Detroit Tigers Top 20 prospects for 2016
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 2016 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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) Michael Fulmer, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 22, acquired from New York Mets in Yoenis Cespedes deal, posted 2.24 ERA with 125/30 K/BB in 125 innings between High-A and Double-A, mid-90s fastball with curve, slider, improving change-up, took large step forward with his command. He’s a B+ on pure talent but history of injuries/durability concerns worry me just a hair. May wind up as B+ when final lists are complete.
2) Christin Stewart, OF, Grade B: Age 22, first round pick from University of Tennessee in 2015, hit .285/.372/.508 with 10 homers, 26 walks, 68 strikeouts in 256 at-bats in pro debut between GCL, NYP, and Midwest League. Power is genuine in my view, mixed with solid pure hitting skills. Defense not great but should be okay in left field if he hits as expected. Best bat in the system by far.
3) Beau Burrows, RHP, Grade B: Age 19, posted 1.61 ERA with 33/11 K/BB in 28 innings in rookie ball, first round pick in 2015 from high school in Texas, physically mature at 6-2 (maybe really 6-0) 200 but already has good heat in low/mid-90s and a power curveball, change-up has good potential, command better than expected so far. Potential number three starter.
4) JaCoby Jones, SS, Grade B-: Age 23, acquired from Pirates for Joakim Soria, excellent tools with power, speed, throwing arm, hit .257/.322/.415 with 16 homers, 25 steals, 49 walks, 165 strikeouts in 525 at-bats between High-A and Double-A. 20/20 potential. Has developed into a very good defensive shortstop and the offensive tools can be explosive, but overall production still held back by substandard strike zone judgment/overaggressive approach. Will open 2016 on suspension list for drug of abuse.
5) Kevin Ziomek, LHP, Grade B-: Age 23, former Vanderbilt stalwart posted 3.43 ERA with 143/34 K/BB in 155 innings in High-A, throws average fastball, curve, slider, change-up for strikes, gets grounders, allowed just three homers all year, deceptive delivery and good command help stuff play up. Fourth starter projection but should be ready within a year.
6) Joe Jimenez, RHP, Grade B-: Age 21, signed as undrafted free agent from Puerto Rico in 2013, posted 1.47 ERA with 17 saves, 61/11 K/BB in 43 innings, just 23 hits in Low-A, fastball up to 97-98 and slider has developed into plus pitch, command is quite good for a young power reliever. Has a good chance to be a closer down the line.
7) Spencer Turnbull, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, second round pick in 2014 from University of Alabama, 3.01 ERA with 106/52 K/BB in 117 innings in Low-A, zero homers allowed, yes he has a heavy sinker in the 92-94 area, sometimes higher, slider is solid enough but change-up and overall command still need work, potential workhorse starter or a reliever if change doesn’t improve.
8) Mike Gerber, OF, Grade C+/B-: Age 23, hit .292/.355/.468 with 31 doubles, 10 triples, 13 homers, 16 steals, 49 walks, 97 strikeouts in 513 at-bats in Low-A. 15th round pick in 2014 out of Creighton University in Omaha, physical tools are just average but play up due to his feel for the game, lefty bat, good defensive outfielder although not ideal in center. We need to see the bat at higher levels and he may be a tweener without more home run production but was a great find in the 15th round.
9) Steve Moya, OF, Grade C+: Age 24, hit .240/.283/.420 with 30 doubles, 20 homers, 27 walks, 162 strikeouts in 500 at-bats in Triple-A. Enormous power, 80-grade perhaps, but extremely high strikeout rate and over-aggressive approach will preclude batting average/OBP. Runs well and a good outfield glove but will have trouble hitting .200 in the majors without more adjustments. Too bad you can’t combine Gerber’s hitting approach with Moya’s body.
10) Zach Shepherd, 3B, Grade C+: Age 20, sleeper prospect I want to point out, from Australia, hit .245/.327/.339 with five homers, 47 walks, 117 strikeouts in 383 at-bats in Low-A. Numbers aren’t much yet but he scouts well and held his own considering inexperience, very good glove at third base, 6-3, 185 body is still projectable and could grow into significant power. I think he’s a breakout candidate. Won’t rank this highly on most other lists but you could slot most of the C+ guys here if you prefer.
