February 17th, 2007

For those who emailed me about Sleeth

"If he’s healthy, he’s a top prospect, there’s no question about that." – Jim Leyland on Kyle Sleeth

Considering Kyle Sleeth just about dropped off the prospect map over the last two years, that’s very high praise. He dropped from 20th to 30th on the Baseball America list of Tigers prospects this winter, behind Burke Badenhop and Preston Larrison among others. But he sounded very positive this week about how he’s feeling, and if he can carry over these bullpen sessions into games, he might yet have a chance to reach the big leagues.

Sleeth is a good example about the value of stockpiling pitching prospects. Leyland talked Saturday about how you can never have enough pitching, both because it gives you insurance for injuries or to replace veteran starters when their price rises too high, and because it gives you pieces to trade to fill other needs. I’ve always looked at it as playing the odds. As many pitching prospects as a team can have, only some of them are going to pan out in the big leagues. Some will get injured, some won’t be able to make the jump at some point, and some just won’t fit in even if they get to the Majors.

The more prospects you have, the more the odds turn in your favor. If someone doesn’t make it, someone else will. There’s still a long way to go before anyone can determine if Sleeth will make it that far, either as a starter or a reliever. But if he can get back on track after this long recovery, he’ll have gotten further than other Tigers first-round picks.

Other notes from Saturday:

  • Though Leyland said both Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney could eventually become closers, he hopes they don’t have to do it this year, because he Todd Jones to be an effective in that role.
  • While Leyland was impressed with a lot of young arms throwing Saturday, he had particular praise for Andrew Miller. "This guy’s a blue-chipper, there’s no question about that," he said. "It’s not going to be long for him, I don’t think." Look for Miller to be one of the pitchers who comes in to pitch in spring games right after the starter goes out, at least until he’s sent down.
  • Other than Roman Colon’s neck, the only injury in camp is a sprained ankle for Virgil Vasquez, and it’s not prevented him from taking part in workouts.
  • If you read the notebook on the site today, Leyland’s statement about how important the farm system has become is very interesting. It’s a very realistic sign about how teams have to look at pitching nowadays with the free-agent market values so high. If they can’t sign somebody, they can move one of their young arms in there. Leyland didn’t go into names, but the Tigers will eventually have a decision to make on Kenny Rogers, whose contract ends after this season and who would very much like to return for 2008. If Miller is ready, that decision becomes very interesting. Mike Maroth’s contract is also up next winter, but the Tigers can keep him for another year by offering him arbitration.