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Detroit Tigers Top 20 prospects for 2018 (updated)

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If you like pitching, you’ll love the Tigers

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
Beau Burrows
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects for 2018

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.

This was updated 3/14/2018.

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. 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) Franklin Perez, RHP, Grade B+: Age 20, signed by the Houston Astros out of Venezuela in 2014; came over to Detroit in Justin Verlander deal; posted 3.02 ERA with 78/27 K/BB in 86 innings, 71 hits combined between High-A and Double-A, pitching the season at age 19; extremely polished for his age, fastball 92-96, plus curveball and change-up and workable new slider; usually throws strikes but a few command rough edges, normal for his age; strong athletic body, former third baseman; makeup considered excellent; need to see how he handles large workloads but overall the best of deep Tigers pitching group; number two starter potential; ETA late 2019.

I don’t have a Perez photo for the lead page but here’s a video from Baseball America:

2) Matt Manning, RHP, Grade B+: Age 20, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Sacramento, California; 3.18 ERA with 62/25 K/BB in 51 innings between New York-Penn League and Low-A, 41 hits, zero homers; 6-6 intimidator with 90-96 heater, curve and change need some work but both could be plus eventually; command inconsistent but when he’s on he throws three quality pitches for strikes; finished season strong after some mechanical troubles in early August were ironed out; still has remaining velocity projection; number two starter potential ETA 2021.

3) Beau Burrows, RHP, Grade B+: Age 21, first round pick in 2015 from high school in Weatherford, Texas; excellent 1.23 ERA in 59 High-A innings, 62/11 K/BB; less effective in Double-A, 4.72 with 75/33 K/BB in 76 innings, but was pitching there at age 20; another possible workhorse, fastball 90-96, flashes plus curveball and average change-up but older hitters exposed command issues, normal for his age of course; if change-up develops further he’s right there with Perez and Manning; ETA 2020.

4) Alex Faedo, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 22, first round pick in 2017 from University of Florida; didn’t pitch in pro ball due to workload concerns, posted 2.26 ERA in 124 NCAA innings, 157/42 K/BB, 95 hits; fell to 18th in the draft after early top five rumors; velocity can be erratic, 95 at his best but sometimes more around 90; still effective at the lower end since he has an excellent slider and above-average change-up; highly competitive, needs to sharpen up command within the strike zone; ceiling as high as the guys above but let’s get some pro data; ETA 2020.

5) Jake Rogers, C, Grade B: Age 22, third round pick by the Houston Astros in 2016 from Tulane, traded to Tigers in Verlander deal; hit .261/.350/.467 with 18 homers, 14 steals, 54 walks, 102 strikeouts in 422 at-bats between Low-A and High-A; also threw out 46% of runners with very low passed ball and error rates; defensive reputation backs up the numbers: he’s terrific back there; showed good power but will have to prove he can make contact against advanced pitching; you need someone to catch all those arms and Rogers could be the man; ETA 2020.

6) Isaac Paredes, SS, Grade B: Age 19, signed by the Chicago Cubs out of Mexico in 2015, traded to Cubs at the deadline in Justin Wilson/Alex Avila deal; hit .252/.338/.387 with 11 homers, 42 walks, 67 strikeouts in 452 at-bats; played the season at age 18 so the numbers are better than they look on the surface; impressive strike zone judgment combined with bat speed leads to nice power for a middle infielder; reliable fielder in terms of avoiding errors but range is limited at shortstop, will probably wind up at second or third base; solid all-round prospect on upward trajectory; ETA 2021.

7) Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Grade B: Age 24, fourth round pick in 2016 from University of Louisville; posted 2.44 ERA in 63 innings between Low-A and High-A, 83/19 K/BB, 53 hits; excellent performance no question but season ended early due to sore elbow; healthy Funkhouser can hit 96 and can show above-average with slider, curve, change, also picks up a lot of grounders and avoids homers; also has some games where his stuff looks down; durability and game-to-game consistency at higher levels remain questions; ETA late 2019 (UPDATE 3/13/2018 to move him one spot behind Faedo to keep in accord with Top 175 prospect list, updated again 3/14/2018 to move him behind Rogers and Paredes)

8) Christin Stewart, OF, Grade B-/B: Age 24, compensation pick in 2015 from University of Tennessee, hit .256/.335/.501 with 28 homers, 56 walks, 138 strikeouts in 485 at-bats in Double-A; 60-grade power and good feel for the strike zone make him productive although there’s enough swing/miss in his game that his batting average could be rather low; both range and arm are below average in the outfield, limiting him to left though he usually catches what he gets to; bat should be ready soon; ETA late 2018.

