[Bumped because I really enjoy this series ... and because Kurt's bumped all the other ones. -- Mike]
So it's a cold, snowy day in North Carolina- which makes this the perfect time to revisit the minor leagues and look forward to the spring! Today's topic will be middle infielders- and the results may surprise you.
Onto the players!
(Oh, and a handy rubric for statlines: Plate Appearances, Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage, BABIP, K/BB)
Adam Everett- Shortstop- 32 years old
2009 (MLB): 390 PA, .238/.288/.325, .277 BABIP, 61/22 K/BB
Opie (as he's affectionately called around here) is a 37 year old slick fielder who doesn't hit. He's around for $1.55 million dollars next year and will probably chip in a couple wins with a steady glove. A good player to have, if a bit boring to talk about.
Ramon Santiago- Middle Infielder- 29 years old
2009 (MLB): 296 PA, .267/.318/.385, .313 BABIP, 57/17 K/BB ratio
Once billed as the shortstop of the future by Tigers fans, Ramon hasn't exactly lived up to the hype. That's not to take anything away from him- he's a good glove utility player with enough of a bat to grab 300 plate appearances in the Bigs without embarrassing himself. The $2.5 million over 2 years we're paying for him is a bit much, however.
Scott Sizemore- Second Baseman- 24 years old
2009 (AA) 269 PA, .307/.398/.535, .353 BABIP, 46/35 K/BB
2009 (AAA): 330 PA, .308/.373/.473, .349 BABIP, 49/29 K/BB
Ladies and gentlemen, the second baseman of the future for your Detroit Tigers. It's no secret that I really like Scott Sizemore (almost as much as Casey Crosby), but let's try to put that into perspective. He's got some problems- health is one, considering he broke his ankle in the AFL. He's also not the best fielder in the world- Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus called him "sloppy"- and that BABIP is a bit scary (league average is around .300, but Sizemore looks like he could sustain a high one, especially with a good line drive oriented swing). I like to think of him as the opposite of Placido Polanco- while Polly was great with the glove and solid-but-unspectacular with the bat, I see Sizemore as great with the bat and solid-but-unspectacular with the glove. He's a good little player, and I hope his transition to the Show goes well.
Brent Dlugach- Shortstop- 26 years old
2009 (AAA): 517 PA, .294/.346/.446, .400 BABIP, 137/39
I was an advocate for Dlugach becoming the starting shortstop over Adam Everett this year- Dlugach has an excellent reputation for good fielding in the minor leagues, and his numbers were very good on the surface- perhaps he made a breakthrough last year? Not really- his BABIP is normally high, but that number is 40 points higher than his career rate. The strikeout rate is also abysmal, and he doesn't walk that much. A high BABIP indicates good contact rates (to some degree) and his line drive percentage bears that out, but Dlugach really isn't a starter. That being said, I would have liked to see Detroit trade Santiago and give Dlugach the utility job- he provides a little more offensive upside and a steady glove. The Tigers really should try Dlugach out around the diamond this spring and summer, and perhaps should ship Santiago out at the deadline.
Will Rhymes- Second Baseman- 26 years old
2009 (AAA) 454 PA, .260/.317/.354, .297 BABIP, 58/36 K/BB
Rhymes is a 26 year old AAA role player that has never really taken off offensively. Defensively? Let's put it this way- if he were any good, he would have gotten an audition at shortstop sometime during the year. He's an organizational soldier.
Cale Iorg- Shortstop- 24 years old
2009 (AA): 529 PA, .224/.276/.339, .299 BABIP, 148/32 K/BB
Whew. This one is a bit of a trainwreck. Iorg went into the year as a highly ranked shortstop prospect with a good bat that needed to work on his glove. He came out of it as a no-hit, good-field semi-prospect. It's easy to be on the "Cale Iorg sucks" bandwagon, and I don't fault people who are. Allow me to be a bit more optimistic. We wouldn't be complaining as much if a 22 year old SS prospect just out of college came to AA and put up that line. It's easy to forget that Iorg sacrificed two years of development on a mission trip (he's a Mormon) and that he was rushed badly by the organization. The kid has a good work ethic (hell, he fixed his defense) and great tools. But that plate discipline is atrocious. If I were the Tigers minor league coach, I'd give the kid tons of plate discipline exercises to do throughout not only the winter but Spring Training. Iorg will probably end up as a utility player at best, but a glimmer of hope remains.
