by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There’s a reason the talk this offseason has been that the Detroit Tigers are primed to start rebuilding. While there’s some intriguing upside in the top two names on this list, there’s a swift and dramatic falloff beyond that. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t some intriguing prospects, even ones that could develop into solid Major League contributors. It’s simply that they lack the overall appeal and upside, which is why the system can use an infusion of talent. That said, let’s take a look at how things currently rank:
1) Matt Manning – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2020
The ninth overall selection in the 2016 draft is going to need time to develop, but he certainly made a tremendous first impression. All he did in his 29.1 innings was rack up 46 K against 7 BB, which alone would turn heads. At 6’6” and 190 lbs, there’s reason to believe that he’s just going to add strength and velocity, making him even more imposing.
Now throw in his athleticism, which he clearly has thanks to his past as a basketball player. It should allow him to continue to develop his delivery and his secondary pitches, just adding to the appeal. He has top of the rotation upside, and if he were further along in his development he would likely earn an A/A- grade. The upside is there, just give him time.
2) Christian Stewart – Outfielder
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018
Stewart was one of four players to hit more than 15 HR in the Florida State League in ’16, leading the way with 24 HR in just 356 AB. It’s impressive and shows just how much power the 2015 first round pick possesses. The question is going to be if he can cut his strikeouts down enough, as he struggled with it at both levels he played:
- High-A – 23.8%
- Double-A – 26.0%
It’s not that he’s overly aggressive, with walk rates of 16.7% and 12.0% at the levels, so there is hope that he can continue learning and keep the number in check. If he can do that, even keeping it right around 23-26% as he progresses, he can prove to be a dangerous hitter. Time will tell, but the power is for real.
3) Kyle Funkhouser – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B-
ETA – 2018/2019
This is the part of these rankings where things start to get a little bit tricky. While the first two names are impressive, after that there’s a dramatic falloff in upside. The 2016 fourth round selection showed promise in his 37.1 innings after being selected, with 34 K vs. 8 BB as well as a 1.84 GO/AO. Keep in mind he was actually the 35th overall selection by the Dodgers in 2015, but ultimately returned to school for his senior season (where he struggled for much of the year). That shows the potential he has, and warrants being bumped up in the rankings. This is an aggressive spot for him, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can live up to it.
4) Joe Jimenez – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B-
ETA – 2017
It’s rare that a relief pitcher gets ranked this highly, but that goes to show just how impressive Jimenez was last season. Pitching across three levels (53.2 IP) all he did was rack up 78 K vs. 17 BB, while also saving 30 games. Throw in impressive ratios (1.51 ERA, 0.80 WHIP), you have a closer of the future in the making, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him get opportunities in the role before 2017 comes to a close. He’s the rare relief pitcher to watch, but he has the potential to be the next great in the game.
5) Beau Burrows – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B-
ETA – 2019
The team’s first round pick in 2015, Burrows has a big arm but struggled to generate strikeouts in ’16 (6.22 K/9 over 97.0 IP). It’s surprising considering the pure stuff he has, but not something that’s going to set off extreme alarm bells quite yet. However, when coupled with questions about his height (he’s listed at 6’2”) and a less than stellar 0.72 GO/AO, there’s reason to have questions in regards to his long-term appeal. It’s not to say that he should be written off, just be cautious.
6) Jacoby Jones – Outfielder/Third Baseman (Grade – C+)
Note – An intriguing power/speed prospect, he continues to struggle with strikeouts (12 K in 28 AB in the Majors last season). Throw in last year’s 50-game suspension and there’s reason for concern.
7) Derek Hill – Outfielder (Grade – C+)
The 2015 first round pick has clear speed, but 105 K vs. 24 BB in 384 AB for a non-power hitter is completely unacceptable. Until he improves there, we are going keep his ranking suppressed.
8) Michael Gerber – Outfielder (Grade – C+)
9) Tyler Alexander – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
10) Spencer Turnbull – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C)
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball, MLB.com, MILB.com
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: