"Pitching has got to be the foundation in the organization. Everybody wants a good pitcher. The more pitchers we have, the stronger our organization will be."
- Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals General Manager

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

2008 Detroit Tigers Organizational Depth Report

1. justin verlander, RHSP
2. jeremy bonderman, RHSP
*. andrew miller, LHSP *TRADED TO FLA*
*. eulogio de la cruz, RHSP *TRADED TO FLA*
*. jair jurrjens, RHSP *TRADED TO ATL*
3. rick porcello, RHSP - mid 2009
*. randor bierd, RHRP - april 2008 *RULE 5 DRAFTEE BY BAL*
4. joel zumaya, RHRP
*. dallas trahern, RHSP *TRADED TO FLA
5. macay mcbride, LHRP
6. brett jensen, RHRP - 2010
7. yorman bazardo, RHSP
8. jeff gerbe, RHRP - september 2008
9. duane below, LHSP - mid 2010
10.brendan wise, RHRP - september 2009

with all of the movement in this system, i wanted to make sure to include not only 10 players currently in detroit's farm system, but also where the departed would have ranked in comparison.

the toughest part of ranking this system was putting jurrjens behind eulogio de la cruz. i am a huge fan of eulogio de, and i think he has a big future ahead of him, but while i project him as a starter, it doesn't look like he's going to get a true opportunity to fight for that role. i see eulogio and randor bierd as very similar players, with both having plus velocity on their fastballs, both having occasional struggles with walks, and both having strong GB tendencies. the difference between bierd and eulogio de is minimal, with my ranking of eulogio being more bias than projection or intuition.

i think brett jensen is an arm to watch because of his huge frame and his deceptive fastball. i don't think duane below's K rate will hold up at higher levels, but if he can learn a little bit about how to create an advantage as a lefthander by holding baserunners he will have a chance to stick. jeff gerbe is a big arm that induces a lot of GBs. his K rate is going to hold him back, but everything else is a nice package.

i have a hard time looking at rick porcello, and projecting him forward because he has yet to debut in professional baseball, and i always have a hard time projecting high school pitchers because of the relative uncertainty with regards to competitive levels in high school, mechanical and conditioning issues, and any other number of unforeseen issues that 18 year olds inevitably find themselves in. the mid 2009 projection for porcello's ETA is based on his being healthy and his being as good as his draft reports claims. i have significant doubt about both.

Spotlight: Jeremy Bonderman

i've always been a fan of bonderman, and the progression that he's made since first debuting in the majors as a 20 year old has been a textbook case of a young pitcher coming of age over time. coming into 2007, his HR rate had improved in each season, as had his K/BB ratio, and his ERA. his WHIP had fluctuated with little respect to any trend, but in 2006, he had a career best 1.299.

as for 2007, bonderman started out with a bang, once again building on his previous year's improvements. in the first half of 07, bonderman had a 98/24/106 K/BB/IP rate with a 3.48 ERA over that span. interestingly enough, over his career, bonderman's ERA is a full run lower in the first half than it is in the second (this trend is especially pronounced in the last three years).

overall in 2007, bonderman's fastball sat in the 92-94 range, hitting 96 at times. his slider has always been his bread and butter, generating plenty of swinging strikes and limiting contact from opposing batters. in 2007 he threw his slider more than any other american league pitcher by a wide margin, according to baseball info solutions (35% to 23% from 2nd ranked teammate nate robertson). bonderman is not without company in that area, though, as both john smoltz and ian snell were in that range as national league starters.

looking forward to 2008, alarm bells are ringing. firstly, i don't believe bonderman's postseason starts in 2006 had a major effect on him in 2007, nor do i believe that his 2nd half struggles over the course of his career are a conditioning issue. but that being said, i think it's clear that he cannot continue to throw the volume of sliders that he has thrown in the last 3 years. i don't mind a pitcher throwing a slider, as i feel that it is a tremendously effective pitch, but i also think it has a strong negative effect on the health of any arm that throws it, and seeing as how bonderman throws it more than any other american league pitcher, i cannot see him being a good bet for 2008. that's not to say that i think he won't be effective, as i see his production curve as continuing to improve in 2008 if healthy, but i think there is significant risk in betting on him to be healthy.

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