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Over the next several weeks, I'll be taking a look back at Baseball America's top ten Tigers prospects rankings. You may know some of these names, as they're still active with the Tigers or other teams. You may also see some names that you haven't seen in a while or that may make you laugh out loud. For the sake of relevance, we'll begin with the rankings from the year 2000, and progress from there.
Loux spent 1999 with the Whitecaps and Flying Tigers, finishing 7-8 with a subpar 4.81 ERA. The South Dakota-born righty was ranked as the Tigers' third-best pitching prospect, a testament to the poor farm system that then-GM Randy Smith built. Loux got called up to the Tigers in 2002 and lost all three of his starts. He went 1-1 with a 7.12 ERA in 11 appearances for the 43-119 2003 Tigers, recording only eight strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings. He bounced from system to system after that, next pitching in the big leagues for the 2008 Angels. He made 19 appearances for those damn Giants in 2012, winning one game and posting a 4.97 ERA. In his career, he's 3-7 with an ERA of nearly 6.
9. Chris Wakeland
The Tigers' 15th-round pick in 1996, the left-handed hitting Wakeland went from the Gulf League to the Southern League in 1999, a big jump for a prospect. He hit .313/.405/.568 across three teams in '99, hitting 13 homers and throwing in seven steals. The outfielder made the big-league club in 2001, playing in 10 games and hitting two homers. He never got another shot at the big leagues though and retired in 2007.
This right-handed hitting Puerto Rican catcher tore up the Southern League with the Jacksonville Suns in 1999, hitting .309/.384/.569 with 26 homers and 92 RBI. His major-league debut came on May 31, 2000 in a 13-5 home loss to the Rangers. Cardona could adjust to big-league pitching, retiring in 2005 after three years out of the big leagues. He hit just .206 with two homers in 175 at-bats with the Tigers and Padres.
Pettyjohn won 12 games between Lakeland and Jacksonville in 1999, and despite a 4.40 ERA, he was still regarded as one of the better left-handed pitching prospects in the game. The Tigers called him up in 2001 and he flopped, posting a 1-6 record with a dismal 5.82 ERA in 16 appearances (9 of which were starts). Worst of all, in only 65 innings pitched he gave up a whopping 10 homers. Dombrowski dumped him at the end of 2003, and he was given chances by the Giants, A's, Mariners, Brewers, Reds, and Mets. He actually pitched in the majors with the Reds in 2008, posting a horrid 20.25 ERA in three games. He is currently a free agent.
6. Nate Cornejo
Nate Cornejo was supposed to be the next great Tigers pitcher. Some scouts said the 34th overall pick in 1998 would be in the majors quickly and he would be the ace of the Tigers in no time. He moved through the system relatively quickly, starting 2000 with Lakeland and ending the year in AA Jacksonville. Then came the major leagues, where he bombed, posting a 7.38 ERA in 10 starts in 2001 (despite a 4-4 record). He was perhaps the best starter on the 2003 Tigers, despite the 6-17 record, 4.67 ERA, and 58-46 BB/K ratio. Cornejo was out of the majors by 2005, and retired in 2006 with only 12 wins and a 5.41 ERA to his name.
You remember Inge, right? Originally a catcher, Inge hit only .244 for West Michigan in 1999, but threw out over 40% of prospective base-stealers; he even stole 15 bases himself! Inge made the Tigers in 2001, eventually moved to third, and settled into a .240 hitter with 20-homer power and 150-strikeout potential. Inge made the All-Star team with Detroit in 2009 (when he famously got shut out in the home run derby) and is currently a free agent.
4. Neil Jenkins
Neil Jenkins was only 19 as the 2000 season dawned and had exactly one season of pro baseball under his belt, but he stood 6'5'' and had a bat that was projected to hit .300 with 25 homers. Unfortunately, Jenkins' health betrayed him and he never made the majors, retiring in 2004 after a scary .229, 14 walk, 129-strikeout campaign with Lakeland and Erie.
You may know Fick as the guy who hit the final homer in Tiger Stadium history. Fick hit .341 with West Michigan in 1997, and drove in 114 runs with Jacksonville in 1998. During the 2001 and 2002 seasons, Fick was probably the Tigers' best hitter, hitting over .270 with a .760+ OPS both seasons and making the All-Star team in the latter. He had a cannon of an arm; he recorded 21 outfield assists in 2002. After a career-best 80 RBI season with the 2003 Braves, Fick fell off and retired after 2007. He ended his career with a .258/.328/.405 mark with 69 homers.
Some people thought Sneaky could be the next Ozzie Smith; they were mistaken. He was excellent in his first full season of pro ball in 1999, hitting .326 and swiping 25 bases between rookie and low-A ball. BA had him as baseball's 92nd-best prospect heading into 2000. He's had an unremarkable career with the Tigers and Mariners.
Eric Munson was going to be an All-Star slugger; a 40-homer guy with patience and power. The first baseman was taken third overall in the 1999 draft and immediately placed in A-ball, where he smacked 14 homers in 252 at-bats with West Michigan. He was ranked 23rd on BA's league-wide rankings heading into '00. He was in AA by 2001, hitting 26 homers and driving in 102 for Erie that year. His first full MLB season came during the horrendous 2003 campaign, in which he hit .240 with 18 homers. The next year he hit 19 homers, but with a .212 average and .289 OBP. Munson then moved on to Tampa and Houston before finishing his career in Oakland in 2009. He is currently playing for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League. He hit .214 with 49 homers in the majors. To say Munson was a bust is an understatement.
Check back next week as I revisit the 2001 pre-season top ten rankings for the Tigers. Until then, follow us on Twitter (@TigersProspects) and like us on Facebook. You can also follow my personal Twitter @jeremyberen.
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