Tigers Prospect Profile #38: Eddie Bonine

Bonine spent most of '08 in AAA Toledo

Eddie Bonine put up strong numbers in Triple-A Toledo, good enough to warrant a midseason call-up to Detroit, where he made five starts for the Tigers, with some success. What is next for Bonine?

Eddie Bonine
Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Height: 6-5
Weight: 205
Born: 6/6/1981
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Background
Bonine came to the Tigers during the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft prior to the 2006 season. Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 23rd round of the 2003 draft, Bonine brings an interesting skill set to the table. After two seasons at Glendale Junior College, where he was named All-ACCAC during his second season, Eddie transferred to the Pac-10 with the Washington State Cougars. By honoring his commitment to WSU, Bonine turned down the overtures of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who selected him in the 20th round of the 2001 draft as a DFE candidate. In 17 appearances (16 starts) for the Cougars, Bonine finished with an 8-8 record with three complete games, and earned Honorable Mention All-Pac 10 accolades. After only one year at WSU, he transferred again, this time to the University of Nevada, where he went 5-6; again in 17 appearances.

In his pro debut, Bonine managed an impressive performance in the Northwest League; seeing action in 31 games (tied for 5th in the NWL), and ranking third in the circuit with 14 saves. In 2004, he was moved back to the rotation while splitting his season between Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore. After struggling with an ERA over five at High-A Lake Elsinore, Bonine was held back to repeat the California League, without better results. After a token appearance with AAA-Portland to close the season, Bonine was taken by the Tigers in the Rule 5 draft.

Tigers sent him to Lakeland for the 2006 season where he appeared in 41 games (11 starts), posting a 4-4 record with three saves and a 3.98 ERA. Following his solid organizational debut at High-A Lakeland, Bonine reported to Double-A for the 2007 season, and promptly turned it up a notch. Working as a main cog in the Erie rotation, Eddie managed a 14-5 record on the season, good enough for second in the Eastern League in wins. Bonine logged the third most innings in the circuit (154.2) and led the league in WHIP (1.18). Bonine's performance during the 2007 season earned him a trip to the Arizona Fall League where he was shut down after only two relief appearances due to some shoulder soreness.

2008 season saw Bonine with an excellent chance to impress further and garner attention as a potential option at the Major League level. He wasn't spectacular at any point in the season, though he did pick up five wins in five starts to open the season, all en route to winning the TigsTown Toledo Pitcher of the Month award in April. In 106 innings at Toledo, Eddie finished with twelve wins; good enough for sixth in the International League. During their pitching crisis in 2008, the Tigers called on Bonine to try and help. He made five starts for the big club, averaging just over five innings per outing. Though he finished with a 2-1 record in those starts, he gave up 36 hits in just 26 2/3 innings, while striking out only nine, with a 5.40 ERA.

Scouting Report
Bonine works consistently with an 88-91 mph fastball that has some solid late sink. His fastball velocity plays up because his second quality pitch is a tough knuckleball that floats over the plate, confounding hitters. He throws his knuckler harder than most, tossing it up there in the mid- to high-70s, though he has really limited the frequency with which he throws the pitch. He spots his fastball exceptionally well, working to both sides of the plate with equal ability, and demonstrating some of the best fastball command in the organization. He has intermittent control of his knuckleball, but for the most part he is able to throw strikes with it when needed.

Eddie also mixes in an average curveball-change combination that helps to keep hitters off balance. His curveball has a loose, slurvy break to it, and could stand to be tightened up a bit over the coming seasons. Bonine's mound presence is excellent, as he controls the game well, and demonstrates a supreme confidence on the mound. He gets after hitters, and is not afraid to challenge them on the inner half of the plate, pushing them off to set up his secondary offerings and reinforce the idea that he is controlling the game from the mound.

Bonine made nice strides developing into an average defender at his position. He still struggles to hold runners, and he will have to do a better job of helping his catchers control the running game.

Overall, his ceiling is that of a back-end starter; a guy that can eat innings with some quality performance, and help a Major League team. The more likely scenario has him moving to the bullpen, and becoming a middle relief cog at the next level.

Performance

Level

Team

W-L

ERA

G

GS

SV

SO

BB

IP

AVG

AA

Erie

0-1

2.45

1

1

0

1

2

3.2

.286

AAA

Toledo

12-4

4.15

17

17

0

69

18

106.1

.262

ML

Detroit

2-1

5.40

5

5

0

9

5

26.2

.333


Health Record
The shoulder problems that plagued him in the AFL in 2007 resurfaced in 2008, and according to some scouts, kept him from truly pitching up to his normal standards much of the season; including his time in Detroit. The injury was described by several as some mild discomfort and an inability to truly get loose while pitching. The issue merits close attention heading into 2009.

The Future
Eddie enters spring training with a chance at a job on the Detroit pitching staff. There are spots up for grabs in the bullpen, and he could even be in contention for the fifth starter's slot with strong spring. The most likely scenario has him returning to Toledo to polish up his game and be ready when the big league club needs help later in the year.

Bonine still has back-end starter potential, but the health of his shoulder will be the determining factor in whether he gets the opportunity to fulfill that role at any point in the near future. Look for Eddie to bounce back a bit and post stronger numbers at Toledo in 2009, and he should be reasonably expected to see some time in Detroit as well.

Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.

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