We break down the top five prospects for each organization for 2010, taking into consideration: games, at-bats, innings and major-league service time. We expect these players to have rookie status remaining heading into next year.
According to MLB rules: "A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the major leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a major league club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list)."
Note: Statistics are those at each stop in the minors this season and age represents how old they will be on opening day 2010.
We have knocked the Tigers farm system for years -- mostly because they keep trading away prospects for immediate help -- but they seem to develop a Rookie of the Year candidate every other year and still have some decent talent on the verge of the major leagues. Rick Porcello has been a revelation in his early 20s and another 2007 draftee could follow in his footsteps. The top five below might all be in the major leagues by the end of next season, in fact.
1. Casey Crosby, SP, 21
Crosby is more than three months older than Porcello, but he was merely toiling in low Class A this season. He dominated the way you'd like to see, though, going 10-4 with a 2.41 ERA and a .195 batting-average against. The Tommy John surgery survivor looks to be in good health now and could really surprise next spring, perhaps even in a Justin Verlander/Porcello way. The Tigers are not shy with challenging their young pitchers, so we expect Crosby to make a debut before the end of next season.
2. Scott Sizemore, 2B, 25
Sizemore had a banner year, appearing in the Futures Game and finishing in the Arizona Fall League. In between, he combined for a .308 average, 17 homers, 66 RBI, 88 runs, 21 steals, a .389 OBP, a .500 SLUG (39 doubles) in 520 at-bats in Double- and Triple-A. He hardly missed a beat in Triple-A, which puts him on the brink of the major leagues. It certainly helps that incumbent second baseman Placido Polanco is entering free agency this winter. Consider Sizemore a potential replacement and a nice sleeper in AL-only leagues on Draft Day.
3. Alex Avila, C, 23
Avila wasn't a big prospect after his pro debut in 2008, but his breakthrough season propelled him all the way to the major leagues, where he was popping homers at a surprising clip -- in a pennant race, no less. This power potential is for real apparently. He hit 12 homers and 23 doubles (.450 SLUG) in 329 Double-A at-bats, which earned him his September look (it also helps your dad is a prominent member of the organization's front office). Avila could very well be a starter next spring and would be a nice sleeper in deeper mixed leagues at the thin position.
4. Wilkin Ramirez, OF, 24
Ramirez finished the season on the Tigers' bench, unlike Sizemore, but he didn't have quite as fine of a season as his Triple-A counterpart -- nor as good of a season as he enjoyed in 2008. It is easy to knock his strikeout rate (143 whiffs in 434 at-bats), but it is as tough to ignore his speed-and-power potential. He hit 17 homers and stole 33 bases in the minors this season, which could make him a candidate to contribute, if not start, next spring. Consider him a nice sleeper in deeper Rotisserie leagues.
5. Ryan Strieby, 1B, 24
There is little chance Strieby pushes Miguel Cabrera in 2010, but his bat looks plenty promising. At 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, he generates plenty of raw power. In an injury-plagued season, he still managed to go .303-19-58-64-2 (.427-.565) in 294 Triple-A at-bats. He will likely open in Triple-A next season and if the Tigers don't permanently move Cabrera, he could find his way to at-bats as a DH in the second half.
Best of the rest: Jacob Turner, SP; Cody Satterwhite, RP; Dusty Ryan, C; Cale Iorg, SS; Alfredo Figaro, SP; Casper Wells, OF; Andrew Oliver, SP; Casey Fien, RP; Brooks Brown, SP; Luis Marte, SP; Brent Dlugach, SS; William Rhymes, OF; Jon Kibler, SP; Scott Green, SP; Zach Simmons, RP; Rob Weinhardt, RP; Wade Gaynor, 3B; Edwin Gomez, SS; Austin Wood, SP; Billy Nowlin, DH; Adam Wilk, SP; Brandon Douglas, 2B; Brandon Hamilton, RP; Danny Worth, SS; and Michael Hollimon, SS.
Last year's top five here: Porcello, Chris Lambert (now with Baltimore), Larish, Ramirez and Iorg.
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