1. Rick Porcello, RHP (12/27/88)
The consensus top prep pitcher of the 2007 draft class, Porcello went 27th overall due to his bonus demands. Rated the No. 16 prospect in the game as recently as the End of the Year Top 75, Porcello combines the perfect package of size, athleticism, maturity and just filthy stuff. The glowing reviews of Porcello in instructional leagues at the Lakeland Tigers facilities do nothing but enhance all the previous reports. He fires a blazing fastball and shows off a plus changeup, too—something that most prep pitchers don't feature so soon. The ability to possess four potentially plus pitches—fastball, overhand curve, slider, and changeup—puts him ahead of where Clayton Kershaw was this time last year. Look for him to start in Low-A West Michigan in 2008.
2. Jeff Larish, 1B (10/11/82)
A 5th round pick out of Arizona State University in 2005, Jeff Larish combines raw power (45.5% XBH% in 2007) with great plate patience (17.0% BB rate). On the flipside, Larish has a long swing, resulting in more strikeouts (19.1% in 2007) then walks (87:108 BB:K) for the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder. In short, Larish’s at-bats tend to show some combination of the following: power, patience, and flailing, which resulted in a solid .267/.390/.515 vital line a season ago. Being 25 years of age and just finishing Double-A is a concern, but with Chris Shelton out of Toledo, Larish should see plenty of time in Triple-A starting in 2008.
3. Charles Furbush, LHP (4/11/86)
The Tigers nabbed Charles Furbush in the 4th round (151st overall) in June after just one year at Louisiana State University. The southpaw became a Tiger (LSU, that is) after 2 years at Saint Joseph's College in Maine, but his junior year in Baton Rouge, La. yielded mixed results coming off of a summer in which he was named one of the Top 10 prospects in the Cape Cod League by Baseball America. With a projectable 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame, Furbush features a nice fastball, a curve that has shown flashes of being above-average, and a change up. Both of his secondary pitches are behind the heater thus far, but after posting a 1.06 WHIP and 4.93 K:BB rate in his first 61.2 innings as a pro, Furbush has shown all the talents necessary to become at least a No. 3 starter as early as late 2009—though 2010 is more likely.
4. Brandon Hamilton, RHP (12/25/88)
A product of Stanhope Elmore (Ala.) H.S., the Tigers used the No. 60 overall selection on Brandon Hamilton just a few months ago. His 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame gives him good projection physically, and the velocity on his fastball should increase as he continues to fill out. Hamilton flashes an above-average spike curve—which is currently an inconsistent pitch—and a below-average change. With all the right physical tools in place, consistent control of a tough curveball to throw will determine how high he can climb in the future. Some reports question his mental toughness when things go bad during the game, noting particularly that he loses his aggressiveness and composure.
5. Danny Worth, SS (9/30/85)
Possessing potentially the best glove of any shortstop from the 2007 draft, Danny Worth is the prototypical small (6-foot-1, 180-pounder), glove-first middle infielder. Though his glove is his meal ticket for any route to the majors, he did post a .251/.323/.363 vital line in High-A Lakeland with his pro debut this season. Though a meager metric showing on the surface, he produced these numbers by jumping straight from Pepperdine University to High-A, providing marvelous defense at a crucial position from the start. I grade this second round pick as my best middle infielder in the Tigers system with a track record projecting to a possible .280/.330/.380 line through the minors offensively, which is acceptable given his defensive talents.
Casey Crosby (LHP, 9/17/88) was all set to play baseball at the University of Illinois before the Tigers tabbed him as their 5th round (181st) pick. The 6-foot-5, 205-pounder works off of his power fastball, holding below-average secondary offerings that need work—but that will all have to wait as he'll miss the 2008 season due to Tommy John surgery. Cale Iorg (SS, 9/6/85) has to shake off two years of rust after being on a Mormon mission since 2005. With a solid bat and good glove, Iorg is the most talented middle infielder in the system. James Skelton (C, 10/28/85) is a diminutive catcher with a good eye (55:53 BB to K in ‘07). His size perhaps keeps him out of catching prospect talk—5-foot-11, 165-pounds—two years worth of solid showings could vault him into those talks.
Mike Rogers can be reached at email@example.com.