Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects for 2013
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. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 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 reasonable 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. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) 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.
This list is current as of January 15, 2013
1) Nick Castellanos, OF-3B, Grade B+: I'm not quite as high on him as some people are; he has some holes in his game including lack of patience, home run power that hasn't fully developed yet, defensive uncertainty, struggles in Double-A. An elite talent, yes, but with enough doubts to preclude an A-grade for me.
2) Avisail Garcia, OF, Grade B: The fact that he was productive with such lousy plate discipline is testament to his natural talent. Very young, needs a year in Triple-A, still a wide range of possible outcomes ranging from star to flameout.
3) Bruce Rondon, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B-: Tough to get a straight B grade for a reliever and I might go down a notch. Have to admit I love the fastball.
4) Jake Thompson, RHP, Grade B-: 2012 second rounder has body and stuff of a mid-rotation starter with heavy sinker. Needs innings and experience of course just out of high school.
5) Danry Vasquez, OF, Grade B-: Like Garcia, he's handicapped by poor plate discipline, but has terrific bat speed and is very young at age 19 in January. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the Tigers are about promoting him.
6) Eugenio Suarez, SS, Grade B-: I like him. Solid glove, can stick at shortstop, gets on base, has gap power. Main sabermetric caution flag is a higher than ideal strikeout rate, but so far it hasn't hurt him.
7) Tyler Collins, OF, Grade B-: Tweener type, hit .290/.371/.429 in High-A with 20 steals. Sound plate discipline, makes contact, gap power. May be a fourth outfielder or platoon bat, but a good one.
8) Casey Crosby, LHP, Grade B-: Very frustrating. The talent is obvious, but continues to struggle with command, walked 65 in 126 innings in Triple-A. But you don't give up on 90+ heat from the left side very quickly.
9) Austin Schotts, OF, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Good impressions to start his career with .310/.360/.452 mark in rookie ball, 15 steals. Excellent speed and athleticism stand out, will have to see about distance power and strike zone judgment. Might bump to B-.
10) Adam Wilk, LHP, Grade C+: Superb command with finesse stuff, dominated Triple-A (2.77 ERA, 128/28 K/BB) but has been rocked in major league trials. Nothing left to prove in the minors, but how does he fit? (ANSWER: he doesn't. Wilk was released in December so he can sign with a Korean team).
11) Brenny Paulino, RHP, Grade C+: Missed season with shoulder problems. I think he has the most talent of the group of young Latin pitchers the Tigers have gathered at the lower levels. Endrys Briceno and Edgar De La Rosa also have live arms but serious issues with their current performance due to command and/or rough secondary pitches.
12) Joe Rogers, LHP, Grade C: Central Florida product from 2012 draft has good fastball, good curveball, good track record of success in relief although many scouts think he can start.
13) Devon Travis, 2B, Grade C: Florida State infielder could be steal in 13th round. Not a big guy, but a solid defender with a good hitting track record so far in college and pro ball, polished approach with gap power. Sleeper to track.
14) Ramon Cabrera, C, Grade C: Solid defensive catcher acquired from Pirates for Andy Oliver.
15) Dean Green, 1B, Grade C: Great track record with the bat (.304/.375/.474 this year in A-ball) but has no position, being a born DH, and turns 24 in June. Still worth watching in thin system.
16) Drew VerHagen, RHP, Grade C: Love the power sinker, but 2012 Vanderbilt product lacks an effective breaking ball, resulting in low strikeout rate. I think he fits best in relief.
17) Daniel Fields, OF, Grade C: He improved somewhat in his third go-around High-A and wasn't totally overmatched in Double-A. Has developed into a strong defensive outfielder and a threat on the bases, but still has no power. Projects as a reserve if he makes it.
18) Michael Morrison, RHP, Grade C: Standard relief fastball/slider arsenal, could contribute in bullpen this year if he resolves command issues he had in Double-A.
19) Harold Castro, 2B, Grade C: Undersized Venezuelan infielder hit .311 in rookie ball, stole 15 bases while showing hitting skills and defensive possibilities. Long way off.
20) Logan Ehlers, LHP, Grade C: 2012 draftee from Howard JC has solid arsenal and improving command. Good sleeper prospect could rise quickly.
OTHERS: Endrys Briceno, RHP; Curt Casali, C; Will Clinard, RHP; Thomas Collier, RHP; Edgar De La Rosa, RHP; Julio Felix, RHP; Charles Gillies, RHP; Bryan Holaday, C; Dixon Machado, SS; James McCann, C; Jeff McVaney, OF; Melvin Mercedes, RHP; Steve Moya, OF; Jose Ortega, RHP; Hernan Perez, 2B; Luke Putkonen, RHP; Hudson Randall, RHP; Montreal Robertson, RHP; Jake Stewart, OF; Josh Turley, LHP.
There's no denying that this is a thin farm system.
Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia are the only guys in the upper minors who project as definite regulars, and they both have blemishes in their profile, Garcia more than Castellanos. I like Eugenio Suarez and Tyler Collins looks like a solid role player. Outfielders Danry Vasquez and Austin Schotts could pan out but are a long way off. Devon Travis also has some sleeper potential. There are several defense-oriented guys up the middle who don't seem likely to hit much.
The best pitching prospect is a guy less than a year out of high school. Jake Thompson is very solid but doesn't project as a genuine staff ace at this stage. Power lefties Casey Crosby and Andy Oliver have struggled to harness their talent in the high minors. Adam Wilk has the kind of command Crosby and Oliver dream about, but lacks their stuff. There are several intriguing power relief arms beginning with Bruce Rondon, but none of them are sure things and command issues are a persistent theme.
After the first two picks, the 2012 draft was conservative and college-oriented, but they did pick up some interesting arms to mix with several raw hard-throwers making their way through the lower levels.