Jacob Turner is, of course, the favorite to win the job and start the season as the Tigers fifth starter. If he stumbles, they’ll be looking at Andy Oliver, Adam Wilk, Duane Below and possibly Casey Crosby or Drew Smyly. We’re still a long way away, in spring training terms, from being able to give you any relevant information about where these candidates stand. It’s also not too easy to say what we should expect from any of them if them should win the job. Projections for guys with track records are usually consistent and sensible (even if they turn out wrong). Projections for rookies…
In our projection series thus far we have been using a composite, averaged projection for each player using all the data from all the different projection systems we can find. For these 5th starter candidates, many systems haven’t bothered to come up with an estimate and those who have can be a little erratic. The one I’ll use here, since they have looked at the largest number of our guys, is ZiPS. So, without further ado, here’s what ZiPS projects for Turner, Oliver, Wilk, Smyly, Crosby and Below (with thanks to Baseball Think Factory).
You might notice that none of those projections look particularly good. That is, unfortunately, the nature of the beast. There tends to be a big dropoff for any pitcher making the transition from AAA (or AA) to the majors and if you are basing a projection on how the guy fared as a minor leaguer the smart thing to do is to assume they typical drop until proven otherwise. Typically, players don’t succeed in the bigs with a ‘typical’ dropoff from their minor league numbers. They typically succeed against the odds because they made a smoother transition than most. Think Miguel Cabrera vs. Delmon Young: both were top prospects with great minor league numbers at a young age. In fact, both saw their last significant minor league action at age 20. The guy that had the best minor league numbers? Young, by far. Cabrera, of course, is the guy who continued to improve. Young hit the bigs with his ‘typical’ dropoff (from minor league numbers that made him the BA #1 prospect) and stagnated. It’s debatable whether Young’s overall production to this point makes him worth having as a starting LF, so pretty much anybody who isn’t a top-10 prospect and has an equivalent dropoff from the minors is not going to be good enough. For any of these guys to be a real success, or to make a real contribution to the big league club in 2012 (which is, in a sense, more than we should realistically expect) they’ll have to prove that they are unusually capable of making the adjustments necessary.