Detroit Tigers RHP Justin Verlander - USA TODAY Sports
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. Let's move on to 2006, the year the Tigers roared back to relevance.
10. Kevin Whelan, RHP
Whelan was a fourth-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2005. The righty made 25 appearances of Oneonta and West Michigan that year and posted a 1.48 ERA and 15 saves between the two. The next year, he racked up 27 saves, a 2.67 ERA, and a K/9 ratio of over 11 for Lakeland. After '06, the Yankees acquired him, and aside from a cup of coffee with the big-league club in 2011, has been in the minors ever since. However, he's been a very good minor league pitcher, with a cumulative minors ERA of 3.25 to go along with 90 saves in 292 games.
9. Jeff Larish, 3B/1B
The Arizona State product showcased big power in the lower levels but never hit for average and struck out a ton. The Tigers gave him a couple of tries in 2008 and 2009 but he couldn't crack the everyday lineup. He was dealt to Oakland during the 2010 season and has spent the last two seasons struggling with Pennsylvania's AAA teams.
8. Tony Giarratano, SS
A third round pick out of Tulane in 2003 (where he was an All-American freshman and all-conference infielder), Giarratano was a slick-fielding contact hitter who might have been the Tigers' shortstop of the future had he not had the durability of glass. Giarratano was called up in June of 2005 and hit .143 with a homer in 15 games. Then came the barrage of injuries; knee problems and shoulder problems eventually cost him all of 2007 and after he reinjured his shoulder during spring training 2008, he was released and subsequently retired at 25.
7. Jordan Tata, RHP
Tata went 13-2 with a 2.79 ERA for Lakeland in 2005 and posted impressive peripherals, including a 1.16 WHIP and a K/9 ratio around eight. In eleven major league appearances he posted a 6.91 ERA.
6. Humberto Sanchez, RHP
Sanchez stood an imposing 6'6'' and recorded better than a strikeout per inning in 2004 between Lakeland and Erie. Sanchez was an innings machine (three complete games in '04) and had cut his walk rate in half. However, despite an impressive 2.63 ERA in 2006 between Erie and Toledo, Sanchez never took that next step. The Yankees got him for Gary Sheffield and tried to convert him into a reliever but his numbers faltered. After 2009 he left the minors and went to Mexico to continue pitching.
5. Wilkin Ramirez, OF
Prior to 2006 BA ranked Ramirez as the top power hitter in the Tigers' system after a 16-homer 2005 campaign. Aside from his raw power, Ramirez possessed at least 60 speed; he stole 21 bases in 2005. Now, his flaws: he struck out a ton and was absolutely awful at third base. Ramirez made his major league debut in the summer of 2009 and hit .364 in 15 games. The Braves got him for cash at the 2010 trade deadline and he played 20 games for them in 2011. He's now in the Twins' system.
4. Brent Clevlen, OF
To Clevlen's credit, he's been a very consistent minor league hitter; he spent seven years in Detroit's system and reached double-digits in homers five times. He also recorded at least five triples in six of his seven years with the Tigers organization. As far as his major league career goes...he's a consistent minor league hitter. He spent 2012 with the Diamondbacks, hitting .290 between AA Mobile and AAA Reno
3. Cameron Maybin, CF
Regarded in many circles as a can't-miss prospect and a future superstar, Maybin lit up single-A pitching in 2006 and displayed five-tool potential. He was THE critical part of the Miguel Cabrera trade in the winter of 2007 and was expected to blossom into an All-Star centerfielder. However, Maybin constantly straddled the majors-minors line in Miami and never established himself there. Now in San Diego, Maybin has become the team's centerfielder and is a Gold Glove-caliber defender. Offensively, he's a stolen-base threat, swiping 66 bags the last two seasons. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't hit for power or average (.243 in 2012) and strikes out a ton. Not quite a bust, but far from the sure thing scouts thought he would be.
2. Joel Zumaya, RHP
Zumaya and his 101 mph fastball broke into the majors during the 2006 season after lighting up the minor leagues, and soon thereafter he was crowned heir apparent to the closer role. Let's see what happened next: bizarre injury after bizarre injury, a loss of command, some more injuries, released after 2011, signed with the Twins, got hurt again, free agent. In the end, just another Tigers pitching prospect.
1. Justin Verlander, RHP
I really wanted to ooze sarcasm when writing this capsule ("whatever happened to this guy," "BUST," "FIRE DUMBROWSKI," etc.), but I refrained because it's so much more rewarding to be serious about Verlander. Dude's good. Real good. Best pitcher in baseball two-plus years running good. Verlander was the second overall pick in the 2004 draft and is a five-time Opening Day starter and a five-time All-Star. He won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2006, a year after being named the organizational pitcher of the year. He won the AL MVP award in 2011 as well as the Cy Young, and nearly won the CY again in 2012. He's thrown at least 200 innings in each of the last six seasons and has led the majors in pitches thrown in three of the past four seasons. He's also got two no-hitters to his credit and if it wasn't for Josh freaking Harrison he may have a third. Verlander is an ace in every sense of the word.