Top 19 Prospects: Detroit Tigers

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Detroit Tigers farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF)
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DET, KC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)
NL East (ATL, MIA, NYM, PHI, WAS)
AL East (BAL, BOSNYY, TB, TOR)

Tigers Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Matt Manning 18 R RHP 2020 55
2 Christin Stewart 23 AA OF 2018 50
3 Beau Burrows 20 A RHP 2020 45
4 Tyler Alexander 22 AA LHP 2018 45
5 Michael Gerber 24 AA OF 2018 45
6 Joe Jimenez 21 AAA RHP 2017 45
7 Dixon Machado 24 MLB SS 2017 45
8 Derek Hill 20 A OF 2021 40
9 Jose Azocar 20 A OF 2020 40
10 Kyle Funkhouser 22 A- RHP 2019 40
11 Jacoby Jones 24 MLB OF 2017 40
12 Adam Ravenelle 24 AA RHP 2017 40
13 Gerson Moreno 21 A+ RHP 2019 40
14 Sandy Baez 23 A RHP 2019 40
15 Hector Martinez 20 R SS 2021 40
16 Arvicent Perez 22 A C 2020 40
17 Kevin Ziomek 24 A+ LHP 2018 40
18 Spencer Turnbull 24 A+ RHP 2018 40
19 A.J. Simcox 22 A+ SS 2018 40

55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Sheldon HS (CA)
Age 19 Height 6’6 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/70 50/60 40/50 30/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has recorded 46 recorded in 29 pro innings.

Scouting Report
Manning is the prototypical prep righty. He has tremendous size, throws hard, is a terrific athlete (he was committed to Loyola Marymount to play baseball and basketball) with great bloodlines (his father played in the NBA) and has exhibited a nascent feel for a potentially dominant curveball. Any high-school pitcher cooking with that list of ingredients is a slam-dunk first-round pick, and Manning was clearly the second-best high-school righty in the 2016 draft.

Manning threw a lot during his showcase summer. He pitched into October and clearly had lost some arm speed by the time autumn had arrived. Because of his basketball schedule (his team went deep into state playoffs), his baseball spring started late which, though it made him harder to see as frequently as some of his peers, may have been a blessing in disguise because it gave his arm some extra time off.

His fastball sits 93-96 and will touch as high as 98. He has a projectable frame and should at least add enough mass to counterbalance a heavier pro workload and retain his prep velocity — and perhaps has enough room to add velocity into his 20s. His arm works well and, while Manning cuts off his delivery a bit right now and throws across his body, he has the athleticism to develop at least average fastball command at maturity.

The curveball (genus: curveball, species: knuckle) is average, flashing above with inconsistent bite and depth. It’s raw and often slurvy but promising and, if you’re as liberal about its projection because of Manning’s athleticism and two-sport background as I am, you could argue it has a chance to be plus.

Manning doesn’t have the insane arm speed and explosive arm action associated with big changeup projection, but he has some feel for its release and armside location. It should be average with reps.

There’s considerable ceiling here but of course there’s also considerable risk. Manning has a chance to be a No. 2 or 3 starter if everything clicks.

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Tennessee
Age 23 Height 6’0 Weight 205 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 60/60 40/55 30/30 30/40 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Hit 30 homers in pro ball this year and recorded .230 ISO during cup of coffee with Double-A. Was -17 defender in left field per Clay Davenport.

Scouting Report
Stewart’s carrying tool is obviously the power, which is an easy 60 on the 20-80 scale, though there’s some effort required to get to it. But the most interesting aspect of Stewart’s profile is his walk rate, which somehow doubled in 2016 from 8% (which is about average) to 16% (which is elite). I’m skeptical about his ability to sustain that. Even in college, Stewart (who just turned 23 and played college ball in the SEC) was not walking the way he did at High-A this year. This is worth monitoring next season as Stewart moves on to Double-A.

The profile gets muddied when considering Stewart’s defensive profile. He doesn’t have one. Opinions from scouts regarding the defense range from “he’s a liability out there” to “he’s a DH”; considering Stewart’s body and current speed, he does appear likely to either be, at best, a 40 defender in left field or a DH-only.

Designated hitters collectively hit .260/.330/.480 in 2016. Stewart has that kind of power but the contact/on-base profile is a bit of a stretch. Stewart has improved his hitter’s timing in pro ball, and has become shorter to the ball due to a more conservative load while still generating considerable power because of his natural strength and big extension. His barrel can drag at times, leading to weak pop ups, and most of his good contact comes exclusively to the pull side, something that may cause teams to shift him at upper levels.

