Senin, 12 Desember 2011

Tigers’ 5th Starter

The Detroit Tigers have 4 solid starters in their current rotation: 2011 Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. With Brad Penny leaving via Free Agency, the Tigers have a vacancy and are likely to fill that void internally. The rotation is righty-heavy, so a left-hander is an obvious choice and the Tigers have a slew of left-handed pitching prospects. But then there’s top prospect Jacob Turner who would be tempting to insert in the rotation despite not turning 21 until May (but that hasn’t stopped the Tigers from promoting a pitching prospect early before, Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Andrew Miller to name a few).

Below I’ll list the 6 candidates that will compete for the Tigers’ 5th starter job in order of who I like the best to the least.

1. Drew Smyly – Smyly only has 1 year of pro-ball experience, but as a college draftee, he is more matured than Turner. Smyly split time between high-A and AA last year, combining a total of 126 innings, 5.95 IP/start, 9.29 K/9, 2.57 BB/9, 7.37 H/9, 0.14 HR/9, 2.07 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 2.30 FIP. Based on minor league stats, the 5.95 IP/start is the most out of any of the candidates and the 2.07 ERA and the 2.30 FIP is the lowest of all the candidates. Given his age (23 next year), he is expected to rapidly go through the minors and given his first year stats, he is likely to have good success. The lack of AAA experience might shy away from giving him the job right out of ST, but if he can duplicate his minor league stats during ST, it’ll be hard not to give it to him. If he does fail to get the job, they’ll likely put him in AAA.

2. Adam Wilk – He’s a year older than Smyly and has an edge in minor league experience and major league experience. His minor league numbers include: 343 2/3 IP, 5.82 IP/start, 6.73 K/9, 8.01 H/9, 0.68 HR/9, 2.62 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 3.17 FIP. The key to Wilk’s success is his walk rate, which has never exceeded over 2.00 in his minor league career. As such, he has the lowest WHIP of all the candidates and the 2nd lowest ERA and FIP. The downside is that while he has major league experience, it’s all in relief. Therefore, the Tigers might only be viewing him as a reliever. His major league stats include 13 1/3 IP, 5.40 ERA, 1.275 WHIP, 9.5 H/9, 2.0 BB/9, 6.8 K/9, 5.13 FIP. If he doesn’t get the job, he could still make the team as a reliever or be a part of the AAA rotation.

3. Jacob Turner – Turner definitely has the biggest upside of all the candidates, but he’s also the least matured out of all of them. He is only ranked this high because the Tigers have a reputation of rushing their top pitching prospects. Turner’s minor league numbers are good, but not awe-inspiring: 249 1/3 IP, 5.66 IP/start, 7.65 K/9, 2.09 BB/9, 7.72 H/9, 0.61 HR/9, 3.36 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 3.25 FIP. He made 3 spot starts for the Tigers in 2011, giving up 12 ER in 12 2/3 IP and was most notable for struggling to keep runners on hold, allowing 7 stolen bases. If he fails to get the rotation spot, he could go back all the way to AA, but AAA is more likely.

4. Duane Below – Below has 2 things going for him, he’s the oldest therefore he has lots of minor league experience and he also has major league experience starting, albeit only 2 games plus 12 games in relief. His minor league numbers are as follows: 592 IP, 5.26 IP/start, 8.44 K/9, 3.60 BB/9, 8.74 H/9, 0.78 HR/9, 3.72 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 3.71 FIP. His AAA stats are more impressive; in 18 starts he has a 3.13 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 6.39 IP/start. The IP/start is important as it shows the pitcher can pitch deep into games and over 6 innings is an encouraging sign. However, in those 18 starts, he had a 4.21 FIP which implies that he was a little lucky with his ERA. In his 2 ML starts, he gave up 5 ER in 9 2/3 IP and in his 12 relief appearances he had a 4.19 ERA. There isn’t much upside here, but they can go to him as a stopgap. He can win a spot in the bullpen if he fails to make the rotation or go back to AAA.

5. Andy Oliver – Oh how the mighty have fallen. At one time, Oliver was easily a top 3 Tigers prospect, but lately he has fallen, probably out of the top 5. There’s still promise here, but he has lost control and has command issues of his pitches lately. It might have been a sign that the Tigers had rushed him as he made 5 ML starts in his first year in pro-ball. He has the most ML starting experience out of all the candidates (7 starts), but has not looked good. His career minor league stats are: 277 1/3 IP, 5.66 IP/start, 8.50 K/9, 4.22 BB/9, 8.63 H/9, 0.91 HR/9, 4.12 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 4.09 FIP. His major league stats: 31 2/3 IP, 7.11 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 6.54 K/9, 5.97 BB/9, 10.52 H/9, 1.71 HR/9, 6.44 FIP. The good news is he’ll only be 24 next year, so there is still some time. He could make the team as a reliever if he doesn’t make the rotation, but I see him in AAA again.

6. Casey Crosby – The dark-horse candidate. Crosby has loads of talent and at one point was a top prospect for the Tigers, but injuries have done him in as he missed almost all of the 2010 season. After his great 2009 season in A-ball, his 2011 season at AA was disappointing. His total minor league stats are: 253 1/3 IP, 4.61 IP/start, 8.88 K./9, 4.69 BB/9, 7.71 H/9, 0.53 HR/9, 3.55 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 3.65 FIP. A lot has to go right and a lot has to go wrong for the other 5 candidates in order for him to snatch the job. I expect him to go back to AA for 2012, but there is a chance he could go to AAA.

Those are the internal candidates. There has been talk that the Tigers will get someone with more ML experience to for this competition. There is some speculation that new acquired pitcher Collin Balester (who has 22 ML starts) will also be competing for a rotation spot, but I don’t see it. There was talks about acquiring Gio Gonzalez during the Winter Meetings, but fell through when the Athletics asked for too much. I think the Tigers are going to go with the low risk/high reward type of deal. Free Agents that could help are, Rich Harden, Kevin Millwood and Brandon Webb.

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