It's that time of year when the Top 100 Prospects lists start coming out, and the first appears to be Keith Law's at ESPN.com. The Detroit Tigers have one impressively paid caterpillar in Rick Porcello, and hope that another year or two of minor league seasoning will help him develop into a major league butterfly. Where does the crown jewel of the Tigers' system rate?
Porcello can dial it up to the mid-90s, but has settled in as a low-90s; he's a strike-throwing, ground-ball-generating machine, throwing two-seamer after two-seamer and not having to rely on the sharp curveball he used in high school. He doesn't miss a lot of bats with the new approach, but generating ground balls keeps the pitch count down, and pitchers who throw strikes and don't give up home runs can be very successful. But bear in mind that Porcello has the raw stuff to be more of a strikeout pitcher, and when he reaches the majors, he could blend the two approaches and be one of the top pitchers in the game.
So that definitely addresses the concern over Porcello's strikeouts per innings pitched (which John Sickels raised in his rankings a couple of weeks ago). Law seems extremely impressed with the approach the Tigers took with him last season, and praised Porcello again in his weekly chat:
Andy (Niagra Falls): How much of Rick Porcello's lack of Ks last yr due to him being young for his league, or is that the pitcher he's destined to be in the bigs?
Keith Law: Changed his approach. Switched to a two-seamer and got groundballs at an insane rate. I always was a little skeptical of the hype on him, but the "new" Porcello is awesome.
Law also has Porcello as the third-best right-handed pitcher in the minor leagues.
Unfortunately, no other Tigers prospect made Law's Top 100 list. (If you're a nostalgic mood, however, you might note that Cameron Maybin was #29 and Gorkys Hernandez was #88 in the rankings. But what's past is prologue, so maybe we shouldn't dwell on that.) And he ranked Detroit's system as the third-worst in the game, which provides some further context.
Also posted yesterday on ESPN.com was a listing of each team's top five prospects. Following Porcello (in order) are pitchers Casey Crosby and Ryan Perry, outfielder Wilkin Ramirez, and shortstop Cale Iorg. (Law doesn't seem to think too highly of Iorg either, saying that his being among the Tigers' top five doesn't reflect well on their organization.)