Tigers farm director Glenn Ezell was interviewed on Around the Minors. He had a lot to say about the Tigers farm system and you can listen to the entire interview at MinorLeagueBaseball.com. Here are a few tidbits.
Cameron Maybin should start the season at Lakeland (High A) so the Tigers top two prospects will start there. Should be fun checking out that team but I expect both to be at Double A at some point in the season.
He had a lot of nice things to say about Jordan Tata and Virgel Vazquez, as well as a few other pitchers in the farm system.
Tigers 2003 first round draft pick Kyle Sleeth was mentioned and Ezell said he’s talked to him and liked his frame of mind but wasn’t sure how that would equate to on field performance. He didn’t rule out a breakout though.
I’m old enough to remember when the Tigers had their Triple A affiliate in Evansville, OH but for most of you, the Mud Hens in Toledo have been the Tigers Triple A afffiliate for as long as you can remember. Now the Tigers have extended their deal with the Mud Hens and they’ll be keeping Toledo as their minor league affiliate through 2010.
The Tigers have the seventh longest relationship with a Triple A affiliate in baseball right now and it’s also nice because Toledo isn’t “too” far from Detroit so making a game is very possible with some planning. On top of that, the Mud Hens have had a fantastic run. They’ve won the International League championship the past two years and they set an attendance record last year.
Personally, I’ve never made it to a Mud Hens game but I’m hoping too this year. From what everyone who’s gone has told me, it’s a fun time.
If you like watching Tiger baseball on the tube, there’s some good news for you. Fox Sports Net (FSN) and the Tigers came to an agreement that would air 151 regular season games. Another ten will be on national television which means only one baseball game won’t make it onto television. Only the Tigers first Saturday game against the Royals won’t be seen on television. And this year, instead of the non-FSN games being on channel 20, they’ll be on Fox 2.
Right handed relief pitcher Roman Colon had surgery on his neck in the offseason and it doesn’t look like he’ll be ready for the start of the season so it’s expected that he’ll find his way onto the disabled list at the beginning of the year. An ancilliary benefit of this is, Colon is out of options so it lets us carry the pitcher while he recovers from surgery. It didn’t seem likely that Colon was going to make the team based on the current start of the Tigers bullpen so this gives the Tigers a little more time to figure out what to do with him.
I’m a little late on this but I just found it. NBCsports.com unveiled their 2007 Tigers preseason preview last week. Joel Zumaya is the cover boy and while there’s no huge surprises in here, the conclusion is one of the most pessimistic I’ve seen. I mean, the Tigers are a lock to make the playoffs, right?
I don’t want to sound too much like a stick in the mud, but I’m hoping 2006 didn’t spoil Tigers fans. I definitely think the Tigers will be in the mix in 2007 but a playoff spot is hardly a forgone conclusion. In my opinion, the two best teams in the American League last year were the White Sox and the Yankees. The Tigers bounced the Yankees early and the White Sox didn’t even get in. Good teams don’t always make the playoffs, for a variety of reasons. I’d be extremely happy if the Tigers made the playoffs three out of the next five years. The question is though, do they take two years off before making a three run? Are they in one year and out the next?
I’m just worried because the AL Central has become a pretty tough division. You know the White Sox will be right there, and the Twins, even with their pitching woes, should be able to make a run as well. You also can’t forget about the Indians either. And with the additions that the Red Sox (now possibly Todd Helton) and Yankees have made, you figure the one finishes second is the team to beat for the Wild Card.
Then again, there’s also a ton to be happy about. When your left handed specialist is your biggest loss, you know you’re doing pretty well. And when you add a monster bat to the lineup like Sheffield, it should make the lineup more productive.
Did you ever think, say even two or three years ago, that anyone would be saying this about the Tigers?
In the Tigers expanding quest to find a left handed relief pitcher to replace Jamie Walker, the Tigers signed lefty Joey Eischen to a minor league deal. Eischen was having a pretty rough season on the face of things before it got completely derailed because of shoulder surgery. The reason that I say “on the face of things” is because he was completely awesome in an incredibly small sample size against left handed batters. Lefties were just two for twenty three against Eichen in 2006. Of course righties hit .421 against him.