Stewart does have some bat control and, despite the swing and miss he’s shown to this point, I’m somewhat optimistic about his ability to make adjustments and improve his ability to make contact moving forward because he’s already shown that he can do it.

I think an average everyday DH is a realistic outcome for Stewart. Because he has zero margin for error, though, he’s a bit riskier than the usual big-school college hitter who’s had a full year of success.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.3 WAR

christin-stewart-likelihood-of-outcomes-1

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Weatherford HS (TX)
Age 20 Height 6’2 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 30/40 50/55 45/55 35/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Strikeout rate dropped from 30% in 2015 to 17% in 2016.

Scouting Report
Seen as a bit of an overdraft in 2015, Burrows threw really hard as a prep prospect (into the 96-98 range) but lacked significant physical projection. His body is fairly mature for a 20-year-old but it isn’t bad and he repeats a somewhat complex delivery (I’ve got a Tyler Thornburg comp on the mechanics) quite well. He was 93-95 this spring, but his velo backed up a bit this season into the 90-94 range, and he struggled to miss bats during the second half of the season despite that velocity and heavy arm-side movement.

Part of why Burrows’ fastball may not play quite as well as its velocity suggests could be due to poor extension. He’s short-limbed and has a three-quarter arm slot, but it functions as an over-the-top delivery due to spinal tilt. Hitters pick up the ball fairly early. He doesn’t consistently get on top of the baseball and essentially works up in the zone with a heavy fastball, two things that don’t work well in concert together.

Burrows has an average curveball that flashes above, mostly in the 76-80 mph range. It bites late and looks like his fastball out of hand but doesn’t have typical bat-missing depth. He can pitch backwards with it, can back foot it to left-handed hitters and reliably throws it for strikes when he needs to.

His changeup, 84-87 mph, and slider are below average, with the changeup showing very promising movement at times, and I think it has substantial projection. The slider is new and it’s going to be difficult for Burrows to get around the side of it to create horizontal movement from his arm slot.

It’s fair to question how Burrows’ fastball will play at upper levels. I think his ceiling is somewhat limited by his size, as it’s unlikely much more in the way of stuff is coming. I think he has a chance to be a No. 3 or 4 starter but there’s risk here, as there is with any young arm — and perhaps more than usual, after Burrows experienced the dip in velocity despite conservative pitch counts and innings limits beset upon him by Detroit.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.8 WAR

beau-burrows-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from TCU
Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
50/50 50/50 50/55 50/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has posted sub-4% career walk rate.

Scouting Report
Detroit’s modus operandi in the draft often involves selecting hard-throwing teenagers, but over the last several years the Tigers have usually found a way to add an advanced college arm to their coffer in the early rounds. Alexander is the best of these, the platonic ideal of a pitchability lefty, low three-quarter arm slot and all.

Alexander works 88-91 with his fastball and will show the occasional 93 or 94. He can manipulate it by adding sink, and some think he has a natural ball/hand relationship to add a cutter at some point. Alexander also has a sweeping, two-plane slider in the low 80s that he can throw for strikes, bury beneath the zone and work in to right-handed hitters. He has a competent plan against righties, in general, which includes the breaking ball and an average, low-80s changeup.

Alexander squeezes the most out of this stuff by consistently finding the strike zone. Alexander went four months without walking multiple hitters in a given start this past year and walked just one hitter over his first five starts at Double-A. It’s more control than command at this point, but the strike-throwing ability to work efficiently and eat innings as a back-end starter is clearly here. His delivery is safe-looking, he loads his arm early and has a clean, non-violent arm swing which he repeats well.

I think Alexander has a shot to become a No. 4 or 5 starter with a large portion of that value coming from his ability to work efficiently and eat innings. A few things to consider before we move on. First, Alexander saw virtually no increase in workload from 2015 to 2016. He threw about 130 innings between his sophomore year at TCU (he was a draft-eligible soph) and first pro summer, and then held firm there in 2016. After he went every fifth day in April and May, Alexander had several extended breaks in June and July before pitching on normal rest for the remainder of the season. Because of Detroit’s conservative approach to Alexander’s development, I think it’s very unlikely he sees the majors next year even though he’ll likely start 2017 in Double-A.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.6 WAR

tyler-alexander-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 15th Round, 2014 from Creighton
Age 24 Height 6’2 Weight 175 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 50/50 40/45 50/50 50/55 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .260/.350/.430 at Double-A with 11% walk rate and .170 ISO.

