At the (Third) Quarter Pole: Rookies


So far, if you’ve been following along, you’ve seen our staff hand out grades for the starting pitchers, the bullpen, the infielders, and the outfielders, along with those for management of the Detroit Tigers. What you have probably noticed is that rookies have been omitted from the listings thus far. Well, I am here to rectify that. Below (not Bee-lo, like the pitcher) you will find my grades for those who qualify as rookies. Yes, including the pitcher mentioned above.

Remember, the grades and stats included reflect only the third quarter of the season.

Andy Dirks – C+

.280/.314/.390/.704 in 27 games (84 at bats) 6 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 12 K

Dirks cemented his role as the club’s fourth outfielder long before the trade that sent his main competitor (Casper Wells) to Seattle. He has provided moments of greatness (like his 4-for-4 day last week) both offensively and defensively, but hasn’t shown enough ability to reach base consistently. Part of that is inexperience, I’m sure, and part of it is a lack of regular playing time. Still, Dirks has been a dependable backup, which is all you could really ask of him.

Jacob Turner – A

0-1, 3.38 ERA – 1 G, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K

Turner made only one appearance during the season’s third quarter (and only one so far in his career), but it was an outstanding effort. Though he took the loss against the Angels, Turner showed that his game will translate quite well to the major leagues and validated his top-10 prospect status. I’m not sure exactly how high my expectations were when he was recalled for a surprise spot start, but I know Turner vastly exceeded them.

Al Alburquerque – B

0-0, 0.00 ERA – 8 G, 8 IP, 3 H, 5 BB, 10 K

Alburquerque’s grade should probably be higher based only on the numbers, but he’s missed a lot of time dealing first with soreness, then with a concussion. Luckily, it sounds like he’s well on his way back from the liner off his head. Though he only made eight appearances in the last 40 games, he didn’t allow any runs and continued to strikeout hitters at a high rate. Certainly the concussion can be chalked up to a freak occurrence, but Alburquerque’s career is already starting to emulate that of oft-injured flame-thrower Joel Zumaya.

Duane Below – B+

0-1, 2.65 ERA – 5 G (2 GS) 17 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 10 K

Below could really be graded twice, both as a starter and as a reliever. If he were, the grades would be remarkably different. He made two starts in which he allowed 11 hits and seven runs (5 earned) over just 9.2 innings. When the Tigers acquired Doug Fister, Below was shifted to the bullpen and all he’s done since then is throw 7.1 perfect innings of relief, complete with seven of his ten total strikeouts. Two games isn’t enough to determine much of anything about whether or not Below can cut it as a starter, so we shouldn’t automatically assume he’s better in relief. Remember, this is a guy with all of five big league appearances.

Chance Ruffin – C-

0-0, 4.91 ERA – 2 G, 3.2 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 3 K

Ruffin is reportedly being dealt as the player to be named later in the Fister trade, which is a bit disappointing to me. In fact, I’m probably more sad to see him leave the organization that any of the other three young players that were shipped off to Seattle. He has the stuff and makeup to be a very good late-inning reliever and I’ll think he’ll do so very soon.

Adam Wilk – D

0-0, 6.75 ERA – 1 G, 2.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K

Wilk became the odd man out of the Tigers’ bullpen that has been overflowing with southpaws this year. He has less than three innings of work in this past quarter (and only 13.1 this year) and overall, he has done a nice job throwing strikes with only three walks total. Wilk might not have a future in the starting rotation with this team (he’s behind Turner, Below, and Andy Oliver on the organizational depth chart), and his stuff doesn’t scream “LOOGy”, either. He’s probably a long man/spot starter if he stays with the Tigers, but big league clubs need those guys, too.

Brayan Villarreal – D-

0-0, 13.50 ERA – 2 G, 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 0 K

In his second stint with the big club this year, Villarreal made just two appearances and logged less than one inning of work. I was tempted to call his grade incomplete, but the three walks allowed made me change my tune (and also probably helped get him demoted again). He has a very good arm and an above average breaking ball, but until he finds better command he won’t be of much use to the Tigers. He’s still young and with Ruffin and Lester Oliveros being moved off the roster, Villarreal still has a clear path back to the majors. How quickly he finds that path will be determined by how often he can find the strike zone.

Four other rookies also made appearances for the Tigers in the third quarter, but three of them (Wells, Charlie Furbush, and Oliveros) are no longer with the organization. The fourth, Danny Worth, played in three innings of one game, going 0-for-1. Let’s just call that one incomplete.

(My apologies to Will Rhymes if he still qualifies as a rookie. If so, also incomplete)

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