We’re now 100 days from the start of the MLB season. The Detroit Tigers are likely headed for another subpar season in the midst of their rebuilding project, but there will be plenty of intrigue in 2019 at the minor league level. As a result, I am here to issue my rankings for the top 10 prospects in the farm system of the Detroit Tigers. Let’s start in at #1:
1. Casey Mize, RHP. Age in 2019: 22. Minor League Location: AA. ETA: 2020
Mize is the best prospect in the Detroit system and one of baseball’s premier prospects after being the undisputed #1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. The right-hander from Auburn had a stellar three year career in the SEC, going from an unheralded high school prospect to the ace of the staff. Defined by his pinpoint fastball command, Mize’s heater sits in the mid-90s and his strikeout pitch is a filthy splitter, alongside an improving slider. Mize only pitched a few innings in the minor league squads last year after logging a career high 114.2 innings in college, so 2019 will be the first real glimpse of Mize in the Tigers’s system. He will likely start in Double A Erie but given his status as an elite college pitcher, he should be on the fast track to the MLB. A look at past highly regarded college pitchers reveals them to generally make the MLB within a year or two of being drafted, so assuming Mize does okay in AA/AAA, it is reasonable to expect him to debut in Detroit in 2020. Mize has legitimate top of the rotation stuff and is already quite polished, he just needs to continue to improve going forward.
2. Matt Manning, RHP. Age in 2019: 21. Minor League Location: AA. ETA: 2020
When Matt Manning was picked in the top ten of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Tigers, it was regarded as a boom or bust selection and perhaps too risky for a top ten pick. Manning was the definition of raw at the time, having only pitched in high school for a few years prior to being selected, and he had the option of playing college basketball instead. Since being selected, Manning has begun to work his way through the Tigers’s system and he is coming off of a phenomenal 2018 season that has many beginning to regard him as the making of a potential premier MLB pitching prospect. At 6’6”, Manning has the ideal frame for a power righty in the modern MLB, with his fastball already touching high 90s and the hope would be to have it sit consistently in the 95 mph range. His other deliveries, including his power curve, are still coming along, but with time have the potential to be plus strikeout pitches. Manning started 2018 in Single A West Michigan, still struggling with command on occasion but he largely overpowered those hitters, racking up 76 K’s in 55 innings, earning him a promotion to High A Lakeland. There he posted a tremendous statline of a 2.98 ERA and 0.99 WHIP paired with 65 K’s in 51.1 innings, and most importantly had much better command. That earned him another promotion to Double A Erie, where he only made two starts before the season ended. Set to be just 21 years old in 2019, expect the Tigers to continue to be patient with Manning, wanting to delicately craft him, which likely means he will be in Erie for most or all of 2019. His peak projection is pure dominance and is probably higher than Mize’s, due to his size. He’s still got a long way to go, but his development has been a pure joy to watch for Tigers fans for someone who was regarded as such a risky pick.
3. Isaac Paredes, SS. Age in 2019: 20. Minor League Location: AA. ETA: 2020.
Once considered a throw-in as part of the Justin Wilson trade, Paredes has suddenly shot up through the Tigers’s farm system and rendered the trade he was a part of to be a gift that keeps on giving to Detroit baseball fans. Paredes is only going to be 20 years old in February, which is one of his greatest attributes as a prospect: that he’s so far ahead of his age. The young Mexican shortstop was long regarded as an under-the-radar prospect, but is finally starting to get some recognition after a standout 2018. He started the year in High A Lakeland, posting a .783 OPS while playing against players who were an average of 3.5 years older than him, earning him a Florida State League All-Star game selection and a promotion to Double AA Erie. Even more impressive is what he did in Erie, posting an .864 OPS across 40 games to close out the season, playing against players who were an average of 5.5 years older than him. Paredes’s most promising ability is that he seems to project as a plus MLB hitter. While he hasn’t always hit for average, he knows how to take a walk, posting OBP’s of about 80 points higher than his batting average across different minor league levels, and he has emerging power. In 158 games across Single A, Double AA, and the Mexican Fall League, Paredes swatted 18 homers, despite still being just 19. As he continues to get stronger and more mature, it’s not hard to see how Paredes could eclipse 20 homers in the majors, with potentially higher power possible. It remains to be seen if Paredes can stick at shortstop long-term, as his arm is pretty good but his speed and range are somewhat reminiscent of Jhonny Peralta, which lead many to think he might have to slide over to 2nd or 3rd. Regardless, his ahead-of-the-curve development means he will start 2019 in Double A Erie and has the potential to reach Triple A Toledo by the end of the year. The Tigers don’t want to rush him, but if he continues to hold his own against players much older than him, it may not be long before we see Paredes in the show.