Scouting Report
Gerber has always been much older for his minor-league level than the typical prospect, but even against a strong subsection of peers in the 2015 Arizona Fall League, his tools looked quite strong. Gerber generates above-average bat speed with an easy, comfortable swing, he has average raw power, is an average runner with an above-average arm, and shows glimpses of above-average defense in right field.

He has issues with swing and miss that stem from excessive length, curveball recognition and middling bat control. These issues are especially evident against left-handed pitching, though Gerber has improved against southpaws over the last several months. There’s a chance these issues are exploited in the big leagues but Gerber, who has an excellent eye for the strike zone, survived his 2016 foray into Double-A. Even if his issues against lefties only make him offensively viable as the larger half of a platoon, he still might merit playing every day because of the quality of the defense. I like Gerber as a low-end regular and consider him a great 15th-round find.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.0 WAR

michael-gerber-likelihood-of-outcomes

6. Joe Jimenez, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Puerto Rico
Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 220 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command
70/70 55/60 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 28 strikeouts in 17 High-A innings before promotion to Double-A. Posted sub-40% ground-ball rate at all three stops in 2016.

Scouting Report
Jimenez went undrafted out of his Puerto Rican high school because, at the time, his stuff was underwhelming and there was very little body projection to dream on. Physically mature, Jimenez was sitting 88-92 with his fastball, touching 94 and pitching with a 30-grade breaking ball.

In the years since then, Jimenez has been sitting 94-97 and touching as high as 100 with a plus-flashing, mid-80s two-plane slider that arguably plays up due to the deception and huge extension in his delivery. This two-pitch combination allowed Jimenez to dominate High-A early this year. He allowed just five hits over 17 innings there before moving up to Double-A, where his stuff allowed him to deal with mid-year strike-throwing issues. Jimenez was a late addition to the Futures Game, where he threw just three pitches, and finished his year at Triple-A, mostly sitting 94-96 by then with more control than command.

This is a pretty obvious relief profile but one that’s more likely than most to find its way into high leverage innings. Of course (and Tigers fans will know this after experiencing Bruce Rondon) two-pitch relievers are not immune from big-league growing pains and, when Jimenez debuts in the majors, which will likely be in 2017, his fastball command may require refinement if he’s going to be even close to as effective as he was in the minors. He also has no margin for error. If his fastball backs up or the body goes south and robs him of already fringey strike-throwing ability, then the profile becomes much less favorable in an instant. But Jimenez is close to the majors and very likely to yield some kind of value there soon. Only a dozen relievers were worth 2 WAR or more in 2016, so putting a 50 FV on Jimenez would essentially mean declaring him one of baseball’s best future relievers. I think he’s a half-grade short of that.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.4 WAR

joe-jimenez-likelihood-of-outcomes

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2008 from Venezuela
Age 25 Height 6’0 Weight 140 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 30/30 20/30 50/50 55/60 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded only 13% strikeout rate at Triple-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
An acrobatic defensive wizard with a plus arm, Machado has ascended to the upper levels of the minors and somehow held his walk rate against advanced pitching despite a lack of power. He’s been a sure-handed defender capable of handling a big-league shortstop for several years now but lacks the physicality to compete with the bat in the majors. His approach is very simplistic, he tracks well and identifies balls and strikes early in flight, but has poor strength and bat speed, leading to weak contact on the ground.

Machado could conceivably play shortstop (and hit eighth or ninth) every day for someone, but the path to playing time in Detroit is not as obvious with Jose Iglesias hanging around. He profiles as a utility man but could find himself thrust into everyday duty in 2017 if Jose Iglesias gets hurt or if Ian Kinsler gets traded.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.3 WAR

dixon-machado-likelihood-of-outcomes

40 FV Prospects

8. Derek Hill, OF
Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Elk Grove HS (CA)
Age 21 Height 6’2 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 30/30 20/20 70/70 60/70 55/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Low-A in 2015: .238/.305/.314 with .298 BABIP.
Low-A in 2016: .266/.312/.349 with .361 BABIP.

Scouting Report
I wasn’t the biggest Derek Hill fan back in 2014 because I was unsure about his physical projection and thought his swing needed a complete overhaul. He was a no-doubt center fielder, though, and I had a future 60 on his glove at the time. While Hill hasn’t been able to get off the ground offensively and hasn’t added much strength since signing, he is a great center fielder with a chance to be a 70 defender there, which (though a longshot) could allow him to play every day even if he’s hitting at the bottom of the order.

