Plenty of talent left in Tigers system

Plenty of talent left in Tigers system

Before the 2008 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big league team's Minor League system. Now it's time to recap and analyze all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent Draft class.

Things didn't quite work out the way anyone expected in Detroit this season, did they?

Pundits, prognosticators and average Joes all were ready to hand the Tigers the American League Central after they acquired Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from the Marlins last winter. Cabrera had a nice season, putting up career totals in homers (37) and RBIs (127), though his batting average did fall nearly 30 points from 2007.

Little else, however, went right for Detroit this season. Perhaps in 2009, the farm system will be able to step in and provide the extra lift the Tigers needed. There's certainly enough talent in the organization, despite having traded away a veritable Minor League All-Star team in recent years to upgrade the Major League roster.

As winter sets in early in Detroit, the front office will have to take stock and decide whether to rely on its own system or look elsewhere to change the club's direction. Based on the talent the Tigers have down on the farm, asking some of their own players to help might be a prudent move.

Organizational Players of the Year

MiLB.com Preseason Picks

Michael Hollimon, 2B: Holliman had made a steady climb through the Detroit system, displaying power, speed and an ability to get on base. But 2008 was a disaster for the former 16th-rounder from Oral Roberts. He injured his shoulder in Spring Training and got off to a slow start. When he began to heat up in May, he got a call from the Tigers, joining the parent club in June. He did well enough in Detroit, hitting .261 with a homer and two RBIs in 23 at-bats, but hit only .154 upon his return to Toledo after the break. It turns out he needed surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder, which he underwent last month. He'll miss half of next season while recovering.
Hollimon hits walk-off HR for Hens


•  Monday, Oct. 6: Washington Nationals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 7: Seattle Mariners
•  Wednesday, Oct. 8: San Diego Padres
•  Thursday, Oct. 9: Pittsburgh Pirates
•  Friday, Oct. 10: Baltimore Orioles
•  Monday, Oct. 13: Atlanta Braves
•  Tuesday, Oct. 14: San Francisco Giants
•  Wednesday, Oct. 15: Cincinnati Reds
•  Thursday, Oct. 16: Colorado Rockies
•  Friday, Oct. 17: Detroit Tigers
•  Monday, Oct. 20: Kansas City Royals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 21: Oakland Athletics
•  Wednesday, Oct. 22: Texas Rangers
•  Thursday, Oct. 23: Cleveland Indians
•  Friday, Oct. 24: Arizona Diamondbacks
•  Monday, Oct. 27: Florida Marlins
•  Tuesday, Oct. 28: Toronto Blue Jays
•  Wednesday, Oct. 29: St. Louis Cardinals
•  Thursday, Oct. 30: Houston Astros
•  Friday, Oct. 31: Minnesota Twins
•  Monday, Nov. 3: New York Yankees
•  Tuesday, Nov. 4: New York Mets
•  Wednesday, Nov. 5: Los Angeles Angels
•  Thursday, Nov. 6: Chicago White Sox
•  Friday, Nov. 7: Milwaukee Brewers
•  Monday, Nov. 10: Chicago Cubs
•  Tuesday, Nov. 11: Boston Red Sox
•  Wednesday, Nov. 12: LA Dodgers
•  Thursday, Nov. 13: Tampa Bay Rays
•  Friday, Nov. 14: Philadelphia Phillies

Duane Below, LHP: Below had a big season at West Michigan in 2007, leading the Midwest League in victories (13) and strikeouts (160). He finished up hot and looked primed for a strong 2008, but was merely average with Lakeland in the Florida State League. Below went 8-7 with a 4.46 ERA in 27 games (26 starts). His strikeout-to-walk ratio dipped while his WHIP increased -- not unexpected considering the jump in competition. His second-half ERA of 5.26, however, was a run and a half higher than that of the first half, which is not promising.
Below baffles another batter

MiLB.com Postseason Selections

Will Rhymes, 2B: Despite having a solid year in 2007, Rhymes wasn't on many radar screens coming into this season. But he shined in the Eastern League with a .306 batting average, three homers, 60 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. He also handled a promotion to Triple-A Toledo well, hitting .320 in 25 at-bats with a pair of RBIs. Rhymes led Detroit's full-season affiliates with a .307 average, scored 81 runs and generally looked like the quintessential scrappy middle infielder.
Rhymes triples for the SeaWolves

