Detroit Tiger's Youth: Ranking the 2009 Prospects

Austin DrakeSenior Analyst IMarch 7, 2009

The 2008 season was rough for the Detroit Tigers, to say the least. With plenty of injuries, a solid group of youngsters got a chance to step up for Detroit, and did just that. 

Which got me thinking, who are the next greats to wear that Olde English "D"? 

I put together a list of players with little or no Major League experience to let you know who's name to remember for the future. 

Just missing the list:Jonah Nickerson, P; Will Rhymes, 2B; Max St. Pierre, C; and Cody Satterwhite, P; and Casey Fien, P. 

10. Mike Holliman, 2B/SS 
(2008 Highest Level of Play: MLB)
A middle-round draft pick for Detroit in 2005 has turned out pretty well so far. After flying through nearly every minor league affiliate for Detroit in three years, Holliman helped fill in for Edgar Renteria last season during an injury. 

In four full seasons in the minors, he never batted above .282 with any team. But, it's Holliman's fielding that has made the Tigers take notice. In his time in the minor's he posted a .979 fielding percentage (FCPT) at second base, his main position. 

I can tell you for sure, he will not start this season with Detroit, but if Adam Everett stumbles or gets injured, expect to see Michael Holliman on your scorecard. 

9. Zach Simons, P 
(2008 Highest Level of Play: A)
Zach Simons came over in the trade to Colorado for Jason Grilli during the 2008 season and will most likely always be accepted, since fans were calling for Grilli's head. In his four seasons playing for Colorado's single-A teams, Simons posted a 15-7 overall record. 

After the mid-season trade, Simons played with Lakeland, Detroit's single-A team, and put up a 5-2 record in 29 appearances and a 2.36 ERA. That great pitching performance will more than likely move him to Double-A to start 2009. 

Don't expect to see Simons until 2010 or maybe even 2011. He has nearly dominant stuff, but the Tigers will groom him until they are sure he is ready for the "Bigs". 

8. Jon Kibler, P 
(2008 Highest Level of Play: A)
Jon Kibler will be entering his third year of professional baseball in 2009, while he has played for only the West Michigan Whitecaps and the Oneonta Tigers so far in his career. At age 20, he started seven games for the GLC Tigers and posted a 3-2 record with 34 strikeouts to just nine walks. 

Just one year later, Kibler was promoted to West Michigan and did not disappoint. He pitched himself to a 14-5 record, with a phenomenal 1.75 ERA in 154.1 innings pitched. That ERA led any pitcher on the team with more than 30 innings worked. 

After sifting through his stats, I regret not ranking this guy a bit higher. He has been pitching for the Tigers in Spring Training so far in Florida. He isn't ready for the MLB yet, but remember his name, you heard it here first. 

7. Danny Worth, SS 
(2008 Highest Level of Play: AAA)
Worth was a second-round pick (91st overall) by Detroit in 2007, and was ranked second on Pepperdine University's all-time doubles leaders. After being drafted in 2007, he started with Single-A Lakeland and by the end of 2008, Danny Worth had worked his way to Triple-A Toledo. 

While most of 2008 was spent at Double-A Erie for Worth, the Tigers have shown that they trust him, promoting him through the levels fairly quickly. With the Erie Seawolves, Worth was 8-for-8 in stolen base opportunities and had a .955 FCPT in 241 attempts at shortstop. 

Many people believe Worth along with Cale Iorg are the shortstops of the future for Detroit. With the Tigers signing Adam Everett for a single season, you may see Danny Worth in 2010. 

6. Brent Clevlen, OF 
(2008 Highest Level of Play: MLB)
I’m not sure if I can legally call this guy a prospect. At age 24, Clevlen has been back and forth from the minor leagues to the majors more than three times in his young career. With the stacked outfield that Detroit has, rotating Brent in has been a difficult task, but he has found a bit of a role coming in for defensive purposes.

Clevlen probably has the best arm for any outfield prospect for Detroit, and he has proven that in games over the past few seasons. In his 41 career games in the outfield, he still has not made a single error and has put out 33 hitters. 

Brent Clevlen will obviously not be a starter in 2009 for the Tigers, but he has a good chance of starting the season on the bench for Jim Leyland’s club. The main time you will see him play this season will most likely be in the last three innings of games for his defensive abilities. 

