Detroit Tigers' Top-Five Prospects For 2009
1. Rick Porcello, RHP, 12/27/1988
Porcello, a native of New Jersey, was viewed as one of the best talents in the 2007 draft.
Represented by Scott Boras, Porcello had high contract demands and it resulted in him falling to the 27th pick. He ended up signing a $7 million Major League contract and bypassed a chance to play at the college level for North Carolina, where he had signed a letter of intent.
Porcello spent all of last season with High-A Lakeland and had an impressive showing for a 19-year-old at that level: 125 IP, 116 H, 33 BB, 72 K.
The strikeout rate was disappointing, but he had a 65% groundball rate, which led the league. A high groundball rate is important because it means fewer homeruns and extra base hits, which in turn, leads to fewer runs allowed.
Porcello, who features a low-to-mid 90s fastball, a changeup, a slider, and a curve, has the potential to be an ace.
He should begin next year with AA-Erie. He could get a cup of coffee late in the season and should continue to move quickly for a high school product.
2. Ryan Perry, RHP, 2/13/1987
A product of the University of Arizona, Perry was picked 21st in last June's draft and could be fast tracked to the majors.
He managed to squeeze in 13.2 IP at the end of the season between the GCL Tigers and Lakeland. He allowed 15 hits and seven walks while striking out 12.
Perry can throw his fastball anywhere between 93 and 98 MPH, but he also has a good change and a good slider.
Opinion was split as far as what role Perry would assume—starter or reliever. He pitched exclusively out of the pen at the end of the year and it's expected that it's the role he'll be in as a major leaguer.
He has future closer written all over him, and that's a good thing since the Tigers are in dire need of one. Fernando Rodney isn't the answer and Joel Zumaya can't stay healthy.
Perry likely will begin 2009 in AA but may not need much more time in the minors before he's in the Tigers bullpen.
3. Wilkin Ramirez, OF, 10/25/1985
Ramirez was always a guy thought to have a lot of tools, but he never stayed healthy and never really produced when he was.
Last year, he finally did both.
In 433 AB for Erie, he hit .303 and showcased an intriguing blend of power and speed. He hit 24 doubles, seven triples, and 19 long balls and complemented it by going 26-for-38 in stolen base attempts.
The 19 homers were sixth-best in the league while the 26 steals were tied for second best.
He didn't walk that much—just 43 times—and he struck out too often, tying for the league lead with 138.
Those kinds of problems quickly ended a mid season promotion to AAA-Toledo, where he went 3-for-36 with one walk and 11 K's. He went back down to Erie but continued to hit the rest of the way.
Look for Ramirez to give AAA another shot to open 2009. Barring another collapse, he'll debut in Motown sometime during the year and could contend for a starting corner outfield spot in 2010.
4. Brandon Hamilton, RHP, 12/25/1988
A supplemental first round pick in 2007, Hamilton has one of the highest upsides of any pitcher in the organization.
He began 2008 with Low-A West Michigan, but had a rough go of it. In 32.1 IP, he surrendered 34 hits and 28 walks while striking out 22.
He was demoted to the Gulf Coast League and found things a bit easier. He pitched 38 innings, allowing 27 hits and 13 walks. He fanned 43.
It's likely that Hamilton was simply wasn't ready for the assignment to West Michigan. Since he performed well in the GCL, I'd expect him to be given another test in West Michigan to start 2009.
He has a low 90s fastball and a power curve that some say rivals the one Porcello has. His command needs work and he needs to develop a third pitch, but he has toyed with a changeup in the past.
Born on Christmas day, Hamilton could eventually be a real gift to the organization. His ceiling is quite high, though he's a long way from reaching it.
5. Casey Crosby, LHP, 9/17/88
Like Porcello, Crosby fell in the draft due to a high price tag. He slipped to the fifth round, but eventually signed for $748,500, the equivalent of first round money.
He underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after the draft and didn't make his professional debut until the final weeks of this past season.
There's not much on the numbers front to go on with Crosby, who only threw 4.2 innings in the summer for the GCL Tigers.
Scouting wise, there's a lot to love. At 6'5"/205 lbs, he has a prototypical power pitcher's build. He has a mid 90s fastball, but his breaking pitches, his command, and his mechanics need a lot of work.
Still, lefthanders with that combination of size and heat are hard to come by and if everything else comes together, he could become a front of the rotation pitcher.
Crosby has only been a full-time pitcher since 2006, so between that and the Tommy John surgery, he's especially raw for a 20-year-old pitcher.
Prior to becoming a full-time pitcher, he spent time in center field and was an All-State wide receiver on his high school's football team.
The Tigers will be patient with Crosby. Depending on how he looks in the spring, he could open 2009 with West Michigan or he could be held back until the short season leagues begin their seasons in June.