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Detroit Tigers Top 20 2015 PRE-SEASON prospects in review

James McCann
James McCann
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Today we continue our summer reviews of the pre-season Top 20 Prospects lists with the Detroit Tigers.

This is a review of the pre-season list.
It is not a new list.

These are the pre-season grades.

This list was originally published January 14, 2015

1) Steven Moya, OF, Grade B-/B: Hitting .238/.282/.416 with 18 homers, 24 walks, 145 strikeouts in 445 at-bats in Triple-A. Very much as expected: huge power potential but with an air conditioning swing. Remains to be seen what he can do in the majors. . .well, strike out and hit homers I guess.
2) Buck Farmer, RHP, Grade B-/B:
Adequate season in Triple-A (4.15, 76/25 K/BB in 87 innings, 85 hits) but hit hard in majors (7.80 ERA, 18/13 in 30, 39 hits). I still like him and think he can be a fourth starter.
3) Derek Hill, OF, Grade B-:
Hit .238//305/.314 with zero homers, 25 steals, 20 walks, 44 strikeouts in 210 at-bats in Low-A, injury-plagued season. Fast, excellent glove, bat has been atrocious so far, was supposed to be a polished hitter according to the high school scouting reports but hasn’t shown that as a pro. Has time at age 19.
4) Austin Kubitza, RHP, Grade B-:
Difficult season in Double-A, 5.55 ERA with 86/46 K/BB, 166 hits in 120 innings. Durable, throws strikes, gets grounders (2.63 GO/AO), but unable to replicate Low-A magic from 2014 or college magic from 2013. Fourth starter potential.
5) Tyler Collins, OF, Grade C+:
35 big league games, hitting .264/.289/.400 with four walks, 24 strikeouts in 110 at-bats. Has some pop, can improve from here but see him more as a role bat than a regular.

6) Kevin Ziomek, LHP, Grade C+:
3.60 ERA with 133/32 K/BB in 142 innings, 136 hits. Former Vanderbilt stalwart has mastered A-ball and has been handled cautiously. They may be more aggressive next year. Another possible fourth starter, durable, throws strikes.
7) Drew VerHagen, RHP, Grade C+:
3.41 ERA with 26/13 K/BB in 34 innings in Double-A/Triple-A, 4.05 ERA with 1/6 (ick) K/BB in seven major league innings. Typical middle reliever if his command settles down.
8) James McCann, C, Grade C+:
Hitting .269/.303/.409 in majors with six homers, 14 walks, 67 strikeouts in 301 at-bats. Outstanding defensive catcher, has held his own with the bat. In my opinion his hitting can and will improve from this foundation.
9) Grayson Greiner, C, Grade C+:
Hitting .178/.252/.245 with three homers, 26 walks, 83 strikeouts in 286 at-bats in High-A. Hard to believe he hit .322/.394/.444 in Low-A last year, however scouts who worried that his swing was too long for higher levels look like they were correct.
10) Hernan Perez, INF, Grade C+:
Traded to Detroit Tigers, hitting .230/.246/.322 with four walks, 39 strikeouts in 183 at-bats in the majors. Utilityman.

11) Javier Betancourt, 2B, Grade C+:
Hitting .262/.302/.335 with 27 walks, 41 strikeouts in 451 at-bats in High-A. Excellent defense at second base, hasn’t hit much this year but just 20 years old.
12) Chad Green, RHP, Grade C+:
Strike-thrower with 25 starts in Double-A, 4.28 ERA with 123/42 K/BB in 137 innings, 159 hits. Low-90s fastball but still working on breaking stuff, back-of-rotation or bullpen possibilities.
13) Steven Fuentes, 3B, Grade C+:
Hitting .138/.226/.215 in 130 at-bats, 14 walks, 50 strikeouts between Low-A and NY-P. He hit well in the NY-P last year so collapse this year is puzzling, 20 years old.
14) Joe Jimenez, RHP, Grade C+:
Excellent season as Low-A closer, 1.66 ERA with 55/11 K/BB in 38 innings, 22 hits, 15 saves. Mid-90s heat, breaking ball has improved, intriguing arm at age 20.
15) Kyle Lobstein, LHP, Grade C+:
Eight major league starts, 4.34 ERA with 20/16 K/BB in 48 innings, 53 hits. That’s about what should be expected. Might have a surprise season in him some time.

16) Adam Ravenelle, RHP, Grade C+:
Limited innings in Low-A, 4.40 ERA with 34/11 K/BB in 29 innings, 30 hits. Another Vanderbilt product with a good arm looking for a defined role and more innings, likely a reliever.
17) Angel Nesbitt, RHP, Grade C+:
5.77 ERA with 24/18 K/BB in 34 Triple-A innings, 5.40 ERA with 14/8 K/BB in 22 major league frames. Has the arm, still looking for consistency, command to nail down permanent bullpen spot.
18) Jose Valdez, RHP, Grade C+:
3.31 ERA in Triple-A with 40/34 K/BB in 54 innings, 46 hits. Another guy with a live arm and plenty of heat, looking for consistent command.
19) Dixon Machado, SS, Grade C+:
Hitting .260/.310/.331 with 33 walks, 82 strikeouts, 15 steals in 477 at-bats in Triple-A. Very good glove, some speed, unlikely to hit much but defense will keep him employed for some time.
20) Kyle Ryan, LHP, Grade C+:
4.42 ERA with 59/31 K/BB in 96 innings in Triple-A, 113 hits, 2.17 GO/AO. Used as both starter and reliever in majors, resulting in 5.94 ERA, 20/14 K/BB in 33 innings, 39 hits, 1.11 GO/AO. He is a lefty and he is breathing so more chances will come.


After dominating the American League Central for years, the Tigers are more human this year with a 59-66 record and a fourth place standing in the division. Change came very quickly with long-time GM Dave Dombrowski being released from his contract, with long-time front office staffer Al Avila taking over.

The Tigers farm system has been considered thin for years although this was part of a deliberate strategy. There were certain persistent themes: polished college pitchers, hard-throwers and athletic infielders from Latin America. Despite the reputation there were always enough prospects to interest other clubs in the trade market and the Tiger would occasionally commit to one of their own prospects that they truly believed in, James McCann and Nick Castellanos being two recent examples.

Rebuild-oriented prospect trades began this summer and have netted an impressive group of arms led by Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa in the Yoenis Cespedes trade with the Mets, plus a trio of impressive lefties in the David Price trade, Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, and Jairo Labourt. Norris is past rookie status but Fulmer, Cessa, Boyd and Labourt should rank well on Tigers lists entering 2016 and represent a good pitching core going forward. The Tigers will also take a shot at refining the undoubted tools of infielder JaCoby Jones, brought over from the Pirates for Joakim Soria.

The 2015 draft adds right-hander Beau Burrows from the Texas prep ranks. He’s pitching well in rookie ball and could advance rather quickly for a high schooler. TCU southpaw Tyler Alexander is a classic polished southpaw currently dominating the New York-Penn League. The Tigers need more bats in the system and two college sluggers, outfielder Cristin Stewart from Tennessee and catcher Kade Scivicque from LSU, are off to good starts in pro ball. Both could move rapidly.

It remains to be seen how much the Tigers will change their philosophy, but summer trades have helped, particularly on the pitching side, and the early returns on the ’15 draft look good.