There are two things that are crystal clear when it comes to the Detroit Tigers:
- They are a team deep in a rebuild
- They have front line starting pitching coming
The second point is key when it comes to looking at their farm system, as it is clearly the future strength of the team. There also is a clear dropoff between the top of their system and the next tiers, meaning their current future depends on that up-and-coming pitching (barring an infusion of additional talent).
Who are the names to know? How good are they? Could there be any surprising prospects who could emerge? Let’s take a look:
1) Casey Mize – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2020
Grade – A
Mize is one of the true elite pitching prospects, with the potential to develop into a Tier 1 starter. Had a shoulder injury not impacted him in 2019, causing him to miss time and return to less than stellar results, there’d be a lot of rumblings that he could make a significant impact at the Major League level in 2020. However the contrast in the results is stark and there are going to be questions about his health, as his numbers at both levels he pitched were poor in the second half:
- High-A (4.2 IP) – 3.86 ERA, 1.71 WHIP (5 K vs. 4 BB)
- Double-A (26.2 IP) – 7.09 ERA, 1.54 WHIP (26 K vs. 7 BB)
The talk is that he’s healthy for the start of 2020, though until we see him on the mound that question is going to hang over him. Assuming he’s ready to roll he will make it to the Majors at some point, bringing an impressive arsenal (led by an elite split-finger fastball) and good control. He may not have the 100+ mph fastball that draws the ooos and aaahs, but the stuff is there and he shouldn’t be ignored.
2) Matt Manning – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2020
Grade – A-
In other organizations Manning would be regarded as the next big thing, but in Detroit he plays second fiddle to Mize. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking him, as he showed all of the skills over 133.2 innings at Double-A last season:
- Strikeouts – 9.97 K/9 (12.0% SwStr%)
- Control – 2.56 BB/9
- Groundballs – 46.8%
The big development was in his control, and at 6’6” it makes sense that at 21-years old (he turned 22 in January) it’s starting to round into form. As it does he’ll start to gain more attention as one of the elite pitching prospects, especially as he continues to develop his changeup. With more experience both the control and changeup could get even better, and he should start at Triple-A and make his MLB debut at some point in 2020.
3) Tarik Skubal – Left-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2021
Grade – B+
Skubal was among the biggest breakout prospects of 2019, spending time at High-A (80.1 IP) and Double-A (42.1 IP) and showing elite strikeout stuff along the way (13.13 K/9 courtesy of an 18.1% SwStr%). That doesn’t mean that Skubal is going to continue to thrive as he continues to advance, as his control took a significant step backwards against more advanced hitters (2.13 BB/9 to 3.83) and he struggled to generate groundballs at both levels:
- High-A – 39.1%
- Double-A – 40.6%
He has solid stuff, though it’s his control that allows it to really play up. That step back in his walk rate, albeit in a small sample, is a bit of a warning sign and there’s the potential that he struggles with home runs. The upside is clearly there and he could continue to develop into a future third piece of what has the makings of an elite rotation. How he performs against more advanced hitters in 2020 will be telling.
4) Isaac Paredes – Third Baseman
ETA – 2020
Grade – B
He got 155 PA at Double-A in 2018 before spending the entire season there in ’19 (552 PA). That’s a lot of data to work with, and it helps to show how impressive of an approach he already has:
- Strikeout Rate – 11.7%
- SwStr% – 4.6%
- Walk Rate – 10.7%
He’s struck out (83) nearly as much as he walked (76), so the question is more regarding how much power he’s going to ultimately develop. He showed a little bit of upside last season (23 doubles, 1 triple, 13 HR), though that doesn’t profile as a 30+ HR threat. He could be a 20+ HR hitter, though, and with his approach that should play well at the highest level. There is a question on where his defensive future is, and it’s possible he’s ultimately a first baseman.
5) Riley Greene – Outfielder
ETA – 2022
Grade – B
Greene was selected fifth overall in the 2019 draft and the Tigers were aggressive with him immediately, playing across three levels (including seeing time at Single-A). He held up to the challenge, hitting .271 with 5 HR and 5 SB overall, though there are questions hanging over his development:
- While the Tigers believe, some question how much power he’ll have long-term
- Listed at 6’3” and 200 lbs, there are questions as to how much speed he’ll ultimately have
The outlook is solid and he should have a place in one of the corner outfield spots in Detroit, but the ceiling may not be quite as high as some others.
The Next Five:
6) Daz Cameron – Outfielder (Grade – C+) – Cameron is your prototypical prospect, with both power and speed but also strikeout concerns. Playing at Triple-A last season (528 PA) he had 13 HR and 17 SB, but he hit just .214 thanks to a 28.8% strikeout rate. However his SwStr% wasn’t outrageous, at 11.6%, and his 11.7% walk rate shows that his approach isn’t poor. He may not have the 30/30 profile, but could he go 15/20 with a .260ish average at his best? That’s not impossible, and it would be useful at the highest level, though it also isn’t elite.
7) Willi Castro – Shortstop (Grade – C+) – Playing at Triple-A Castro hit .301 with 11 HR and 17 SB, though the average is a little bit deceiving. He benefited from a .369 BABIP and his approach does have questions, considering his 7.0% walk rate and 12.7% SwStr% (and only 21.0% strikeout rate). Considering that the strikeout rate could spike against even more advanced pitching and his lack of elite power/speed, it’s fair to have questions about what his ultimate ceiling is.
8) Alex Faedo – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+) – If you just looked at his 10.46 K/9 and 1.95 BB/9 over 115.1 innings at Double-A you’d get excited about the potential upside. However there are questions about the pure stuff and how it will play against more advanced hitters, and he already posted a 1.33 HR/9 and lacks groundball stuff (32.8%) so he could be exposed even further. There’s going to be some intrigue, but the ceiling is limited.
9) Jake Rogers – Catcher (Grade – C) – Rogers is currently known more for his defense than his bat, though he hit 18 HR between Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors last season (35 HR total over the past two years) and has shown an ability to consistently draw a walk (including a 10.2% walk rate over 128 PA in the Majors). If the defense earns him a greater role, the bat may prove to play better than anyone is anticipating.
10) Adinso Reyes – Infielder (Grade – C) – Signed as part of the 2018 international class, Reyes has impressive raw power that should play regardless of where he fits defensively (he could ultimately be a third baseman or outfielder). He turned 18 after the season and he is going to learn a better approach, as opposed to looking to hit the ball out of the ballpark every time up (20 doubles, 1 triple and 7 HR over 242 AB last season). He has plenty of time and the potential to be a breakout prospect in the coming years.
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings: