Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The 40 Man Roster in 40 days: Tony Giarratano

Tony Giarratano was drafted in the third round out of Tulane University in 2003, a draft whose first five rounds yielded Kyle Sleeth, Jay Sborz, Giarratano, Josh Rainwater, and Danny Zell. Selected with a reputation of being a defensive wizard with limited offensive skills, Giarratano surprised all with his .328/.369/.476 performance in Oneonta. The offensive outburst moved him to the top of most prospect charts after his debut season.

In 2004, Giarratano picked up right where he left off, hitting .285/.383/.352 in pitching friendly. After being promoted to Lakeland, he preceded to hit the cover off the ball at .376/.421/.505, enough to keep him near the top of the prospect lists at #6 in Baseball America's team ranking. At this point, some worried about his dependency on batting average, suggesting that the season was a fluke caused by luck with balls in play. Others worried about the upcoming jump to AA, a pitfall for many prospect. The aspect that has hindered Giarratano the most began to creep up in 2004 when he had a season-ending partial dislocation in his non-throwing shoulder. Regardless, "Tony G." got the "Shortstop of the Future" tag placed upon him after an impressive first two years in the pros.

The shortstop of the future cries got even longer in 2005 when Giarratano was brought up to fill in for an injured Carlos Guillen during the summer. Still, he did not hit well in his time with the Tigers (.143/.234/.214) nor with the Seawolves (.266/.334/.373). The defensive skills remained, though. Despite the 21 errors combined between the two levels, Baseball America tagged Tony G. as the top defensive infielder in the system.

Another slow start and injuries slowed down Giarratano in his attempt to repeat Erie in 2006. In just 269 at bats, Tony G. hit a disappointing (.283/.340/.390) in his time at Erie before coming down with a minor wrist injury in June and finally suffering a season-ending ACL tear in his right knee. At last recovered from the knee injury, Tony went under the knife again in Spring training, having surgery on a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

This has already been covered, but unlike Bazardo (who did have a short stint on San Antonio's 2006 Disabled list... whoops), Giarratano's career has been slowed to a screeching halt. It's hard to say which injury is the biggest worry. The shoulder dislocation is usually the result of a blunt force to the shoulder, so one would be led to believe it's not a worry. The problem comes with the fact that after surgery to replace such an injury, the joint is less stable, and more likely to be injured again. I don't remember exactly how he hurt his knee, but most ACL injuries are the result of landing awkwardly, over-extending the leg while running, or blunt trauma to the knee. Like a shoulder location, one who has already torn one ACL is more likely to tear the other. We still have not seen Tony G. play since the injury, but he should have had plenty of time to rehabilitate the leg. The labrum injury worries me most. While not the kiss of death for shortstops as it once was for pitchers, a defense-first prospect cannot afford to have difficulties throwing the ball when he has problems hitting in the first place. The injuries have certainly put a damper on the career of a guy who got off to such a great start, and worst of all, these injuries tend to be chronic.

Service time:
2005: 26 days
2006: 34 days
2007: 172 days

Time on the Big League disabled list counts. Giarratano was brought up at the end of 2006 to allow the Tigers more options on the playoff roster, and was placed on the DL in 2007 to save an option for a recovery year in 2008.

Used options in 2005 and 2006.
One remaining

Again, being on the Major League DL in this year will enable Tony G. to head to Erie or Toledo to get back on track.

Present Status:
If all had gone well, the Edgar Renteria trade would have been unnecessary, as Giarratano could have been a decent shortstop for a couple of years. Clearly all did not go well. With the onset of injuries, struggles in Erie, and the emergence of Danny Worth, Tony G. may have to settle into some kind of a utility role. Out of options after 2008, you have to think the Tigers may try to find a way to sneak him through waivers this offseason while his value is down to avoid a possibly tough decision in 2009. At this point, it's hard to envision Giarratano as a starter on the Detroit Tigers. The 2003 draft has proven to be a disaster for the organization. Only Jordan Tata, Virgil Vasquez, and Tony Giarratano currently remain on the 40 man roster. First round pick Kyle Sleeth has not recovered from his Tommy John surgery 30 months ago. Second round pick Jay Sborz can't throw a strike or graduate past short season ball. Fourth round pick Josh Rainwater is an A-ball swing man. While Giarratano proved to be a find early on, constant injuries have derailed a once promising career.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What an unfortunate series of injuries to a guy with so much promise. It sounds like the 08 ST will either make him or break him as far as his career goes. So many little time.