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.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The 40 Man Roster in 40 Days: Yorman Bazardo

Today, I will start a segment that will take a brief look at each player on the 40 man roster. I will start each with a look at their career to date, injury history, proceed to where they currently stand in the organization, derive their service time and option information, and finally look to their future as Detroit Tigers. Today we will start with pitcher Yorman Bazardo.

Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Venezuela on July 19, 2000, by Dave Dombrowski's Florida Marlins, Bazardo did not debut until 2001 in the Venezuelan Summer League. As a kid just turning 17, he pitched very well in his 70 1/3 innings of work posting an ERA of 2.43, striking out 62, walking just 18, and only allowing 59 hits. It was former Marlins scout, now Tigers scout Miguel Garcia who discovered Bazardo.

2002 found Bazardo moved to the bullpen for the Short Season A Affiliate of the Marlins in Jamestown. Again, he showed great command in his 36.1 innings, walking only 6 and posting a 2.72 ERA. He moved onto A-ball at the age of 19 in Greensboro, again only walking 26 in 130 innings, but only striking out 70. He posted a solid 3.12 ERA and allowed his first professional home runs during this season. After the season, Baseball America ranked him #5 in the Marlins system.

Bazardo continued to climb the ladder to the Florida State League in 2004, and again did not disappoint. In 154 1/3 innings, he posted a 3.27 ERA, walking only 30. He impressed so much, he was named the third best prospect in the Marlins organization after the season. Being Rule 5 eligible after the season, he was added to the Marlins' 40 man roster.

2005 found more success for this young pitcher. Turning 21 midway through the season, he put up a 3.99 ERA at AA Carolina, earning a one-day promotion to the Marlins before being shipped to Seattle in a deal for reliever Ron Villone. Bazardo spent a year and a half in the hitter friendly Texas league with less impressive results before the Mariners designated him for assignment in 2007 to make room for Jeff Weaver. This enabled the Tigers to pick him up for struggling outfielder Jeff Frazier.

2007 got off to an inauspicious start for Yorman, as he was rocked in his first start. Ultimately, he settled down and pitched well both in Toledo's rotation and in his brief stay with the big club. Continuing his long-standing trend of low walk totals, low strikeouts, and a low ERA, Bazardo has positioned himself nicely for a shot in 2008.

It has been seven years since he signed his first professional contract, and Bazardo has never been on the Disabled list. He has as clean of a bill of health as any pitcher in the system.

Service Time:
2005: 1 day
2007: 44 days
Total: 0 years, 45 days (0.045)

Used options in 2005, 2006, and 2007.
None remaining

Age vs. career clock:
The acquisition of Yorman Bazardo from Seattle, and his ability to progress from waiver bate into the 2008 plans makes the trade for flailing former third round pick Jeff Frazier an exceptional one as is. Bazardo's status as a player in his early 20's running out of options made the deal doable, and the ability of Dave Dombrowski to exploit that status as a cheap pickup shows that he is able to recognize the gap between age and career clock for many Latin players.

It is widely assumed that players on the whole improve mightily in their early 20's and peak around 27, level off until around 30, and fall off afterwards. A conceptual graph showing typical career progress is shown below. Obviously most players don't follow this trend, and not all players are equal.

The graph is obviously not taken from any particular set of data, and is primarily for illustration purposes only. The next chart shows career progress for players based not on their age, but instead on their professional timeline. You can see where players who sign at 16 will have to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft and will run out of options earlier. Rather than protect them, some teams will be impatient and make them available on the cheap. When teams are willing to give young players away before they reach their potential because of the disconnect between age and career clock, it becomes something that can be exploited. The Tigers did that in acquiring Bazardo last winter. This is something I may look further at later if I see any trends in how these players are valued.

Present Status:
Bazardo has the combination of playing well in 2007, proving himself in his cup of coffee, and being out of options that pretty much assures him of a spot on the 2008 Detroit Tigers. What role he has will depend upon which role he is needed to fill. With a pitching staff having more question marks than Matthew Lesko's wardrobe, Bazardo should settle in and pitch well regardless of if it is as a starter, swingman, or back of the bullpen pitcher. At just 23 with durability, a solid track record, and a quality arsenal, Yorman Bazardo is one of the most underrated players in the Tigers' organization.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

No Worries

Times have changed in Detroit. For so long, the Tigers were sellers, sending established players off to other organizations in return for players who might help down the line when the team was to be competitive.

That was before 2006.

It's certainly a big adjustment for the Tigers and their faithful. For so long, the hopes rested in the future. The improvement of the big league team means that the days of penny pinching and praying for prospects to pan out are over. As if that wasn't true this time last year when Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan, and Anthony Clagget were shipped to the evil empire for Gary Sheffield, it certainly became evident when Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez were sent off to Atlanta for Edgar Renteria in a deal timed in such a way that it seemed to be agreed upon in September.

While this feeling of being among the league's elite should be great, some of the fan reaction to this trade reflects that some of the pre-2006 attachment to our prospects still lingers. This is not unjustified, as this resurgence definitely would not have occurred without the help of the likes of Curtis Granderson, Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, and others developed within the Tigers organization.

Here's why you should not worry about this trade.

Jair Jurrjens is a guy I have been high on for a while. Always putting up great numbers against guys older than him, he has always been a dark horse candidate to be a solid pitcher at the big league level. A late-summer surge got him to the Major Leagues, and Jurrjens pitched well in his stay, fooling hitters with his off speed stuff and being aggressive in the strike zone, leading to few walks (11 in 30 2/3 IP), few strikeouts (just 13), but rarely decent contact against him (only 24 hits).

The biggest strike against Jurrjens is the same one against the pitching prospect dealt this time last year: his health. After leaving his start against the Yankees with a painful pop in the back of his shoulder, his future was in doubt. That is why this is trade is a good risk. Jurrjens was already in a position where he was on the brink of never being a productive pitcher again. If you want to play a fun game, look up rotator cuff injuries to pitchers, when they occurred, and their statistics after the injury. The names Wade Miller, Ben McDonald, Robb Nen, and many others whose careers never got back on track will come up. This is not to say that Jurrjens is definitely going to get hurt, but he is an increased risk and it was a good move to cash in on him while he had value.

Gorkys Hernandez is an incredible talent, and has drawn rave reviews from the three people I get most of my prospect prognostication from: Mark Anderson (, Kevin Goldstein, and Nate Silver ( All that said, you can still go back six years to the Tigers' last Venezuelan hyped toolsy player was a teenager. While Omar Infante wasn't getting near the reviews, you can see how a toolsy, non-dominant star prospect's star can diminish, especially considering Infante isn't really a flop.

Gorkys Hernandez and Jair Jurrjens, believe it or not, are examples of why this trade should not be a problem. After years of struggling to produce talent from the Carribean, the Tigers have found Jair Jurrjens in Curacao, and Gorkys Hernandez is the first of what should be a large wave of Venezuelan talent from the team's new facilities there. Increased talent coming from Latin America should do wonders in gathering depth of talent in the system.

Edgar Renteria has had an interesting career. At times, he has been among the best shortstops in the league. His WARP totals range from 7.8 in 2003 to 1.5 in his forgettable 2005 season. The verdict of this trade will depend on if we get the 2003, 2006-2007 Renteria or the 2005 version.

In short, trades like the Renteria and Sheffield deals are merely signs that the Tigers are in a brand new position, and the role of prospects has changed. It's easy to get attached to prospects, especially after years of losing. With drafts like the last three and the team's increased presence internationally, this is something Dave Dombrowski can continue to do without sacrificing the future.