DETROIT - SEPTEMBER 22: Jacob Turner #50 of the Detroit Tigers pitches in the first inning during the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park on September 22, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects for 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Jacob Turner, RHP, Grade A-: I think he could use some additional Triple-A exposure, but the Tigers may have different ideas. I don't see him as a number one Verlander-like ace, but more like a durable workhorse number two.
2) Nick Castellanos, 3B, Grade B+: I'd like to see his strikeout rate come down, but overall he had a successful season after the rough first month. Will he develop more home run power at the expense of batting average?
3) Casey Crosby, LHP, Grade B: High ceiling, could develop into a number two starter if he can resolve control/command problems. Needs a good dose of Triple-A.
4) Andrew Oliver, LHP, Grade B: Like Crosby, he has a high ceiling as a power lefty but has to get the walks down and develop his secondary pitches further. His ERA at Toledo was misleadingly high and I am cutting him some slack with the grade as a result.
5) Drew Smyly, LHP, Grade B: Doesn't have Crosby or Oliver's stuff, but superior command stands out as a big plus. If you could combine Smyly's command and secondary pitches with Oliver's fastball, you would have a pure Grade A talent. Of course, if I could combine my brain with Brad Pitt, I'd get a lot more chicks.
6) Tyler Collins, OF, Grade B-: I really like this product of the 2011 draft and this is an aggressive grade.
7) James McCann, C, Grade C+: Second round pick from Arkansas, very impressive defensive catcher with a chance to hit, although 2-for-34 streak in Low-A is inauspicious career opener.
8) Brian Flynn, LHP, Grade C+: Big lefty out of Wichita State (seventh round) showed more polish than expected to go with his 90-95 MPH fastball.
9) Aaron Westlake, 1B, Grade C+: Big booming bat from Vanderbilt picked in the third round. Main issue here is age, at 23 he needs to move quickly.
10) Eugenio Suarez, SS, Grade C+: Who? Venezuelan shortstop gets good reviews for glove and showed some pop as a 19-year-old in the New York-Penn League. I like him better than the Dixon Machado and Gustavo Nunez all-glove-no-bat types.
11) Tyler Gibson, OF, Grade C+: 15th round pick could have gone in second round if not for Georgia Tech scholarship. Mixed reports about his tools, but power bat is well-regarded. Would like some pro data before ranking higher.
12) Jay Voss, LHP, Grade C+: Sleeper prospect performed better after moving to rotation. Good slider, decent fastball, showed better command this year. Could get to majors in 2012.
13) Daniel Fields, OF, Grade C+: Went backwards in second year in High-A, but the tools are still here and he was still young at 20. Gets some slack with the grade for one more season but Double-A will be a big challenge. Would rank as high as 6th on tools alone.
14) Alex Burgos, LHP, Grade C+: Doesn't burn radar but performed well in the Midwest League at age 20.
15) Kyle Ryan, LHP, Grade C+: Projectable lefty also had a good season in the Midwest League. More hittable than Burgos but has better command at this point.
16) Bruce Rondon, RHP, Grade C+: Power-armed reliever would rank higher if not for sore shoulder that ended season early, plus control issues will factor in against better hitters.
17) Brenny Paulino, RHP, Grade C+: Above-average fastball and very projectable, needs to develop more consistent secondary pitches and prove himself above GCL. Stock will rise quickly if he does that.
18) Danry Vasquez, OF, Grade C: Young and toolsy, Tigers praise his bat but he could not control strike zone in rookie ball. Young enough to learn, stock will rise fast if he does so.
19) Avisail Garcia, OF, Grade C: Big (6-4, 235), strong, fast, hit 11 homers and stole 14 bases in High-A at age 19/20, but with a horrific 18/132 BB/K ratio in 488 at-bats. Dismal approach at the plate short-circuits his tools.
20) Duane Below, LHP, Grade C: Serviceable lefty is ready to help now, could fit in bullpen or might surprise us as a fifth starter with a bit of luck.
OTHERS: Dan Bennett, RHP; Rob Brantly, C; Josue Carreno, RHP; Kevin Eichhorn, RHP; Kenny Faulk, LHP; Mean Dean Green, 1B; Matt Hoffman, LHP; Jamie Johnson, OF; Ramon Lebron, RHP; Brandon Loy, SS; Dixon Machado, SS; Luis Marte, RHP; Gustavo Nunez, SS; Adelin Santa, 3B; Ryan Strieby, 1B; Tyler Stohr, RHP; Adam Wilk, LHP; Austin Wood, LHP.
This is a difficult farm system to analyze. You have five obvious guys at the top, but then things get very hard to distinguish, with a huge group of C+/C prospects that you could rank in an infinite number of ways.
If you are a tools hound, guys like Fields, Gibson, Garcia, Vasquez, and bonus baby Adelin Santa will appeal to you and would rank higher than I have them here. If you are of a more sabermetric bent, players with lower ceilings, but higher floors like McCann, Westlake, Voss, and Ryan look more attractive. I try to find a balance between the two approaches, though when in doubt I lean sabermetric in most (not all) cases and the list reflects that. Of the tools guys, I think Tyler Gibson in particular could rank much higher next year.
I'm noting Eugenio Suarez as a player who needs more attention than he receives. He's got some tools, should be able to stick at shortstop, and was an above-average hitter in the pitching-oriented NY-P League at age 19. Tyler Collins is also an aggressive ranking.