9) Gregory Soto, LHP, Grade B-: Age 23, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2012; breakout season with 2.25 ERA, 144/65 K/BB in 124 innings in Low-A/High-A, only 97 hits allowed; negative here is walk rate; positives are strikeouts and hit profile; scouts well with low-90s power sinker, solid curveball and adequate but erratic change-up; heat comes easy but still a bit more thrower than pitcher; high ceiling; look for any reduction in walk rate for signs of another leap forward; ETA 2020.

10) Daz Cameron, OF, Grade B-: Age 21, compensation round pick in 2015, son of former major leaguer Mike Cameron, came to Tigers in Verlander deal; hit .271/.351/.463 with 14 homers, 32 steals, 48 walks, 112 strikeouts in 454 at-bats in Low-A, considerably improved over poor, injury-plagued ’16 campaign; speed, arm, and defense stand out; tapped his strength for field power more often in ’17 thanks to swing tweaks but unclear how batting average/OBP will look against better pitching; may very well be similar to his father; ETA 2021.

11) Sam McMillan, C, Grade B-: Age 19, fifth round pick in 2017 from high school in Live Oak, Florida; would have gone at least three rounds higher if not for University of Florida scholarship but Tigers got him signed; promising debut with .288/.441/.432 line in rookie ball, 19 walks, 17 strikeouts in 111 at-bats; superb strike zone judgment and may show more power in time; very polished defender, threw out 33% in first pro exposure with low error and passed ball rates plus glowing scouting reports; high school catchers are a risky demographic but McMillan has everything to look for except huge power; ETA 2022.

12) Michael Gerber, OF, Grade B-/C+: Age 25, 15th round pick in 2014 from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska; hit .304/.373/.496 between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, combined 14 homers, 10 steals, 42 walks, 98 strikeouts in 385 at-bats; average to below-average physical tools but maximizes everything with instincts and high effort play; average power but good strike zone sense and has hit everywhere; polish shows on defense where he outplays his organic tools and can handle center field; ETA 2018.

13) Dawel Lugo, INF, Grade C+/B-: Age 23, originally signed by the Toronto Blue Jays from the Dominican Republic in 2011; traded to Diamondbacks in 2015 then to Tigers in 2017; hit .277/.321/.424 with 13 homers, 33 walks, 72 strikeouts in 516 Double-A at-bats; although competent at shortstop his range fits better at third base; however, his bat is just a bit short for regular duty at hot corner; has some power, may ultimately be super-utility guy with some pop; ETA late 2018.

14) Grayson Long, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 23, drafted by Los Angeles Angels in third round in 2015 from Texas A&M, traded to Detroit in Justin Upton deal; posted 3.01 ERA in 138 innings between High-A and Double-A, 128/43 K/BB, 122 hits; physical right-hander at 6-5, 230; fastball generally average at 89-92, also has average slider and change-up, succeeds in minors due to sharp location and savvy; potential number four starter although if he moves to bullpen his stuff could tick up, making him more dominant on a per-inning basis; ETA 2019.

15) Victor Reyes, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, signed by Atlanta Braves from Venezuela in 2011, traded to Arizona, then selected by Tigers in Rule 5 draft; hit .292/.332/.399 in Double-A with 18 steals, 27 walks, 80 strikeouts in 479 at-bats; switch-hitter with 60 speed, lashes the ball around the field and sprints his way into hits, works well enough that he holds a .298 career average; doesn’t draw many walks however; enough range and arm to play all three OF spots, making him ideal fourth flycatcher; ETA 2018.

16) Sandy Baez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011; combined for 3.92 ERA between High-A and Double-A with 105/29 K/BB in 99 innings; projects as long relief/spot starter type with 93-95 MPH fastball, above-average splitter and erratic slider; on days when his command is working he can power through a lineup; K-rate has been moving upwards, a sign of improving secondaries; ETA late 2018.