Jon Kibler, LHP: Kibler was even more of a surprise than Rhymes, coming out of nowhere to dominate the Midwest League. He went 14-5 at West Michigan, finishing with a 1.75 ERA -- second only to Sally League standout Madison Bumgarner (1.46) among full-season pitchers -- struck out 126 and walked only 32 in 154 1/3 innings. He allowed one earned run or less in 15 of his 23 starts, and his ERA over his final 10 starts was 1.18. Much will be expected of him next season at Lakeland.
Kibler strikes out the side

Climbed the Ladder

Jon Kibler, LHP: Kibler wasn't on the ladder last year -- he wasn't even in the same room as the ladder -- but he certainly is now. His 0.87 WHIP was highly impressive. He also tossed a pair of complete games, one shutout and allowed only one homer over his final 16 starts (106 1/3 innings). Kibler tied Below and Lakeland's Lauren Gagnier for the organizational strikeout lead.

Will Rhymes, 2B: Like Kibler, Rhymes didn't make many top-10 lists in the preseason, including ours. But he batted .356 after the break to overcome an April that saw him hit .209. Rhymes hit .387 with two outs and runners in scoring position at Double-A Erie and .393 with RISP overall. That's clutch.

Rick Porcello, RHP: Porcello posted only eight wins, and with 72 strikeouts, he wasn't among the leaders there either. But the former first-rounder was third in the Tigers organization with a 2.66 ERA, thanks in part to a strong finish that saw him go 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA over his final 10 starts. Porcello pitched with the pressure of a big contract and big expectations and handled it with aplomb. The Tigers won't rush him, so expect him to spend a full season at Erie in 2009.
Porcello's All-Star interview

Jeff Larish, 1B: Larish was the Tigers' Minor League Player of the Year in 2007 and followed with a solid season in 2008, hitting .250 with 21 homers and 64 RBIs at Triple-A Toledo. He also made his Major League debut and showed, albeit in a small sample size, that he could be a productive hitter. Larish hit .260 with two homers and 16 RBIs in 104 at-bats for Detroit and has little left to prove at the Minor League level.
Larish laces game-winning triple

Matt Joyce, OF: Joyce followed much the same route as Larish but had a bit more success. He spent the first part of the season with the Mud Hens, hitting .270 with 13 homers and 41 RBIs while shuttling between Toledo and Detroit. He stayed with the parent club for the second half of the season and hit .252 with 12 homers and 33 RBIs in 242 at-bats.
Joyce drives in seven

Kept Their Footing

Scott Sizemore, 2B: Unlike others who missed time with injuries, Sizemore didn't lose ground despite missing half the season with a broken left hamate bone. He was doing too well at Class A Advanced Lakeland, hitting .286 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 203 at-bats. That's a 20-point jump in batting average from his previous season in West Michigan, though his run-production numbers were slightly smaller. Sizemore was also hitting .324 in the 10 games leading up to his injury.
Sizemore speaks during Spring Training

Brent Clevlen, OF: It's been three years since Clevlen made a big splash at Lakeland, putting up career numbers in the Florida State League in 2005. He's meandered through the system since, making a handful of stops in Detroit along the way. The young outfielder spent the bulk of 2008 in Toledo, though, and finally put together a solid year, giving him a chance for a spot on the Major League roster next spring. Clevlen hit .279 with 22 homers and 82 RBIs for the Mud Hens. Though he appeared to wear down late in the season, it was a nice comeback season for a player in dire need of one.
Clevlen clubs a grand slam

James Skelton, C: Skelton missed time with a hand injury in June but still managed to hit .303 in 87 games between Lakeland and Erie. He had a wonderful strikeout-to-walk ratio (73-to-83) that contributed to a .456 OBP. He doesn't have much pop -- he had five homers and 34 RBIs -- but if he gets on base and scores runs (65 this season), he'll stick around.
Skelton goes deep for Erie