2005 might be a better gauge. He was mediocre against both righties (.254) and lefties (.250). He does have 244 career strikeouts in 296 1/3 innings though and that ability to strike someone out can be pretty valuable. He also keeps the ball down and doesn’t give up a ton of homeruns (25 in those 296 1/3 innings).
Assuming he’s ready from his shoulder surgery, I think Eischen is worth a look as opposed to Jose Mesa, who I have little confidence in.
Jason Beck, the Tiger’s beat writer for MLB.com, recently published a mailbag column. He answers questions about the trade value of a close to free agency semi-veteran versus a prospect that hasn’t even hit the majors yet. He also touches on why all of the good prospects are at Double A and not Triple A and the one thing I was surprised to see was that he thought Andrew Miller was going to start the season at Lakeland (High A). There’s a lot of good stuff in here.
The last of what I now consider as the Big Three in prospects list published their top ten Tiger prospects. Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus tackled the Tigers and like the lists at Baseball America and Minor League Ball, we get the same impressions. The Tigers have two awesome prospects at the top, but then it thins out pretty quickly.
I found Goldstein’s list interesting because he has Gorkys Hernandez as the third best prospect. Hernandez comes in at seventh on the BA list and he’s fifth on Sickel’s list (with a B- rating). It’ll be interesting to see how he does for the White Caps as a 19 year old, which is where he’ll probably start out. Of course the problem is, he’s a centerfielder, which the Tigers are slowing creating a glut of. He’s probably at least one year behind Maybin, maybe two, so we won’t have to worry too much about finding room for Hernandez is he’s the real deal. Or he could be a solid trade candidate.
Brent Clevlen dropped all the way to eight and coming in at number ten is the Edward Campusano, who’s effectively the Tigers Rule 5 pick from this year (they bought him from the Brewers).
It’s hard to argue that Jeremy Bonderman hasn’t gotten better in each of his four major league seasons. He nearly doubled his 2003 strikout total (108) in his 2006 campaign (202) and the number of innings he’s logged has gone up in each of the four years while his ERA has come down in all four. He still hasn’t broken through the 15 win barrier, but his 14-8 record in 2006 doesn’t do him justice. Jeremy Bonderman is the best pitcher on the Tigers right now. At some point, Justin Verlander and maybe even Andrew Miller could pass him, but Bonderman’s the ace and he showed flashes of being one in 2006.
So the question is, if he’s so good, when will we see that season where he finishes near, or even at, the top of the Cy Young voting? I personally think that season could be 2007 and in a lot of ways, so does Baseball Prospectus.
Baseball Prospectus recently published their PECOTA cards for the 2007 season. You can check out Bonderman’s card but here’s a quick run down.
The first thing that was noteworthy was that they put Jeremy Bonderman sixth in all of baseball and third in the American League in weighted mean VORP (44.7). The guys in front of him are Pedro Martinez, Brandon Webb, Roy Halladay, Jake Peavy and of course the front runner, Johan Santana. So if the projections end up being correct and he finishes as the sixth best pitcher to that group, I wouldn’t see a whole lot of shame in that.
The one thing I did find odd is even Bonderman’s 90 percentile doesn’t have him at 200 strikeouts. It does have him at 16-6 with a 1.13 WHIP and a 2.62 ERA. Although I have a feeling if he has a 2.62 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP, that we’ll see closer to 20 wins with the lineup that the Tigers will be bringing in 2007.
Probably the most impressive part of the card was that BP gives Bonderman a 45% breakout rate and an 88% improve rate. So they’re basically saying that in all likely hood, Bonderman should top that mean weighted average and then have a 50% of coming out close to the top. I like those numbers especially when you combine them with only a 4% attrition and a 4% collages rating.
Also impressive is Bonderman’s comparable pitchers. He has a 42 similarity index which is okay for making comparisons and his most comparable pitcher is Larry Dierker who had a pretty solid career before flaming out. He won 22 games as a 22 year old but he was done by age 30. Second is Bill Gullickson, who also had an early start and had a breakout season at the age of 24. I thought the most optimistic one was Bert Blyleven, who is Bonderman’s fifth most comparable pitcher.
