Author's Note: Only one more to go until we get into the Top 10. I'm very excited, to say the least. I've had a ton of fun doing this countdown list, and I hope you all have enjoyed reading them. Moving on:
No. 11: Drew VerHagen, RHP
Drew VerHagen was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 4th round of the 2012 MLB Draft, out of Vanderbilt University (We like drafting Vandy guys). After being drafted, I pegged him as my "quickest to the majors" guy from the 2012 draft, which looked like a solid pick at first, but I hadn't counted on Will Clinard. Anyways, after signing, VerHagen was assigned to the GCL Tigers (Rookie League), where he made only 2 appearances out of the bullpen, seemingly to get his feet wet in pro ball. In those 2 appearances, he threw 4 innings, gave up 5 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, and struck out 2. The Tigers then decided that he was ready for a promotion, and skipped all the way past Class A-West Michigan and was sent to Class A Advanced-Lakeland, just in time for their playoff and Florida State League championship run. While with Lakeland, VerHagen was moved into the rotation for the majority of his time, and fared pretty well for a first year pro. At Lakeland, VerHagen threw a total of 27 innings, while allowing 20 hits, 14 walks (too high!), and striking out 17. His raw numbers came out to be a solid 3.67 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP--both pretty good numbers for a first year pro in High-A ball. During his 2012 season at Vanderbilt, VerHagen only made 7 starts (of his 27 appearances), so his transitioning to the rotation, at Lakeland no less, was a successful one in my view.
VerHagen is a big guy, fitting the mold to a tee of what the Tigers want their RHP's to look like. He stands 6'6", and weighs in at 230lbs, with at least some projection remaining on his body. As far as stuff goes, let's start with the good. His fastball is easily his best pitch, as he works in the 92-94 range consistently as a starter, and has shown that he can ramp it up all the way to 96-97 in shorts bursts. As a reliever, obviously his velocity sits up a tick, and those "short burts" of 96-97 become a little bit longer. The fastball has good life on it, and can easily miss bats when located up in the zone, but is also a very useful groundball pitch when thrown down in the zone. He also throws a breaking ball and changeup, with the changeup being the better of the two secondary offerings right now. It shows as an average pitch with some consistency, and has even flashed above-average occasionally. His breaking ball is currently a well below-average pitch, as he struggles to get tight spin on it, leaving it hanging far too often. He also struggles to command the pitch, which leads to it's low grade. The hope is that with professional coaching and more mound time, he will be able to develop it into an average pitch, rounding out his arsenal. Scouts are split as to whether VerHagen profiles better as a starter or reliever. His mechanics and delivery aren't exactly smooth, and he has some trouble repeating them, which leads to a lack of command on all of his pitches. Furthermore, if he can't develop his breaking ball into an average pitch, then he wouldn't be an effective starter with only 2 useable pitches. However, as a reliever, with a power fastball that has good life and a potential above-average changeup, he profiles as a very good set up man, and his path to the big leagues could be a short one.
I'd like to see VerHagen developed as a starter, at least for the 2013 season. If he shows that he can refine his mechanics a bit and develop his breaking ball, the Tigers could have a #3-4 starter here. However, if he doesn't develop adequately in 2013, the Tigers could always transition him back to the bullpen, and not have lost too much in the way of development time, if at all. He ended the 2012 season in Lakeland's rotation, and I expect that's where he will begin 2013 as well. If he stays a starter, I'd expect him to stay all season at Lakeland, but if he's sent to the bullpen, a potential promotion to Double A-Erie later in the season certainly isn't out of the question. As for a MLB ETA: As a starter, I wouldn't expect to see him pushing for MLB time until the 2015 season, but as a reliever, he could be ready for a spot in Detroit's bullpen in spring training of 2015, perhaps even late 2014.