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Future Tigers have a postseason pedigree11/26/2007 10:00 AM ET
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
Before the 2007 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big league team's Minor League system. Now, it's time to recap all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent draft class.
Editor's Note: The Tigers on Dec. 5 traded Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller to the Marlins along with Mike Rabelo and Minor Leaguers Dallas Trahern, Eulogio De La Cruz and Burke Badenhop for left-hander Dontrelle Willis and slugger Miguel Cabrera.
There's power, there's pitching and a whole lot more when looking at Detroit's Minor League system. The Tigers have talent on the mound, players who can produce at the plate and one of the most exciting prospects in baseball in Cameron Maybin.
While the folks in Detroit couldn't celebrate a return trip to the World Series, they can take solace that many of the players coming up will keep the Tigers in a position to qualify for the postseason in the future.
Here's a closer look at some of those players as well as a glance at some who have fallen short of expectations.
Organizational Players of the Year
Cameron Maybin, OF: The likeable former first-rounder spent the bulk of his 91 Minor League games with Class A Advanced Lakeland of the Florida State League, where he hit .304 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 296 at-bats. Throw in 27 at-bats in the Gulf Coast and Eastern Leagues (he hit .400 with four homers and eight RBIs for Erie) and that made for a nice season. The bonus came when he was called up to Detroit and appeared in 24 games for the parent club. While he didn't distinguish himself after the promotion, it was a nice way to wrap up a good season.
Andrew Miller, LHP: The former Tar Heel's season mirrored Maybin's in many ways. He had stops with three Minor League teams -- Lakeland, Erie and Toledo -- and combined for a 3-4 record with a 2.77 ERA in 13 starts. He also was promoted to Detroit, where he had a bit more success than Maybin, going 5-5 with a 5.63 ERA in 13 starts.
Jeff Larish, 1B: Maybin may have reached the Major Leagues, but that seems to be based more on the front office's wishful thinking than his actual readiness. So the nod in this category goes to Larish, who finished second in the organization with 28 homers and third with 101 RBIs for Erie. While Michael Hernandez (24 HR, 106 RBIs) made it close, Larish came out on top. His .267 batting average looks better with a .390 OBP coupled with 87 walks and a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio (108 whiffs).
Burke Badenhop, RHP: Badenhop has done nothing but surprise folks since the Tigers grabbed him out of Bowling Green in the 19th round of the 2005 draft. He got off to a bit of a rough start, but from the middle of May through the end of the year, he was marvelous, finishing with a 12-6 record and a 2.92 ERA in 26 starts for Lakeland and Erie. He's 32-13 with a 2.89 ERA in 67 Minor League starts and should see the Motor City sometime next summer.
Climbed the Ladder
Michael Hernandez, OF: The Brooklyn native came to the Tigers via Oklahoma State after having been drafted twice by the Royals and once by the Dodgers. He had a nondescript season in 2006 for West Michigan before putting together a breakout year in 2007. Hernandez combined to hit 24 homers (third in the organization) and drive in 106 runs (tops in the system), while hitting .259 for Lakeland (427 ABs) and Erie (64 ABs). His OBP wasn't great, just over .300, but he hit .268 and drove in 33 runs with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Dallas Trahern, RHP: Trahern's 14-24 record in his first three Minor Leagues seasons wasn't as exemplary as his 3.18 ERA. His winning percentage finally began catching up with a 13-6 mark to go with a 3.83 ERA in 27 starts for Erie and Toledo. He pitched for Team USA this fall and becomes just another name in a long list of quality pitchers in the system.
Cameron Maybin, OF: So he wasn't chosen as our organizational player of the year, despite the preseason prediction. That doesn't mean he didn't move up the ladder. Maybin had a good season and continued to make progress. Whether he was ready for the big leagues was debatable, but spending some time with the parent club will only help his development in 2008.
Kept Their Footing
Jonah Nickerson, RHP: The Tigers kept Nickerson on a short leash in 2006 after he was thoroughly abused and overused by Oregon State coach Pat Casey in the College World Series. He's a tough kid who came back well rested this season, putting together a nice year at West Michigan. He was 11-7 with a 4.24 ERA in 25 starts and finished well, going 5-1 with a 3.32 ERA and two complete games in his last 10 outings.
