluid, natural athlete with a terrific swing. He’s a selective hitter who uses the entire field. Low Class A West Michigan’s notoriously pitcher-friendly Fifth Third Ballpark hurt his numbers last year, but he revealed his power potential on the road, hitting .290 with 10 homers in 70 games. He has good instincts, solid speed and a strong right-field arm.
Weaknesses: Clevlen’s biggest fault as a hitter is that he can be too passive and fall behind in the count. He sometimes takes questionable routes on fly balls and has trouble with balls hit directly over his head.
The Future: He’ll begin this year in high Class A, where he’ll again team up with Moore. Clevlen is on course to reach Detroit in mid-2006.
3. Joel Zumaya, rhp
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210.
Background: When the Tigers drafted Zumaya, they figured he was just another high school righty with raw arm strength who would need time to develop. But his fastball gained velocity and he has progressed much faster than expected. He would have led minor league starters in strikeouts per nine innings last year (12.6) had he pitched enough innings to qualify.
Strengths: Zumaya’s fastball consistently reaches the mid-90s, and he has hit 97-98 mph on several occasions. He also has uncanny velocity on a nasty curveball, throwing it in the low 80s. He has a bulldog approach and takes to coaching well. Improved mechanics are the key to his improved stuff.
Weaknesses: Zumaya has a maximum-effort delivery, which led to back problems that knocked him out for six weeks last year. He sometimes drops his arm angle, causing his pitches to flatten out. He needs more consistency with his curve and a great deal of refinement with his changeup, which he doesn’t throw often enough.
The Future: If Zumaya stays healthy, he could reach Double-A by midseason. His approach, power stuff and lack of a changeup could make him a closer in the long run.
4. Rob Henkel, lhp
Age: 25. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210.
Background: Henkel was the key piece for Detroit in the January 2003 trade that sent Mark Redman to Florida and also netted Gary Knotts and Nate Robertson. Henkel pitched up to expectations in Double-A, but back spasms that forced him to miss time marred his season.
Strengths: Henkel is a legitimate three-pitch lefthander. His fastball consistently touches 90 mph and while it doesn’t have a lot of movement, he locates it well. His out pitch is a tight curveball—the best in the system—that he commands well. His changeup is also effective and he throws it for strikes. He has a high three-quarters delivery that seems difficult for hitters to pick up.
Weaknesses: Henke’s health is a major question mark. He had Tommy John surgery at UCLA and came down with shoulder problems shortly after he signed in 2000, costing him velocity on what had been a 93-95 mph heater. Even when he’s going good, his teams hold their breath wondering if he’s about to break down.
The Future: Added to the 40-man roster this offseason, Henkel is good enough to pitch in the majors in 2004 if he can stay healthy. He’ll start the year in Triple-A.
5. Tony Giarratano, ss
Age: 21. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 180.
Background: Giarratano had arguably the best all-around tools among college shortstops in the 2003 draft, and his all-star debut in the short-season New York-Penn League did nothing to detract from his claim. After hitting .238 for Tulane and .187 in the Cape Cod League in 2002, he improved markedly at the plate last year.
Strengths: He stands out defensively and ranks just behind Anderson Hernandez among the system’s infielders. Giarratano has plus speed and a strong, accurate arm. His hands and actions are also better than average. A natural righthanded hitter, he’s more effective from the left side. He made an easy transition from aluminum bats and should be able to hit for average with gap power and a few steals.
Weaknesses: Giarratano handles the bat well but must improve his patience. He won’t have much power, so he’ll need good on-base skills.
Background: Giarratano entered the organization at a perfect time. The Tigers were disappointed by upper-level shortstops Omar Infante, Ramon Santiago and Anderson Hernandez in 2003. Even after trading Santiago for Carlos Guillen, Detroit will give Giarratano the chance to move quickly. He’ll skip a level and play in high Class A this year.
6. Cody Kirkland, 3b
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200.
Background: The Tigers had no intention of going to arbitration with Randall Simon after the 2002 season, so they traded him to the Pirates for three players, most notably Kirkland. Because Kirkland signed in late May 2002, he couldn’t switch organizations until a year later, so he began last season in extended spring training.
Strengths: Kirkland is an impressive hitter with a compact stroke and projectable power. He drives balls to all fields and has a decent idea of the strike zone. Defensively, he has average range and arm strength to go with good hands. He’s a smart player who likes to compete.
