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Prospect Report: Bruce Rondon rising, Andrew Oliver falling

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Jacob Turner is looking to use the second half to show he belongs in the Tigers' long-term rotation plans.
Jacob Turner is looking to use the second half to show he belongs in the Tigers' long-term rotation plans.

Midseason Report on Tigers' Top 30 Prospects Part 1: Pitchers

With the baseball news slowing down to a crawl over the All Star Break, I took the opportunity to look over how the Tigers' top prospects are doing to this point of the season. What follows is a quick look at the 2012 progress of the Tigers' top thirty prospects, as named by Baseball America. Because BA doesn't release their Top 30 rankings without a subscription, I'm not including their actual rank.

You should also know going in that the "Up", "Down" and "Even" scores (which are otherwise pretty self-explanatory) are mostly a comment on the players' numbers. It's very possible, especially at the lower levels, that a player's true progress as a prospect is unrelated to the numbers on the field or any of the variables I can see.

This first installment covers the pitchers. I'll let the topic of the second installment be a surprise. (Age is as of July 11th and stats are not included for stints of less than 10 IP)

Up

Drew Smyly, LHP, 23

Toledo, 3.2 IP
Detroit, 79.1 IP, 80 H, 11 HR, 8.5 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 4.42 ERA, 3.85 FIP

He won the Tigers' fifth rotation spot and has performed capably for that role. After five quality starts in his first six games, it took him almost two months (which included a DL stint) to get his sixth.

Casey Crosby, LHP, 23

Toledo, 70.2 IP, 52 H, 4 HR, 8.9 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 3.18 ERA, 3.48 FIP

Detroit, 12.1 IP, 15 H, 2 HR, 6.6 K/9, 8.0 BB/9, 9.49 ERA, 6.39 FIP

It was clear he was not ready to be a Major League starter when he was with the Tigers, but Crosby has showed some promising signs in Toledo. Walks continue to be an issue but he has a solid strikeout rate and is getting a ton of grounders. There's some question about whether he'll stick as a starter, but 47 innings in his last seven starts shows he's at least keeping his pitch counts under control.

Bruce Rondon, RHP, 21

Lakeland, 23.1 IP, 12 H, 1 HR, 13.1 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 1.93 ERA, 2.26 FIP
Erie, 10.1 IP, 4 H, 0 HR, 11.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 0.00 ERA, 2.72 FIP

He made national news - well, among prospect watchers - when he hit 102 on the Kaufmann gun at the Futures Game. With that arm, he's been close to unhittable this season and has even shown improved control.

Brayan Villarreal, RHP, 25

Toledo, 14 IP, 5 H, 1 HR, 14.1 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 1.29 ERA, 2.70 FIP

Detroit, 29 IP, 18 H, 2 HR, 12.4 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.55 ERA, 2.44 FIP

I'm always a fan of letting a guy go as far as he can as a starter, but Villarreal is pretty clearly a reliever at the highest level. He's been a godsend for the Tiger bullpen and seems to be earning Leyland's trust as a higher leverage guy.

Duane Below, LHP, 26

Detroit, 36 IP, 32 H, 3 HR, 6.3 K/9, 1.0 BB/9, 2.75 ERA, 3.18 FIP

After being in the mix for the fifth starter spot won by Smyly, Below caught a break when Marte started the season on the DL. He has seized his opportunity enough to spend the entire season in Detroit. He's given the Tigers quality innings, albeit typically in low leverage situations.

Even

Adam Wilk, LHP, 24

Toledo, 88.2 IP, 72 H, 9 HR, 7.3 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 3.45 ERA, 3.44 FIP

Detroit, 11 IP, 21 H, 4 HR, 5.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 8.18 ERA, 7.34 FIP

His control allows him to succeed in Triple A, but he's not yet proven he has the command of his low velocity fastball to carry that success to the majors. Consider me a skeptic he ever will.

Luis Marte, RHP, 25

Lakeland, 2.0 IP
Toledo, 5.1 IP
Detroit, 17 IP, 16 H, 4 HR, 7.4 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 3.71 ERA, 5.89 FIP

Won the last spot in the bullpen before starting the season on the DL with a hamstring problem. His stuff can look nasty from time to time, but inconsistent command left him susceptible to homers in Detroit. I suspect he'll get familiar with the drive from Toledo to Detroit and back.

