As you are hopefully aware, I recently completed a look at the Tigers' depth at each of the every day positions. With those pieces, I was able to just look at the starters for each level and then throw in an extra player here or there. It's not that simple with pitchers, though, because there are so many of them and their roles are not easily defined as, say, an every day shortstop.
That caused me to struggle a bit with how I should present a look at the Tigers' pitching depth. I still haven't quite figured out how I will split up the posts, but what I have decided is that this first post covering pitchers will look at the infusion of talent the Tigers received from the 2010 Draft. What follows is those 16 pitchers in the order they were drafted.Chance Ruffin, 1st (Supp.), 22, Throws: Right
Ruffin was a deadline signing and therefore didn't get any innings in during the 2010 season. He did, however, pitch in the Arizona Fall League this season and after some initial shakiness, gave up no runs and just one hit over his seven final outings. He's not the kind of fireballer you'd expect the Tigers to take this early in the draft, as he works in the low 90s and depends more on command and movement than velocity. From reports, though, his slider is his best pitch. He's expected to be a fast mover, even though there is some skepticism over whether he could eventually land a closer's role. 2011 Outlook: Since 2005, only two Tigers who went to the Arizona Fall League have been assigned to a level lower than Erie the following season. It's usually either Erie or Toledo, and I'd expect Ruffin to land in Erie.
Drew Smyly, 2nd, 21, Throws: Left
Smyly was another deadline signing and also missed the 2010 season as a result. Smyly is another departure from the Tigers' usual big, hard-throwing prospects as he has just average fastball velocity. He does, however, throw four pitches, adding a cutter, a curveball and a changeup to the fastball. The fact that he threw those pitches at any point in the count shows he's a refined pitcher and scouting reports are complimentary of his feel for pitching. Personally, I'm happy to see the Tigers break the mold for an advanced pitcher rather than a big arm. 2011 Outlook: With Smyly's profile, it doesn't sound like he'd be challenged in the Midwest League as his off-speed stuff would probably carve up the young hitters. I'd look for him to land in Lakeland.
Alex Burgos, 5th, 20, Throws: Left
GCL, 11.2 IP, 10 H, 1 HR, 3 BB, 15 K
Let's hope there's no relation to Ambiorix. Burgos came out of a Florida JUCO with what Baseball America called "polish and a three-pitch mix". At just 5'11" and 180 pounds, it looks like those are the things that will need to carry whatever success he enjoys as that doesn't leave much room to expect more from a fastball that's usually in the upper 80s but can get into the low 90s. The other two pitches are a cutter and a curveball, and he is reported to be able to throw each for strikes. 2011 Outlook: He would still be young for the level, but I'd expect Burgos to see some time in the Midwest League this year.
Cole Nelson, 10th, 21, Throws: Left
GCL/Lake, 27.1 IP, 12 H, 0 HR, 13 BB, 36 K
With Nelson we get back to at least the frame we've come to look for in Tiger pitching prospects, as he's 6'7" tall and 240 pounds. That ample frame doesn't lead to that big of a fastball, though, as he's reported to top out in the low 90s. A low 90s fastball and just a slider to go with it suggests he's a long way from contributing for the Tigers if he is to be used as a starter. You may think that points to him coming out of the bullpen, but Baseball America noted his stuff suffers when he pitches from the stretch. Maybe that's something the Tigers can work through, but his eventual role may come down to which problem is easier to fix - adding a pitch or his delivery from the stretch. 2011 Outlook: I'd expect him to be West Michigan bound.
Kyle Ryan, 12th, 19, Throws: Left
GCL, 54 IP, 58 H, 2 HR, 13 BB, 46 K
The Tigers first high school pitcher in this draft doesn't look to give him a very high ceiling, as he apparently throws a high 80s fastball and a breaking ball that wasn't wowing analysts on draft day. He is 6'5" and just 180 pounds, though, so perhaps the Tigers are hoping instruction and physical maturity will take him up another notch as a prospect. 2011 Outlook: I'd expect Ryan to stay in extended spring training and then go where needed as the season progresses.
Patrick Cooper, 14th, 21, Throws: Right
Conn/W.Mich, 62.1 IP, 57 H, 5 HR, 30 BB, 50 K
Cooper seems to have a better profile than you'd expect from a 14th round pick. He is a former Cape Cod League All Star and was throwing as hard as 93 mph when he was in that league. His stuff fell off in his final year at Bradley, though, with him losing velocity on his fastball and movement on his slider. He ended up moving to a closer role out of necessity, but the early returns show the Tigers at least trying him as a starter. The Tigers are no doubt hoping they can get him back to being the pitcher they saw in the Cape back in 2009. The numbers above don't look too bad, but his time with West Michigan was a little rough (39.1 IP, 42 H, 4 HR, 23 BB, 26 K). 2011 Outlook: From those Whitecap numbers, you could certainly argue he'd benefit from another stab at the Midwest League.
Jordan Pratt, 16th, 21, Throws: Right
Mich, 27.1 IP, 26 H, 0 HR, 9 BB, 26 K
Another pitcher out of Arkansas, Pratt was thrown into a middle relief role with the Whitecaps and performed well. He was a reliever with the Razorbacks, too, so there's little doubt he won't be starting. I couldn't find much about what he throws other than a comment here and there about average stuff, which when combined with his draft status, suggests a likely organizational arm. 2011 Outlook: Relievers are harder to get a bead on, but I'd look for him to either go back to West Michigan or bump up to Lakeland. It will likely just depend on who needs him.
