Minor Achievements: Another big-time Tigers arm
Yovani Gallardo made his big league debut on Monday and looked rock solid. I've written about him several times this season, but if this is your first time reading this column, go get him if you can. Trying to determine the best pitcher in the high minors this season was a three-way battle royale between Gallardo, Philip Hughes and Homer Bailey. Now they are all in the majors (Hughes is on the DL), and it's anyone's guess as to whom will prevail in the long term.
If Gallardo isn't available, read on for other possibilities
Eulogio De La Cruz, RHP, DET. Cruz is kinda shrimpy at 5-foot-11, 177 pounds, but he has a fastball that has touched three digits in relief, and an excellent curveball. His best potential is as a starter, but the Tigers might use him in relief for now. He had a 3.57 ERA in 63 innings at Double-A Erie, holding hitters to 51 hits in 63 innings (five homers) with a sharp 57-16 K/BB ratio in 10 starts. He did OK in relief in Triple-A Toledo, then made the jump to Detroit. Don't grab him unless your league is super-deep, but remember the name: In two to three years, he could be formidable.
Chase Headley, 3B, SD. All Headley was doing at Double-A was leading the Texas League in batting average, OBP and slugging percentage, with .357-.433-.648 marks in each category. Headley is 23, so he profiles as a potential superstar as long as his power doesn't wane. With 21 doubles, three triples and 13 homers (the second-best dinger total in the TL) in 227 at-bats, I think the power's here to stay. His bush-league K/BB ratio was a solid 53-31, and I think it'll get better in coming seasons.
Kurt Suzuki, C, OAK. Suzuki, 23, was having his worst season as a pro, batting .280-.351-.365 in 211 at-bats at Triple-A Sacramento when he was called up. I consider him to be a poor man's Jason Kendall, and he'll likely have the starting job in Oakland next season. At his peak, he'll probably bat around .300 with 10-14 homers and 70 walks. In AL-only keeper leagues, I'd grab him and stash him to help out in 2008. And if Kendall gets injured or benched this season
Sean Gallagher, RHP, CHN. Gallagher's a baby at 21, and I don't think he's ready for prime time. Still, he has the potential to be very nice in time. He has a low-90s fastball, a good curveball and a solid change. He went 7-2 at Double-A Tennessee in the Southern League. In 61 innings, he allowed 54 hits (three homers) and had a 54-24 K/BB ratio. I'd like to see a bit more power and command before I can recommend him, but he's so young, he can dramatically improve.
Nate Schierholtz, OF, SF. Schierholtz, 23, was batting .347-.374-.518 at Triple-A Fresno in the PCL. He has tremendous power potential, and had 20 doubles and three triples in 222 at-bats, but four homers is a really weak total for the Pacific Coast League. In addition, Schierholtz's 26-9 K/BB ratio is worrisome. He has some potential, but I wouldn't be grabbing him right now. I think he'll fall on his face during his initial big league trial.
Terry Evans, OF, LAA. Evans isn't someone I can recommend heartily, either. He was batting .327-.352-.656 at Triple-A Salt Lake City. If you are a fan of OBP, you can immediately see the problem: Anyone who bats .327 but gets on base at a .352 clip isn't walking much. Evans' K/BB ratio is 60-10, and that's a nonstarter for me. He's a fine athlete (23 doubles, three triples, 10 homers and 13 steals in 257 at-bats), but if you can't command the strike zone at age 25 in the high minors, then you face almost impossible odds in the majors. He might be good for a year or two as a platoon player, but I expect the league will catch up with him by season's end.
Last week, I took a look at the first four players taken in the 2007 amateur draft. This week, let's look at Nos. 5-10.
5. Matt Wieters, C, Georgia Tech (BAL). Wieters is an elite package, a huge (6-foot-5) catcher who gets Joe Mauer and Charles Johnson comps as a fielder. In addition, he has worked as Tech's closer in the past (his fastball hits the mid-90s), and has the best combination of power, plate discipline and bat speed in the college ranks. He hasn't had a monster season in college, but his .370 average, .698 slugging percentage and 37-50 K/BB ratio from this season hint at the possibilities he offers.
6. Ross Detwiler, LHP, Missouri State (WAS). Detwiler is a string bean, a mere 175 pounds despite being 6-foot-4. Some people think a pro fitness program and diet will allow Detwiler to pack on muscle and add power to his game. Detwiler hits 95 mph and has a nasty breaking ball and a solid changeup, so he looks like a fine prospect, even if he never adds meat to his bones.
7. Matt LaPorta, 1B, University of Florida (MIL). LaPorta is a college senior who batted .402-.582-.817 (20 homers, 16-55 K/BB ratio) in 169 at-bats. He was considered the best power bat in the 2006 draft, but a series of injuries derailed him that season, and he returned to Florida, regained his health and had a monster 2007. The Brewers are talking about moving LaPorta to left field. With his power and plate discipline, I think he could be very good, but his athleticism isn't tremendous. Perhaps he's another Carlos Lee?
8. Casey Weathers, RHP, Vanderbilt (COL). Weathers has a wicked slider/fastball combo, and he seriously dealt for Vandy this season, allowing a mere 25 hits in 47 innings (only one homer) with a 70-21 K/BB ratio. His control is iffy (4.0 BB/9IP), but when you're whiffing 13.4 per nine innings (courtesy of a 97 mph blower), and you induce ground balls, you have the skills to close in Colorado. He could rise quickly.
9. Jarrod Parker, RHP, Norwell (Ind.) High School (ARI). Parker touches 98 mph and has a good curve and slider. Parker isn't huge at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, but he could pitch at 94-95 (and tickle 100) if he fills out his frame. Even if he doesn't do that, he's a fearsome prospect.
10. Madison Bumgarner, South Caldwell (N.C.) High School (SF). He doesn't have a well-defined breaking ball, though his slider is a plus pitch at times, and he lacks a good changeup, but Bumgarner is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound brute with a 97 mph fastball and good command of his No. 1 pitch. Bumgarner is a great athlete, and he has clean mechanics. All he needs to do is stay healthy, and his athleticism and strength should allow him to develop. He might be the best prep lefthander in a draft that was packed with high school pitching talent.
David Srinivasan writes about statistics and the minors for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com. If you have questions or want David to write up a minor leaguer you're interested in, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.