4. Daz Cameron, OF. Age in 2019: 22. Minor League Location: AAA. ETA: 2019.
Every Tigers fan knows that Comerica Park is a remarkably expansive centerfield that requires the perfect kind of athlete to adequately play a full season out there. The good news for the Tigers is that their farm system seems to have a promising prospect tailor-made for that job: Daz Cameron. Cameron was a former first round pick of the Houston Astros and was considered a Top 100 MLB Prospect prior to a dreadful 2016 season that saw him fall off the radar. He had a solid 2017 that redeemed him as a prospect and a campaign that also saw him traded to Detroit in exchange for Justin Verlander. In 2018, Cameron had a monster season that may well land him back firmly on the Top 100 lists and has him knocking on the door of the MLB. Cameron started 2018 in High A Lakeland and was moved up to Double AA Erie after about 50 games. In Erie he posted an .837 OPS across about 50 games, which earned him a late season promotion to Toledo, where he played about 15 games before the season concluded. He played 20 games in the Arizona Fall League following the season, where he quadruple slashed .342/.435/.468/.903. Cameron is regarded as an above average fielder, with a strong arm and good speed, all of which make him a natural fit to be a Comerica Park center fielder. However, it’s the improving bat that helps his overall prospect outlook. Cameron stole 33 bases in the 146 games he played in 2018 across the four leagues and while he hit just 9 homers, he had hit 14 in 2017, so there is still the potential to be a future 20/20 guy. Regardless, his mix of defense and offense put him on the doorstep of the MLB, likely to start the season in Triple A Toledo, with the chance to earn an MLB call-up at some point this season.
5. Franklin Perez, RHP. Age in 2019: 21. Minor League Location: AA. ETA: 2020
Unlike all of those prior prospects, who had stellar 2018 campaigns, Perez had a very, very bad 2018, though most of it was not his fault. The young Venezuelan righty ran into serious injury issues in 2018, problems that essentially wiped out his entire season. He suffered a lat strain in March and then had right shoulder tightness in July, leading the Tigers to shut him down. All in all, he pitched a grand total of 19.1 innings in 2018, struggling mightily in all of them. Prior to this past season, Perez was regarded as a top 50 prospect in all of baseball, and at the time, was the prize of the Tigers’s system. He still has the chance to reach that ceiling, but 2019 will be crucial. The good news for Perez is that the lost year isn’t the worst thing ever, since he was already so far ahead of the curve, having reached AA at age 19 in 2017, when he was traded from Houston to Detroit as the centerpiece of the Verlander trade. He will only be 21 in 2019, so there is still plenty of time for Perez to improve and mature. The Tigers will likely place him in Double A Erie, assuming he shows up ready and healthy for Spring Training. At his peak, Perez could be a top of the rotation starter and his floor was pegged to be a solid MLB starter. He sports a mid-90s fastball and a curveball with the potential to be a plus-MLB pitch. He might be the top prospect to watch in the Tigers's system in 2019, as he needs a strong campaign, but given how quickly he progressed through the minors prior to his injuries, if he can be fully healthy, there’s no reason to believe he won’t get back on track.
