The Graduate: Matt Joyce | Born: August 1984 | Outfielder
For the third season in a row, Detroit received an unexpected contribution from a young outfielder. Matt Joyce did his best Brent Clevlen/Ryan Raburn (Who also plays the infield) impressions in 2008… and Detroit can only hope he doesn’t follow their subsequent leads during his return engagement in 2009 (Both players fell on their faces in their second MLB seasons). This past season, Joyce hit .252/.339/.492 with 12 homers in 242 at-bats. He posted rates of 11.4 BB% and 26.9 K%. His .240 ISO was well above average for his minor league career, although he has shown more power each season. At worst, he should be a productive fourth outfielder.
The Riser: Rick Porcello | Born: December 1988 | Right-Handed Pitcher
The Tigers managed to give away just about every prospect in the system – save for Rick Porcello (Who thankfully wasn’t eligible to be traded last winter due to draft/minor league service time). Despite not pitching in his draft season due to signing late, Porcello was fast-tracked to High-A ball as a teenager and posted a 2.66 ERA in 24 starts. He allowed just 116 hits in 125 innings pitched and posted rates of 2.38 BB/9 and 5.18 K/9. The lack of strikeouts is obviously a concern, but Porcello has excellent stuff and is just learning how to get pro hitters out. Even so, don’t be surprised to see him in Detroit in the second half of 2009. The Tigers organization is not afraid to rush young players, and Porcello is that good.
The Tumbler: Michael Hollimon | Born: June 1982 | Shortstop
Michael Hollimon showed an intriguing mix of power and speed in his first three pro seasons but things went very, very wrong for him in 2008. Despite making his MLB debut in 2008, he hit just .211/.306/.420 in 331 at-bats in Triple-A. He posted rates of 12.9 BB% and (ugh) 32.9 K% in 2008. He failed to hit double-digits in stolen bases for the first time in full-season ball but posted an ISO of .208. After the season, it was announced that Hollimon – already 26 with limited MLB experience – would miss much of 2009 after undergoing surgery on the labrum in his non-throwing shoulder.
The ’08 Draft Pick: Ryan Perry | Born: February 1987 | Right-Handed Pitcher
Detroit took a number of hard-throwing college relievers in the 2008 draft in the hopes of having them move quickly through the system to compensate for a lack of existing depth. Ryan Perry is considered the best of the bunch. Unfortunately, he did show some rough edges in his pro debut in High-A ball. He allowed 15 hits and seven walks in 11.2 innings, despite also striking out 12 batters. Perry’s fastball can reach the upper-90s but it lacks movement. His slider, when it’s on, has been compared to Brad Lidge’s breaking ball.
The ’09 Sleeper: Brandon Hamilton | Born: December 1988 | Right-Handed Pitcher
Brandon Hamilton’s selection out of high school in the 2007 draft was overshadowed by Porcello, but he is also a very promising pitcher. Hamilton began the 2008 season in extended spring training and then received a promotion to A-ball and allowed 34 hits in 32.1 innings. He struck out 22 hitters, but his control deserted him and he allowed 28 walks. Hamilton was then demoted to Rookie Ball where he pitched in nine games. He posted a 1.97 ERA and allowed 27 hits in 38.2 innings. He walked 13 batters and struck out 42. He should open 2009 back in A-ball, if healthy.
Up Next: The St. Louis Cardinals
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