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 Jacob Turner No. 1 on 2011 Detroit News top 50 Tigers prospects list

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PostSubject: Jacob Turner No. 1 on 2011 Detroit News top 50 Tigers prospects list   Tue Feb 01, 2011 9:12 pm

Last Updated: February 01. 2011 7:57AM
Jacob Turner No. 1 on Detroit News top 50 Tigers prospects list
Lynn Henning / The Detroit News

Gambling is generally considered to be an illegal activity, although it's amazing no baseball scouts have ever been handcuffed and hauled away for betting on prospects.

The money spent on drafting, signing and developing potential big league players is astounding. The rate of return is abysmal.

That's baseball. It's nothing to bank on, even when a minor leaguer has shown he has the skills to play in the majors. Getting there — and staying there — can be another matter.

With that in mind, The Detroit News has compiled its own Top 50 Prospects list for 2011 (no Tigers staffers participated in this project).

The rankings are as important for players they exclude as for those who are listed. If a player has already made it to Comerica Park — for example, Andy Oliver, the promising left-handed pitcher who otherwise would probably have been No. 2 on our list — he is considered to have crossed the threshold.

This list is about prospects still pushing for a shot at The Show. It is decidedly non-scientific — a combination of performance to date, statistical analysis as it compares with a player's age, and ongoing conversations with organizational personnel.

There are players listed who never will dress for a big-league, regular-season game. And, there are some who aren't part of the Top 50 who will someday make it to a park near you.

1. Jacob Turner

Age: 19

Pos.: Right-handed pitcher

Outlook: When it already has been decided a 19-year-old right-hander will begin at Double A, you know how quickly the Tigers anticipate Turner could slide into the starting rotation. It could happen this season for a 6-foot-5, 210-pounder who, unless he gets hurt, stands to become one of the game's elite. Only 19 months out of high school, Turner has a three-pitch package of power and precision. The Tigers paid him a big-league contract in 2009 ($4.7 million). And they haven't regretted a penny of it.

2. Nick Castellanos

Age: 18

Pos.: Third base

Outlook: The Tigers had Castellanos so high on last year's draft board, they aren't comfortable sharing his exact place on their wish list. That they got him 44th overall was not because other teams didn't view him as generously — almost all of them did. But no one believed they could sign him a sane price. The Tigers invested $3.45 million and are convinced that in Castellanos they stole a 6-4, 195-pound pure hitter who will blend muscle with a high average.

3. Avisail Garcia

Age: 19

Pos.: Outfielder

Outlook: Not everyone understands Garcia was playing at Single A at 17. It tells you how special he is. Garcia spent last year at West Michigan, but will move to high A at Lakeland this season. From there, it's a matter of time until a 6-3, 190-pound player with legitimate five-dimensional skills (arm, glove, speed, and a bat that will hit for average and power) moves into a corner outfield spot.

4. Francisco Martinez

Age: 20

Pos.: Third base

Outlook: Martinez climbed so rapidly in 2010 that the Tigers sent him to the Arizona Fall League, normally reserved for players on the cusp of the big leagues. Martinez has a fast bat and enough athleticism to play third base — or shift positions. One more big season in the minors, which is within his reach, and Martinez will be knocking at Comerica's gate.

5. Chance Ruffin

Age: 22

Pos.: Right-handed pitcher

Outlook: A polished right-hander from the University of Texas, Ruffin could be in the bullpen as early as this season. He's the son of ex-big-league pitcher Bruce Ruffin and displays his genetics and fatherly influence handsomely. He's a back-end reliever who should move quickly.

6. Drew Smyly

Age: 21

Pos.: Left-handed pitcher

Outlook: The Tigers like Smyly's chances at pitching in Detroit within a season or two. He is not a dazzler. But, he has quality pitches, which were on display at Arkansas, and which led the Tigers to give him a $1-million-plus enticement to give the big leagues a shot.

7. Dixon Machado

Age: 18

Pos.: Shortstop

Outlook: As much as you can project a prospect who's still a teenager, the Tigers have an elite star in Machado, a 6-foot, 140-pound, right-handed hitter with two-way brilliance. A product of the Tigers' foray into Venezuela, he could be moving toward Detroit in a hurry.

