Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
Dusty Ryan has received plenty of accolades and attention in 2008 for his performance, and deservedly so. But coming into the season, the Tigers' top catching prospect was James Skelton, and while Ryan has surged, Skelton has by no means faded away. And given the uncertainty behind the plate for the Tigers in 2009 and beyond, Skelton is still a very important piece of the Tigers' puzzle. Starting in high-A Lakeland before finishing up the year with Double-A Erie, Skelton sported an average over .300, and a walk rate that pushed his on-base percentage to an impressive .456 for the year (future leadoff hitter anyone?). Skelton will still have to answer questions about his smaller frame, but a strong campaign in Hawaii could leave him starting the year in Toledo, and an injury away from leading the Tigers' staff from behind the dish.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
It may be a bit optimistic given the high profile offensive players heading to Hawaii this fall, but I'm actually looking for Andrew Hess to continue his late-season run. In the final month of the season, Hess saw his groundball rates take a significant turn in the positive direction, which could be a wonderful sign for a relatively raw prospect. If he can head to Florida and continue attacking hitters low in the zone with his mix of pitches, he could be in line for a solid performance that furthers his development and possibly sets him up for a quicker move through the system. James Skelton and Kyle Peter are also in a position to show well in a relatively strong offensive environment, but I'm really looking for Hess to show out; particularly if he works from the bullpen where he can air it out a little with the fastball.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
James Skelton may be an obvious choice, but I'm going to go with Kyle Peter. At West Michigan, he finished second on the team with 57 walks and used his speed to steal a team-leading 42 bases. He didn't flash much power (12 extra-base hits in 396 at-bats, with no home runs), but his game revolves around getting on base and using his speed to navigate the bases. If he can make progress on cutting down his strikeouts and forcing the defense to make more plays, he could have a nice stint in Hawaii.
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