Weaknesses: While Kirkland has topped .300 in each of his two pro seasons, he’ll have to make more consistent contact to do well against more advanced pitchers. The accuracy of his throws varies, the main reason behind his 15 errors in 65 games last summer.
The Future: Kirkland would have started 2003 in low Class A if not for the trade. He’ll probably head there rather than high Class A this year because 2002 first-rounder Scott Moore is one level ahead of him.
7. Scott Moore, 3b
Age: 20. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180.
Background: Moore was drafted eighth overall in 2002 as a shortstop and spent his first pro season playing there. Scouts and club officials projected him as a third baseman, and he made the move last spring. He spent three weeks in extended spring training learning the position before going to low Class A.
Strengths: Moore’s calling card is his classic lefthanded stroke. When he makes contact, he hits the ball hard and shows considerable power potential. He has soft hands and good arm strength.
Weaknesses: Moore has struck out 141 times in 147 games as a pro, more the result of his inconsistent approach than his swing. He’s overaggressive at times and not aggressive enough at others. He has trouble with the footwork at third base, which leads to bad throws and errors. He doesn’t run well, especially for someone drafted as a shortstop.
The Future: Moore looks like a one-dimensional player who will go as far as his bat will carry him, and he’s going to have to make adjustments if it’s going to carry him to the majors. The Tigers would like to move Moore to high Class A to begin 2004, but they question whether he’s ready for the leap.
8. Curtis Granderson, of
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180.
Background: Granderson was the runner-up in the NCAA Division I (.483) and New York-Penn League (.344) batting races in 2002. After continuing to impress during spring training last year, he skipped a level and jumped to high Class A. Though his numbers weren’t as good, he maintained his consistency against significantly better competition.
Strengths: Granderson has no trouble hitting for average with his short stroke, ability to make contact and willingness to use all fields. He has no glaring weakness in his game. He has gap power, runs OK and can play all three outfield positions.
Weaknesses: Though Granderson doesn’t have any big holes, his only standout tool is his hitting. He’s not a big home run or stolen base threat, and he fits best in left field, where he’ll have to do more than hit for average. Because he puts the bat on the ball with ease, he doesn’t draw a lot of walks and doesn’t always wait for the best pitch to hit.
The Future: Granderson will advance to Double-A in 2004 and could reach Detroit sometime next year. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be a solid big league regular or just a good fourth outfielder.
9. Jay Sborz, rhp
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 210.
Background: The Tigers believe they landed a first-round talent when they got Sborz with the 40th overall pick last June. He had one of the best pure arms in the draft, and it cost $865,000 to sign him away from a commitment to Arizona State. He looked raw in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League but pitched better during instructional league.
Strengths: Sborz is a true power pitcher. He has a 93-95 mph fastball and a hard, sharp-breaking slider that often touches 80. He has a strong frame with room to grow, so there’s more velocity in there. Some scouts project that he could put up triple digits on the radar gun.
Weaknesses: Sborz has a violent delivery and doesn’t repeat his arm slot or pitches well. He struggles to throw strikes and has no semblance of a changeup. Some teams were concerned about his immaturity, but the Tigers say his behavior has been good.
The Future: Sborz showed enough during instructional league to possibly earn a spot in low Class A this year. Detroit will use him as a starter to give him innings, but his explosive fastball and lack of offspeed stuff could lead to a future as a closer.
10. Kenny Baugh, rhp
Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 190.
Background: The 11th overall pick in 2001, Baugh pitched well in Double-A that summer and seemed on the verge of joining Detroit’s rotation. But shoulder problems surfaced that August, requiring arthroscopic surgery to repair a labrum tear. He missed all of 2002 and didn’t look the same when he returned last year.
Strengths: Baugh knows how to pitch. He has excellent command of his fastball and can work it to any quadrant of the strike zone. His curveball might be his best pitch and was more consistent than ever in 2003. He also has a good changeup, giving him the chance to have three average pitches. His makeup and work ethic are excellent.
Weaknesses: Baugh didn’t light up the radar gun before he got hurt, usually pitching at 90 mph, and his velocity was down to 85-88 in 2003. The movement on his fastball is also ordinary, so it can get hammered if he doesn’t locate it with precision. There also are obvious concerns about his shoulder.
The Future: Baugh will begin 2004 in Triple-A. How far he goes depends on his ability to stay healthy and regain arm strength.