The Tigers sure do love those big arms.
It's not that there are no bats in the system. In fact, the players primed to make an impact in the big leagues this season, by and large, are offensive ones. That list is highlighted by Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore, who are slated to be in the everyday lineup come Opening Day.
But when evaluating the strength of the system, where the elite-level talent lies, it's on the mound, with guys who can bring it. This is, after all, the organization that brought you Rick Porcello and Ryan Perry. So it should be no surprise that 6-foot-5 Casey Crosby is heading to Lakeland and could be joined by fellow big (6-foot-3) southpaw Andy Oliver, joining the system courtesy of the 2009 Draft.
That Draft also netted first-rounder Jacob Turner, who's got a ton of arm strength as a prep star taken ninth overall.
For good measure, the Tigers dealt for Daniel Schlereth, a hard-throwing lefty reliever, who they got in the Edwin Jackson deal. These guys know how to pitch, make no mistake, so if you like to see radar guns light up for guys who know what they're doing, the Tigers organization is the place to be.
Alex Avila, C
It took him just a year to get to the big leagues and he's not far from being ready to be an everyday backstop. Hitting .367 over 12 games this spring didn't hurt his chances. The only reason he wouldn't break camp with the big club is if the Tigers decide they want him to play every day in Triple-A. Either way, he should spend considerable time behind the plate in Detroit this season.
Austin Jackson, OF
He's going to take over for the man he was traded for. OK, it's not fair to say he'll be Curtis Granderson, but the center field job is his, and if his Spring Training performance is any indication, he's ready. At the very least, his speed and defense should help him make positive contributions right off the bat.
Daniel Schlereth, LHP
The 2008 first-rounder came to Detroit from Arizona in the offseason. Even though he had a 5.89 ERA in 18 1/3 IP with the D-Backs last year, he also struck out 22 and had a .221 BAA. All he needs to do is regain command and he'll be in Detroit helping out in the back end of the bullpen.
Scott Sizemore, 2B
Recovered from a broken ankle, Sizemore is ready to take over as the everyday second baseman. The 2009 Futures Gamer is a very good hitter who finished with a .308 average last year and slugged a surprising .500 while stealing 21 bases. His individual tools may not pop out at you, but the sum is greater than each of the parts.
Under the Radar
Brennan Boesch, OF
A guy who leads his organization in homers and RBIs shouldn't really be under the radar, especially when he's 6-foot-6. Maybe it's because of the strikeout rate (127 in 131 games) combined with the walk rate (33 for a .318 OBP). Or maybe it was because Erie's ballpark is a bit of a bandbox. Whatever the reason, he hasn't gotten his due. That could change if he can bash his way to Detroit in 2010.
Melvin Mercedes, RHP
It's not always typical for a young player to enter a system as a teenager and immediately stake a claim as a future closer, but that's Mercedes, who saved 16 games with a 1.82 ERA in the GCL last year during his U.S. debut. A jump to full-season ball could be interesting, where he might close for West Michigan.
Gustavo Nunez, SS
Nunez took a step backward in 2009, but it might pay off. In 2008, he played in Lakeland and didn't play all that well. So he went down to West Michigan last year and proceeded to hit .315 with 45 steals. He did get caught 25 times, but that should improve as he learns the nuances of baserunning. He's also got the skills to be a pretty good shortstop. He served a suspension in July for "conduct detrimental to the organization," but it doesn't appear to be a long-term concern. He'll give Lakeland another try this year.
First-rounder Jacob Turner signed too late to pitch last summer, but the Tigers are excited to have the right-hander make his debut this spring. ... LHP Andrew Oliver (second round) also signed late but went to the Arizona Fall League, finishing with a 2.81 ERA, .217 BAA and 16 K's in 16 IP. ... It took first-round money to land him, but the Tigers think sixth-round SS Daniel Fields, the son of Indians roving hitting coordinator Bruce, is worth it. He'll make his debut in 2010. ... C John Murrian (ninth round) was solid for Oneonta, hitting .296/.356/.468 in 54 games. LHP Adam Wilk (11th round) spent time with Oneonta and full-season West Michigan and went a combined 4-1 with a 1.47 ERA in 14 starts. In 73 2/3 IP, he allowed just 53 hits and walked only seven while striking out 67. He also won his lone playoff start in the Midwest League. ... Kenny Faulk, a 16th-rounder out of Kennesaw State, saved nine games and made the NY-Penn League All-Star team as a lefty reliever.
Hitter of the Year -- Brennan Boesch, OF
This wasn't an easy call to make, but the big outfielder is coming off a year that saw him hit .275 with 28 homers and 93 RBIs in Double-A. He's going to take the lessons he learned in big league camp, come down to Triple-A and lead the system in homers and RBIs, if he doesn't hit his way to Detroit.
Pitcher of the Year -- Casey Crosby, LHP
It's tempting to go with Turner in his debut, but we'll go with the more known quantity. One more year removed from Tommy John surgery, he'll work in the typically pitching-friendly Florida State League. His results were outstanding last year; he'll top them in 2010.