Detroit Tigers

 Baseball America’s Top 100 is out.  The Cardinals had there best showing in a couple years, placing 2 prospects on the list.  Colby Rasmus was rated number 29 while Jaime Garcia was number 70. 

Cardinals lost today but Duncan and Spiezo had long balls.  Ankiel who got the start today after having two hits on Wednesday was 0 for 4.  Reports are that Carpenter through a lot of change ups and most were on target.  The two big hits he gave up also came on change ups.  Braden Looper will make his first start in Friday’s game.

Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes flew to California on Wednesday to meet with Max Scherzer and his agent Scott Boras.

In the most impressive effort of the spring, Milwaukee’s top position prospect, 3B Ryan Braun, had seven RBIs with two homers and a double Thursday in Milwaukee’s 14-8 win over Oakland.  With Cory Koskie still feeling the effects of post-concussion syndrome, Braun will probably see action in the bigs at some point in 2007. 

2006 Finish:  95-67, 2nd in the Central, Wild Card rep, lost to St. Louis in WS

Manager: Jim Leyland, 2nd year

Comings:  OF/DH Gary Sheffield, RHP Jose Mesa

Goings:  LHP Jamie Walker

Offense:  Gary Sheffield was brought in to provide more thunder in the middle of the lineup.  Hurt most of last year, will provide the Tigers with maybe the most talented DH in the AL.  RF Magglio Ordonez had a bounce back year hitting .298 with 24 HRs and 104 RBIs.  SS Carlos Guillen has really turned into a tremendous player.  He hit .329/.400/.519 with 19 HRs, 85 RBIs, and 100 runs scored, as well as stealing 20 bases.  He also can play any position on the infield.  3B Brandon Inge strikes out a lot, but is the most powerful ninth hitter in baseball, hitting 27 long balls last year.  C Ivan Rodriguez may be 35 and have caught over 2000 big league games, but he can still get it done.  Last year, he hit .300 with 13 homers and 69 driven in.  Former Cardinal 2B Placido Polanco hit .295 and provided leadership.  CF Curtis Granderson had a career best year, but he still strikes out too much and does not get on base enough for a leadoff man.  1B Sean Casey was brought in to provide a left-handed stick and the lineup and was very solid in the postseason.  LF Craig Monroe had a career high 28 homeruns and 92 RBIs.  OF Marcus Thames provides lots of power off the bench, having hit 26 homeruns last year.

Defense:  C Rodriguez is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball.  SS Guillen is very solid as is 2B Polanco.  3B Inge is a superb athlete, but does make quite a few mental mistakes.  1B Casey is very good at first and makes the infield that much better.  RF Ordonez is very good and LF Monroe is average at best.  LHP Kenny Rogers is one of the best fielding pitchers in MLB.

Rotation:  LHP Kenny Rogers came over and provided veteran leadership and provided a stabilizing influence on this team.  He also proved he can win the big game as well as putting a foreign substance on his hand.  RHP Justin Verlander was 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA and was the AL Rookie of the Year.  He has a fastball that tops out at 99.  RHP Jeremy Bonderman came in to his own going 14-8 while striking out 202 in 214 innings.  He was awarded with a multi year deal.  LHP Nate Robertson provided a lot of innings (208) and was 13-13 with a respectable 3.84 ERA.  LHP Mike Maroth was injured but has looked sharp in early throwing sessions. 

Bullpen:  RHP Todd Jones had 37 saves and provided veteran leadership. Rookie RHP Joel Zumaya quickly became one of the most exciting players in baseball, striking out 97 in 83 innings.  He has a fastball that can reach triple digits, is the closer of the future.  RHP Fernando Rodney’s results finally reached his potential, going 7-4 with an ERA 3.52.  LHP Wil Ledezma is the top choice to take over Walker’s place as the number 1 left in the bullpen.  RHP Mesa was brought in for depth.  RHP Zach Miner will be the swingman, as he was in 06, appearing in 27 games, starting 16 of those.

Prospects:

Cameron Maybin-OF-Rated the Number 6 overall prospect in baseball by Baseball America.  Tigers 1st Round pick of the 2005 First Year Player Draft, exceeded expectations in his first year of professional ball.  Hit .304./.387/.457.  He plays a very good centerfield with good range and a strong arm.  Very fast, stealing 27 bases.  He does strikeout a lot , 116 in 385 ABs, but was a 19 playing his first professional season in Class A.

Andrew Miller-LHP-Rated the Number 10 overall prospect in baseball by Baseball America and the number 1 LHP in baseball.  2006 College Player of the Year, helping North Carolina to the Championship game of the College World Series.  Tall, lanky lefty who’s fastball sits 94-95, topping at 98.  Slider is already considered big league ready.  Needs work on his changeup.  Will start at Double A and could reach Detroit for good during 2007.

Kyle Sleeth-P-3rd overall pick of the 2003 First Year Player Draft, Sleeth has failed to live up to his potential do to injuries.  The Tigers adjusted his mechanics, and he had Tommy John Surgery in 2005.  Struggled in his return in 2006, going 1-4 with a 11.9 ERA at High Class A.  A college All-American, he won 26 straight decisions at Wake Forest.  According to the Tigers mlb site Sleeth has impressed in Tigers camp.  “Going through the Tommy John surgery [in 2005], I really lost the feel for my curveball, so I canned my curveball for about a year and a half,” Sleeth said. “I started throwing it again recently, and once I started to get it back, it kind of came back right away.” Sleeth shouldn’t be a factor in the majors this year, but he could quickly reemerge as one of the organization’s top pitching prospects.

Analysis:  Should have a really good opportunity to return to the post season. The pitching staff is a year older but should be a year wiser.  Something to watch for is injury and fatigue as most of these pitchers have not thrown the number of innings they did in 06.  The bullpen is solid.  The offense was good and got even better with Sheffield on board.  Sheffield better be good because the Tigers gave him a very expensive extension as well as giving up 3 very good pitching prospects for him.  They play in the toughest division in baseball, and the youngsters need to prove they can do it again. 

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