Minor League camp is now officially in session. We are now less than a month away from the beginning of the regular season for the Detroit Tigers Minor League Affiliates.
I have composed a list of the “sleeper prospects”–in no particular order–that I believe are worth keeping an eye on this season. I decided to dig a bit deeper in our farm system when creating my list. With that in mind, some of the usual suspects like Jacob Turner, Andy Oliver, Casey Crosby, Nick Castellanos and the collection of our MLB ready-ish outfielders will not be featured. We are all aware of who the “top prospects” are, so lets take a look of the best of the rest.
Al Alburquerque is definitely “raw”. In 7 1/3 innings of work this spring he posted a less than stellar 6.14 ERA. Seven of his sixteen base-runners this spring came via the good ole’ base on balls. However, beyond the box-score is a flame-throwing reliever with great potential. He struck out 13 and is definitely worth keeping tabs on in the minor leagues this season. Al definitely needs to learn how to control his pitches though.
Chance Ruffin, despite not currently being on the 40 man roster, has all the tools required to be a fast riser in our farm system. The 6-foot-1, late inning reliever has a solid four pitch arsenal. He relies a great deal on his breaking pitches all of which feature tremendous movement and decent control. The 48th overall pick in last seasons draft had an amazing 1.11 ERA an 13.5 K/9 ratio for University of Texas last season in 64 innings.
Bryan Holaday: After signing with the Detroit Tigers organization, Holaday was quickly assigned to Advanced-A Lakeland for the remainder of the season. While his numbers there might not turn heads, Holaday was solid. In his first 16 games he hit .365 and posted a .494 on-base-percentage. After July Holaday cooled off and finished the season with a .220/.335/.327 line. My personal opinion is that he may have simply been exhausted from the long college season and world series run.
This spring Holaday was very impressive both at the plate and behind the dish. If you haven’t already, put him on your list of prospects to keep an eye on this season.
Cole Nelson may only have a small sample size of professional ball under his belt, but he definitely caught my attention last season. The 6-foot-7, 21-year-old southpaw surrendered just one hit and one run in 12 innings of work. At this point he is pretty much a fastball/slurve guy working on a third pitch. Oh, aren’t they all though? Surrendering six walks in twelve innings is a bit concerning. Regardless, I am putting him on my short list of sleeper prospects this season.
Wade Gaynor: Last season in Low-A West Michigan, Gaynor produced a solid line of .286/.354/.436 in 514 at-bats. Although he’s not known for his power, Gaynor hit 39 doubles, 4 triples, 10 home-runs and drove in 80 runs last season. Gaynor is likely headed for Advanced-A Lakeland this season, where I can keep close tabs on his development. His production doesn’t scream superstar but with Nick Castellanos approximately four years away Gaynor is my dark horse candidate at 3B.
Daniel Fields: As I’m sure you know by now, Fields is the son of former Tigers coach and player Bruce Fields. Fields grew up around the Tigers and supposedly hit his first home-run in Comerica Park at just twelve years-old, with a wooden bat. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why the Tigers shelled out $1.6 million (top 20 money) for an 18 year-old back in 2009.
A simple glance at the back of his baseball card won’t raise many eyebrows. However, Fields statistics are quite impressive when you consider that the Florida State Leagues average age is between 22 and 23. Last season at just 19 years old Fields was able to hold his own against very tough competition. The five-tool shortstop turned outfielders raw talent impressed the hell out of me last season.
Fields will likely return to Advanced-A Lakeland this season where I expect him to have a much better season statistically.
Avisail Garcia: The 6’3, 200 lb, 19 year-old outfield prospect deserves attention. He is widely known to have five-tool potential. Despite struggling at the plate this spring, his speed, arm and defense impressed the hell out of me. He definitely needs to cut down on the strikeouts–113 in 494 at-bats last season. Regardless, Garcia hit .281, driving in 63 runs with 20 stolen bases. Things should be pretty exciting this season in Lakeland with both Garcia and Fields likely patrolling the outfield.
Danry Vazquez : In July of 2010 the Tigers spent $1 million on the highly touted 16 year-old Venezuelan outfielder. The projected five-tool player likely won’t see time state side this season. However, Danry Vazquez is a name that I will be scanning the Internet in a quest to track his development this season.