17) Derek Hill, OF, Grade C+: Age 22, first round pick in 2014 from high school in Elk Grove, California; hit .246/.346/.379 with two homers, 29 steals, 31 walks, 63 strikeouts in 224 at-bats between Low-A, High-A, and rookie ball rehab work after missing early part of season recovering from Tommy John surgery; excellent defensive outfielder who passes the “eye test,” in that he looks like a player; strike zone management has improved substantially, helping OBP, but power remains untapped; still young, but if he doesn’t start hitting with more authority he’ll be a fifth outfielder; ETA 2021.

18) Sergio Alcantara, SS, Grade C+: Age 21, signed by the Diamondbacks out of Dominican Republic in 2012, over to Detroit as part of the J.D. Martinez trade; hit .266/.334/.339 in High-A with 15 steals, 48 walks, 80 strikeouts in 466 at-bats; switch-hitter with decent speed and excellent shortstop glove; makes a few errors but range and especially his arm stand out; contact hitter, needs to get stronger but may have more offensive potential than commonly believed; ETA 2021.

19) Tyler Alexander, LHP, Grade C+: Age 23, second round pick in 2015 from Texas Christian; 5.07 ERA in 138 Double-A innings with 120/23 K/BB; gave up 20 homers among 178 hits; rough year obviously, though past strong track record keeps him in the picture; averageish fastball at 87-93, can play up when his slider, curve, and change are all working; throws strikes even when struggling but command within the zone has to be improve; if he’s healthy I think it can; ETA late 2019.

20) Matt Hall, LHP, Grade C+: Age 24, drafted in the sixth round in 2015 from Missouri State University; posted 2.60 ERA with 149/59 K/BB in 138 innings between High-A and Double-A, 128 hits allowed; doesn’t burn radar, fastball around 88-90, but gets grounders and racks up whiffs with outstanding curveball and solid change-up; needs to lower walks but if that happens he could be a fine fourth starter; ETA 2019.

OTHER GRADE C+ (most could slot at 15-20) Anthony Castro, RHP; Tom De Blok, RHP; Mark Ecker, RHP; Edwin Espinal, 1B; Jason Foley, RHP; Bryan Garcia, RHP; Alfred Gutierrez, RHP; Zac Houston, RHP; Jairo Labourt, LHP; Artie Lewicki, RHP; Troy Montgomery, OF; Gerson Moreno, RHP; Joey Morgan, C; Jake Robson, OF; Elvin Rodriguez, RHP; Ronny Rodriguez, INF: Gresuan Silverio, C; Austin Sodders, LHP; Paul Voelker, RHP

OTHERS OF NOTE: Austin Athmann, C; Jose Azocar, OF; Ryan Carpenter, LHP; Drew Carlton, RHP; Harold Castro, 2B; Kyle Dowdy, RHP; Kody Eaves, 3B; Dominic Ficociello, 1b; Cam Gibson, OF; Niko Goodrum, INF-OF; Max Green, LHP; Grayson Greiner, C; Eduardo Jimenez, RHP; Eudis Idrogo, LHP; Jose King, SS; Wilkel Hernandez, RHP; Billy Lescher, LHP; Julio Martinez, OF; Dane Myers, RHP; Jack O’Loughlin, LHP; Anthony Pereira, 2B; Wenceel Perez, SS; Danny Pinero, SS; Wladimir Pinto, RHP; Gabriel Quintana, DH-1B; Zac Reininger, RHP; Reynaldo Rivera, OF; John Schreiber, RHP; Chad Sedio, 2B; A.J. Simcox, SS; Spencer Turnbull, RHP

KEY INTERNATIONAL SIGNINGS WHO HAVEN’T PLAYED YET: Alvaro Gonzalez, SS; Pedro Martinez Jr, INF

This system has a huge amount of pitching and, in general, more depth than is commonly realized. They need more impact bats and history shows us injury attrition will wipe out many of the arms, but if young pitching is baseball currency, the Tigers are quite wealthy.

I will be around in the comments section over the next couple of days.