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Down on the farm

June 6, 2010

John Stroba-Writer

As the Tigers begin to search the trade market for upgrades they are certainly going to be keeping an eye on their minor league system for prospects they could include in a deal. Also some prospects progress might mean that they can trade a player from their major league roster or could call him up if needed later in the season.

Toledo Mud Hens (AAA)

Scott Sizemore 2b: Sizemore's struggles is the reason that Carlos Guillen currently playing 2b for the Tigers. One thing that the Tigers really have to be happy about is that Sizemore is really playing well down in Toledo hitting a robust 380/430/521 down with with a pretty good eye 7bb/13k in 78PAs. Sizemore is getting a couple games in at 3b as well. Sizemore does not have a lot of range at 2b to begin with, and it is certainly possible that his ankle has diminished that range even more. Right now, if Guillen proves that he can handle 2b it remains to be seen what happens with Sizemore. It is certainly possible if Sizemore does have the arm (and that is always a concern with a 2b switching positions) and the instincts he could be a 3b next year for the Tigers if the Tigers decide to let Inge walk away in FA. Otherwise, he is probably looking at backing up Guillen next year with a few spot starts at 3b.

Should Sizemore continue to hit well in Toledo he could be included in a deal that could net a high quality SP. A team that should be rebuilding the Houston Astros could be very interested in Sizemore. Lance Berkman could be a possibility there as well, though according to mlbtraderumors.com he is wanting teams to pick up his option for next year. It is hard to see the Tigers doing that. If they are going to be pursuing an Astro it will probably be Roy Oswalt.

Robbie Weinhardt RP: Weinhardt is one of the last cuts the Tigers made in Spring Training, and his fastball/breaking ball combination is very effective against the International League so far this season (1-0 3 holds 2.35 ERA 1.00 WHIP). His stuff is probably not quite closer level, but he should be a solid set up/middle relief guy for a good number of year. With Ryan Perry getting tagged in his last 4 outings, it could speed up the timetable for Weinhardt to make his Detroit debut. While RP prospects are not a huge trading chip one could see Weinhardt being in a trade if the Tigers are picking up all of someone's salary or agreeing to pick up a 2011 option (like with Berkman). Doing so, would be reducing what a ballclub could ask for.

Casey Fien RP: Fien does get a small cup of coffee with the Tigers in 2009. Unfortunately opposing hitters enjoy that cup a lot more than he did (7.94 ERA, 1.68 WHIP). Fien does not have the ability to overpower hitters. He relies on keeping the ball down and in the past he does have a huge split with runners on/bases empty and that suggests he struggles out of the stretch. This year the splits are not as strong, so maybe he is overcoming that. Hard to see him up before September comes along unless massive injuries happen in the bullpen.

Jay Sborz RP: Sborz is a big guy that the Tigers drafted out of High School many years ago. His biggest problem always has been staying healthy. Last year he did put up some really nice numbers at AA, and this year he is the Mud Hens closer and doing a very nice job there as well (1-1 12 saves 3.32 ERA 1.25 WHIP). In addition he is striking out more than a batter an inning (24ks in 21.2ip), but is still a bit homer prone (3 dingers in that stretch). Like most Tiger pitching prospects Sborz throws very hard. At 25 years old, he is on the borderline of being a really legitimate prospect, but he should have a solid career if he can stay away from the gopher balls. Either he or Weinhardt would get the call if the Tigers reach down for another bullpen arm.

Erie SeaWolves (AA)

Andy Oliver LSP: If the Tigers are going to be reaching down into their farm system for another SP, then Oliver is going to be the guy that they go to. If not for struggling his last season in college then the Tigers would not have had a chance to draft him in the second round. His slider is working again leaving only improving his change before he is finally ready to be knocking on the Tigers rotation door. Oliver is a rare power left who does have consistent mid 90s heat with movement. Oliver will probably be one of the prospects that the Tigers might have to part with for a serious upgrade. He is having a very good season in Erie (5-3 3.66 ERA 1.22 WHIP) with a very good 20bb/52so in 59 ip with only 6 dingers given up in that time.

Duane Below SP: Below does have some talent being named the Tigers minor league pitcher of the year in 2007. Since then it is a bit of struggle for Below hitting rock bottom having Tommy John surgery after only 2 starts at Erie. The very good news is that Below is back in Erie taking his turn in the rotation. The numbers are not great (2-5 4.36 ERA, 1.29 WHIP in 11 starts). The control (one of the last things to come back after TJ surgery) is pretty decent 15bb/37 in 43.1 innings. Below needs to finish the year healthy, but should he do that and continue to get stamina and better results. Below could be a candidate for the Tigers staff next year.

Wilkin Rameriz OF: Rameriz is crushing the ball at Erie. That is to be expected though, because he was in AAA Toledo last year. His biggest weakness, controlling the strike zone, he is not showing any progress on (22b/82k in 232 PAs). Until he shows that he is capable of making such an adjustment Rameriz is going to continue to flounder and never achieve the 5 tool status scouts give him.

Lakeland Flying Tigers (A+)

Daniel Fields CF: Fields is a surprise signing that the Tigers made after drafting him in the 6th round. Detroit does go way overslot for a guy that most likely would become a first talent at the University of Michigan. The 19 year old is holding his own, in his first year of pro ball. The numbers are not great 240/341/357, but it is very encouraging to see Fields having a clue about the strike zone with a 24:48 eye in 179 PAs. On their own this is nothing great, but a 19 year putting up these numbers in a league where everyone is 2-3 years old than him is very encouraging. Other teams might want him in a trade.

West Michigan Whitecaps (A-)

Jacob Turner SP: While Oliver is probably the closest starter to the majors right now, Turner arguably does have the much greater upside. Turner's stuff gets compared to Verlander's quite a bit though Detroit is not going to rush this young gem arm. His surface numbers are not great (1-3 4.01 ERA, 1.17 WHIP), but looking beyond that there are some things that make minor league watchers drool. 7bb against 44 punch outs in 42.1 ip. Only giving up 3 dingers in that time as well. That suggests that he does have a pretty good idea of how to pitch. Turner is going to be asked for in trade talks. It will have to be an overwhelming trade for Dombrowski to part with this kid. Likely Turner finishes out the year in West Michigan, starts next year at Lakeland and very well could be permanent part of the rotation by mid 2012 (he would still only be 21 then).

Giovanny Soto SP: Soto is starting to make a very strong case for the Tigers minor league pitcher of the year this season. He is 19 like Turner, but he was not considered a top prospect in the Detroit system entering this year. However, he is making a name for himself with his dominating pitching (4-3 1.99 ERA, 1.29 WHIP). He is going a bit deeper in game than Turner is at this stage and like Turner he is keeping the ball in the yard. He does strike out a lot of guys (52 in 54.1 ip), but at this level it is hard to tell from just seeing the stats how Soto is doing it. Hopefully, it is with some overpowering stuff.

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