Brian Flynn, LHP, 22

Lakeland, 95 IP, 108 H, 5 HR, 7.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 3.69 ERA, 3.35 FIP

This huge lefty has handled the promotion from West Michigan to Lakeland in stride. He has almost precisely duplicated his peripherals from 2011 after the move. One difference this season, however, is he's been more hittable. Don't sleep on him, though, as I expect he'll be given a shot as a lefty specialist if the starting gig doesn't work out.

Down

Jacob Turner, RHP, 21

Lakeland, 21.2 IP, 17 H, 1 HR, 7.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 1.66 ERA, 3.34 FIP

Toledo, 62.2 IP, 53 H, 2 HR, 5.7 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 3.16 ERA, 3.58 FIP

Detroit, 5 IP

He's spent most of his season at Toledo and he's lost some of the shine from his peripherals. He's working back from a dead arm early in the season, though, so the second half will be important to show he's come all the way back. A complete game shutout in his last start is certainly a good sign.

Andrew Oliver, LHP, 24

Toledo, 91.2 IP, 79 H, 6 HR, 8.4 K/9, 6.8 BB/9, 5.11 ERA, 4.52 FIP

Oliver's control issues have come to the foreground to say the least. It's been a long time since I've read anybody opining he could be anything but a reliever at the major league level. His strikeout rate shows he could certainly have a future if he ever starts hitting his spots.

Brenny Paulino, RHP, 19

Has not played in 2012

It's looking like 2012 might be a lost season, as he's not played and Mark Anderson reported a "minor" shoulder surgery back in June.

Alex Burgos, LHP, 21

Lakeland, 80.1 IP, 72 H, 4 HR, 6.4 K/9, 6.6 BB/9, 5.15 ERA, 4.86 FIP

Maybe the most disappointing season from a Tiger pitching prospect. His last couple starts have looked a little more promising, but you can see on the season he's walked more than he's struck out. Things could still turn for him, but has a lefty coming out of West Michigan tricked us again?

Ramon Lebron, RHP, 23

West Michigan, 23 IP, 17 H, 1 HR, 10.2 K/9, 12.5 BB/9, 6.26 ERA, 5.94 FIP

If you still have hope for Lebron figuring out how to make his electric arm work for him, you're a true optimist. He's now spending his third season in West Michigan and this season looks like a big step back from progress last year.

Matt Hoffman, LHP, 23

Toledo, 24.1 IP, 32 H, 2 HR, 6.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 4.81 ERA, 4.47 FIP

You can only answer the "What do the Tigers like about this guy?" questions with "good velocity" for so long. He's not getting enough strikeouts, hasn't been much of a ground ball guy (like in the past) and hasn't improved on last year's numbers at the same level.

Tyler Stohr, RHP, 25

Erie, 13 IP, 11 H, 1 HR, 9.7 K/9, 9.0 BB/9, 2.08 ERA, 5.51 FIP

He missed nearly two months with some elbow problems. Control has been an issue and that could be related to the injury, but it's also never been a strong suit. He'll soon be 26 and to this point has never pitched above Double A.

Kevin Eichhorn, RHP, 22

Lakeland, 45 IP, 57 IP, 1 HR, 5.0 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 4.00 ERA, 2.91 FIP

He was performing admirably in Lakeland before going down with an injury that has prevented him from pitching since May 14th. When healthy, he was still the good control, low strikeout guy he was last season with West Michigan. If the injury turns out to be nothing to worry about long term, feel free to bump him up to an "Even".

Jose Ortega, RHP, 23

Toledo, 38.1 IP, 34 H, 1 HR, 11.3 K/9, 8.0 BB/9, 4.23 ERA, 3.77 FIP

Detroit, 2.2 IP

Ortega throws in the high 90s. As far as I can tell, that's his resume. It allows him strikeouts, but he has trouble keeping the heater under control. Whether we continue hearing his name will depend on whether that ever changes.

Summary

So there you have it. Seventeen pitchers. Five "Up", Three "Even" and Nine "Down". I suppose it's a good thing all the "Up"s are either in Detroit or close. Bruce Rondon is the only one you could argue about on that point, and I get the feeling he could be going somewhere to bring back a key piece for the Tigers' playoff run. That's just a hunch, though. I'd feel a lot worse about the group if I weren't confident Turner will bring back some of his 2011 shine.