But Hill, whose physical frailty is evident both in the quality of the contact he makes and in his track record of health (five DL stints over the last two seasons, including a ligament tear late in 2016 that required Tommy John and will keep Hill out for much of 2017), Hill needs to add mass just to compete at the upper levels of the minors with his bat. He repeated Low-A in 2016 and performed better than he did in 2015, though his peripherals went backward. Hill peppers the opposite field with ground balls and line drives and sprints for extra bases. His bat control has improved since high school, and Hill has average bat speed, but his wrists remains relatively punchless through contact and he gives away too many at-bats. I have a future 40 on the hit tool and a 20 on the game power.

Players like Kevin Pillar, a healthy Juan Lagares and Billy Hamilton have yielded big-league value despite anemic offensive outputs, but Hill lacks the physicality of Pillar and Lagares and his carrying tools (the speed and defense) aren’t as freakishly elite as Hamilton’s. I think it’s more likely Hill becomes a bench outfielder.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.8 WAR

derek-hill-likelihood-of-outcomes

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Venezuela
Age 21 Height 5’11 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/55 30/30 20/20 60/60 45/55 70/70

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has posted 70% career stolen-base success rate.

Scouting Report
A plus runner and good defensive outfielder with a 70 arm, Azocar spent 2016 in Low-A splitting time in center field with Derek Hill. Though Azocar can’t go get it in center field quite like Hill can, he has more favorable physical projection than Hill, in my opinion, and a better chance to hit. That’s not to say he’s good with the bat right now — in fact, quite the opposite. Azocar has above-average bat speed and good barrel control but produces no power, is long to the ball, and his Sammy Sosa-esque footwork does his timing and weight transfer no favors nor does his over-ggressive approach.

With Hill on the shelf with Tommy John, Azocar should get heavy reps in center field in 2017, which should allow onlookers to get a better feel for what his defensive ceiling is, but he shows glimpses of plus defense.

The physical tools for a contact/defense, low-end regular are here but getting there will likely require significant adjustment. He’s far more likely to become a speed/defense bench outfielder, but as a potential big leaguer Azocar was a very solid $110,000 signing.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.3 WAR

jose-azocar-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 4th Round, 2016 from Louisville
Age 23 Height 6’2 Weight 220 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 55/55 45/50 40/45 35/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 47 walks in 93 innings at Louisville this year.

Scouting Report
Funkhouser entered his junior year at Louisville as a potential top-10 pick but things quickly unraveled. What was once a moving fastball in the 93-97 range was now sitting in the low 90s, and Funkhouser’s command went backward. Some scouts thought it was due to overuse (Funkhouser went from throwing 54 innings as a freshman at Louisville to 120 as a sophomore), others considered it a matter of conditioning, and some considered it a chance to buy low in the draft on an arm that might resurge if given proper care and guidance.

The Dodgers drafted Funkhouser 35th overall in 2015, but the two sides could’nt come to an agreement. Slot money at 35 was $1.75 million, while Funkhouser (advised by Scott Boras) reportedly asked for at least twice that much. Funkhouser returned to Louisville for his senior season and his struggles continued. His arm looked heavy and slow early in the year. He began throwing harder later in the spring, was ultimately drafted by Detroit in the fourth round, and signed for $750,000.

Funkhouser’s velocity continued to climb through instructional league, though it’s important to know that he was handled very carefully down the stretch, averaging just three innings per start in pro ball. His strike-throwing improved after entering pro ball as well.

Funkhouser’s secondary pitches have been similarly volatile in quality and usage. His slider, somewhat blunt but late-biting, has historically been his best secondary pitch and was routinely plus early in college. His curveball has some power to it, and most scouts think it works best as a change-of-pace, early-count strike. Because the changeup is below average and lacks projection, however, the curve might also be his best option against left-handed hitters if he can learn to locate it down and in.

If Funkhouser’s uptick in stuff late in the year was a sign of resurgence, then he has a chance to be a solid rotation piece. If it was a mirage caused by his limited usage, then he’s likely a reliever where that stuff could play up even further in one-inning stints instead of three. I think it makes sense to give the former a try while anticipating the latter.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2013 from LSU
Age 25 Height 6’2 Weight 205 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/40 55/55 40/40 55/55 45/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Posted 30% strikeout rate at Triple-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
I was down on Jones after his 2015 Fall League performance. Detroit acquired him from Pittsburgh in exchange for Joakim Soria that summer. He was a 40 runner all fall, was striking out heavily, and looked bad at both shortstop and third base.

He began 2016 on a 50-game suspension for a second positive drug test, then hit well in a 20-game tuneup at Double-A before moving on to Triple-A Toledo, where he struggled to make consistent contact. He got a cup of coffee with Detroit late in the year and, after spending all of 2016 in a minor-league outfield, played some third base there.

