Slow Down, Dave!


Ironically, as I type this, Detroit Tigers’ star- prospect Jacob Turner is in the midst of allowing seven earned runs in two innings while filling in for injured Tigers starter Drew Smyly.

Two nights ago, another former star-prospect and now rotation-regular Rick Porcello got tagged for five runs in just over five innings of work.

Mix this in with reports that uber third-base prospect Nick Castellanos is starting games in left and right field for the Class “AA” Erie Seawolves…well…I think my stomach is getting upset.

Why, you ask? Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski has a nasty habit of rushing his star prospects up to the Majors, having them  forego the necessary seasoning in the Minor Leagues before arriving in “The Show”.

(I recently wrote a piece discussing Dombrowski’s overall inability to stock a farm system that can be read here).

To think that either A. Dombrowski is having Castellanos play out of position to dangle him as trade bait, or B. he is considering calling him up soon to alleviate the lack of production at the DH or corner outfield spots (although Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch have showed signs of life as of late) is to me, total lunacy.

Remember Cameron Maybin? Yes, I’m referring to the Padres outfielder who’s hitting a smoking-hot .215 with 70 SO in 303 AB. Maybin was rushed up to Detroit in 2007 in an attempt to jump-start the stalling offense of the reigning AL Champions—this after only playing one full season in the Minors.

Although Maybin hit an impressive homer against Roger Clemens in Yankee Stadium, he only ended up hitting .143 in 24 games that season with Detroit, and was sent to the Florida Marlins that following winter in the package to get Miguel Cabrera.

Ever since his days in Detroit, he’s been shuffled up and down between the Marlins and their farm system before making his way to San Diego.

Unfortunately for the Padres, has never been able to recapture the swing that went .304 for the Class “A” West Michigan Whitecaps in his first season in professional baseball, after being drafted tenth overall in the 2005 MLB Draft by Detroit.

Remember Andrew Miller, who as packaged with Maybin in the deal for Miguel Cabrera (and Dontrelle Willis, for what it’s worth)? Miller won the Roger Clemens award as the nation’s top college pitcher when he was a Tar Heel out of the University of North Carolina.

He was then subsequently drafted sixth overall by Detroit in the 2006 MLB Draft. He was barely in the Minors for two months until he was yanked up to the Majors to throw out of the bullpen.

The next year, 2007, Miller made 13 starts, but limped home with a 5.63 ERA. Miller was supposed to be a fireballing, innings-eating left hander, but never really showed his true potential while sporting the Olde English D.

After arriving in Florida, Miller never had better than a 4.84 ERA in Florida before being demoted to their AAA club in the Spring Training of 2010.

Miller eventually found his way to Boston via trade, and has failed to gain traction in their starting rotation after going 6-3 with a 5.54 ERA in 12 starts in  2011. This season, he has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen.

Like I’ve said before: if you can’t find a spot in the Red Sox rotation these days, that doesn’t exactly bode well for your career.

Rick Porcello, a current member of Detroit’s rotation, was supposed to be a mid-90s hurler with a smooth breaking ball. Sound familiar? Well, I can’t say he was going to be the next Verlander, but his pitching-style was compared to Verlander after Detroit drafted him in 2007 with the 27th pick.

Rick had one full season in the Minors, at Class “A” in Lakeland, where he pitched to an 8-6 record with a solid 2.66 ERA. And, because Detroit was desperate for starting pitchers (remember what happened to that Andrew Miller kid?), Porcello arrived in Detroit.

And to be honest, Porcello had a very respectable first season in 2009, going 14-9 with a respectable 3.96 ERA. He was selected to start the one-game playoff for the 2009 AL Central Division crown against the Minnesota Twins. While he himself had a very good outing for a rookie, Detroit lost to the Twins in their house of horrors, the Metrodome.

Porcello had a tough sophomore campaign in 2010, going 10-12 with a 4.92 ERA. He was even demoted to Class “AAA” Toledo for a few starts to work out some kinks.

Over time, his pitching style has changed from a hard-thrower to a crafty sinkerball pitcher. This transition is probably fueling much of his inconsistency.

His record last year, 14-9, equaled his rookie year, but his ERA rose to 4.75. This season, he’s still the inconsistent Porcello, going 6-5 so far with a 4.66 ERA.

Going back a few years, Jeremy Bonderman was drafted out of high school (in his junior year, no less!) by the Oakland Athletics in 2001, and was traded by Moneyballer Billy Beane to Detroit in July of 2002. Bonderman barely had any time in the Minors before making his debut in Detroit, where he suffered through a 6-19 in 2003.

Bonderman had a couple respectable seasons in a Tiger uniform, but never reached the “ace” status that many predicted he would. The innings he ate eventually wreaked havoc on his arm, causing blood clots in his shoulder, prompting an early retirement from baseball after the 2010 season.

With all the trade chatter lately, Tigers star pitching prospect, Jacob Turner, is a name that is thrown around with frequency.

Unfortunately for his sake, he may have fallen victim to Dombrowski’s impatience, as was exemplified last night in his disastrous start against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

It was ugly, folks. Turner’s trade stock now mirrors Facebook’s IPO. He was rocked for seven runs, three coming via the long ball (all solo shots) in just two measly innings of work. All of this, of course, when scouts from several clubs were reportedly in attendance.

Turner was drafted right out of high school in the 2009 MLB Draft and went from Class “A” Lakeland to Class “AA” Erie in 2010. Although his Win/Loss record wasn’t anything to write home about, he didn’t garner much run support, and even still, he managed to strike out 102.

Last season, he made three spot starts for Detroit, which was viewed by many as a premature move made by Dombrowski. “Why hurry the kid? Don’t psyche him out” wondered many.

Mr. Turner has found himself making some spot starts in the rotation this year as well (he’s made two already and is slated to start a game in this weekend’s crucial series against the Chicago White Sox).

Could Dombrowski be calling up Turner to spot start in the hopes of dangling him as trade bait? Who knows, but hopefully Turner can rebound and make a stronger showing this weekend than he did the other night against the Angels.

Which brings me back to my original point: I think Dombrowski is a bit foolish making Castellanos mess around in the outfield this year. Sure, he probably will end up playing in left field, due to the fact that Miguel Cabrera isn’t going to give up his spot at third.

Now don’t get me wrong: Porcello could end up being one of the keys to a potential second-half turnaround from Detroit. Maybin could have a fine Major League career. Bonderman was key in the 2006 playoff run for Detroit. And Turner’s career is far from over. His upper 90s fastball and devastating curve was almost Major-League ready out of high school (but I would argue his maturity wasn’t quite there yet).

But I sincerely hope this position switcheroo isn’t a knee-jerk move by Dombrowski to call up Castellanos at some point this season, and I really hope he isn’t doing this to showcase Castellanos’ “hidden” outfield talents before shipping him off in a deadline deal.

Let Castellanos have this season and next season to simmer in the Minors before being called up to Detroit. You’ve let one too many prospects burn out, Mr. Dombrowski.

Castellanos is worth waiting for.

As they say, good things come to those who wait.


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