Drew Gagnier, 17th, 22, Throws: Right
Conn, 36.2 IP, 35 H, 2 HR, 24 BB, 38 K
He's L.J.'s little brother and is supposed to have better stuff. His fastball floats around in the low 90s range and sounds like it tops out around 94 mph. Early returns in his time at Connecticut suggest he needs to work on refining his control with it. On draft day, there was a little disagreement as to what his second pitch was as it was called a curveball, a sinker, and a cutter by varying sources. 2011 Outlook: A move up to West Michigan would seem to be a natural fit.
Tyler White, 20th, 21, Throws: Right
GCL/Conn, 10.2 IP, 13 H, 1 HR, 15 BB, 13 K
The book on White seems to be that he has a live arm that can pump it up to 94 mph, but control has always dogged him. The numbers above show that is an issue that was more than a simple tweak from being corrected. Sometimes these live arms hang around for a few years as they try to figure it out. Sometimes they are cut loose to room for the newcomers - who perhaps have similar issues. 2011 Outlook: White's progress probably lies with himself. If he finds his control, a middle relief job in a full season league is certainly feasible. If he doesn't, he may find a less defined role as a fill-in.
Tyler Clark, 24th, 22, Throws: Right
Conn, 44 IP, 39 H, 1 HR, 20 BB, 43 K
These lower picks really start to run together because scouting reports are harder to get a hold of and you get just vague comments like "fastball in the low 90s" or "two average pitches". Clark looks to be a multiple inning middle reliever, so there is a broad range of where he could go with those skills. After all, there are plenty of major league middle relievers with a fastball in the low 90s complemented with an average second pitch. I'm just making a point, not predicting an outcome. 2011 Outlook: Clark looks to me like a guy who's placed to fill out a bullpen rather than somebody who one is built around. He'll probably try to fight for a spot in West Michigan.
Shawn Teufel, 25th, 24, Throws: Left
Conn/W. Mich/Lake, 35 IP, 26 H, 2 HR, 15 BB, 39 K
You can tell from his age that Teufel's likely future is as an organizational arm. He tops out at about 90 or 91 mph and is said to have a total of four pitches with a good changeup. One thing to keep in mind is he's a convert to pitching, so his age may not work against him as much as it would other prospects. 2011 Outlook: Teufel bounced around last year between three levels, and when you do that without people talking about you, it screams "organizational soldier". It also makes it very difficult where he'll be placed, since it's likely to be more about where he's needed than where will best help his development.
Jeff Ferrell, 26th, 20, Throws: Right
GCL/Conn, 63.2 IP, 59 H, 2 HR, 15 BB, 64 K
Ferrell spent most of his time in the GCL (57.1 IP), and handled that level very well as a starter. Ferrell stands out from his other late-round brethren because he popped up on Mark Anderson's Top 50 Tiger Prospects List, in the 46th spot. In a system like the Tigers', that's not a fast track to the majors but it reflects his having made a good impression in his pro debut. Various reports seem to suggest he made advances in his last season in junior college and if he can continue to build on that progress, he may be able to rise above a future you'd associate with such a late selection. 2011 Outlook: It will depend on what the Tigers think after seeing him in this past Instructional League and what he does in the spring, but it'd be great to see him crack the West Michigan roster. That may be more difficult if he's going to be a starter.
Jack Duffey, 28th, 18, Throws: Left
GCL, 12.2 IP, 4 H, 0 HR, 5 BB, 14 K
I can't really say much about this Georgia high schooler other than what you see above. He's reported to have a good feel for pitching considering he's a high school pitcher, but we've seen countless cases where such a report makes a 180 turn once a player is in the pros. It's good to see, however, that the (very) preliminary returns seem to support that. 2011 Outlook: Extended spring training will likely be his home and then it will likely be a choice between the GCL (and filling in at Lakeland) or Connecticut.
Logan Hoch, 30th, 23, Throws: Left
Conn, 30.1 IP, 30 H, 1 HR, 19 BB, 32 K
Hoch will be 24 not far into the 2011 season because he was a red-shirt senior with Wichita State. He was red-shirted because an injured shoulder sidelined him for what would have been his senior season. Control was clearly an issue in his pro debut, and surprisingly, he was much more effective against right-handers than lefties. That was a small sample, though, and he'll likely need it to not be representative of his future is he's going to have a future. 2011 Outlook: He needs to find a full season role for 2011 if his long-shot chances are going to stay alive.
Matt Little, 31st, 22, Throws: Right
Conn/W. Mich/Lake, 37 IP, 25 H, 1 HR, 21 BB, 42 K
Little is a Cape Cod veteran who throws a two-seamer, a four-seamer and a bending slider. Most of the numbers above were put in at West Michigan (21 IP) and control was an issue when he was with the Whitecaps and Flying Tigers. He'll need to fix that to be able to hang around as a relief prospect, but if he can keep striking out a batter per inning that could help. 2011 Outlook: He's already bouncing around full season squads, so I'd look for him to return to either West Michigan or Lakeland.
Brennan Smith, 33rd, 21, Throws: Right
Conn, 69.1 IP, 70 H, 7 HR, 22 BB, 58 K
Smith was the last pitcher the Tigers signed this year and holds the interesting distinction of moving from the Bowling Green State bullpen to the Connecticut rotation. He seems to follow a long tradition of Tiger prospects who have performed well in college before stumbling in their final season before the draft. Once he was with Connecticut, though, he seemed to put college struggles behind him. He has a good fastball (tops out at 94 mph), but it looks like he could stand to find a pitch that will let him keep the ball in the park. Seven homers against in the NY-Penn put him among the league leaders. 2011 Outlook: I can't help but wonder if Smith might play a swingman's role for West Michigan. A return to Connecticut would seem to be a disappointment, but a rotation spot in West Michigan could be a stretch.