Wilkin Ramirez, OF: Ramirez had an 11-game cameo at Toledo and struggled, hitting .083. He spent the majority of the season at Erie and put together a nice year, hitting .303 with 19 homers and 73 RBIs. Ramirez strikes out too much, but he has some speed and makes use of it (27 steals) when he gets on base.
Ramirez drives home a half-dozen

Jonah Nickerson, RHP: Nickerson went 12-4 with a 3.99 ERA at Lakeland this year, finishing up by winning six of his last seven decisions. He's a bulldog and should begin next season at Erie. He'll be 24 on Opening Day, though, and needs to make the jump to Toledo at some point in 2009 to retain his spot on the ladder.
Nickerson snaps off a curve

Cale Iorg, SS: After spending two years on a Mormon mission, Iorg made the most of his first full season back in organized ball. He didn't tear it up at the plate, but he didn't fall flat, either, hitting .251 with 10 homers and 47 RBIs at Lakeland.
Iorg lines RBI double for Lakeland

Slipped a Rung

Michael Hollimon, 2B: Putting Hollimon in this category was a tough decision, especially since Sizemore didn't drop a spot with his injury. But Hollimon's situation is different because it is difficult to determine when he will return. Plus, there are no guarantees with his kind of surgery that when he does come back next year it will be at full capacity. He may not return to pre-surgery form until 2010.

Brennan Boesch, OF: Boesch showed power and the ability to drive in runs at West Michigan in 2007. But those qualities were less evident this season at Lakeland, where he hit .249 with seven homers and 64 RBIs. His OBP was only .310.

Jeff Gerbe, RHP: Part of a promising crop of pitchers who excelled at West Michigan in 2007, Gerbe missed the entire 2008 season after undergoing surgery to repair a damaged labrum. It was especially disappointing after Gerbe pitched well in Major League camp this spring despite experiencing discomfort.

Yorman Bazardo, RHP: Bazardo won 10 games with Toledo in 2007 and another two in Detroit, leaving many to speculate that he'd be an integral part of the staff this year. Uh, no. Bazardo went 4-13 with a 6.72 ERA in 25 games (22 starts) for the Mud Hens. He allowed 19 homers, the opposition hit .340 against him and he surrendered 177 hits in 130 innings.

On the Radar

Ryan Strieby, 1B: Strieby had a strong showing at West Michigan last year and followed up with a big year at Class A Advanced Lakeland (29 homers, 94 RBIs). He has established himself as a player to watch.
Strieby belts two-run bomb

Clay Rapada, LHP: Rapada posted a 2.31 ERA with two saves in 35 innings at Toledo. He also went 3-0 with a 4.22 ERA in 21 1/3 innings with Detroit. There is some concern about the shoulder issues he struggled with during the year, but he remains worth watching.
Rapada collects another K

Draft Recap

1. Ryan Perry, RHP: The Tigers grabbed Perry with the 21st overall selection, after which he performed admirably in Florida. Perry tossed 13 2/3 innings in the Gulf Coast and Florida State Leagues, compiling a 3.29 ERA.

2. Cody Satterwhite, RHP: Satterwhite followed the same route as Perry, splitting time between the GCL and FSL. He had a 3.92 ERA in 20 2/3 innings, striking out 24 without allowing a home run.

3. Scott Green, RHP: Greene pitched 17 2/3 innings in the Midwest League and saved a pair of games while posting a 3.57 ERA.
Green notches first pro save

Others of Note: C Alex Avila (163rd selection) hit .305 with 22 RBIs and a .383 OBP in 58 games at West Michigan. ... OF Andy Dirks (253rd selection) hit .341 with nine RBIs in 44 at-bats split between the Midwest and Gulf Coast Leagues. He had one hit in 10 at-bats with West Michigan. ... RHP Anthony Shawler (283rd selection) was 2-3 with a 1.76 ERA in 22 games (51 innings) for Oneonta of the New York-Penn League. He held the opposition to a .180 batting average and didn't allow a homer. ... Fellow right-hander Jared Gayhart (403rd selection) didn't fare as well in a much smaller body of work, posting a 6.17 ERA in 11 2/3 innings split between the GCL and NYPL.

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.