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Top 10 Prospects: The Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers
2010 MLB Record: 81-81 (3rd in the AL Central)
Minor League Power Ranking: 28th (out of 30)
Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

The Prospects

1. Jacob Turner, RHP
Acquired: 2009 1st round (Missouri HS)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: A/A+
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 40%

Notes: Turner has a nice delivery and utilizes his legs well. He throws from a low three-quarter arm slot but occasionally slows his arm speed down with his changeup, which advanced hitters will pick up on. Turner will need to improve his changeup to help combat tough left-handed batters. Often compared to fellow Tiger Rick Porcello, Turner is not as advanced at the same age but he’s still more advanced then your average 19-year-old pitcher. He held his own in High-A ball in 2010 after beginning the year in Low-A. The right-hander made 13 starts in Lakeland and posted a 3.20 FIP. He has displayed outstanding control in pro ball with a walk rate of 1.50 in Low-A and 1.96 BB/9 in High-A. Look for him to move up to Double-A in 2011 and it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him in the Majors by the end of the season but his impact will likely be muted until 2012.

2. Nick Castellanos, 3B
Acquired: 2010 supplemental 1st round (Florida HS)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 6.0
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 30%

Notes: Castellanos has a quick bat but his level swing occasionally gets long. He does a nice job of keeping his head down on the ball, helping him make solid contact. With that said, he’s been known to struggle with good breaking balls. His swing should lead to a lot of doubles and 20-25 homer totals over the span of a full season. Castellanos appeared in just seven games in rookie ball after turning pro but should open the 2011 season in Low-A. He currently shows good movement and range at third base and also possesses a strong arm. At 6’4”, there is potential for him to fill out and slow down at the position, which would necessitate a move but that shouldn’t be for quite some time. He’s a hard worker who should stay in shape – barring injury – through his 20s. After watching him play, it’s easy to project him as a star player.

3. Andy Oliver, LHP
Acquired: 2009 2nd round (Oklahoma State U)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 23
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 35%

Notes: Oliver was a college ace began his pro career in 2010 at Double-A and moved up to Triple-A after posting a 3.58 FIP in 77.1 innings. His FIP sat at 4.29 in 53.0 Triple-A innings. He had a call-up to the Majors sandwiched in but he posted a 5.26 FIP and allowed 26 hits at 13 walks in 22.0 innings. He’s a fly-ball pitcher but that shouldn’t hurt him too much while pitching his home games in Detroit. Oliver’s brief MLB trial showed that he still needs to make some improvements on his control, as well as the command on his fastball. For a lefty, he flashes good fastball velocity and averaged out around 94 mph at the MLB level. Oliver threw a good curveball early in his college career but it has now morphed into a developing slider. He has a fairly easy delivery which helps his fastball play up, as hitters don’t expect that kind of velocity coming out of his hands.

4. Daniel Fields, OF
Acquired: 2009 6th round (Michigan HS)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: A+
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 25%

Notes: Fields was drafted as a prep shortstop but the organization immediately moved him to center field. His father, Bruce Fields, is former pro ball player and was once the Tigers’ hitting coach. The junior Fields signed too late to play in ’09 and made his debut in full-season ball in 2010. In a somewhat surprising move, the organization started the prospect – who was just 19 and considered somewhat raw on the field – in High-A ball and skipped him over Low-A West Michigan (He is a Michigan native). Fields struggled in Lakeland and hit just .240/.343/.371 in 375 at-bats. He showed a patient approach with a walk rate of 12.6% but he racked up far too many strikeouts (31.7%) for someone with a modest power output (.131 ISO). He does project to develop above-average power as he matures, and his swing has a noticeable upper-cut. Fields may eventually outgrow center and move to right field where his arm strength will play.

5. Daniel Schlereth, LHP
Acquired: 2008 1st round (University of Arizona)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 24
Estimated Peak WAR: 2.0
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 30%

Notes: Schlereth, an ’08 draft pick, has moved through pro ball rather quickly and reached the Majors in ’09. He utilizes a plus fastball to dominate hitters but he struggles with his control and has a walk rate of 6.08 BB/9 in 37.0 innings over the past two seasons. When the southpaw has good command of his heater, though, he does a nice job of inducing ground balls. His secondary pitches – curveball and changeup – are still quite inconsistent but the breaking ball definitely has potential. If it all clicks for him, Schlereth projects as a closer. There is some effort in his delivery, which puts some stress on his shoulder. He also throws his breaking ball with a different motion than his heater at times, which telegraphs the pitch.If the control doesn’t improve, though – which is a good possibility since his delivery is far from fluid – Schlereth may top out as an eighth-inning guy.

