Season Preview: Lakeland Flying Tigers (Class A-Advanced)

Detroit Tigers 1B Prospect Aaron Westlake - US PRESSWIRE

Like I did with West Michigan, I'll be projecting Lakeland's roster for the 2013 season. I'll be doing my best to put together a starting lineup, bench, rotation, and bullpen. Keep in mind that these projections shouldn't be taken as 100% fact. They are my projections, and should be treated more as educated guesses than facts.

Starting Lineup:

1) Chad Wright, CF

-Wright, drafted in 2011, is more of an org player at this point, but is a good one. He plays solid D in CF, can run some (21 SB in 2012), doesn't strike out (11.5 K%), and is just an overall solid player. He lacks the tools to profile as a major leaguer, but he should find himself at the top of the order in the minor leagues for awhile.

2) Eugenio Suarez, SS

-This is the first real "I have no clue" of the article. I genuinely do not know what the Tigers are thinking with Suarez and Machado. Some think that Suarez is ready to skip to Double A-Erie, which would mean that Machado would repeat Lakeland in 2013. Personally, I think both of them should be promoted one level. That would be Suarez in Lakeland, and Machado in Erie. But this remains to be seen.

3) Jason King, 3B

-King was on my "10 that just missed" list in regards to the Top 50 prospects countdown. He has solid tools across the board, but injuries have hurt him in his professional career. He might not have the glove to stick at 3B, but doesn't have the bat to profile in LF or 1B long term either. He's more of a tweener at this point, but 2013 is a huge year for him if he can stay healthy.

4) Aaron Westlake, 1B

-Westlake didn't do as well as I'd have hoped in 2012, considering he was billed as an advanced hitter with solid defensive skills coming out of college. He struggled with the bat and glove, and considering that his only position is 1B or DH, he has to rake in 2013 or risk being dropped off of the prospect radar entirely. He doesn't have the plus glove that may offset some offensive struggles, so he needs to have a really good offensive 2013.

5) Steven Moya, RF

-Moya is recovering from Tommy John surgery, but every indication is that he's close to 100% and is healthy enough to play games right now. The Tigers may decide to keep him in extended spring training for a little while to assure that he's healthy, but barring any setbacks, Moya and his 80 grade raw power should head to Lakeland for 2013.

6) Michael Rockett, LF

-Rockett isn't really a prospect, but he does have one of the best arms in the system, as his name would indicate. As a matter of fact, it's probably second only to Avisail Garcia in terms of best OF arms. That being said, Rockett is a solid org OF who can play any of the 3 OF positions, hit for a bit of power, and not be overwhelmed wherever he goes.

7) Jason Krizan, DH

-Krizan also plays the OF, so I would assume that he, Moya, Rockett, and Wright all rotate through the DH position, considering there isn't really a "true DH" on the roster. Krizan is another org OF who had a solid year at West Michigan in 2012. He doesn't hit for power, doesn't steal bases, and overall isn't a very good hitter. His main calling card is the fact that he doesn't strike out. Actually, he walked more than he struck out in 2012, which is impressive regardless of level. Like I said, expect for Krizan to get plenty of time in the OF as well.

8) Brandon Loy, 2B

-Loy was drafted in 2011 as well, and while his raw numbers from 2012 don't impress, he made good strides. His profile is that of a glove-first utility player, so he spent 2012 learning to play across the bag at 2B (he was drafted as a SS), as well as spending a few games in LF and at 1B. He'll never hit enough to play everyday, but his plus glove work, versatility, and ability to handle the bat in bunting/hit and run situations leave some MLB potential to be had

9) Luis Alberto Sanz, C

-An org catcher at this point, Sanz does a good job of working with pitching staffs wherever he goes. To be frank, that's really all you need out of an org catcher.

Bench:

UT Marcus Lemon

-Yes, this is Chet's son. No, he won't become Chet Lemon in Detroit. Lemon is a solid org player, with the ability to play corner OF, 2B, and even some 3B. He doesn't profile as a big leaguer in any spot, but he's a nice player to have in the system

OF Eliezer Mesa

-Mesa was acquired by the Tigers in the minor league rule 5 draft this offseason. Not really a prospect, Mesa's only notable tool is his plus speed.

C John Murrian

-Another org catcher, Murrian doesn't profile above what he already is: an org catcher. Will probably spilt even time with Sanz

Starting Rotation:

1) Drew VerHagen, RHP

-VerHagen moved quickly after being drafted last summer, finishing the season in Lakeland's rotation as they won the Florida State League championship. Some see a reliever long term, but I like the Tigers developing him as a starter. Has work to do in nearly every facet of the game, but owns a mid-rotation starter ceiling

2) Hudson Randall, RHP

-Another 2012 draftee, Randall doesn't have the stuff nor the ceiling or VerHagen. However, his command profile and polish are advanced enough that he should be able to handle an aggressive assignment to Lakeland, skipping right past West Michigan

3) Kyle Ryan, LHP

-Projectable lefty, Ryan was solid at West Michigan in 2012. Has a #4 starter ceiling, but needs to work to get there. He's long and loose, but the velo hasn't come along like everyone thought. Still young, and 2013 should be a big season for him

4) Kevin Eichorn, RHP

-Came over from Arizona in the Armando Galarraga trade, Eichorn missed most of 2012 with an injury. A strike thrower without overpowering stuff, Eichorn profiles as a back of the rotation innings-eater, but he has to stay healthy first.

5) Jordan John, LHP

-This is another "I'm not really sure" pick. Tigers could choose to keep him at WMI, and they could also choose to develop him as a reliever. I'll go with him as a starter here for now, however.

Bullpen:

Melvin Mercedes, RHP

-Tigers made some noise with him when they protected him from the 40 man roster, Mercedes profiles as a late innings reliever with a big fastball. Hasn't impressed so far in camp, but that's to be expected. If he refines his command some, he could move quickly, and with authority.

Jade Todd, LHP

-Todd isn't someone you would find on a prospects ranking list, but he was absolutely dominant for West Michigan in 2012. He should be moved to Lakeland in 2012, where he will have to continue to dominate in order to be moved up the ladder.

Chad Smith, RHP

-Smith spent 2012 working back from Tommy John surgery, and he did a pretty good job. He still needs to recover his command, but if that comes, he profiles as a 7th-8th inning reliever with a power fastball and solid slider. He could move fast in 2013 if he proves he's healthy

Michael Torrealba, RHP

-Spent 2011 and 2012 with West Michigan, where he put up some good numbers. Shorter than you'd like, he doesn't get the ideal plane on the baseball, which limits his ceiling. Still has good stuff and I see a possible 7th inning profile here.

Also, look out for guys like Brian Stroud and Dan Bennett.

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