8. Ryan Strieby

Age: 25

Pos.: Outfielder

Outlook: If, at long last, Strieby has escaped the wrist problems that have been hammering him for three years, he moves back into his old status as the organization's most advanced hitting prospect. Strieby believes he can play through minor pain, but, realistically, his wrist has either healed or it hasn't. If so — and doctors are at least encouraged — he has the power and whole-field hitting skills to be a factor.

9. Daniel Fields

Age: 20

Pos.: Outfielder

Outlook: Another player pried away from college (Michigan) by a lovely cash prize ($1.625 million), Fields honored his paycheck last year by spending the entire season at high Single A Lakeland. The left-hander was steady and showed his skills could deliver him to Detroit within two seasons.

10. Danrys Vasquez

Age: 17

Pos.: Outfielder

Outlook: It's difficult to suggest a 17-year-old is headed for stardom, but you can take that risk with Vasquez, who last summer became a 16-year-old millionaire when the Tigers signed him out of Venezuela. He is 6-2, 170, and a left-handed hitter who has been hammering pitchers four and five years older. The Tigers will make him a corner outfielder and happily let him evolve into the star he is all but certain to be.

11. Casey Crosby

Age: 22

Pos.: Left-handed pitcher

Outlook: Crosby would be a top-three talent if elbow problems and Tommy John surgery hadn't messed up his past few seasons. If he's healthy, as doctors believe he should be, the Tigers regain a power pitcher who by now would have been in their rotation had Crosby's elbow not acted up.

12. Lester Oliveros

Age: 22

Pos.: Right-handed pitcher

Outlook: Has one of the best arms in the system and will be in Detroit quickly if he improves his control. He had 60 strikeouts in 44 innings spanning stints at Lakeland and Erie. Batters hit .208 against him. His hang-up: 27 walks.

13. Corey Jones

Age: 23

Pos.: Second baseman

Outlook: Those who like offense will love Jones. It's his glove that must get better. But last June's seventh-round pick out of Cal State-Fullerton showed in 48 games at West Michigan a 6-foot, 190-pound left-handed batter can hit (360 average, .450 on-base percentage, .460 slugging, .910 OPS).

14. Andy Dirks

Age: 25

Pos.: Outfielder

Outlook: Dirks had a breakout season in 2010, hitting .375 in 22 games with four home runs and 17 RBIs at Toledo after hitting .315 with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs in 98 games at Double-A Erie. The 6-foot, 195-pounder followed up with a big winter league in the Dominican Republic (.315, five homers, 46 games).

15. Brandon Douglas

Age: 25

Pos.: Second base

Outlook: A bit more advanced, age-wise, than would be ideal, but Douglas blossomed in 2010 and could play his way into the picture as quickly as 2011. He's 6-foot, 185, bats right, and last season, in 72 games at Lakeland and Erie, hit .345, with a .400 on-base percentage and .466 slugging percentage.

16. Charlie Furbush

Age: 24

Pos.: Left-handed pitcher

Outlook: Few would be surprised if Furbush becomes one of camp's pleasant stories. He has been on an upward flight path the past couple of seasons, and with his left-handed circuitry and starter's credentials, the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder could make life more comfortable for the Tigers.

17. Austin Wood

Age: 24

Pos.: Left-handed pitcher

Outlook: The Tigers weren't scared away when he threw 169 pitches in a NCAA Tournament game in 2009. A few days later, the Tigers made him a fifth-round pick. Shoulder problems cost him most of 2010, and that's more than a red flag. But if he rebounds, Wood has terrific upside because of superb command.

18. Brayan Villarreal

Age: 23

Pos.: Right-handed pitcher

Outlook: In 24 starts with Lakeland and Erie last season, Villarreal was 7-8 with a 3.55 ERA, which means nothing compared with his .232 opposing batting average and 1.21 WHIP. Villarreal (6-foot, 170) struck out 136 in 129 1/3 innings and walked 39.

19. Cole Nelson

Age: 21

Pos.: Left-handed pitcher

Outlook: The Tigers snagged this 6-7, 233-pound project pitcher in the 10th round last June (Auburn) and might have made one of the draft's steals. In three starts at the Gulf Coast League and Lakeland, he struck out 36 and walked 13 in 27 1/3 innings.