Jones was better this fall than last. His raw power was more apparent, he was posting 55/60 run times to first base and he looked average in center field. His swing remains problematic, noisy, and allows the bat to travel in the hitting zone only briefly. Defensive viability at an infield spot or two would provide Jones with an easily foreseeable route to a long big-league career, even though he’s unlikely to ever hit enough to be a regular. His floor is that of a fourth or fifth outfielder, while I think the ceiling is that of a speedy, utility type.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.8 WAR

jacoby-jones-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 4th Round, 2014 from Vanderbilt
Age 24 Height 6’3 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
70/70 50/60 40/40 30/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
OBP of right-handed batters vs. Ravenelle in 2016: .287.
OBP of left-handed batters vs. Ravenelle in 2016: .398.

Scouting Report
Ravenelle is death to right-handed hitters with a funky, low-slot delivery and upper-90s heat. He was mostly 94-98 during the Arizona Fall League (his second stint there in two years) and will touch 100 on occasion. His slider, which is comically long for a mid-80s slidepiece, is inconsistent but flashes plus and also plays up against righties due to Ravenelle’s arm slot.

But lefties see the ball very well against him and have an easier time tracking the fastball, which can lack plane, and sending it airborne. He also has 30-grade command which stems from an inability to repeat. The 70 fastball/60 potential slider combination looks like a potential back-end profile on paper but there are forces at work that complicate that projection. There’s a good chance Ravenelle’s platoon issues limit his role and big-league value.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.2 WAR

adam-ravenelle-likelihood-of-outcomes

13. Gerson Moreno, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic
Age 21 Height 0’0 Weight 0 Bat/Throw /
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command
80/80 50/60 20/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 20 walks in 24 High-A innings.

Scouting Report
Moreno is an incredibly risky prospect because he has very little idea where his 98-plus mph fastball is going. Moreno sits 98-100 with downhill plane and, at times, has good command of a potential plus, vertically breaking slider. He’s shown some ability to locate it in the zone for looking strikes and bury it beneath the zone, though he relies on it too heavily as an early-count option when his fastball control development should be at the forefront of his focus.

There’s a potentially dominant two-pitch reliever here, one with an arguably superior ceiling to Jimenez’s. But the strike-throwing issues here are as bad as with any relief prospect in this system and there are many, which dilutes the FV grade substantially here.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.2 WAR

gerson-moreno-likelihood-of-outcomes

14. Sandy Baez, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2011 from Dominican Republic
Age 23 Height 6’2 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
70/70 40/45 40/50 45/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Walked just 6% of batters in 2016.

Scouting Report
The Tigers added Baez to their 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 deadline despite the fact that he hasn’t pitched above A-ball because they believed his heavy, hard fastball (top end of the velocity range is 98-100) could get outs at the big-league level right now. Baez does throw a starter-worthy ratio of strikes despite a relatively unbalanced delivery. He’s slightly funky and deceptive.

But Baez doesn’t miss many bats despite an arguably 70-grade fastball because neither his breaking ball nor changeup are especially good. The curveball is short and Baez decelerates his arm to baby it into the strike zone, while his changeup feel hasn’t come. Baez’s delivery is direct enough to the plate that he throws strikes, but it also features some effort/noise that makes it hard for Baez to have surgical command.

Some of Baez’s on-paper mediocrity can probably be partially explained by the Low-A defense behind him, which is far less equipped to deal with the ground balls induced by a hard sinker. But, at age 23, the idling progression of the secondaries is troubling. If one of them comes along perhaps he’s a back-end rotation option, but he may be a fastball-heavy reliever who doesn’t quite have the repertoire depth to turn a lineup over several times.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.7 WAR

sandy-baez-likelihood-of-outcomes

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic
Age 20 Height 5’11 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/55 45/50 30/50 55/50 40/55 45/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
Signed for $400,000 in 2013, Martinez was a bat-first shortstop prospect with heavy footwork and fringe arm strength. He had good bat speed and a projectable body but was literally loading his hands up above his head and needed heavy mechanical work.

Martinez has already moved to second base, but he could be quite good there. He’s a 55 runner, his arm and arm action are better suited for second than they were for short, and he has good instincts and athleticism. The bat remains promising. Above-average bat speed, feel for the barrel, good extension through contact: that combination gives him the potential to become an average regular with solid across-the-board tools, but he’s obviously eons from the majors and didn’t perform well in the GCL as a 19-year-old. Purely on upside he’s one of the more interesting prospects in the system.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2011 from Venezuela
Age 23 Height 5’8 Weight 186 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 40/40 20/30 20/20 40/50 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded just 2.4% walk rate in 2016.

