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VerHagen becoming viable starting pitcher

No. 15 prospect in system has to work on curveball, changeup to be more effective

Not unlike every other prospect, Drew VerHagen is a work in progress. It takes time to develop a complete pitch repertoire and refined command and control.

But progress is being realized with VerHagen, as he is moving quickly through the Detroit Tigers' Minor League system.

VerHagen is No. 15 on the Tigers' Top 20 Prospects list.

Following three letter-winning years at Rockwall-Heath High School in Texas, the right-handed pitcher started his collegiate career at the University of Oklahoma. He transferred to Navarro College (Texas) and was part of the 2011 Junior College World Series.

VerHagen went from Navarro to Vanderbilt University, a popular source of Tigers Draft selections.

VerHagen's mechanics are a bit stiff at the back end of his delivery, reminding me of a younger Justin Masterson. He isn't as pronounced in his arm action as Masterson, but the delivery isn't without issues. However, VerHagen does look comfortable while pitching, and it isn't likely he will change his mechanics.

The 6-foot-6, 230-pounder had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow as a senior in high school in 2008.

Because of his physical presence on the mound, VerHagen can pitch downhill and come right at the hitter with his long arms; he has outstanding command of a 92-94 mph fastball. If needed, there is more velocity in the tank, but he uses it sparingly. Changing speeds on the same pitch is a good weapon that can be used efficiently the second and third times through a batting order.

VerHagen's fastball generates late life and sink, inducing a great number of ground balls. It is his most dominant and well-developed pitch in a rather limited repertoire. VerHagen's curveball and changeup are not as advanced and not as effective at this point of his development. However, even used in spots, each has a place in his arsenal.

VerHagen has skyrocketed through the Tigers organization, having pitched initially for Detroit's Rookie League team in the Gulf Coast League then being promoted to Class A Advanced Lakeland in the same rookie season.

This season, VerHagen has already spent time at Lakeland before recently being promoted to Double-A Erie. He is being used exclusively as a rotation starter, and the results have been very good. VerHagen's ERA in four starts for the SeaWolves is a very impressive 1.65 in 27 1/3 innings. He has a WHIP of 0.805.

VerHagen doesn't mind pitching to contact. While strikeouts are always valued, he has struck out only an average of five hitters per nine innings in his career. This season, VerHagen is walking an average of 2.6 hitters per nine, a slight improvement over his rookie season.

Once he realizes improvement and refinement of his curve and changeup, VerHagen will offer the Tigers a solid middle- or back-of-the-rotation starting pitching option.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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