5. Dusty Ryan, C 
(2008 Highest Level of Play: MLB)
The 2008 trade of Ivan Rodriguez to the Yankees let Dusty Ryan get a chance with Detroit down the stretch. Ryan has absolutely sick power for a young catcher—rumor has it that he has hit the Al Kaline statue at Comerica Park, which would measure upwards of 500 feet. 

A mere steal as Detroit selected Ryan in the 48th round of the amateur draft in 2003. In 2008, 15 runners attempted to steal on Ryan; he gunned out six of them and did not make a single error. Dusty also sported a .318 batting average through 44 at-bats in 2008. 

This guy had a great chance to be the starter in 2009, before the Tigers went out and signed free agents Gerald Laird and Matt Trenor. After those moves, he will most likely start at Triple-A Toledo, but likely will be up at some point in 2009. 

4. Cale Iorg, SS/2B 
(2008 Highest Level of Play: A)
Cale is most likely the front-runner to take over the shortstop position for Detroit in the upcoming years. The Tigers signed Adam Everett in the offseason to push back Iorg’s arrival until somewhere around 2011. Cale has spent two seasons with Detroit’s Single-A team, the Lakeland Tigers, but will move up at some point in 2009.  

In 278 attempts at short in 2008, Cale Iorg posted a .960 FPCT while making 16 errors.

As for batting, that’s not exactly his strong suit.

In 2008, Iorg hit .251 with 111 strikeouts. He can, however, hit for extra bases; in his 96 hits, 15 were doubles, and 10 were home runs. 

Iorg, like I said before, will not see big league time until at least 2010, with 2011 being a more realistic arrival.

His OPS of .734 might move him through the minor leagues for the Tigers, and remember him along with previously mentioned Danny Worth to take over at short. 

3. Ryan Perry, P 
(2008 Highest Level of Play: A)
Perry was a first-round selection of the Tigers in 2008 after he had a phenomenal career at the University of Arizona. Ryan Perry can hit upwards of 100 MPH on any given day, and has impressed so far in Detroit. 

After the 2008 draft, Perry pitched out of the bullpen for Single-A Lakeland, appearing in 12 games. He went 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA throughout that time period. In those 12 appearances, Perry picked up four saves while allowing only seven walks and recording 12 strikeouts. 

Many say Ryan has a solid chance of starting 2009 with the Tigers, but I’m not so sure. I believe Perry will start the season with Triple-A Toledo, and may get called up if Detroit is looking for a little gas out of the bullpen. 

2. Wilkin Ramirez, OF 
(2008 Highest Level of Play: AAA)
This guy has spent five seasons with Detroit in their minor leagues, playing at every level so far, except the Major Leagues. Ramirez attended the 2009 Tiger Fest—where fans get a chance to meet players—as a result of Detroit putting more trust in him and knowing his talent. 

Wilkin Ramirez is a career .263 hitter in the minors, his career best was in 2008 with the Erie Seawolves, hitting .303 in 433 at-bats. Ramirez does have some pop in that bat though; in his 484 career hits in the minors, 147 have been for extra bases.

Wilkin can also move around the bases with his speed.  In five seasons, he has stolen 76 percent of the bases he has attempted to swipe. 

Wilkin is just another great young player who could have a shot to come off the bench for Detroit in 2009. But, with many other players—Brent Clevlen, Ryan Raburn, and Clete Thomas—at the same level he's at, it will not be easy. I expect Wilkin to start 2009 with Triple-A Toledo and make his pro debut when any of those three just listed stumble.

1. Rick Porcello, P 
(2008 Highest Level of Play: A) 
Porcello was a 2007, first-round selection by Detroit and played his first full season in 2008 with Single-A Lakeland Tigers. According to, Rick Porcello has a 96 of 100 efficiency rating and is ranked the best Tigers prospect two years running. 

In 2008, Porcello started 24 games for Lakeland and posted a 8-6 record with just a dominant 2.66 ERA in his 125 innings pitched. Rick also struck out more than double of what he walked (72 K, 33 BB) in that time frame. His per/9 stats are amazing as well, giving up .5 home runs per nine innings and striking out close to six per nine. 

Expect to see Porcello at some point in 2009, likely to make a spot start here and there. Jim Leyland said that he is leaving the fifth starter spot open to Porcello if he can perform high enough to take it. If Nate Robertson, Dontrelle Willis or any other starters jerk around in 2009, don’t think Leyland won’t make the call to the minors to let Porcello work.

There you have it, my top ten Detroit Tigers prospects to keep an eye on in 2009. If you believe I’m leaving somebody else, or if I added a player who doesn’t belong, let me hear about it.