20. Rob Brantly

Age: 21

Pos.: Catcher

Outlook: Could benefit from a dose of muscle and power, but the Tigers made him their third-round pick last June (UC-Riverside), all because a 6-3, 205-pound, left-handed hitting catcher provided such all-around potential. Last season at West Michigan, he hit .255 in 52 games with a .352 on-base average. Very solid defensively.

21. Bruce Rondon

Age: 20

Pos.: Right-handed pitcher

Outlook: Could be one of the fast-risers in the system. He's 6-2, 190, and in 28 games split between the GCL and Lakeland had a 0.84 ERA and a .125 opposing batting average.

22. Wade Gaynor

Age: 22

Pos.: Third baseman

Outlook: The Tigers grabbed him in the third round of 2009 (Western Kentucky) and Gaynor last season looked like a top-shelf prospect as he became the Tigers minor league player of the year. He was a year older than would have been ideal for low Single A, but Gaynor could skip a rung if he resumes in 2011 what the 6-3, 225-pound hitter did in 2010 (.286, 10 home runs, 80 RBIs).

23. Matt Hoffman

Age: 22

Pos.: Left-handed pitcher

Outlook: He was a 27th-round pick in 2007, but last season cranked it up at Lakeland and made it as high as Toledo. He's 6-2, 195, and a reliever who could be in for a large 2011.

24. John Murrian

Age: 22

Pos.: Catcher

Outlook: Excellent defense is one reason Murrian (6-2, 215) will play in the majors. He's a right-handed hitter with some work to do (.254 in 79 games between Lakeland and Erie).

25. Alex Burgos

Age: 20

Pos.: Left-handed pitcher

Outlook: Burgos was a Florida junior college pitcher who was draft-eligible last June when the Tigers snared him in the fifth round. He's 5-11, 170, with an excellent arm. Pitched in eight games with the GCL Tigers and held hitters to a .227 average.

26. Jose Ortega

Age: 22

Pos.: Right-handed pitcher

Outlook: Big year in 2010 for the 5-11, 165-pound reliever who had a 1.23 WHIP at Erie. He just finished a strong winter in Venezuela.

27. Luke Putkonen

Age: 24

Pos.: Right-handed pitcher

Outlook: A third-round pick in 2007 (North Carolina), Putkonen was healthy last season and had a reassuring season at Lakeland (9-7, 3.18 ERA). He's 6-6, 200 pounds.

28. Duane Below

Age: 25

Pos.: Left-handed pitcher

Outlook: Tommy John surgery is in his past, which is why the Tigers suspect Below (6-2, 205) could rise steadily after a comeback season at Erie (7-12, 4.93 ERA, 1.38 WHIP). Below was a 19th round pick in 2006 (Lake Michigan).

29. Adam Wilk

Age: 23

Pos.: Left-handed pitcher

Outlook: Wilk will be pushing for a promotion after a big 2010 — 11-5 in 27 games at Lakeland and Erie (0.63 WHIP). He's 6-2, 175, and an 11th round pick in 2009 out of Long Beach State.

30. Edwin Gomez

Age: 19

Pos.: Shortstop

Outlook: He's a 6-3, 175, switch-hitter and fourth-round pick in 2009 (Puerto Rico) whose numbers (.226 in 46 games in the GCL) are misleading.

31. Javier Azcona

Age: 19

Pos.: Shortstop

Outlook: Fine right-hand hitting potential for a 6-1, 185-pound youngster who, like Gomez, is still filling out.

32. Bryan Holaday

Age: 23

Pos.: Catcher

Outlook: One of the many catchers the Tigers grabbed in 2009, Holaday (sixth round, TCU) will be worth watching in his first full season. He's 6-foot, 220 pounds, and a right-handed hitter.

33. Thad Weber

Age: 26

Pos.: Right-handed pitcher

Outlook: Could be at Comerica Park in 2011 if last year at Toledo is any indication (2-1, 1.64 ERA in three starts, 0.77 WHIP). Weber, who is 6-2, 200, pitched in winter ball in Venezuela.