Danny Worth- Middle Infielder- 24 years old
2009 (AA): 315 PA, .241/.308/.323, .325 BABIP, 73/26 K/BB
2009 (AAA): 162 PA, .212/.265/.252, .288 BABIP, 40/11 K/BB
I like to think of Danny Worth as the middle infield version of Max St Pierre. Just like Pierre, he's good at a premium defensive position (Worth was drafted as a slick fielding shortstop while Pierre is a good glove catcher) and neither can hit worth a damn. The Tigers moved Worth to second base sometime in the middle of the year after demoting him from Toledo. That indicates that the Tigers see Iorg as a safer bet than Worth to make the Tigers and have an impact. That's about right- Worth is probably an organizational soldier, but he may have the potential to pull a Brent Dlugach and land a utility job somewhere.
Audy Ciriaco- Shortstop- 22 years old
2009 (A+): 469 PA, .262/.296/.397, 306 BABIP, 89/20 K/BB
Ciriaco is a toolsy shortstop, which is apparently why the Tigers added him to the 40 man. His speed is very good, and he's supposed to have some power (though you can't really tell looking at that line). His big problem is a lack of plate discipline. His fielding is passable, though he does flash a good glove occasionally. But unless he gets that batting line up, he's not going anywhere. There was some improvement last season as time went on (he did pretty well in June-August) and there's a pretty big home/away split (though part of that is due to a high BABIP at home). That being said, if he can put those tools to good use, he could make the Show- Sickles called him a future utility guy, though there's a major question as to whether that's a utility player for the Tigers or for Toledo.
Brandon Douglas- Middle Infielder- 24 years old
2009 (A): 379 PA, .322/.383/.374, .358 BABIP, 33/29 K/BB
Douglas is a toolsy middle infielder (started the year at shortstop but moved over to second base) who has more potential than his age indicates. Normally I leave 24-26 year old A ball players off these depth charts (the odds of them impacting anything is slim), but Douglas has a good set of tools and he not only hits for solid contact, but can take a walk and doesn't strike out a ton. He's a smart player with good tools, but I'd like to see some aggressive promotion next year- the Tigers need to send him to AA and see if there's anything there.
Gustavo Nunez- Shortstop- 21 years old
2009 (A): 513 PA, .315/.355/.425, .355 BABIP, 62/25 K/BB
Nunez has turned himself into a pretty legitimate young shortstop prospect- Sickles had him at 17, Kevin Goldstein at 10 and Baseball America at 7 on their respective lists. He's raw, and he got suspended this year for an altercation (KG says it was minor, but frankly, it's worth noting either way). The big thing to emphasize here is that Nunez is raw. While he's got good speed and makes contact well, there's a lot of things he needs to improve on- from his jump when stealing bases to learning a little patience. He's got definite upside as a starting shortstop, but he also has a long way in which to travel to make it there.
Chris Sedon- Second Baseman- 22 years old
2009 (SS): 153 PA, .124/.209/.153, .213 BABIP 57/10 K/BB
Sedon's numbers are pretty useless- 150 plate appearances don't help that much. Sedon is a decent second baseman who had a big year at Pitt in 2008 and got drafted in the 10th round in 2009. He hit for a good amount of power in the Big East, and he's got some speed, so there's upside here. While Sedon will probably end up as an organizational soldier, he's worth following next year- it's not fair to lump him into that category quite yet.
Daniel Fields- Shortstop- 19 years old
No Professional Numbers
Bad news- he's poor defensively and will probably land up at either third base or center field, with center being the more likely destination. Good news- he's a great power-speed threat with a good arm and major league bloodlines. There's really not a lot to say here other than to call Fields a raw, toolsy player with impact potential. And really, that should speak for itself.
The Tigers are deep in solid middle infielders- almost all the players mentioned have some sort of big league ceiling, and while the lower levels are full of organizational players, there's also some legitimate prospects. While there are no impact prospects, a breakthrough by Nunez, Douglas or Iorg is definitely possible and would go a long way toward improving the system rank as a whole. There's still a lot to like here- this is how a good system should look across the diamond.