Season Preview: Erie SeaWolves (Class AA)

Detroit Tigers OF Prospect Tyler Collins - US PRESSWIRE

As I've done already with West Michigan (Class A) and Lakeland (Class A+), today I'm doing a season preview for the Class AA Erie SeaWolves. Erie looks to have several interesting positional player prospects in 2013, but it'll be lacking in pitchers. Regardless, the 'Wolves should be a fun team to watch.

Erie Seawolves: Class Double-A

Starting Lineup:

1) Daniel Fields, CF

-Fields has seen his prospect stock tumble over the past few years, most notably due to the underdevelopment of his hit tool. He's a plus defender in CF (albeit with a 35-40 arm), runs well, and actually has above average raw power. However, he doesn't make enough contact at the plate to profile as an everyday player anymore. There is some hope left that he can develop the bat, but right now he's looking like a 4th OF.

2) Hernan Perez, 2B

-Perez has a nice long term utility profile, as a guy who doesn't have any standout tools but does everything pretty well. He plays excellent D at 2B, can handle SS in a pinch, runs well, and makes contact. But, he doesn't project to hit enough to play everyday. AA should be a nice challenge for him in 2013

3) Tyler Collins, LF

-The hitting machine himself. Collins has made his name known to Tigers fans everywhere due to his offensive performance in spring training, but he's still a year or so away. He is an above average hitter who runs well and has solid power, but he doesn't have enough pop to profile exclusively as a corner OF. He also isn't a good enough defender to play CF, and to be honest, he's fringy defensively in LF as well. However, in the MLB, if you hit-you stay, and Collins can definitely hit.

4) Dean Green, DH

-Another hitting machine, so to speak. Green is a masher, who shows the projection to hit in the high .200's with 20+ HR's at the major league level. However, he's not good at 1B, doesn't profile anywhere else defensively, and is stuck behind a few guys you may have heard of at the MLB level (Fielder, Prince; Cabrera, Miguel; and Martinez, Victor). He should rake in 2013 at AA, and should be knocking on the MLB door by September, but he looks to be a trade chip at this point.

5) James Robbins, 1B

-Robbins, unlike Green, can actually play 1B at a solid level. He also has plus raw power that has begun to manifest itself more in game situations due to the development of his hit tool. He still doesn't look like an everyday major leaguer to me, but the possibility exists that he could be a bench bat/utility guy, especially if he shows he can play some corner OF in addition to 1B.

6) Wade Gaynor, 3B

-Gaynor should also see some time in LF and at 1B, but i'll write him in here at 3B for the sake of this exercise. Gaynor has solid power and good athleticism, but lacks the overall offensive profile to project as a MLB 1B or LF; while lacking the defensive skills to stick at 3B exclusively. Looks like an org guy at this point, but could end up as an up-and-down bench bat down the line.

7) Ben Guez, RF

-Guez has received some support from fans this offseason who believe that he should be the right-handed half of the LF platoon in Detroit (along with Andy Dirks). He has posted some nice numbers in his minor league career, but like other fan favorite Quintin Berry, he doesn't have the skills to be an everyday major leaguer. He could get a callup if injuries take their toll this season, but he's no more than a 5th OF/up and down player at this point.

8) James McCann, C

-McCann, to me, has the highest upside of any of the catchers in the Tigers system (within reach of the major leagues). Someone like Curt Casali or Bryan Holaday may be the "safer" picks or may have higher floors than McCann, but I think that James has the projection to be a legitimate starter. It takes significant dreaming to see the full potential, but he's coming along nicely in all phases of the game. He struggled at Erie in 2012, but 2013 should hopefully see his hit tool develop to a starter's level

9) Dixon Machado, SS

-Machado is the best defensive SS in the Tigers system, and with the best IF arm as well. He actually has a nice approach at the plate, but the problem is that he's been too weak to generate the bat speed necessary to hit with any consistency. Reports from spring training are that Machado has added needed strength/weight, and the results with the bat have been noticeable. I don't have any doubts that he will end up a major leaguer in some way (due to the glove), but if the bat comes along to even a fringe level, he'll be a starting SS for years to come.

Bench:

Curt Casali, C

-It's tough for me to write in Casali as "bench", because he could easily be considered the "starter" here. I expect he'll split time pretty evenly with McCann, and to be honest I wouldn't be opposed to seeing Casali in Lakeland again for the sake of more playing time. But he seems ready for AA, and along with McCann, fans should see a future major league catcher every night Erie plays.

