Recently, Minor League Ball has taken a closer look at each minor league system. So far, we have put a magnifying glass to the farms of these teams:
This series will continue with a glance at Detroit's resurgent pipeline. While the last decade has been very kind to the Tigers overall, they have done a very bad job at developing talent internally. This, paired with the pitiful condition of their farm, made the idea of a rebuild in the motor city less than ideal. However, their quickly reestablished farm brings excitement to the horizon.
Who could be Detroit's next blue-chip prospect?
When the Cubs sent him to Detroit, Paredes was seen as the clear secondary piece by the Tigers' fanbase. He is defensively limited, a shortstop for now but likely to move to second or third base in the near future because of his non-ideal range and hands. His strong arm would suit a home at third base, but he doesn't have the prototypical power that an ideal corner infielder needs to stick in the majors. These flaws were what stuck out in the immediate aftermath of the exchange.
However, when the dust settled on the trade, it became quite clear that the initial impression of the return was a bit skewed. An 18-year-old from the international market, he is far more advanced than most of his peers. While many players at a similar stage in their career are trying to find footing in rookie ball, he was holding his own on a team two levels higher.
The season up until the time of the trade — 384 plate appearances spanning 92 games — had been kind to him. He was slashing .264/.343/.401 with a .294 BABIP, which is hood for a overall offensive production 13% above average according to wRC+. Someone so young holding his own so decisively in the Midwest league is an impressive feat.
After coming to the Tigers, though, his offensive production took a tilt downward. His batting average wilted to a mark of .217, and his slugging dropped accordingly. In his 92 games with the Cubs, he hit 25 doubles. Those evaporated too, as he stroked only 3 over his 32 games with the Tigers. It may have seemed like they had purchased faulty product, so to speak. That is most assuredly not the case.
While his surface stats suffered, the peripherals told a different story. The most obvious of these is that he was suffering from a terrible .214 BABIP. One of the things that scouts have praised since he signed was an advanced approach at the plate for a hitter so young. That held true, and he was able to draw walks at a rate of 9.8%, while striking out at the same rate. In my look at him, he drew a full count walk and worked another at bat to a full count — fouling off three pitches in the process.
While these numbers do not show what Paredes is truly capable of, they do provide a solid argument that he is much better than he appeared in his debut with the Whitecaps. In any case, it would be no surprise to see his advanced bat and future on the dirt earn him a spot on Top 100 lists sometime soon.
The Tigers have a track record of drafting and developing college catching with relative success. Alex Avila, James McCann, and Bryan Holiday serve as standout examples. Add in draftees from that category who haven't yet made an impact in the majors such as Grayson Greiner and Kade Scivique, Tigers fans completely expected them to snag a backstop from the college ranks. It was no surprise, therefore, when they took Joey Morgan of the Washington Huskies in the third round of 2017's draft.
It was a surprise, though, when they took Sam McMillan two rounds later. The selection flew in the face of Detroit's conventional drafting style. Taking multiple position players in the early rounds is uncommon, and selecting two catchers in the early rounds is an uncommon move for any team. However, Detroit showed that they were serious by going underslot for their second selection and giving McMillan $1 million dollars.
The early returns are encouraging. Seen as an all-around decent player going into the draft, McMillan may be a far better prospect than originally thought. Leading up to the draft and immediately afterwards, no one noted anything particularly remarkable about his approach at the plate. In his pro debut, however, he decided to take a page out of Joey Votto's book, walking 1.4% more often than he struck out.
Not only did he show commendable patience at the plate, he batted for more power than was expected as well. Slugging .432 over the course of his 37-game stint in rookie ball, he stroked 5 doubles and grabbed ahold of 3 home runs.
His defense is better than average for a prep product, and it will likely be one of the most important factors in determining his outcome as a player. He has a decent bat, but it is doubtful that it will ever be good enough to justify regular playing time on any of the corners. There are some factors going in his favor, with 2080 Baseball describing him as "one of the quietest receivers in [his] class." Furthermore, he has a strong arm that is above-average. Evaluators believe there may be more in store, thanks to the fact that he was battling arm injury throughout his senior season.
In honesty, he will be fighting uphill to get to the majors. Prep backstops do not have an encouraging history, and McMillan was only a mid-major talent going into the draft. However, the potential is there to become a threat on either side of the ball.
I have liked Rogers since I learned about him back in May of 2016. Drafted by the Astros that June, the fire of prospect envy was only fueled by his offensive breakout. Imagine my happiness when he was traded to the Tigers, my favorite team, as a part of the package for Justin Verlander.
Defense is the alpha and the omega of Rogers’ game. He excells in all the areas that one would expect from a glove-first catcher. FanGraphs’ prospect expert, Eric Logenhagen, has a higher opinion of the Tulane product than any of the other major source. He called the Tulane product the "defensive catching prospect I’ve seen, a polished receiver and cat-like ball-blocker with a plus arm."
What makes Rogers a truly exciting prospect is that he not only possesses the strongest defensive game in the minors, but also a great bat!
He was never an impressive hitter during his college years, batting only .233/.333/.309. However, his professional career has been much more successful at the dish. He has excelled at every stop, defying all pessimism regarding his viability as a future major league talent. At Single-A, he hit .255/.336/.520 in 27 games, good for a 138 wRC+. In his most recent stop, an 83-game stretch in Advanced-A, he has batted .265/.357/.457, a 127 wRC+.
While he hasn't been much of a heralded hitter, his outbreak at the plate may not be a mirage. This was fleshed out in an article on Bless You Boys - SB Nation's website about the Detroit Tigers - shortly after the trade. It said this:
On the one hand, his performances have not been fueled by a ridiculously high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) — .290 in Single-A and .302 in Advanced-A. His HR/FB rate is a little high, at 12.1 percent, but that is not enough to elevate a mediocre performance to the level at which Rogers has been playing. On the other hand, his swing isn't all that pretty. "I worry about his bat against better pitching as he swings uphill," said ESPN’s Keith Law, "and I've seen him struggle to adjust to changing speeds."
Even if his newfound batting acumen disappears into thin air, he is still a remarkable defender. More than likely, his glove will buoy him to a career as a remarkable backstop who is relegated to a bench role due to his less-the-desirable bat. However, if he can continue like this, Rogers will be a dynamic force on the field.