Scouting Report
Perez has modest but playable bat speed, bat control and plus pure arm strength, but he’s also had trouble staying on the field and has spent time with West Michigan during each of the last three seasons. He went unselected in this month’s Rule 5 draft due to limited scouting looks, raw receiving, game-calling and ball-blocking and a lack of in-game power and patience. He could offer average defense, plus arm, and average hit with no power — which is a good backup and perhaps a low-end regular. He’s behind the development curve for his age and is risky because of his durability issues.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.4 WAR

arvicent-perez-likelihood-of-outcomes

17. Kevin Ziomek, LHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2013 from Vanderbilt
Age 25 Height 6’3 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
45/45 50/50 40/40 50/55 50/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None, injured.

Scouting Report
Pitching prospects like Ziomek typically move pretty quickly. A second-rounder out of Vanderbilt in 2013, he combined pitchability and deception that typically carves up low-level hitters. He’ll begin 2017 as a 25-year-old who hasn’t pitched above A-ball after missing 2016 recovering from surgery to correct Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Healthy, Ziomek sits 88-92 with some deception and has a pair of slurvy breaking balls (the slider, a 50, is superior) with an average changeup that plays up due to his deceptive arm action. The viable changeup and solid slider command allow Ziomek to mitigate platoon issues that might otherwise be caused by his low arm slot. There’s still a good chance for Ziomek to yield some big-league value despite his developmental crawl, assuming he’s healthy. He projects as a back-end starter or relief arm.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014 from Alabama
Age 24 Height 6’3 Weight 230 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 55/60 40/40 40/45 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Posted 27 strikeouts in 30 High-A innings.

Scouting Report
A shoulder issue disrupted Turnbull’s 2016 season, and he picked up an extra 20 innings worth of reps in the AFL as a result. In Arizona he was 92-94 with heavy plane and sink, as well as a host of middling secondaries that range from 40 to 50 on the scale. The best of these is a mid-80s slider, cutter-like at times, that could be plus at higher velocity levels in short stints. His change and curveball are both below average, their effectiveness disrupted by arm deceleration.

Turnbull’s command makes him a likely bullpen piece and he could be quite good there. He’s been into the upper 90s before and could approach that again in short outings, assuming good health. At that point you hope the slider also plays up and he can be more than just a middle-inning contributor.

19. A.J. Simcox, SS
Drafted: 14th Round, 2015 from Tennessee
Age 23 Height 6’3 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 30/30 20/30 50/50 45/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Had more extra-base hits in 2016 than in entire college career and 2015 pro debut combined.

Scouting Report
Simcox is a solid defensive shortstop with good footwork, hands, an above-average arm and mature actions. His bat is light. He has a compact approach geared for line drives and ground balls but lacks average bat speed and doesn’t produce much power. He worked to pull the ball more in 2016 and produced a bit more power as a result. He’ll never have an impact bat but just needs to develop enough offensively to pass in the big leagues because the glove is the asset here. His defense isn’t as spectacular as Machado’s and we haven’t seen Simcox, a U of Tennessee lifer, above A-ball yet. He projects as a utility man.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.9 WAR

aj-simcox-likelihood-of-outcomes

*****

*****

Other Prospects of Note (In Order of Preference)

Wladimir Pinto, RHP – An extremely raw 18-year old Venezuelan righty, Pinto sits 94-99 and touches 100. He’s got a small frame, big effort and arm acceleration, has breaking ball feel and should see changeup development with reps, but might be relief only because of the frame and delivery. Just another cannon in a system full of them — and the furthest away of them all.

Myles Jaye, RHP, 1.7 KATOH+ WAR – Jaye is a nearly-there righty with average fastball/slider combination and great pitch utility. He also has a fringe change and curveball. The stuff plays when Jaye is commanding his repertoire but reports on the control are inconsistent. Some want to see him get a look in the bullpen while others think he’s an up-and-down depth arm.

Jairo Labourt, LHP, 0.3 KATOH+ – It was a rough year for Labourt, who was removed from Lakeland’s rotation after five consecutive disastrous starts in June. His command issues are well documented and he’s long been considered more likely to end up in relief than in a rotation while remaining intriguing as a starting prospect because of his size, delivery and sinker/slider combo. Labourt got settled in the bullpen and put together a two-week stretch of good appearances in July before making a spot start at month’s end. After that start, Labourt walked 10 and struck out five over his last 10 innings of the season. As a starter, Labourt sits 91-94 with sink and will touch as high as 96. His fastball plays up in relief. He has a plus potential slider in the mid-80s that has vicious two-plane bite when he breaks off a good one. His changeup is below average, his command is a grade below that. There’s a chance for Labourt to be a dominant reliever and also a chance he never develops enough command to make camp in the big leagues. If Labourt successfully assimilates to a bullpen role in 2017, he could move quickly.

