Tigers leave Hens stacked with talentWritten by Norm Wamer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There were a lot of things that we “knew” coming into the 2008 baseball season. We knew there would be offense galore in the American League. We knew that the Yankees and the Mets would be terrific. We knew that the Indians would be battling for another division title. We knew Baltimore, Oakland and Tampa Bay would all stink.
We also knew that the Tigers acquisition of Miguel Cabrera would give Detroit an unstoppable offense, leaving Florida with no chance of escaping 100 losses and deplete the Tigers organization of nearly all of its minor-league talent. I can honestly say I didn’t buy into all that pre-season hype; I knew Tampa Bay wouldn’t stink.
Maybe the one thing we did know, almost certainly, was that the Mud Hens would be good. We are used to that. But the one thing that has been surprising about the Hens is that they do indeed have legitimate major-league prospects.
Let’s first define “legitimate major-league prospect.” The first criterion is not talent, but age. For example, if a player reaches the Triple-A level at age 20, his is considered a much better talent than someone who is 28 and at the same level. Simply put, he is eight years ahead of the 28-year old, who is considered to be “nearly washed up.”
If a player doesn’t reach the majors by the time he reaches 25, most baseball people begin to feel that the “prospect” won’t become a star. More major-league players have their best season at age 27 than any other, so you can see the rush.
When Detroit traded for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, the Tigers parted with a boatload of prospects. Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller were first-round draft picks, and at 20 and 22 years old respectively, were considered major prospects. Also included in the deal were Eulogio de la Cruz, Dallas Trahern and Perrysburg native Burke Badenhop, all pitchers expected to reach the majors, with two of them already having done so. Where did that leave the Mud Hens?
Sure, the Hens had proven hitters Timo Perez (33) and Mike Hessman (30), but they were too old to be considered prospects. But one thing manager Larry Parrish, hitting coach Leon Durham and new pitching coach A.J. Sager always do well is prepare their players for the big leagues.
Pitcher Armando Galarraga (26) only spent two starts at Toledo, but has been Detroit’s most consistent starting pitcher this season. Outfielder Matt Joyce (23) drove in 21 runs in only 28 games with the Hens and made an immediate impact with the Tigers. Now first sacker Jeff Larish (25), who was third in the International League with 16 home runs and second in the league with 43 runs batted in, got the call up this week. This doesn’t even include second baseman Mike Hollimon, (25), who has stunned everyone by slugging 12 homers in just 35 games (he’s never had more than 15 in a season), outfielder Brent Clevlen (24), who has re-established himself by hitting around .300, cutting down on his strikeouts and showing everyone his wide range of talent, and Clete Thomas (24), who already showed that he can more than compete at the major-league level. Detroit called Thomas back up to the Tigers May 28.
The Tigers, full of high-priced talent at the big-league level, are blocking many deserving Mud Hens from moving up to Detroit, which is bad for Mud Hens players, but good for Mud Hens fans. The major leagues may not make sense this year, but at least the Hens are still in first place.
Norm Wamer is program director of Sports Radio 1470 “The Ticket” WLQR-AM and co-hosts “The Front Row” weekday afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m.