Tigers 26th in farm system rankings

The Detroit News
Michael Fulmer

Well, at least they’re not still last.

The Tigers, who ranked last in the farm system rankings by ESPN’s Keith Law in 2015, have improved to No. 26.

“They traded for prospects last summer, helping land their new No. 1 prospect (right-hander Michael Fulmer) and add a little depth to a system that had been depleted by trades in the other direction for years,” Law says. “It's still not a good system, but it's the first time in maybe a decade that it's trending upward, and I think the new emphasis on building from within will continue under GM Al Avila.”

The top five teams in Law’s rankings (pay site) are the Braves, Dodgers, Twins, Cubs and Brewers.

Likewise, the Tigers rank No. 26 in Baseball America's organization talent rankings (pay site), a result of years of trading away their top prospects for immediate help, J.J. Cooper wrote.

It's the fifth time in as many years the Tigers have ranked in the bottom third of Baseball America's talent rankings.

"For years, Detroit used its farm system as a credit card," Cooper wrote. "A prospect trade here and another one there served as the building blocks of a team that went to the playoffs four straight seasons, including a World Series appearance in 2012. No trade will ever come close to matching the Miguel Cabrera heist of 2007, but Detroit has dealt away Devon Travis, Willy Adames, Jake Thompson, Corey Knebel, Jonathon Crawford, Domingo Leyba and Eugenio Suarez in the past couple of seasons.

"A disastrous 2015 season flipped the scripts as Detroit went into selloff mode for the first time this decade. The team’s best prospect is trade acquisition Michael Fulmer, and that doesn’t count the graduated Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd. One season of dealing for prospects can’t make up for multiple years of trading away prospects ..."

Fulmer, 22, is ranked No. 48 among Law’s top 100 prospects (pay site) – the only Tiger in the top 100. He was acquired from the Mets with pitcher Luis Cessa for Yoenis Cespedes last summer.

“Fulmer's fastball is 93-97 mph with a plus-slider and solid-average changeup, getting good downhill plane on his fastball thanks to a high three-quarters slot and depth on a curveball with good spin,” Law says. “His delivery isn't perfect and could push him to a relief role in time, although he already has plus-control and has the three pitches to remain a starter.”

Fulmer went 10-3 with a 2.24 ERA combined at three minor-league stops last season, including the Tigers’ Double-A affiliate in Erie, Pa. He struck out 125 in 124.2 innings.

The top three prospects on Law’s list are Dodgers infielder Corey Seager, Twins outfielder Byron Buxton and Nationals right-hander Lucas Giolito.

Cooper, meanwhile, wrote that the Tigers' best-stocked position is "bat-first outfielders."

"Mike Gerber and Christin Stewart are hit-first outfielders whose bats will carry them to the big leagues," Cooper wrote. "There are more questions about whether Steven Moya’s swings and misses will keep him from getting to his impressive power, but if he can shorten his swing he could also be a useful big leaguer."