6. Chance Ruffin, RHP
Acquired: 2010 supplemental 1st round (University of Texas)
Pro Experience: Arizona Fall League
2010 MiLB Level: College
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 25%

Notes: Ruffin has a bit of a unique delivery where he balls himself up and explodes out of it by utilizing a strong drive with his legs. There isn’t much effort in his upper body during delivery, which bodes well from a health standpoint moving forward. His father, Bruce Ruffin, spent 12 years in the Majors, first as a starter and then later as a reliever – and even recorded 60 saves for the Rockies. A closer in college, the younger Ruffin is projected to be a long-term reliever, especially since his 87-91 mph fastball bumps up to 90-93 mph in shorter stints. He also utilizes two breaking balls, including a plus slider, and a fringe changeup. Ruffin signed late and failed to pitch during the regular season. He should open 2011 in either Low-A or High-A, depending on how he performs in spring training. He could move quickly if he begins his career as a reliever, especially with the lack of depth in the Tigers system, but he won’t reach his peak WAR out of the ‘pen.

7. Wade Gaynor, 3B
Acquired: 2009 3rd round (Western Kentucky U)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 25%

Notes: Gaynor was an attractive draft pick in ’09 due to his balanced offensive approach. He has a chance to hit for a solid average, while also contributing power and above-average stolen base numbers from the hot corner. After appearing in 67 short-season games in ’09, Gaynor moved up to Low-A for 2010 and produced a triple-slash line of .286/.354/.436 in 514 at-bats. His 39 doubles and 10 homers hint to his raw power potential. A 20-20 player in college, Gaynor will likely top out around 10-15 steals in the Majors, if so motivated. He doesn’t have great speed but he’s a smart runner. Defensively, he’s not a lock to stay at the position; he’s athletic but needs to work on his foot work and range. Gaynor could develop into solid regular at third base but he’s not likely to develop into a star player.

8. Josue Carreno, RHP
Acquired: 2007 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: Short Season
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 25%

Notes: Carreno played in Venezuela for a couple of seasons before moving stateside. The right-hander was one of the more promising starters in the short-season New York Penn League. He features a low-90s fastball, good curveball and developing changeup. Carreno needs to improve his fastball command, and overall control, as he walked 33 batters in 64 innings. He showed the ability to induce a healthy number of ground-ball outs in Venezuela and that trend continued in Connecticut. Just 19, Carreno doesn’t have a huge ceiling, but he could develop into a solid No. 3 starter in the Majors. He’ll work on consistency and developing his pitches in Low-A ball in 2011.

9. Bruce Rondon, RHP
Acquired: 2007 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie/A+
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 2.0
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 25%

Notes: Rondon has a power repertoire with a mid-90s fastball and a good slider. His two-pitch repertoire gives him the potential to be a solid late-game reliever. To reach his ceiling, the right-hander will have to improve upon his control after he posted a walk rate of 4.91 BB/9 in 25.2 innings in rookie ball. Rondon, 19, received a late-season taste in High-A but his numbers in rookie ball were not quite as sparkling as they appear on the surface thanks to his .177 BABIP and LOB% of 97.9%. The organization would be smart to test him out in Low-A ball in 2011 before sending him back to High-A ball.

10. Dixon Machado, SS
Acquired: 2008 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie/AA
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 2.5
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 25%

Notes: Just 18, Machado showed a lot of potential in 2010 at the rookie ball level. Most of that promise comes in the field where he shows Gold Glove magic both with his range and his arm. He also has outstanding hand-eye coordination and is an athlete that makes all the plays. At the plate, Machado needs to get stronger – he is just 140 pounds – which explains his .060 ISO rate. He has some speed and swiped 12 bases in 43 games, but he needs to get on base more and improve upon his .309 OBP. His walk rate of 7.1 BB% shows potential and has a better eye than a lot of teenagers. He could use another year of seasoning in extended spring training but the lack of depth in the system could push Machado up to Low-A in 2011. He doesn’t have a huge ceiling but he could develop into a Cesar Izturis type of player.