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Christin Stewart
Christin Stewart
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects for 2017

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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.


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. 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) Matt Manning, RHP, Grade B+: Age 18, first round pick in 2016 from high school in California; posted 3.99 ERA in 29 innings in rookie ball with 46/7 K/BB; very athletic and well-coordinated for a 6-6 pitcher due to superior athleticism; fastball 92-96 with peaks at 97-98; mixes power knuckle-curve and change-up; secondaries inconsistent but he showed better control in rookie ball than anticipated; number two starter upside if that stays true. ETA: 2020.

2) Christin Stewart, OF, Grade B: Age 23, first round pick in 2015 from University of Tennessee; hit .255/.386/.517 with 30 homers, 86 walks, 131 strikeouts in 443 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; 60-grade power with patient approach will make him productive even with a low batting average; I believe in the bat, but everyone questions his glove and they are right to do so; lacks speed/range, lacks instincts, arm mediocre; doesn’t make tons of errors but definitely limited to left field and can’t afford to lose more mobility; ETA 2018.

3) Beau Burrows, RHP, Grade B-: Age 20, first round pick in 2015 from high school in Texas; posted 3.15 ERA in 97 innings in Low-A with 67/30 K/BB, 87 hits; hit 98 in high school but is more 91-95 in pro ball; such velocity declines are normal and not worrisome in and of themselves; mixes in curve, slider, change-up, usually throws strikes but secondary pitches were erratic,, reflected in low strikeout rate, and everything including fastball unexpectedly played down; he certainly wasn’t bad last year, but looked more like solid inning-eater than future ace. ETA 2020.

4) Joe Jimenez, RHP, Grade B-:
Age 22, signed out of Puerto Rico as undrafted free agent in 2013; posted 1.51 ERA with 78/17 K/BB in 54 innings between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A with a mere 26 hits allowed; can hit 100 and works at 95-97; no change-up worth mentioning but features solid-average-to-plus slider; command draws negative reviews from scouts but his walk rates are low and the dominance ratios are strong; closer potential and ready soon. ETA 2017.

5) Tyler Alexander, LHP, Grade B-:
Age 22, second round pick out of Texas Christian in 2015; posted 2.44 ERA with 105/20 K/BB in 136 innings between High-A and Double-A, 123 hits; command/control southpaw, fastball tops at 93 but works most commonly right around 89, plays up a bit due to movement and ability to locate spots; uses slider, curve, change-up, nothing plus but nothing weak, either; strong instincts, future number four/five starter. ETA 2018.

6) Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, fourth round pick in 2016 as a senior from Louisville, having turned down the Dodgers 35th overall in ’15; posted 2.65 ERA with 34/8 K/BB in 37 innings in New York-Penn League; college stock went up-and-down with his velocity, he could be anywhere from 95-97 to 89-93; has slider, curve, change; reports on these are mixed as well; he looked good in the NY-P; lots of variation in opinion here, some sources still see a number three starter but others think he fill fit best in pen; I’m agnostic pending more data and reports from A-ball in ‘17. ETA 2019.

7) Michael Gerber, OF, Grade C+
: Age 24, 15th round pick in 2014 out of Creighton University; hit .276/.345/.466 with 30 doubles, 18 homers, 52 walks, 152 strikeouts in 504 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; good pop in the bat, with better discipline than walk level implies; there’s swing-and-miss however and batting average will be an issue at highest levels; good arm, average range, good instincts, solid right field glove who can handle center decently if needed; should be a fine role player. ETA 2018.

8) Dixon Machado, INF, Grade C+: Age 24, from Venezuela, hit .266/.349/.356 with 58 walks, 75 strikeouts, 17 steals in 492 at-bats in Triple-A; draws raves for shortstop defense, with arm, hands, range, reliability all better than average; contact hitter with a decent eye, lacks distance power; some players with this profile show unexpected offensive growth in their late 20s and that may happen here; glove is ready now. ETA 2017.

9) JaCoby Jones, OF-INF, Grade C+:
Age 24, third round pick out of LSU by Pirates in 2013, traded to Tigers in ’15, hit .257/.327/.407 with seven homers, 35 walks, 120 strikeouts in 369 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; I’ve given up trying to predict this guy; on the right day he’ll show you 60-power and 60-speed, plays hard, and is the best athlete on the field; on the wrong day he lacks energy and looks lost; strike zone judgment remains spotty at best; has tools to handle multiple positions and may ultimately fit best as jack-of-all-trades with a hot/cold bat. ETA 2017.

10) Steven Moya, OF, Grade C+: Age 25, just under the 130 at-bat limit for rookies; hit .284/.310/.501 with 20 homers, 15 walks, 96 strikeouts in 409 at-bats in Triple-A, .255/.290/.500 with five walks, 38 strikeouts in 94 at-bats in the majors; skills haven’t changed a bit, still has enormous power with serious contact problems; what he’s done in the majors (.250/.293/.452 in 124 at-bats, eight walks, 50 whiffs) is a fair representation of his skills, making him a role bat with one big strength and one big weakness. ETA 2017.