11) Derek Hill, OF, Grade C+: Age 20, hit .238/.305/.314 with 25 steals, 20 walks, 44 strikeouts in 210 at-bats in Low-A, first round pick in 2014 is very toolsy, excellent defensive outfielder but bat was not nearly as good as advertised when drafted, lacks power, has mediocre strike zone judgment. Midwest League observers very impressed with athleticism and glove but were mostly negative on the bat. Young enough to improve of course.
12) Tyler Alexander, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, second round pick in 2015 out of Texas Christian, posted 0.97 ERA with 33/5 K/BB in 37 innings in New York-Penn League, 17 hits, 2.43 GO/AO. Considered an overdraft by many experts due to lack of plus velocity but secondary pitches play well and command is excellent, gets lots of grounders. Potential number four starter.
13) Wynton Bernard, OF, Grade C+: Age 25, hit .301/.352/.408 with 43 steals, 38 walks, 73 strikeouts in 534 at-bats in Double-A, 70-grade speed, good glove, hits for average, older prospect but profiles well as fourth outfielder.
14) Dixon Machado, SS, Grade C+: Age 23, Venezuelan shortstop hit .261/.313/.332 with 15 steals in Triple-, .235/.307/.279 in 68 major league at-bats. Very talented with the glove, runs well, but lacks power, most likely a valuable bench player due to the defense but some chance he could hit better in his late 20s.
15) Adam Ravenelle, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, fourth round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2014, 3.93 ERA with 40/19 K/BB in 34 innings in Low-A, pitching time has been limited by a finger injury and a nasty body-weakening virus last spring. Plus slider, fastball can hit mid-90s, athletic with an easy delivery, another power relief arm to track.
16) Paul "The Chairman" Voelker, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, 10th round pick in 2014 out of Dallas Baptist, posted 2.11 ERA with 63/20 K/BB in 55 innings between Low-A, High-A, Double-A, 18 saves, can hit mid-90s with plus slider, good future relief option, raised interest rates to wring inflation out of the economy and set stage for long-term growth during Reagan and Clinton years but this decision also caused a recession in 1981-1982 that caused socially damaging spike in unemployment.
17) Drew Smith, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, third round pick out of Dallas Baptist in 2015, yet another hard-throwing reliever, posted 0.29 ERA with 38/5 K/BB in 31 innings in pro debut between GCL, NYP, and Low-A, 94-99 fastball though it can be straight, curveball and command were better than advertised.
18) Cam Gibson, OF, Grade C/C+: Age 22, fifth round pick out of Michigan State, hit .248/.301/.454 with six homers, nine walks, 26 strikeouts in 141 at-bats between GCL and NYP, Kirk Gibson’s son and you can see the family resemblance with power/speed combination, still rather raw for a college guy, tools are not as explosive as dad’s but they are still solid, particularly his speed.
19) Matt Hall, LHP, Grade C: Age 22, sixth round pick out of Missouri State, posted 2.91 ERA with 34/8 K/BB in 34 innings between GCL and NYP, fastball just average but has a wicked curveball and throws strikes, should make short work of A-ball but will have to see how this works at higher levels, back-end starter or bullpen potential.
20) Josh Turley, LHP, Grade C: Age 25, posted 3.29 ERA with 103/35 K/BB in 153 innings in Double-A. Junkball lefty throws six pitches for quality strikes: 85-88 fastball, slider, cutter, curve, change-up, knuckleball. Highly deceptive and has ice in his veins but lack of fastball velocity breeds skepticism. I wouldn’t under-estimate him as a fifth starter or bullpen option however.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Jose Azocar, OF; Endrys Briceno, RHP; Jeff Ferrell, RHP; Dominic Ficociello, 1B; Grayson Greiner, C; Austin Kubitza, RHP; Jairo Labourt, LHP; Artie Lewicki, RHP; Julio Martinez, OF; Dominic Moreno, RHP; Joey Pankake, 2B; Montreal Robertson, RHP; Kade Scivicque, C; A.J. Simcox, SS; Jeff Thompson, RHP; Jose Valdez, RHP
You could slot most of the "others" in spots 18-20 with good justification. I will post some of their book write-ups in the comments section.
As usual the Tigers system is rather thin and lacks obvious impact players but (also as usual) they have several live arms, particularly on the relief side, and potential role players worthy of tracking. Polished college players/arms mixed with Latin American upside guys has been the general theme for years. It will be interesting to see if that changes in 2016.