The cards are a lot of fun to check out. Sheffield’s card doesn’t look too hot but his 2006 injury plays a big factor in that. They expect a pretty steep decline from Kenny Rogers and they have a pretty wide range for what Justin Verlander might do.
The Tigers modifed their deal with Fernando Rodney to a two year, $2.7 million deal. Rodney still has one of the best changeups in baseball but he needs that fastball working to make it work. At $1.3 million in today’s market, I call it a bargain though. I see Rodney doing what he did last year and providing the Tigers with a very good setup man.
The Tigers want Carlos Guillen to stay past 2007. Carlos Guillen wants to stay with the Tigers until 2007. Now they just have to come to an agreement. The Tigers should be wary because while Guillen played most of 2006, he hasn’t been durable since his injury in 2004 (which also coincides with his breakout year). And he just turned 31 so he’s no longer a spring chicken either.
Regardless, if we can get Guillen to sign say, a three year extension with a home town discount, that would another huge coup for the Tigers front office.
And speaking of Carlos Guillen, will the trade the Tigers made for him (practically nothing) go down as the best in Tigers history. I think the trade that brought Dave Bergman and Willie Hernandez to Detroit is up there as is Rocky Colavito for Harvey Kuenn. Bondeman for Weaver (which is basically what it turned out to be) is a questionable one until Bonderman really has that breakout season.
Part two of my interview with Ernie Harwell is up today at the Hardball Times. While Part one talks more about the audiobook, part two were more personal questions I thought would be interesting. Mr. Harwell was more then happy to accomodate.
It seems like even though I’m not working in the traditional sense (i.e. I have no job right now), my time has been filled with other stuff and I’m busier then ever. No sweat, but I haven’t been giving my fellow bloggers, who I use for information on a regular basis, any love. So here’s a little.
I picked this up at Detroit Tigers Weblog. Fox Sports Net will be replaying the Tigers playoff wins so set your VCR. Billfer has also been doing a ton of work on examining how well (or not so well) the Tigers work the count and it’s impact. Good stuff.
And Detroit Tiger Tales has taken a fresh approach at rating fielders by combining several of the fielding metrics that out there. Curtis Granderson finished third last year in the centerfield category, which was ahead of gold glove mainstays like Mike Cameron and Jim Edmonds. Not too shabby for Granderson and some nice analysis by Lee Panas.
The Tigers did some winter house cleaning yesterday and signed four of their arbitration eligible players. Craig Monroe walked away with the biggest paycheck and he’ll make $4,775,000 next year after he hit 28 homeruns in the regular season and five more in the post season. If Monroe can repeat what he did in 2006, or even better, surpass his numbers then he’ll be a bargain.
Probably the biggest bargain was Nate Robertson. Anytime you can get a fourth starter of his caliber, and a left hander no less, for $3.26 million, it’s good for the franchise. In Robertson’s three full seasons, his numbers have gotten better each season and the only thing that prevented him from 15 wins last year was some run support. He was second on the team in innings pitcher (208 2/3) and strikeouts (137).
Setup man Fernando Rodney will make a touch over $1 million next year and Infante will make $1.3 million. The team still hasn’t said much about their plans for Infante and the last I heard, he’d be backing up Curtis Granderson in centerfield as well as providing a third backup in the infield along with Ramon Santiago and Neifi Perez.
All pretty good news here because the Tigers are getting some pretty good bargains. Out of this group of four, I think Nate Robertson would be the guy I’d want to lock up longer term but it looks like they’ll wait until he gets one or two more years under his belt before doing so.
Also, my interview with Ernie Harwell, at least part one, is up at the Hardball Times. I hope you check it out. Part two will be tomorrow.
I ran across this on my daily trip to Baseball Prospectus. Jose Mesa was fifth worst in the National League in Inherited Runs Prevented. Mesa was 6.4 runs worse then average. When you put that on top of the actual runs he gave up that were credited to him, that makes him a pretty poor reliever. Not sure he’s the guy I’d want coming in some time in the sixth inning in a close game, especially with runners on base.