11) Myles Jaye, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, originally drafted by Blue Jays in 17th round in 2010; posted 3.95 ERA with 135/41 K/BB in 162 innings between Double-A and Triple-A; average stuff across the board with 90-93 MPH fastball, viable slider and change-up, good command and control; typical right-hander with adequate but not excellent fastball that doesn’t excite scouts but who could sneak up on us due to his command. ETA late 2017.

12) Jose Azocar, OF, Grade C+: Age 20, signed out of Venezuela in 2012; hit .281/.315/.335 with zero homers, 14 steals, 25 walks, 119 strikeouts in 501 at-bats in Low-A; raw tools to hit well but lacks game power at present and swings at anything; outstanding throwing arm and above-average range; defensive ability, athleticism and youth stand out in Tigers system but his bat is very questionable without more strength and patience. ETA 2020.

13) Derek Hill, OF, Grade C+: Age 21, first round pick in 2014; hit .266/.312/.349 with one homer, 35 steals, 24 walks, 105 strikeouts in 384 at-bats in Low-A; excellent defensive outfielder and overall athlete; dangerous on the bases with 70-grade speed; however hitting approach remains very aggressive and inhibits his OBP ability; I am increasingly skeptical about the bat, but glove and speed buy him more time. ETA 2020.

14) Gerson Moreno, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2012; fastball reliably clocked at 97-100 MPH; also showed plus slider in Midwest League; posted 1.08 ERA with 27/8 K/BB in 25 innings in Low-A but lost the strike zone and consistency with breaking ball when moved up to Florida State League, 6.93 ERA with 27/20 K/BB in 25 innings; all about control here; if he can harness his stuff he can close. ETA 2019.

15) Sandy Baez, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 23, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2011; posted 3.81 ERA with 88/28 K/BB in 113 innings in Low-A, 125 hits; another hard-thrower with upper-90s fastball; throws strikes but whiff rate is low due to below-average breaking ball and change-up; doesn’t dominate as he should given his velocity, probably better off in pen and could advance rapidly if switched to that role. ETA 2019.

16) Drew Smith, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 23, third round pick in 2015 out of Dallas Baptist; 2.96 ERA with 62/23 K/BB in 49 innings in Low-A, 34 hits; guess what, another hard-thrower; the Tigers clone them on Kamino; 94-98 MPH heat, erratic breaking ball, two plus pitches when he’s right, needs sharper command. ETA 2019.

17) Grayson Greiner, C, Grade C+:
Age 24, third round pick in 2014 from South Carolina; hit .293/.339/.424 with seven homers, 22 walks, 83 strikeouts in 321 at-bats between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A; threw out 33% of runners with very low passed ball and error rates; arm is just average but he’s quick and mobile despite 6-6 height; hitting draws mixed reviews with questions about strike zone judgment but glove will get him to majors. ETA 2018.

18) Spencer Turnbull, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 24, second round pick in 2014 from University of Alabama; posted 3.45 ERA in 44 innings between High-A and rookie ball rehab due to shoulder injury, 39/16 K/BB; finished healthy and looked good in Arizona Fall League; sinker/slider type, gets lots of ground balls as hitters have trouble driving his 90-94 MPH fastball for distance; off-speed stuff is erratic and may preclude long-term use as a starter; another bullpen arm most likely. ETA 2018.

19) Bryan Garcia, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 21, sixth round pick in 2016 from University of Miami Hurricanes; posted 2.41 ERA with 22/3 K/BB in 19 innings, 16 hits between NY-P and Low-A; another bullpen arm who could move rapidly, fastball 92-95, has a good slider and a better change-up than some of the other guys on the list; throws strikes and arsenal is diverse enough that some think he can start but if left in pen could arrive fast. ETA 2019.

20) Artie Lewicki, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 24, eighth round pick in 2014 from University of Virginia; posted 3.44 ERA with 77/19 K/BB in 89 innings between High-A and Double-A, 88 hits; low-90s fastball that can hit 95 at times, mixes in breaking ball and change-up, usually throws strikes, gets lots of grounders; four/five starter profile though history of durability concerns may make him better fit in pen, where his stuff would play up in short doses. ETA 2018.

OTHER GRADE C+: Mark Ecker, RHP; Matt Hall, LHP; Zac Houston, RHP; Hector Martinez, 2B; Daniel Pinero, SS; Wladimir Pinto, RHP; A.J. Simcox, SS; Arvicent Perez, C; Adam Ravenelle, RHP

GRADE C: Victor Alcantara, RHP; Ruben Alaniz, RHP; William Cuevas, RHP; Jeff Ferrell, RHP; Daniel Gonzalez, RHP; John Hicks, C; Jason Krizan, OF; Austin Kubitza, RHP; Jairo Labourt, LHP; Jacob Robson, OF; Warwick Saupold, RHP; Zac Shepherd, 3B; Austin Sodders, LHP; Daniel Stumpf, LHP; Paul Voelker, RHP; Kevin Ziomek, LHP

As usual, the Tigers have a couple of interesting bats and a cornucopia of potential bullpen arms. I will be around to answer questions in the comments thread.