Brennan Boesch, OF: Boesch impressed the Tigers after being selected in the third round of the 2006 draft. He continued to gain backers, hitting .267 for West Michigan with 10 homers and 86 RBIs that ranked fourth in the organization. His .297 OBP is obviously a concern, but experience and time should make for a better eye at the plate and will lead to more than the 44 walks he drew in his first two seasons.
Matt Joyce, OF: Joyce is a poster boy for the steady, no-nonsense climb through an organization. He hit .257 with 17 homers and 70 RBIs at Erie with 33 doubles and a handful of stolen bases. Joyce is a solid though unheralded player, much like fellow OF prospect Deik Scram.
Slipped A Rung
Brent Clevlen, OF: If only it were 2005 again. Clevlen spent that season tearing up the Florida State League, and big things were expected to follow. But he's been thoroughly unimpressive each of the last two seasons, despite seeing action in 44 Major League games during that stretch. He continued his slide into mediocrity this year after combining to hit .232 with nine homers and 44 RBIs in the Gulf Coast and International leagues. Granted, he missed five weeks with a broken finger, but those close to the Mud Hens said he was playing poorly long before he got hurt.
Kyle Sleeth, RHP: The former first-rounder slipped more than a rung or two, he's fallen off the ladder completely. Sure, he had Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2005 season. But in his second year removed from the now-common procedure, he continued to flop. Sleeth went 1-9 with an 8.11 ERA in 25 games (15 starts) for Lakeland and Erie. Opponents hit .326 against him and he allowed a homer once every five innings at Lakeland.
Kody Kirkland, 3B: Another subpar season in the Eastern League likely means that Kirkland will be relegated to the scrap heap in 2008. He hit .202 with Erie and struck out 127 times in 411 at-bats. He had 14 homers and 55 RBIs, the promise of a booming bat no longer evident.
On the Radar
Duane Below, LHP: The 2006 19th-round pick had a serviceable rookie season with a 2.45 ERA in 44 innings between the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn leagues. But the rallying cry of "Look out Below" seemed like a good bet each time he took the mound this year at West Michigan. He went 13-5 (tying for the Midwest League lead in wins) with a 2.97 ERA in 26 starts. He struck out 160 in 145 2/3 innings, allowing only six homers.
Eddie Bonine, RHP: In a season that many have viewed as a last gasp, Bonine responded by leading the organization in victories. His 15 wins were as many as he collected in the previous 2 1/2 seasons and account for nearly half his career total. He was 14-5 with a 3.90 ERA for Erie, then won his only start with Toledo, pitching eight strong innings. Now it's up to the 26-year-old former Padres farmhand to prove this season was the rule and not the exception.
1. Rick Porcello, RHP: The New Jersey prep star signed near the deadline and got his Scott Boras-influenced contract to show for it. The 27th overall selection has a nice mid-90s fastball and a wonderful curve to form a nifty 1-2 punch. It will be interesting to see if he lives up to the contract Boras negotiated.
2. Brandon Hamilton, RHP: The youngster's birthday is Christmas Day, but the Tigers are hoping every day will be a holiday when he's on the mound. He got off to a nice start in the Gulf Coast League, going 1-1 with a 3.10 ERA in 20 1/3 innings. He walked 12 but struck out 23 and held opponents to a .171 batting average.
3. Danny Worth, SS: The Pepperdine product spent much of the season with Class A Advanced Lakeland but also got a five-game taste of life in the Double-A Eastern League. Overall, he hit .265 with two homers and 25 RBIs before heading to Hawaii Winter Baseball.
Others of note: RHP Luke Putkonen (third round, North Carolina) was 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in 8 2/3 Gulf Coast League innings. ... OF Londell Taylor (13th round, Vian HS, Okla.) hit .156 in 45 GCL at-bats. ... 2B Justin Henry (ninth round, Mississippi) hit an organization-best .340 with 31 RBIs in 250 at-bats for Oneonta of the New York-Penn League. ... LHP Manny Miguelez (eighth round, Miami) was 2-5 with a 4.30 ERA in 12 games (11 starts) in the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn leagues. ... SS Cale Iorg (sixth round, Alabama) hit .241 in 29 at-bats between the Gulf Coast and Florida State Leagues. ... LHP Casey Crosby (fifth round, Kaneland HS, IL) signed at the deadline and didn't pitch during the regular season.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.