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Rookies on the Playoff Teams: Detroit Tigers

Slick-fielding Jose Iglesias and hard-throwing Bruce Rondon held down key rookie roles for the Tigers in 2013.

Jose Iglesias
Jose Iglesias
Leon Halip

Detroit Tigers (93-69, First Place, AL Central)

Jose Iglesias, SS:
Age 23, signed by the Red Sox out of Cuba in 2009, acquired this summer by Detroit in trade. A spectacular defensive shortstop, Iglesias hit .303/.349/.386 in 350 at-bats for the Red Sox and Tigers this year. He never hit nearly that well in the minors, lacking power and showing poor plate discipline, and indeed his numbers for the Tigers after the trade (.259/.306/.348 in 135 at-bats) are a fairer representation of his ability than the composite line. Despite the questionable bat, Iglesias should hold down a job due to his excellent defensive ability.

Hernan Perez, INF:
Age 22, this Venezuelan infielder was signed by the Tigers in 2007. He hit .301/.330/.410 with 28 steals between Double-A and Triple-A this year, but hit just .194/.217/.227 in 66 big league at-bats. He is an excellent defender at second base and can hold his own at shortstop, profiling as a utility man with his glove and speed.

Bryan Holaday, C:
A sixth round pick in 2010 out of Texas Christian University, Holaday hit .260/.312/.372 in 80 games for Triple-A Toledo and .296/.367/.444 in 16 games for the Tigers. His big league line was solid but the sample size was very small and his minor league track record doesn’t support sustained hitting of that quality over the long haul. Holaday is a strong defensive catcher and will be in the mix for reserve catching jobs in the coming years. He is 25.

Nick Castellanos, OF:
A supplemental first round pick in 2010 from high school in Florida, 21 year old Castellanos had a solid year at Toledo, hitting .276/.343/.450 with 18 homers and 37 doubles. He went 5-for-18 in an 11-game big league trial in September. A favorite of scouts due to his textbook swing and all-field power, 21 year old Castellanos is the top overall offensive prospect in the Tigers farm system and should be a solid regular in the coming years.

Bruce Rondon, RHP:
Signed out of Venezuela in 2007, Rondon was overpowering in Triple-A (1.52 ERA, 40/13 K/BB in 30 innings, just 14 hits, 14 saves) and held his own in the majors, posting a 3.45 ERA with a 30/11 K/BB in 29 innings. Featuring a 100 MPH fastball and a slider, he fits the dominant closer profile when his command is working. The 22 year old is huge at 6-3, 275. Elbow problems have him sidelined for the first round of the playoffs.

Jose Alvarez, LHP:
Age 24, Alvarez was originally signed by the Red Sox in 2005 but was picked up by the Tigers as a free agent last year. He was excellent at Toledo (2.80 ERA, 115/25 K/BB in 129 innings) due to his control, but didn’t translate that into the majors, with a 5.82 ERA and a 31/16 K/BB in 39 innings, used as both a starter and reliever. He features a 90 MPH fastball, curve, and slider and could be a useful utility pitcher at some point.

Luke Putkonen, RHP:
Age 27, Putkonen was a third round pick by the Tigers in 2007 from the University of North Carolina. He put up some solid relief numbers in the Tigers pen this year, with a 3.03 ERA and a 28/9 K/BB in 30 innings, using a fastball up to 95 MPH along with a splitter and curve. He profiles as a competent middle relief asset going forward. He was a starter in the lower minors but has performed more effectively since moving to the pen.

Evan Reed, RHP:
Age 27, Reed is another minor league vet who gave the Tigers some useful bullpen innings, posting a 4.24 mark in 23 innings with a 17/8 K/BB. Drafted by the Rangers in the third round in 2007 out of Cal Poly, he has a standard middle relief arsenal with a fastball in the 90s, a slider, and change.

Jose Ortega, RHP: Age 24, Ortega is another product of Detroit’s Latin American program, signed out of Venezuela in 2006. He was effective at Toledo (1.86 ERA, 56/33 K/BB in 48 innings, only 28 hits) despite some command issues, issues also apparent during a major league trial (3.86 ERA, 10/6 K/BB in 12 innings). He throws hard enough to be effective, mid-90s along with a slider, and is another potential relief asset if the command is there.