Gustavo Nunez, SS

-Nunez used to be a highly thought of SS prospect in the Tigers system. Then he was claimed in the Rule 5 draft, eventually got to Arizona, and is now back with the Tigers as organizational depth. He can still pick it in the IF and run pretty well, but the bat hasn't come along enough to warrant significant prospect hype any longer.

Tony Plagman, OF

-He'll see some time in LF, RF, at 1B, and probably DH as well. An org player with some positional versatility, decent power, and better speed than you'd think. Doesn't profile as a big leaguer long term, but he should definitely help Erie in 2013.

Starting Rotation:

1) Alex Burgos, LHP

-Burgos may be sent back to Lakeland to repeat the level, but as for now I think he'll start the season in Erie. He's a small (5'11") lefty with average stuff who needs to refine his command if he wants to reach his back-of-the-rotation ceiling. Personally, I'd leave him in Lakeland, but if he shows that his command has gotten better in spring training, we all know that the Tigers like to push their pitchers.

2) Thomas Collier, RHP

-With an innings-eating, back of the rotation profile, Collier could actually rise pretty quickly to the majors. He gets good sink on his fastball, elicits a lot of groundballs, and doesn't walk very many. I'd like to see him refine his off speed stuff to get more strikeouts, but he's a guy who I think will definitely pitch in the majors at some point. Whether that be with the Tigers, as a starter, effectively, etc, or not remains to be seen.

3) Warwick Saupold, RHP

-Australia native, spent 2012 with West Michigan and Lakeland. He was exclusively a reliever with West Michigan, then spent the stretch run in Lakeland's rotation with pretty good results. Overall he's a fringe prospect who profiles better as a reliever based on what I've seen, but the Tigers look to be developing him as a starter long term. He's currently pitching on Australia's WBC team, so watch for him there.

4) Jared Wesson, LHP

-Really don't know much of anything about Wesson, but the 6'5" lefty is certainly one of the organizational soldiers who eats MiLB innings and fills out the roster. Got lit up to the tune of a 5.90 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 2012 with Erie, so unless he gets cut, he'll probably be back in Erie's rotation in 2013

5) ???

-The 5th starter in Erie is kind of a crapshoot right now. Guys like Shawn Hill might get cut, end up in Toledo's rotation, or head to Erie to pitch. Also keep an eye out for Patrick Cooper here

Bullpen:

Michael Morrison, RHP

-I've been steadfast in my belief that Morrison will pitch in the majors this season. He's not flashy, but has the ability to miss bats with his fastball/slider combo. He struggles with command/control and doesn't profile much beyond that of a middle reliever, but he's a major league arm in my opinion

Kenny Faulk, LHP

-Dubbed the "closer of the future" by MLB.com's John Mayo, I don't see that at all. He's got a good changeup and solid fastball movement, but the lack of breaking ball limits his profile severely. He can miss bats with the changeup, but he doesn't look like anything more than a middle reliever at most to me, and I struggle to see that.

Tyler Stohr, RHP

-Stohr is another of the several relievers the Tigers have who doesn't have a high ceiling, but should be effective middle relievers in the MLB. I think Stohr has a higher ceiling than, say, Michael Morrison; but I think Morrison is closer to being MLB-ready. Regardless, we should probably see both in Detroit this summer when the inevitable need for bullpen arms arises.

Ryan Robowski, LHP

-Robowski looks like he could be an effective major league LOOGY, but nothing more. Now, that doesn't mean that having a solid LOOGY isn't important, but it's not exactly a "sexy" prospect profile.

Tyler Clark, RHP

-Clark was absolutely lights out for Lakeland in 2012, compiling a 0.63 ERA and 0.84 WHIP across 42 2/3 innings, with a 12.4 K/9. Simply mind-boggling numbers, but he got lit up in his (really) small cameo in Erie at the end of the season. He was a late round pick without overpowering stuff, so he's going to have to prove himself at every level and will not receive the same kind of slack that the more highly-touted prospects will get. Regardless, if he's effective, he's going to stick around, and I hope to see him succeed.

Reminders: You can follow us on Twitter @TigersProspects, or my personal account @B_Sakowski.

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