We've come to the last in a series of posts about the Tigers' position player prospects. That means if you've been checking in, you've already seen the posts in which I looked at the catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops, left fielders and center fielders.
Having perused all but the right fielders, we've seen that the Tigers are alarmingly light on big league talent at quite a few positions. It's not that big a deal at first base, but when you see the Tigers don't have anybody knocking on the door in case Jhonny Peralta doesn't cut it at shortstop, it jangles the nerves a bit.
Where is right field in terms of supply and demand? The Tigers have signed on for one more year of Magglio Ordonez, but his getting a one year deal shows they are well aware of his age and declining ability to staff the position. They also haven't shown a ton of confidence in Brennan Boesch's ability to play the position passably, so this would seem to be a position where the Tigers could use the farm to step up in the very near future. Is the system up to the task?Toledo
Ben Guez, .251/.339/.439, 259 PA, 24 BB, 63 K; Guez handled himself pretty well last season despite going from Lakeland to Toledo, back to Lakeland, up to Erie, back to Lakeland and then back to Toledo for good. There's good news and bad news there for Guez as a prospect. The good news is he's just 23 and seemed to handle himself just fine in Toledo, aside from his usual contact problems. The bad news is the Tigers saw fit to start his season in Lakeland and then have him change teams five times. When you're a legitimate prospect, I don't think you log those kind of miles and fill your closet with that many different jerseys. Be that as it may, it doesn't change the fact that Guez is a versatile outfielder who they're pretty comfortable putting in center and who gives them pretty good power at the plate. 2011 Outlook: He should probably continue to keep his toiletry bag packed as I think it's pretty clear he'll be put where they need him. My guess is Erie.
Kody Kaiser, .247/.307/.379, 204 PA, 17 BB, 57 K; I've broken my rules to slide Kaiser in with the SeaWolves. He actually stepped to the plate more with Lakeland, where he was on fire and hit .325/.375/.492 in 276 plate appearances. Kaiser, however, was the most frequent player out there besides Josh Burrus, who has been "allowed" to move on. With that out of the way, 2010 was quite a split season for Kaiser. He was a force for the Flying Tigers in the first half of the season, cutting down on his strikeouts, hitting for a great average and mixing in good power and speed. In Erie, though, the strikeouts returned, the more advanced defense turned more balls into outs, and the numbers suffered. He'll be 26 almost immediately in 2011 and it's going to be difficult for him to be taken seriously as a prospect if he doesn't figure out Double A pitching fairly quickly next season. 2011 Outlook: I'd expect Kaiser to be back in Erie next season.
Samir Rijo, .222/.287/.291, 131 PA, 10 BB, 31 K; Rijo looked out of place in Lakeland after spending the previous three seasons in the Dominican Summer League. His walk rate wasn't dreadful, but the strikeouts were high and it wasn't because he swings from the heels and mashes the ball. Well, he might swing from the heels, but it's not showing results in terms of power as only six of his 26 hits in Lakeland were for extra bases. Mixing all that together, he ended up with a sub-.600 OPS and lots of improvement needed for 2011. 2011 Outlook: I'd look for a stint in extended spring training with maybe an initial assignment in West Michigan.
Avisail Garcia, .281/.313/.356, 524 PA, 20 BB, 113 K; The numbers you see here don't really line up with what people are saying about Garcia. Despite it being his second season in the Midwest League, he was still only a teenager last season and it's encouraging that he was able to show a good deal of improvement. Even his plate discipline was a big improvement on his 2009 season, when he struck out 70 times against just eight walks.
The progress wasn't just in marginal improvements in his walk and strikeout rates, though. He was also able to punch more line drives and lift the ball more often. Considering his size, it's reasonable to expect that to translate into better power numbers down the road. Make no mistake. This kid is one of the Tigers' most talented position prospects with good speed, range in the outfield and a strong arm. I can't help but be nervous about his plate discipline, but if it comes along as he gets comfortable facing advance pitching, the Tigers could have a future corner outfiedler. 2011 Outlook: If Daniel Fields repeats in Lakeland, the Flying Tigers should have the two most intriguing outfield prospects.
Chao-Ting Tang and Londell Taylor were the primary Connecticut right fielders. They each had awful seasons and after failing to show the growth the Tigers no doubt hoped for, were released at season's end.
James Meador, .240/.321/.307, 87 PA, 4 BB, 12 K; Meador, the Tigers' 21st round pick, got a late start to his pro career due to a broken hand. That was the reason for the limited trips to the plate and hopefully for him, the only reason he was playing in the GCL after being drafted as a college senior. He mashed in college, so I'm sure the Tigers are hopeful he will at least give them a solid minor league bat. 2011 Outlook: If he doesn't crack a full season roster, he's not going to be very useful to the Tigers since he just turned 23 a couple weeks ago. I'd look for him in West Michigan, maybe getting time at DH.
Steven Moya, .190/.229/.299, 144 PA, 6 BB, 64 K; This tall drink of water out of the Dominican came to the States despite being just 18 years old and having a single season in the DSL. Since he's already 6'6" and still developing, it won't be too surprising if it takes him a little time to work out contact issues. Still, those walk and strikeout numbers stand out SO starkly it's a little disconcerting. He's a talented player, though, so fans will just have to be patient as he tries to put his game together. In a system that has so many low ceiling, low risk players it's fun to see a kid who could blow up if he figures things out. 2011 Outlook: I'd be amazed if he didn't stick around in extended spring training, and a return to the GCL after that would seem to be in order.
Special Mention: The Tigers signed a 16-year-old kid out of Venezuela who was supposed to be a coveted bat on the international market. His name is Danry Vasquez and he's already 6'2" tall and 170 pounds. He hits left-handed and is supposed to be an advanced hitter, who can go to all fields. He must be seen as a special talent because the Tigers are believed to have gone up to $1 million to get him and that's not usually their game with international players. I put him with the right fielders because Tiger scouts don't see him landing in center when it's all said and done, but he has a strong arm. Like I've said, the Tigers don't have a lot of players like this so Vasquez is somebody to get excited about. It's just too bad we probably won't see him in the states for a couple more years.
Help in right field, at least from this group, is a long way off. Garcia would seem to be two or three years away even if he's able to continue to improve, and it seems a bit ridiculous to talk about Moya's ETA at this point since it very well may be non-existent. Hopefully, Vasquez's big league future is a little more certain than Moya's but he could be a future Hall of Famer and still be four or five years away from helping the big league club.
At the upper reaches of the system, I don't see Guez or Kaiser making major contributions at Comerica. I think they could be called on in a pinch in the next couple years, but I think any role they have as big leaguers will be fleeting. As a group, these players are interesting because they at least approach being the Tigers' most talented and most exciting position. At the same time, the most talented players are so far from the majors it wouldn't be all that surprising if the group didn't put up a big league at bat between them.
I certainly hope that's not the case, but even if it isn't it's still difficult to get too many people excited about a few kids who could really help the Tigers out in 2014 or 2015. Until then, the Tigers will have to hope for the best from Maggs in 2011 and then either sign a free agent or piece together a useful mix of Casper Wells, Brennan Boesch and Clete Thomas.