AAA Toledo – Outfielder – Marcus Thames
Thames came to the Tigers this offseason as a minor league free agent, after splitting 2003 between the Yankees and Rangers organizations. Since the beginning of the 2004 season, Thames has been on an absolute tear, destroying International League pitchers with reckless abandon. His performance in May was no letdown from his hot start to the season. Batting .347 with 8 doubles, 9 homeruns, and 27 runs driven in, Thames is knocking hard on the door to Detroit. Recent comments from Tigers Manager, Alan Trammel, indicate that the organization is well aware of his dominating performance, but also make it quite clear that there really is no room in Detroit's crowded outfield at this time. Until an opening becomes available, Thames will have to continue his current performance and just wait his turn.
AA Erie – Starting Pitcher – Wilfredo Ledezma
One of last years Rule V selections, Ledezma is back in the minors, overmatching his opponents. After a solid start to the season, Wil has really turned it on, going 4-1 in six May starts. Throwing 38 innings in his six starts, Ledezma has walked only 11, while striking out 36, and sporting a dominating 1.65 ERA. A power lefty, who is just now learning how to incorporate his offspeed pitches effectively, Ledezma has a very high ceiling and projects to be a dominating starter for years to come. The Tigers will probably reward Ledezma with a promotion to AAA at some point this season, and he could possibly challenge for a spot in the 2005 Detroit rotation.
High-A Lakeland – Starting Pitcher – Kyle Sleeth
Last years first round choice out of Wake Forest, Kyle Sleeth, is definitely living up to lofty expectations. Limited to only four starts in May due to a suspension and a brief stint on the disabled list for a blister problem, Sleeth was still a dominating force for Lakeland. Kyle posted a 1.30 ERA in 27-2/3 innings, while only walking six and striking out 27. He was recently named to the Florida State League All-Star Team, and like Wil Ledezma, has positioned himself for a mid-season promotion. So far, Sleeth has demonstrated outstanding command, poise, and a dominating fastball, and could move quickly through the system.
Low-A West Michigan – Outfielder – Garth McKinney
McKinney appears to be slowly coming into his own after struggling in the New York-Penn League in 2003. A draft and follow choice out of Walters State Community College in 2001, McKinney has the tools to be a power/speed threat in the outfield. Heading into May, McKinney was off to a disappointing start, but that quickly changed as he put together a spectacular month of baseball. Garth hit .362 with 6 doubles and 8 homeruns, all while displaying outstanding defensive ability in the outfield. McKinney was consistently driving the ball to the gaps for the first time in his professional career, as well as showing improved patience and a willingness to take walks. As his power/speed combination continues to develop, McKinney could forge himself into an exciting player.
Have a question on a Tiger prospect or one of the Tigers minor league teams? Send a question to Mark Anderson to have it answered in his next mailbag!