6. Beau Burrows, RHP. Age in 2019: 22. Minor League Location: AAA. ETA: 2019.
Burrows was the Tigers’s first round selection in 2015, taken late in the first round and he’s slowly moved his way up through the farm system. In 2018, Burrows spent the entire year in Double A Erie and it was overall a pretty solid season. The final statline of a 4.10 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP weren’t terribly impressive, though it was a tale of two seasons, as Burrows had a 3.63 ERA across his first 17 starts, before tailing off considerably in his last nine. The right-handed Texan is led by his power fastball, which has the chance to be a plus-MLB pitch. His secondary stuff is not great and will need to continually be refined moving forward. The ceiling for Burrows is not as high as it is for Mize, Manning, or Perez, but he could certainly become a middle of the rotation guy if things pan out. If they don’t, he may become simply a bullpen arm, which is not a terrible scenario. I’m not sure if the Tigers will send Burrows back to Erie, though I think he’ll start in Toledo. He would ideally spend almost the whole season in Toledo, maybe getting a September call-up to Detroit, or a spot start here or there, hoping to fully break through in 2020.
7. Alex Faedo, RHP. Age in 2019: 23. Minor League Location: AA. ETA: 2019.
In the run up to the 2017 MLB Draft, Florida RHP Alex Faedo was considered a top three prospect and a potential #1 overall selection. His junior season with the Gators saw Faedo suffer injuries, though he rebounded in time to put on a dominant outing in the College World Series, helping Florida win it all. The Tigers, who had a mid-first round selection, picked Faedo despite the injury concerns, and immediately shut him down because he had already pitched 123 innings. At the time, it was seen as a steal and Faedo was in the 50-60 range on most prospect lists entering 2018. Then things went haywire. Faedo was good, but not dominant, in High A Lakeland and was moved up to Erie where he struggled big time. Across 12 starts, Faedo had a 4.95 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. Most concerningly, he gave up 15 homers in 60 innings, getting smacked around with ease. All of this dates back to a loss in fastball velocity, which dropped from the 93-96 range he had in college to just 90-92 mph this past season. No one is really sure what happened, but it’s not a good sign. Perhaps it was residual from injury or due to bad conditioning, but regardless, Faedo needs to either figure out how to pitch without an electric fastball, or show he can regain that heat. I’m not sure if he will start in AA or AAA this year, but given his college pedigree, he’s the type of guy who should be on the fast track to the MLB. The guy the Tigers thought they were getting out of college could be an above-average MLB starter. The one from last year? Probably not an MLB pitcher at all. 2019 is a huge year for Faedo.
8. Willi Castro, SS. Age in 2019: 22. Minor League Location: AAA. ETA: 2019/2020.
The Tigers acquired Willi Castro at last year’s trade deadline in a deal that sent Leonys Martin to Cleveland. All things considered, it was a tremendous trade for a largely meaningless rental in Martin. So who is Castro? He is a soon-to-be 22 year-old shortstop from Puerto Rico who was considered a legitimate prospect when the Tigers acquired him. At that time, he was struggling in Double A on the heels of a solid 2017. After the trade, he lit Eire on fire and earned a brief promotion to Toledo before the year ended. All in all between Akron and Erie, his 2018 AA stat-line was .263/.317/.397/.714, with 9 HR’s and 17 steals. He’s a rather well-rounded prospect, with that solid but not great bat, as well as being pretty fast and with a good arm, though inconsistent defense. He’s the most well-rounded SS in the Tigers’s system and has a good chance to reach the major leagues. What’s his projection when he gets there? Not sure, but he has the chance to be a starting shortstop in the show if he can continue to hit for average as he likely plays 2019 in Toledo and cleans up some of the defensive inconsistencies.
9. Parker Meadows, OF. Age in 2019: 19. Minor League Location: A-/A. ETA: 2022.
The Tigers decided to switch up their draft strategy in 2018 and go for guys with high upside and Meadows was the manifestation of that in the early second round. The outfielder from Georgia was tabbed by the Tigers because of his high potential, though he still has a very long way to go. Meadows comes from a promising bloodline, as he is the brother of Austin Meadows, a former first round pick and now the starting outfielder for the Pirates. Parker projects similar to his brother: an all-around athlete who can be a good defender, base stealing threat, and plus hitter. At 6’5”, Parker has the ability to have a bit more power than Austin, though he will need to grow into his frame considerably. At his peak he could be a starting MLB outfielder and a 20/20 threat. But once again, he’s only 19 years old, so that much is a long way away. After being drafted, he went to Rookie Ball and then to Low A Connecticut and posted solid numbers. He’ll likely start 2019 in either Low A or Single A. Don’t expect to see Meadows anytime before 2021, and that would only be if he becomes an absolute stud. More likely is that he would arrive in Detroit in 2022 or later, but he’s still a valuable name in the Tigers’s system.