34. Kyle Ryan

Age: 19

Pos.: Right-handed pitcher

Outlook: The Tigers kept him from South Florida with a $100,000 offer after making him their 12th-round pick. He's 6-4, 210, with large upside.

35. James Robbins

Age: 20

Pos.: First base

Outlook: The Tigers have an impressive left-handed hitter being groomed, as well as a sharp defensive player. Robbins is 6-foot, 225 pounds, and last season held his own at Connecticut (.251, three home runs, 37 RBIs).

36. Jesus Ustariz

Age: 17

Pos.: First base/third base

Outlook: It's difficult to forecast a 17-year-old, except when they have Ustariz's skill potential.

37. Audy Ciriaco

Age: 23

Pos.: Shortstop

Outlook: It's a make it or break it season for Ciriaco, who is 6-3, 195.

38. Gustavo Nunez

Age: 22

Pos.: Shortstop

Outlook: Nunez has the glove but must find a bat.

39. Luis Marte

Age: 24

Pos.: Right-handed pitcher

Outlook: If he chops down his strike zone, Marte can move into consideration. He has the arm. The Tigers have been waiting for him to stay healthy and put an otherwise impressive package in order.

40. Al Alburquerque

Age: 24

Pos.: Right-handed pitcher

Outlook: He was signed to a major-league deal in December and has a roster spot after having spent time with the Cubs, Rockies, etc.

41. Rawley Bishop

Age: 25

Pos.: First baseman

Outlook: He has power (15 home runs in 2010) and an interesting right-handed bat. Bishop is 6-3, 205 pounds and was a 19th-round pick in 2009 (Middle Tennessee).

42. Wildredo Ramirez

Age: 23

Pos.: Left-handed pitcher

Outlook: Never give up on a left-hander, they say. The Tigers happily will chronicle Ramirez (6-4, 201) after his 2010 season at Lakeland (28 games, .279 OBA, 1.24 WHIP).

43. Brendan Wise

Age: 25

Pos.: Left-handed pitcher

Outlook: Could slip into the picture. Wise, an Australian who was an eighth-round pick in 2005 (junior college) was 4-2 with a 2.08 ERA in 28 games at Erie.

44. Wilsen Palacios

Age: 21

Pos.: Right-hand pitcher

Outlook: Has real size (6-3, 180) and in 2010 only allowed 57 hits in 67 1/3 innings between the GCL, Connecticut and Lakeland. Had a 1.29 WHIP, thanks to 67 strikeouts and 13 walks in 74 innings.

45. Cale Iorg

Age: 25

Pos.: Shortstop

Outlook: He is such a breathtaking wizard in the field, the Tigers can only dream Iorg will find it at the plate. But it's getting late. He hit .304 at the Arizona Fall League with two home runs after hitting .242 in 16 games at Toledo.

46. Michael Torrealba

Age: 21

Pos.: Right-handed pitcher

Outlook: Not a big guy (5-11, 150), but Torrealba has an arm. He split time between Connecticut and Lakeland and was sharp (3.67 ERA, 21 games, .235 opposing batting average).

47. Antonio Cruz

Age: 19

Pos.: Left-handed pitcher

Outlook: Young and with nice potential, Cruz should move up a peg or two.

48. Scott Green

Age: 25

Pos.: Right-handed pitcher

Outlook: Tigers had him pegged for a bullpen spot by now, but arm problems sabotaged those plans. Green (6-7, 240) was a third-round pick in 2008 (Kentucky).

49. Julio Rodriguez

Age: 21

Pos.: Catcher

Outlook: He's sturdy (6-2, 200) and a right-handed hitter who brings more depth and potential to a position where you never have enough of either.

50. Ben Guez

Age: 24

Pos.: Outfielder

Outlook: As with his old William & Mary fellow alum, Will Rhymes, don't count out Guez, who hit .251 in 68 games at Toledo. At three stops, he had nine homers and 32 RBIs.

lynn.henning@detnews.com

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110201/SPORTS0104/102010312/Jacob-Turner-No.-1-on-Detroit-News-top-50-Tigers-prospects-list#ixzz1Cl3gccYK


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