Oddly, Mesa was only the fourth worst on the Rockies because four of the bottom five relievers were all Rockies. You wonder if it has something to do with the park adjustment or whether the Rockies relief pitching was that bad.
It’s amazing the difference that three years can make. Prior to the 2005 season, the Tigers supposedly made big league offers to guys like Carl Pavano and Steve Finley only to be shot down. What turned out to be a blessing in disguise, the Tigers kept their money and now have one of the deepest pitching staffs in baseball.
In this Free Press Column, prospects Jordan Tata and Virgil Vasquez talk about the pros and cons of getting traded. On the one hand, there’s plenty of traffic in their way. Andrew Miller might not be in the rotation to start this season, but you know he’ll be there no later then 2008 and that’s probably selling him short. Guys like Tata and Vazquez are icing on the cake. Their path got a little shorter when the Tigers traded Humberto Sanchez but they’re still like seventh and eighth on the depth chart.
Then on the other hand, when they do get the call, they should be playing for a winner. And that’s the sweet part for Tiger fans. The Tigers might not make the playoffs evey season over the next four or five, but you figure they should be right there every year.
The Tigers recently announced a three year deal that will keep Tiger games on AM1270. In addition, games will be broadcast on FM97.1. Not happy with the area of their coverage, the team is hoping that with the foray into FM that more listeners will be able to tune in. There was speculation that the games would pulled from AM1270 and put onto FM97.1 but it looks like they wanted to continue with the AM station because of it’s sports content to help promote the team. The move to FM has become a trend in the last couple of years that other teams are following.
In addition, Dan Dickerson and Jim Price are coming back. i really enjoy listening to the duo and am glad they’ll be back. Plus, I feel they’re owed something because of what they had to go through in 2003. 2006 for them was a just reward but I like the flow of the broadcast and I’d still much rather listen to the game on the radio then watch in on TV.
In other broadcasting news, I had a rare treat this week. To help him promote his new audiobook, I had a chance to interview Ernie Harwell for the Hardball Times. If I had to put together a list of five people I’d want to sit down and have a conversation with about baseball, Ernie Harwell would top the list so it was definitely something that I truly enjoyed. Mr. Harwell was very helpful and you can check out the interview on Wednesday. And if you haven’t checked out the audiobook, it’s awesome. It’s four hours and I’ve listened to it twice.
No surprises. Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr. were the only players to get elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday. Both have 3,000 hits and both were no brainers. It was the people who were on the fringe that make the most interesting stories.
Goose Gossage came very close and he lifted his percentage up to 71.2% (75% is required). Nothing is certain but this should make him a lock next year with no big names coming on the ballot this time next year. Jim Rice lost a little ground as did Bert Blyleven. So in just looking at this year’s ballot, you might find Gossage with Jim Rice coming in for 2008. Blyleven might have to wait a little longer then I thought.
Of course the Wild Card is Mark McGwire, who I felt got the shaft. He did pick up 128 votes and could make a big jump next year once people realize his numbers warrant admission.
As far as the Tigers, Jack Morris still has a long way to go and Alan Trammell is all but out of the running. I think Morris is a Hall of Famer but it’s hard to justify his omission as long as Blyleven isn’t in there.
This year, the veterans committee also has a vote although it’s been a while since they’ve voted anyone in. Ron Santo is the obvious choice out of that group and hopefully he finally gets the recognition he deserves.
In 2005, the Toledo Mud Hens won their first Governor’s Cup (the International League championship) since 1967. The team then repeated in 2006 despite barely making the playoffs (they needed to win a one game playoff just to get in). The skipper of both of those teams was former Tiger manager Larry Parrish, who was highlighted recently at Minor League Baseball. Good stuff.
John Beamer over at the Hardball Times takes on the task of trying to figure out how hard Joel Zumaya really throws. We all know what the radar guns say but in a lot of instances, those measurements appear to be juiced a bit. Then again, Beamer points to some new technology that MLB Advanced Media is developing that will not only tell you how fast the ball is going when it leaves the pitchers hand but also when it crosses the plate. Good stuff.