One year you're a can't-miss prospect in the game of baseball, the next you're a player who won't be missed.

Maybe it hasn't been that quick of a reversal for Rick Porcello's fortunes in Detroit — from potential to expendable, from hyped to hoping to stick around. After all, he has had four full seasons in the majors to prove himself with the Tigers. But there he was Thursday as the team kicked off its winter caravan at Comerica Park, proof positive things don't always work out.

And as Porcello stood there politely answering repetitive questions about rampant trade speculation it was hard not to wonder what the future holds for the next big thing seated at a table across the room. Bruce Rondon's the guy everyone's buzzing about now, the flamethrower with a triple-digit fastball whom even Justin Verlander says he can't wait to see pitch.

Four years ago, Porcello was the highly-touted prospect — a first-round pick with a huge rookie contract — preparing to make his debut. Now it's Rondon, the 22-year-old reliever with only nine appearances above Double A ball, who's heading to spring training as the presumptive Tigers closer and an intriguing mystery.

"I've just heard unbelievable things about him," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said, echoing the sentiments of just about everyone in the organization.

Said Porcello: "I've never seen him pitch. I heard he's a big power guy. But I'm looking forward to seeing him throw."

Porcello absorbs rumors

Whether he'll get that opportunity remains to be seen. Ever since the Tigers plunked down $80 million last month to re-sign free agent Anibal Sanchez, solidifying the top four in their starting rotation, Porcello has been viewed as trade bait.

He's only 24 — "I still feel pretty young," he laughed, when I asked him if he was starting to feel old amid all the hot-stove talk — but that only makes him easier to deal, from the perspective of the Tigers.

He's a durable, innings-eating starter who's under team control for three more seasons. At the moment, he's a groundball pitcher for a team that, uh, much prefers strikeouts. But if Porcello can ever find a slick-fielding infield and some consistency with his slider — that's been his primary goal again this offseason — he could be a mid-rotation starter for another team.

From The Detroit News: