The strength of the Tigers organization, it was thought, was pitching. Up and down the system, there were intriguing arms, especially ones who could light up the radar gun at times.


NL East
ATL | FLA | NYM | PHI | WAS

AL East
BAL | BOS | NYY | TB | TOR

NL Central
CHC | CIN | HOU | MIL | PIT | STL

AL Central
CHW | CLE | DET | KC | MIN

NL West
ARI | COL | LAD | SD | SF

AL West
LAA | OAK | SEA | TEX

That evaluation proved to be right on target. A pair of those talented arms made huge contributions as rookies in Detroit. Rick Porcello, the 2007 first-round pick in the First-Year Player Draft, finished third in American League Rookie of the Year voting. Ryan Perry, from the first round of the 2008 Draft, was a valuable part of the Detroit bullpen all year. And, don't look now, but the Tigers went out and got another big, young arm in Jacob Turner with their first-round pick in this year's Draft.

But it wasn't just the power arms that stood out. Up and down the organization, there was success on the mound. Every Tigers affiliate finished with an ERA under 4.00 for the season, with the exception of Double-A Erie, and they weren't far off with a 4.08 mark. It didn't necessarily translate into a tremendous winning percentage -- Detroit's system ranked 21st at .492 -- but there was some success. Class A West Michigan made it to the Midwest League playoffs, while Triple-A Toledo and Erie finished over .500. Any time a season ends and an organization can look at a 3.87 overall ERA among affiliates, there's got to be some pride.

"I attribute that to Jon Matlack, our pitching coordinator," said Tigers farm director Glenn Ezell. "It's about staying consistent throughout the system from top to bottom and trying to put these young men in a position to succeed, while not shortchanging them in giving them an opportunity to be challenged and grow."

Offensively, there was not as much to brag about. While there were some individual performances of note, there were some prospects who didn't take the next steps in development and the bats definitely lagged behind the arms in the system.

"You can point to one guy or the other guy," Ezell said. "If Ryan Strieby was healthy all year, he would've picked up a lot of slack for everybody. He played lots of games not completely well. That was too bad for him. Brennan Boesch had a terrific season."

The main issue, Ezell says, has been getting the hitters in the system to adjust to the long professional season and all the adversity that can come along with that. Players like Strieby and Casper Wells were hampered by injuries. Some adjusted better than others, with the arms doing a better job of that than the bats.

"What we're finding in our young hitters is getting them to grind it out because it's not easy," Ezell said. "Boesch can grind. Same with Scott Sizemore. Brent Dlugach, Will Rhymes, they're grinders. Alex Avila, he's a guy I knew his ability to retain and apply was huge and that's what got him to the big leagues.

"But, generally speaking, our pitching is still our strong point."

MLB.com's Preseason Picks

Cale Iorg, SS: The Tigers were very excited about Iorg's tools and the thought was 2009 would be the year he started to put it all together. While he did reach double digits in homers and steals, he also hit just .222 with an on-base percentage of .274 and a slugging percentage at .336. He struck out 149 times in 129 games (against just 32 walks).

Casey Crosby, LHP: Now healthy, everyone expected Crosby to be the best arm in the Tigers system, and he didn't disappoint. The lefty went 10-4 with a 2.41 ERA over 104 2/3 innings and held hitters to a paltry .195 average against.

MLB.com's Postseason Selections

Brennan Boesch, OF: There are those who are concerned about how much he swings and misses (127 K's vs. just 33 walks). But the power is legit as the 24-year-old outfielder led the system with 28 homers and 93 RBIs while slugging .510. He even swiped 11 bases to boot.

Casey Crosby, LHP: Crosby's performance in 2009 is even more impressive considering it was his first season following Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. With the Tigers being understandably cautious, his workload decreased near the end of the season, but it's worth noting that in his 46 second-half innings, he gave up just four earned runs on 22 hits for a 0.78 ERA and .143 batting average against. His overall 10.06 K/9 ratio (117 K's in 104 2/3 innings) would have put him among the Minor League's best had he thrown enough innings to qualify.