DETROIT -- Five years after Casey Crosby was a prize of the Tigers' 2007 First-Year Player Draft, he'll get his first shot at big league camp as a healthy, effective, power left-handed pitcher. A few other prospects will also get a chance to make an impact at some point soon.
The Tigers set their 40-man roster ahead of Friday's deadline for protecting prospects from the Rule 5 Draft, and they did it with a mix of talent. Crosby and fellow lefty Matt Hoffman join right-hander Tyler Stohr, outfielder Avisail Garcia and infielder Hernan Perez in having their contracts purchased from their respective Minor League teams from last season.
On the flip side, former Tigers infield prospect Cale Iorg was removed from the roster, his contract outrighted to Triple-A Toledo. Add in Friday's signing of Gerald Laird, and the moves put Detroit's 40-man roster at 39 players heading into next month's Winter Meetings, giving the team room for a free-agent signing, a trade acquisition or a Rule 5 Draft selection.
All five players added had to be put on the roster to be protected from December's Rule 5 Draft, which allows teams a chance to pluck prospects from other organizations. Players become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after being in an organization for four years if they signed at age 19 or older, or five if they signed at age 18 or younger, unless they're placed on the 40-man roster.
Crosby and Hoffman were both selected out of high school in 2007, part of the same Tigers draft that produced Rick Porcello, Danny Worth and Charlie Furbush. Crosby was a fifth-round pick regarded as a potential first- or second-round talent, whom Detroit enticed out of a football scholarship to the University of Illinois.
He has pitched in just 55 games since (all of them starts), thanks to Tommy John surgery in 2007 and arm problems in 2010. But Crosby's 25 starts in '11 at Double-A Erie were encouraging and indicated that he might just be on his way back, as he produced a 9-7 record and 4.10 ERA for the SeaWolves, striking out 121 batters over 131 2/3 innings.
Crosby, rated the Tigers' No. 4 prospect, was effectively wild pitching in relief in the Arizona Fall League. With his roster spot in Spring Training sealed, he could get a chance to join the scrum competing for the fifth spot in the Tigers' rotation, or he could compete for a bullpen spot.
If it's the latter, Crosby may be competing alongside the 23-year-old Hoffman, who adjusted to Triple-A hitting as the season went on for a quietly effective season. By taking a little off his mid-90s fastball, Hoffman reduced his walk and hit rates by quite a bit. He went 2-5 with a 3.12 ERA with the Mud Hens, allowing 60 hits over 62 1/3 innings with 23 walks and 46 strikeouts.
Stohr went in the sixth round of the 2008 Draft. The 25-year-old made it to Double-A Erie for a late-season stint as the SeaWolves' closer, saving three games to finish up the year with a 1-2 record and 3.79 ERA. He allowed 46 hits over 57 innings with 25 walks and 50 strikeouts.
Garcia and Perez are both highly-regarded prospects at age 20 and are still in Class A ball, but since they signed as teenagers in 2007, both had to be protected. Garcia, Detroit's No. 7 prospect, was a non-roster invite to last year's Spring Training before staying in Lakeland for a full season of Class A Advanced ball. He batted .264 in 129 games with 16 doubles, six triples, 11 homers, 56 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. Garcia's 132 strikeouts were a concern, but the athletic talent remains for the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Venezuelan, who's 3-for-10 in the Venezuelan Winter League while playing for his hometown Anzotegui Caribes.
Perez's second season at Class A West Michigan was enough to earn him some strong reviews in the organization as a potential option down the road at second base. He batted .258 for the Whitecaps with 23 doubles, three triples, eight home runs, 42 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in 29 attempts. Perez followed that up with an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League, batting .302 (19-for-63) with six doubles and nine RBIs against largely older, more experienced prospects.