Tigers should stalk playoff jungle again
Detroit's system deep enough to handle trading prospects for stars
Before the 2006 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big-league team's Minor League system. Now, it's time to recap all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent draft class.
Detroit went to the World Series this season after surprising everyone with a dominating run that began early in the year. While the presence of Jim Leyland on the bench and veterans in the clubhouse helped make that run possible, the contributions of youngsters meant just as much to what the Tigers did as anything else.
But if Detroit fans are thinking their club dipped into the well and pulled out all the available players, they're mistaken. The Tigers should be near the top of their division again in 2007, and there is plenty of young talent still available to lend a helping hand -- even after three pitchers departed in the deal to acquire Gary Sheffield.
Here's a closer look at some of the players Leyland may be calling in 2007 and beyond.
At the start of the season, MLB.com identified five prospects to keep an eye on. Here's how they fared in 2006:
Brent Clevlen, OF
Clevlen followed up his MVP season in the Class A Advanced Florida State League by reaching the Major Leagues this year, appearing in 31 games for the Tigers and hitting .282 with three homers and six RBIs in 39 at-bats. When not with the Tigers, he spent his time at Double-A Erie, where he hit .230 in 109 games, collecting 11 homers and 45 RBIs, a far cry from the 102 RBIs he totaled in Lakeland in 2005. Still, the fact that he was in Detroit and experienced life on a first-place club can only benefit him in 2007.
Jordan Tata, RHP
Tata also followed up a big 2005 season by reaching the Major Leagues in 2006, posting a 6.14 ERA in 14 2/3 innings with the Tigers. He spent the bulk of the season in Toledo, going 10-6 with a 3.84 ERA in 21 starts for the International League champion Mud Hens. He's not a big strikeout guy, despite his size (6-foot-6), but his low-90s fastball does have a great deal of movement. He figures to contribute to a Detroit staff that is already stocked with young talent.
Wilkin Ramirez, 3B
Ramirez struggled when he did play this season, hitting .225 in 66 games through June 26 before a leg injury sidelined him for virtually the rest of the summer. He came back for one at-bat on July 19 and didn't play again after that. He committed 22 errors and began taking fly balls in instructional league this fall.
Michael Hollimon, SS
The Oral Roberts product had a solid season in the Midwest League, hitting .278 with 15 homers and 54 RBIs. Fifty-seven of his 125 hits went for extra bases. He also stole 19 bases and put up an impressive .386 on-base percentage for West Michigan. His 28 errors, though, were tied for second among Midwest League shortstops.
Jeff Frazier, OF
The former Rutgers star took a step up in competition and a step back in terms of production. Although he hit one more homer than in 2005 at Class A, he drove in eight fewer runs and saw his batting average dip by 59 points to .228. He also had a .279 on-base percentage.
Burke Badenhop, RHP
When the Tigers drafted Badenhop in the 19th round (570 overall) in 2005 out of Bowling Green, there wasn't much attention paid to the pick. Players drafted that low usually don't generate much buzz, but people are beginning to talk about Badenhop. The right-hander completed his second outstanding season for the Tigers, going 14-3 with a 2.84 ERA in 27 starts at West Michigan. He fanned 124 in 171 innings and walked an average of 1.6 batters per nine innings. He's 20-7 with a 2.87 ERA in two seasons as a pro.
Some players were pegged as breakout candidates before the season began. Did they live up to expectations?
Eulogio De La Cruz, RHP
The hard-throwing native of the Dominican Republic had bopped around the lower levels of Detroit's system for three seasons, showing flashes of brilliance. What has intrigued the Tigers most is his power -- he consistently hits 100 mph on the gun -- and the dominating ability he has with his fastball. This season, he began to incorporate his secondary pitches into his repertoire and made a successful leap to the Double-A level, where he went 5-6 with a 3.43 ERA as a starter/reliever for Erie. He still needs to work on his control, but the Tigers thought enough of him to bump him up to Toledo, where he got a pair of starts in the International League playoffs, fanning 15 and walking one in 11 innings.
2006 Draft Recap
1. Andrew Miller, LHP
The southpaw helped pitch North Carolina to the final game of the College World Series. After taking some time off to rest and negotiate, he signed with the Tigers for a $3.55 million bonus. The 6-foot-6 Miller saw action in three games with Lakeland, pitching five scoreless innings, before getting called up to Detroit. He appeared in eight games for the Tigers and got roughed up, allowing eight hits and 10 walks over 10 1/3 innings. Still, he figures to be a staple in the Detroit rotation for years to come.
2. Ronnie Bourquin, 3B
The Ohio State product had a respectable pro debut for Oneonta of the Class A short-season New York-Penn League, hitting .266 with a pair of homers and 24 RBIs in 252 at-bats. He was the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year, so expectations are high. He went a little higher than some front-office types expected him to, but he seemed to adjust well to wooden bats and better pitching. He also had a .391 on-base percentage, drawing 46 walks while striking out 46 times.
3. Brennan Boesch, OF
Boesch seemed to find NY-Penn League pitching a little easier to handle than Bourquin, hitting .291 with five homers and 54 RBIs in 292 at-bats for Oneonta. He finished up strong, batting .317 over his final 10 games. The University of California product is touted as a good athlete who will be a solid run-producer in years to come.
4. Ryan Strieby, 1B
The least productive of the four top picks Detroit sent to Oneonta, Strieby hit .241 with four homers and 25 RBIs. He struck out more than twice as many times as he walked and his on-base percentage was .319.
5. Scott Sizemore, 2B
The Virginia Commonwealth product demonstrated early on that he was an accomplished hitter and kept up a solid pace throughout the season with Oneonta. He finished second in the league, batting .327 (tied for tops in the organization) and led the circuit with 96 hits, outdistancing Boesch, who finished second with 85 hits. He also led the league in runs scored (49) and was fifth in on-base percentage (.394).
2005 Draft Recap
1. Cameron Maybin, OF
Maybin proved to be one of the more dynamic players in the Midwest League this season, easily confirming during his maiden season in the pros that he was worthy of being a first-round pick. He hit .304 (fifth in the Midwest League) as a 19-year-old with nine homers and 69 RBIs, despite being hampered by a finger injury. He stole 27 bases and had a .387 on-base percentage, yet his youth was obvious in his impatience. He fanned 116 times and drew only 50 walks.
2. Chris Robinson, C
Robinson spent the entire season in the Florida State League, the majority of it with Lakeland. He was traded to the Cubs late in the year in the Neifi Perez deal and seemed a bit more energized after the trade, connecting for two of his three homers in only 12 games with Daytona. Overall, he hit .294 with 59 RBIs.
3. Kevin Whelan, RHP
The youngster continued to develop well, posting a 4-1 mark with a 2.67 ERA and 27 saves in the Florida State League. Alas for Tigers' fans, he'll continue his progress in the Yankees' system after being dealt to New York as part of the Gary Sheffield trade.
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