Tigers Top 10 Prospects
By Pat Caputo
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HSPasco, Wash., 2001 (1st round). Signed by: Gary McGraw (Athletics).
Background: Bonderman was acquired from Oakland along with first baseman Carlos Pena and closer Franklyn German in a three-way trade that sent Jeff Weaver, Detroits top player and 1998 first-round pick, to the Yankees. The trade was made in July, but the Tigers couldnt officially acquire Bonderman until one year after his original signing (Aug. 22, 2001). He was in the news the previous summer as well, when he became the first player ever drafted after his junior year in high school. He was eligible because he was 18 and had received his GED diploma. Bonderman didnt make his pro debut until 2002 because he signed late, and Oakland challenged him by sending him straight to high Class A. Considering his age and experience, he was spectacular. He hadnt even pitched much in instructional league in 2001, logging just three innings.
Strengths: Bonderman has every tool to be a No. 1 starter in the major leagues. His fastball is consistently in the 92-94 mph range with movement, and there are times when he throws harder. His slider is sharp and he commands it well. Given his limited experience, Bonderman also has made excellent progress with his changeup. Hes competitive and wants the ball, displaying a bulldog mentality on the mound. He has a strong frame, which bodes well for his durability.
Weaknesses: To reach his potential, Bonderman will need better command of his pitches, particularly his fastball. When he falls behind in the count, at times he comes in with less than his best stuff over the heart of the plate. He gave up 18 homers in 157 innings in 2002. Bonderman got better each month of the season until fading in August, so hell have to get accustomed to the long grind of pro ball.
The Future: Though Bonderman is just 20, the Tigers have no intention of bringing him along slowly. Barring injury or a poor performance during spring training, hell begin 2003 at Double-A Erie. Bonderman has maturity beyond his age, three above-average pitches and a grounded and competitive makeup. Its not inconceivable that he could reach the majors late in the season, though 2004 is a more likely timetable.
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