10. Jake Rogers, C. Age in 2019: 24. Minor League Location: AAA. ETA: 2020.
The final piece of the Verlander trade, Rogers was the top catcher in the Houston system when he was dealt to Detroit. Rogers was a third round pick out of Tulane in the 2016 MLB Draft and quickly began to work his way up through the minor leagues. The plus side to Jake Rogers is that he is a tremendous defensive player, which is pretty darn valuable at the catcher position. Here’s a clip of him throwing out a solid minor league base stealer by a country mile. MLB Pipeline voted him the best defensive catching prospect in all of baseball before the 2018 season. The question with Rogers is whether he will be able to hit enough to be a starting major league catcher. The answer is very murky. Last year he was in Double A Erie and he had a tale of two seasons: in the first 37 games (152 PA), he hit a ghastly .157/.240/.224/.464 with 47 K and just 3 HR. In the final 62 games (256 PA), he hit .257/.344/.528/.871, with 65 K and 14 HR. Which one is the real Jake Rogers? Hard to tell. His full season statline as a result was .219/.305/.412/.717, which isn’t great, but the total 17 HR’s is a plus and the fact he can draw walks is important. Rogers, by being a catcher, doesn’t need to be a great hitter if he’s such a plus defensively and has some power, but he certainly can’t perform like he did at the start of last season. 2019 will be an important season for the soon-to-be 24 year-old catcher, as he will likely be in Triple A Toledo, on the doorstep of the major leagues. He needs to show he can be a steady offensive player to work himself prominently into Detroit’s future plans.
Just missed the cut:
- Kyle Funkhouser, RHP
- Kody Clemens, 2B
- Carlos Guzman, RHP
- Dawel Lugo, 2B
- Christin Stewart, OF
The Tigers have done a solid job replenishing their farm system with overall talent. I’m not a prospect guru, so I can’t rank the MLB systems, but the early lists seem to suggest that Detroit’s system has now been elevated to the 7-13 range of good but not elite. Since the team officially entered “rebuilding mode” at the 2017 deadline, they’ve added 7 of the 10 players on this list, either through trade or high draft picks due to the disastrous 2017 season, as well as adding Jeimer Candelario, who’s now on the MLB team. That’s a pretty solid job of adding talent, but there is still a lot more work to do, given how barren the system was before 2017. As noted in this list, the team is very heavy on arms but pretty light on bats, which is something that will need to be rectified going forward. Additionally, they are really thin at first base and could use more outfield and catcher prospects in the future. However, more than anything else, the team simply needs elite prospects. They’ve got a lot of guys at a lot of different positions. Castro at SS, Clemens at 2B, Paredes at SS/3B, Cameron in CF, Rogers at C, as well as the bulk of their starting pitching prospects. Many of those names will probably see the MLB and are all good bets to get there. However, the system lacks the big time, dynamite prospect. The White Sox have Eloy Jimenez, the Blue Jays Vlad Guerrero Jr., the Padres Fernando Tatis Jr., the Braves have Ronald Alcuña. The Tigers are yet to possess that crown jewel type guy. Manning or Mize could easily become that, they just aren’t there yet, which is something to monitor going forward. 2019 should bring another infusion of talent into the system as well. The Tigers will have the #5 overall pick in the Draft, which will give them the ability to add another top tier prospect to the system, and they can trade guys in season as well, Castellanos and the newly-signed Tyson Ross come to mind, as well as the potential question over Michael Fulmer and Matt Boyd. For now, things are coming along and a lot of the new blood should hit the MLB within the next two years, but there is still more progress to be made before the rebuild turns a corner