Grayson Greiner, C, 1.3 KATOH+ – A solid receiver and ball-blocker with fringe-average arm strength, Greiner more strength than bat speed at the plate but keeps things simple and has an average contact profile. Profiles as a low-end backup or third catcher.

Steven Moya, OF, o.6 KATOH+ – Pretty clearly a Quad-A type of hitter at this point, Moya has plus-plus raw power but an overaggressive approach and giant holes in his swing that MLB pitchers have been able to identify and exploit. Because the power is so huge, Moya remains a somewhat interesting name — and, indeed, hitters with long-levered bodies like Moya’s have figured out a way to get to their power later than their peers — so he’s still on this list, but the clock is ticking on the bat-to-ball skills.

Zach Shepherd, 3B, 0.4 KATOH+ – An Australian third baseman with impressive raw power and power on contact, Shepherd also has serious issues with swing and miss. You have to buy into the bat developing considerably because of the Australian background to see any sort of big leaguer here, but Shepherd is only 21 and is worth monitoring because of the potential power output.

Victor Alcantara, RHP, 0.4 KATOH+ – Alcantara was mostly 91-95 with sinking arm-side movement during Fall League. His fastball command is well below average, a 30 on the 20-80 scale for me, and his delivery is full of effort and violent moving parts. His mid-80s slider is consistently above average and features more length than is usual for a slider that hard. I’ve seen some changeups, as well, mostly in the 86-87 mph range, but the best one I’ve seen has been a 40 on the scale. Alcantara profiles as a two-pitch reliever for me. He’s been up to 99 in the past, and if he can somehow regain that kind of velocity it would obviously enhance his chances of contributing to Detroit’s big-league staff, potentially in a high-leverage role. For now, though, he’s a middle-relief prospect for me, with a chance for something more than that.

Drew Smith, RHP, 0.3 KATOH+ – Smith has a gorgeous, explosive delivery and his fastball reaches into the upper-90s with regularity. It lacks horizontal movement and has dominated primarily due to velocity early in pro ball. Smith mixes in an average, looping curveball which he sometimes doesn’t get on top of. It often has solid depth but lacks bite and if more effective underneath the strike zone than in it. Smith is a pure two-pitch relief prospect and there’s a chance his fastball doesn’t play as well at the upper levels as it did in Low-A this year. He has a middle-relief profile, has yet to pitch above A-ball.

Matt Hall, LHP, 0.9 KATOH+ – Heavy usage of an above-average curveball has allowed Hall to navigate the lower levels of the minors, but his upper-80s fastball may not play at higher levels of the minors. He also has fringe control projection. I got a J.P. Howell comp here.

Warwick Saupold, RHP, 0.6 KATOH+ – An Australian righty with a deep but fringey repertoire, Saupold throws a low-90s fastball, upper-80s cutter, low-80s slider and changeup. There’s nothing here that misses bats, though. As a result, he’s an up-and-down swingman type of arm. The second Aussie on this list, Saupold was arrested in August after a bar fight in Toledo.

Artie Lewicki, RHP, 1.5 KATOH+ – Owner of a fastball at 90-94, average slider, fringe curve and change, Lewicki is up-and-down arm for me.

Austin Kubitza, RHP, 0.2 KATOH+ – Always more of an inning-eating pitchabilty prospect, Kubitza’s stuff hasn’t played well at the upper levels of the minors. He mostly sits 88-92 with an average slider/cutter in the 85-87 range and a fringe changeup that projects to average. With command of that repertoire, Kubitza could be an up-and-down arm, but he struggles with strike-throwing as well and arms with this sort of middling stuff aren’t allowed to.

Cistulli’s Guy
Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.

Artie Lewicki, RHP, 1.5 KATOH+
Both of Cistulli’s Guys from each of the last two Tigers organizational lists remain members of the system — and both remained legitimate candidates for that same designation this year.

Right-hander Warwick Saupold was last year’s selection, when Dan Farnsworth was the steward of these lengthy prospect reports. Outfielder Jason Krizan (1.8 KATOH+), meanwhile, appeared here in the 2014-15 offseason, when human reggaeton horn Kiley McDaniel authored them. Saupold recorded strong fielding-independent numbers during six major-league appearances in 2016, but his value is limited by his role: he’s unlikely ever to be considered for an actual rotation spot. As for Krizan, he continued to exhibit his characteristically excellent control of the plate in 2016, producing walk and strikeout rates of 10.8% and 7.9%. He’s entering his age-28 season, however, and is limited defensively to an outfield corner and has recorded distressingly low (and declining) speed scores in recent years.

