Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects for 2011
All grades are EXTREMELY PRELIMINARY and subject to change. Don't get too concerned about exact rankings at this point, especially once you get past the Top 10. Grade C+/C guys are pretty interchangeable depending on what you want to emphasize.
Feel free to critique the list, but use logic and reason rather than polemics to do to. The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2011 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 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.
Detroit Tigers Top 20 for 2011
1) Jacob Turner, RHP, Grade A-: Borderline B+. Main worry here is standard young pitcher health concerns, plus will the Tigers rush him?
2) Nick Castellanos, 3B, Grade B: Want to see what his batting average and OBP look like in addition to his power.
3) Andy Oliver, LHP, Grade B: A personal favorite despite the issues with his breaking ball and poor handling by the Tigers last summer.
4) Dan Schlereth, LHP, Grade B-: Borderline B, love the power relief arm but will control issues keep him from being an effective closer?
5) Daniel Fields, OF, Grade B-: I thought the Tigers were stupid to jump him from Michigan high school competition to the Florida State League. He wasn't bad considering the circumstances, and the tools are excellent. Give him credit for staying afloat.
6) Casey Crosby, LHP, Grade B-: Very difficult to rank and grade due to uncertainty about his health.
7) Chance Ruffin, RHP, Grade B-: Won't need much minor league time, very polished, good stuff.
8) Brayan Villareal, RHP, Grade B-: I really don't understand why this guy doesn't get more respect. Good stuff, good numbers.
9) Drew Smyly, LHP, Grade B-: Polished college lefty, future fourth starter but should be a good one.
10) Casper Wells, OF, Grade C+: Old for a prospect, won't hit .300 in a full season, but will provide power.
11) Francisco Martinez, 3B, Grade C+: Tigers officials love the tools, but he's been rushed and performance has suffered as a result. I'm not confident in him, at least in the short term.
12) Lester Oliveros, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline C. Power relief arm with enough juice to get a "+", but command is troublesome.
13) Jose Ortega, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline C. Power relief arm with enough juice to get a "+", but command is troublesome.
14) Bruce Rondon, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline C. Power relief arm with enough juice to get a "+", but command is troublesome.
15) Robbie Weinhart, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline C. Got killed in the majors, but I still expect him to be a useful reliever.
16) Adam Wilk, LHP, Grade C: Very polished lefty with mediocre stuff, could be a fifth starter.
17) Charlie Furbush, LHP, Grade C: Very polished lefty with mediocre stuff, could be a fifth starter, got killed in Triple-A.
18) Danry Vazquez, OF, Grade C: Nothing but scouting reports and a big bonus at this point, could be great, could be lousy, just need to see. Will they do the sink/swim thing with him like they have with other Latin American players?
19) Ryan Strieby, 1B-OF, Grade C: Will his wrist ever heal? If it does, he could have a really nice season in his age 27-28 peak window.
20) Avisail Garcia, Of, Grade C: Outstanding tools, but has been rushed and doesn't know how to play yet.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Rob Brantly, C; Alex Burgos, LHP, Josue Carreno, RHP; Brandon Douglas, 2B; Wade Gaynor, 3B; Scott Green, RHP; Bryan Holaday, C; Jaime Johnson, OF; Corey Jones, 2B; Dixon Machado, SS; Tony Plagman, 1B; Cody Satterwhite, RHP; Danny Worth, SS.
The Tigers system is thin, although there is some intriguing material for the pitching staff. Turner, Oliver, and Smyly give them three strong starting pitching prospects, and Crosby's upside is undeniable if he can stay on the mound. There are lively arms for the bullpen as well, with Schlereth and Ruffin leading the pack, plus a gaggle of hard-throwing relievers with command issues. Villareal is the sleeper who could help in either role.
The hitting is another matter. Castellanos should be good and Wells can help this year, but after them there are nothing but high-upside/high-risk players. Fields is the best of the tools guys, but I really don't like how he was rushed; same goes with Martinez and Garcia. How will they handle Danry Vazquez? They are willing to spend money at the top of the draft and in Latin America, but the way the Tigers handle some of these guys reminds me of what the Mets were doing a few years ago, pushing some guys too fast. I much prefer the less Darwinist approach of the Rays and Twins.
All in all, there is some cream at the top, but underneath it this system needs help.