Surveying the Tiger Farm: Toledo Pitchers

We've come to the end of my series covering each position in the Tigers' farm system. I split the pitchers up into 2010 draftees, low-level guys, and those who spent the most time in 2010 in Lakeland and Erie. As you'd expect, the logical conclusion is pitchers who spent more time in Toledo than anywhere else last season. 

A lot of guys who you would have expected in such a post at the end of the season are out of the organization now. Some others who technically qualify were left out because they didn't really qualify under my criteria of being an intriguing prospect. Finally, as I've said all along, my thoughts on each player's placement are quite preliminary - WAGs you might even say - and should be looked at as more like general guidance (except when I'm right). 

Brendan Wise, 25, Throws: Right
Erie/Toledo, 77 IP, 67 H, 0 HR, 23 BB, 40 K

The key to Wise's story can probably best be told with that donut next to his home run total in 77 innings of work. The guy is a ground ball machine, getting rates well above sixty percent each of the past two seasons. He mostly does it with a fastball that usually sits in the low 90s, gets a lot of movement, but he still manages to throw for strikes. According to Pitch f/x results from his time in the Arizona Fall League, he also mixes in a changeup and slider, but I'm not 100% confident in their pitch classifications.

Low walk, homer, and strikeout totals are going to subject Wise to a lot of variation in the results he gets. If the Tigers ever devote themselves to infield defense again, or barring that, make liberal use of defensive replacements, he could be somebody to keep in mind. 2011 Outlook: It'll be back to Toledo for Wise most likely, but as I said, don't be surprised if Leyland comes sniffing around for somebody of Wise's talents. He averaged nearly two innings an outing in Toledo and as I said, gets grounders. Those could be attractive traits for Detroit.

L.J. Gagnier, 25, Throws: Right
Erie/Toledo, 155.2 IP, 146 H, 20 HR, 52 BB, 122 K

Do a search on Gagnier at Baseball America and the majority of his mentions are from when he was at Cal-State Fullerton. That's partially a result of him going to a big-time baseball college, but I think it also speaks to the kind of prospect he is since he's about to turn 26 and he's been a pro for the better part of five seasons now.

He had spent about sixty innings above Lakeland coming into 2010, but after starting in Erie he got a shot in Toledo when Alfredo Figaro received a call-up in May. He was passable enough to stick for the rest of the season, but his strikeout rate was below average, his walks started to creep up and home runs continued to be a problem for him. 2011 Outlook: I think Gagnier should crack the Toledo rotation, but when he's an old man his baseball stories will have to be about trips to Indianapolis and Columbus rather than New York and Los Angeles.

Robbie Weinhardt, 25, Throws: Right
Toledo, 34.1 IP, 26 H, 0 HR, 7 BB, 25 K
Detroit, 29.1 IP, 40 H, 2 HR, 8 BB, 21 K

Something seemed to be a bit off with Weinhardt last season. Yes, there was time missed with a shoulder injury that cost him a month, but that wasn't the only thing. His strikeouts were down even when he was in Toledo and the velocity on his fastball (averaged 90.7 according to Fangraphs) when he was in Detroit looked to be about two or three mph less than previously advertised. We'll just have to hope it was related to the injury and he can get more pop - and swings and misses - back this season.

Whatever velocity issues he faced, the good news is he was still able to use his combination of a fastball/slider to continue to keep the ball in the park. He didn't give up any homers in the minors and the two he allowed in Detroit brought his professional total to five. One thing that makes me a little nervous is the idea that the elevated ground ball rates he saw last season go hand-in-hand with the lower velocity. In other words, I'm a little concerned he's backing off on velocity to get the grounders. That's just thinking out loud, though, and even if that's the case he'll be fine in Detroit once he gets his BABIP down from a silly .392. 2011 Outlook: Weinhardt has always been a personal favorite, and that's come from the fact that he's been a successful reliever since the Tigers drafted him in 2008. I'd like to see him rewarded with an Opening Day spot on the 25-man roster. If that doesn't happen, it may not matter ultimately as he's a good bet to see time in Detroit regardless.

Summary

This isn't a bad showing for prospects considering there's only three of them. I don't know that Weinhardt is ever going to be a late-inning guy, but I could see him carving out a niche as a big league regular. Wise very well may turn out to be a 4-A pitcher, maybe not even that, but I think he'll earn some big league innings eventually. Finally, Gagnier looks to me like a minor league vet but I've had enough people ask that I thought I'd better include him or I'd end up doing the equivalent of a profile in the comments anyway. 

This trio outperformed some of the positions we looked at that had twice as many players or more. Of course, that shouldn't be a surprise considering they're guys who have already made it to Triple A. 

Well, as I said, this is the final installment of a series that I've dragged out over two or three months now. I've had a couple people suggest going back and using my placement predictions to generate the minor league rosters, but whether I do that will depend on how open I am to looking stupid on any given day. But even if my thoughts turn out to not be terribly predictive, I hope the profiles allow you to at least nod knowingly as you hear some of these names over the course of the next couple seasons. 

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