Lewicki, for his part, was a candidate for the author’s Fringe Five series on multiple occasions this season — on the strength, that, of impressive strikeout and walk rates in the minors. He demonstrated promising physical tools at the Arizona Fall League, too, recording an average fastball velocity of 94-95 mph, a whiff rate above 20% on his curve, and above-average ground-ball figures with both pitches.

*****

System Overview

I hope you liked reading about relief prospects far more than I enjoyed writing about them. I didn’t even run through several other potential relievers in the system, including Bryan Garcia, Mark Ecker, Paul Voelker (0.8 KATOH+), Zac Houston and Anthony Castro (1.0 KATOH+), all of whom throw hard and have some breaking-ball feel but a deficiency of some kind. This is one of the weaker systems in baseball, short on just about everything other than big-time velocity. The Tigers pick 18th in next year’s draft and will probably add another 50 FV name to this list. They might get some young help in return for Ian Kinsler or another veteran bat this offseason. With the big club aging and the farm looking thin, it may be time to cash in all those veterans.

We hoped you liked reading Top 19 Prospects: Detroit Tigers by Eric Longenhagen!

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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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KalineCountry
Member
KalineCountry

Who are the front office people responsible for this continued coming up short in the draft group of low ceiling prospects?
They need to be run out of town post haste.
Tigers are saying they need to build through the draft, but won’t by continued bunch of scrubs. We can see this through the years of all the positional players who have know plate discipline, and strike zone judgement.
Bill Lajoie might be the last good GM as far as drafting good to excellent players.

LHPSU
Member
LHPSU

Avila has had the job for one whole year. Calm down.

KalineCountry
Member
KalineCountry

I obviously know about Al Avila,
these men leave alot to be desired in improving the Tigers past, present, and the future.

Vice President, Assistant General Manager David Chadd
Vice President, Player Personnel Scott Bream
Vice President, Player Development Dave Littlefield
Senior Director, Baseball Analytics & Operations Jay Sartori
Director, Baseball Operations Sam Menzin
Director, Latin American Player Development Manny Crespo
Director, Latin American Operations Miguel Garcia
Director, International Operations Tom Moore
Director, Minor League Operations Dan Lunetta
Director, Dominican Republic Operations Ramon Perez Director, Player Development Dave Owen

Bip
Member
Member
Bip

Their system looks about what you might expect a recent Dombrowski team to look like. The Tigers have had an excellent MLB team for most of the 2010’s. This is the other side of that coin.

KalineCountry
Member
KalineCountry

I can agree with that assessment. The thing that remains is that after the Red Sox have emptied out their top prospects to make the club even stronger, and dropped to a possible bottom 10 rank with what is left in the system, they will be back to top 5 to 10 ranking in imo a couple of years. They have better people in their system than the Tigers have.
Last good GM other than trader Dave Dombrowski was Bill Lajoie along with a better group of people who evaluated and developed players. He/they drafted Trammell, Whitaker, Morris, Parrish, Gibson, etc.

Rahul Setty
Member

Feels like you just copied and pasted this lol

KwisatzHaderach
Member
Member
KwisatzHaderach

Avila has been there throughout Dombrowski’s tenure, as has just about everyone of the major front office people. So it’s perfectly reasonable to wonder what is going to change when Avila and Chadd are still at the top. It’s not like Dombrowski was real involved in draft and development. All he wanted was showroom pieces to move.

LHPSU
Member
LHPSU

The direction has changed. It’s no longer screw the farm, screw payroll, win at all costs before Mike dies. It’s not exactly the GM’s mandate, of course, but the change in GMs coincides in a change in the general philosophy of the organization.

KwisatzHaderach
Member
Member
KwisatzHaderach

True, but the fact remains that the scouting and player development is essentially unchanged. It’s not like Dombrowski traded a lot of guys here who turned out to be useful, let alone good. They lost their #1 pick a few years which hurt no doubt. But it’s still the same group who has had little success overall.

beconstructive
Member
beconstructive

The big problem was the 14/15 off-season when DD traded away Robbie Ray, E. Suarez, and D. Travis for very little.

Those guys have put up 12 WAR at the league minimum the past 2 seasons, while the guys we got back haven’t reached 3 WAR, and we paid Simon $5.5M.