Last week’s trade with the Astros, which sent Justin Verlander to Houston and to an October playoff stage where he might unleash some past mastery, brought three prime-time prospects to the Tigers.
Accordingly, it requires a rearranged order of the Tigers’ Top 20 Prospects.
This is how the Detroit News assesses a new Tigers farm-system landscape. Note that some players already on the big-league team (Joe Jimenez) are not, in this context, considered pure prospects because of minimum time already spent with Detroit.
1. Franklin Perez, 19, RH starter, 6-foot-3, 197 pounds: The potential top prize from Thursday’s deal with the Astros, Perez is 19 and already is pitching with aplomb at Double A. The Tigers could see him in Detroit as early as next year, although 2019 is more realistic. He’s a Venezuela native, and a gifted pitcher with top-of-the-rotation talent.
2. Beau Burrows, 20, RH starter, 6-2, 200: He was a first-round pick two years ago and has done nothing but shine at two low-Single A stops. Now, at Erie, learning Double A’s lessons. Figure on Burrows, minus arm issues, to be working in Detroit by 2019.
3. Alex Faedo, 21, RH starter, 6-5, 225: Hasn’t thrown a single pitch in a professional game. Which tells you how talented is Faedo, who was the Tigers’ first-round pick in June. A powerful and poised artisan, with a slider that can make hitters consider a different career.
4. Isaac Paredes, 18, SS, 5-11, 175: This teenager, who came to the Tigers in the Justin Wilson/Alex Avila deal with the Cubs, is enormously talented. He balances power and line-drive skills with nice plate discipline (.343 on-base percentage in 173 career games). The Tigers have been crying for an infielder who has potential all-around All-Star-grade talent. They likely got him in Paredes.
5. Daz Cameron, 20, OF, 6-2, 197: The position prize in Thursday’s Tigers-Astros deal, Cameron had a chance to be a top 10-15 player in the 2015 draft. But money was an issue and the Astros got him 37th overall. He’s the son of former big-leaguer Mike Cameron and an outfield wizard whose bat caught up at the middle of this season. Figure on him as Detroit’s next long-term center fielder.
6. Gregory Soto, 22, LH starter, 6-1, 180: Another of the power-armed gang who could, and probably should, be bidding for Comerica Park rotation shifts as early as 2019. Soto’s fastball can run in the higher 90s, with a slider (more of a “slurve”) that makes him particularly unpopular with hitters.
7. Sandy Baez, 23, RH starter, 6-2, 180: His fastball can hit 100 mph and he has a fine change-up. Baez was in camp with the Tigers in Florida, had an early setback, then reconnected with what could be a fast flight plan to Detroit.
8. Jeimer Candelario, 23, 3B, 6-1, 210: Candelario, of course, came to Detroit in last month’s Cubs-Tigers swap. Expect him to be the Tigers’ regular third baseman at some point next season. Candelario is a switch-hitter with reasonable power, and he plays a fine third base. It’s all a matter of surviving as a hitter. The Tigers insist his bat will be fine.
9. Anthony Castro, 22, RH starter, 6-foot, 174: Castro doesn’t incinerate hitters. But his fastball/cutter combination can be mayhem on batters, particularly when he counters with a curveball that has been sharpening by the season. Castro missed the 2015 season, another Tommy John surgery casualty. But he’s back on path, migrating north. Should be a guy to follow more than closely in 2018.
10. Jake Rogers, C, 22, 6-1, 195: Might be the best defensive catcher in minor-league baseball. Tigers scouts like the way his bat has matured. At the very least an elite back-up, it’s more likely he’ll be a starter. He’s at high Single A, so time’s on everyone’s side. But there’s a reason the Tigers wanted him as part of the Verlander deal.
11. Kyle Funkhouser, 23, RH starter, 6-2, 220: Missed most of the season’s second half because of an elbow strain. But there wasn’t any ligament damage and most of Funkhouser’s issues there can be traced to nearly a year on the shelf after he was drafted in the first round by the Dodgers in 2015 and decided against signing. The Tigers saw this season at West Michigan and at Lakeland a pitcher who was cut straight from his 2015, first-round status.
12. Matt Manning, 19, RH starter, 6-6, 190: Could be ranked higher in any Top 20 order. But this is a teenage pitcher, and it’s wise to wait before moving Manning into that Top Five tier he could reach by next year. He’s raw, which is why he landed at low Single A at midseason. But he has finished in very nice fashion and should be ready for high Single A in 2018.
13. Mike Gerber, 25, OF, 6-foot, 190: Headed for Detroit, with an outside chance he could play as early as next spring. Gerber has hit at every level since the Tigers stole him in the 15th round of the 2014 draft. He’ll get a full audition during spring training. Detroit won’t be far behind.
14. Bryan Garcia, 22, RH reliever, 6-1, 203: Tigers snagged him in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. Big-league closer stuff, big-league closer mentality. Look for him to contend for a bullpen job during the Tigers’ 2018 spring camp. Expect to see him, if not on Opening Day’s roster, at some point soon thereafter.
15. Anthony Pereira, 20, 2B, 6-foot, 170: He’s a young one, which is why you cut Pereira slack for having been anything but sensational during the past season’s labors at Single A West Michigan. But he is a promising right-handed hitter who should move nicely along the Tigers’ farm chain. He was signed as a high-bore talent out of Venezuela and remains one of those guys to follow attentively.
16. Jairo Labourt, 23, LH reliever, 6-4, 205: Tigers have gotten an early taste of his talent. He’s big, tough on hitters from both sides of the plate, and — surprise — potentially the longer-term payoff from Detroit’s deal that sent David Price to the Blue Jays.
17. Gerson Moreno, 21, RH reliever, 6-foot, 175: Could be a warrior when and if he and his 100-mph fastball reach Detroit. Moreno has a vicious slider, as well. But he needs to throw more strikes and get a firmer handle on all pitches. It’s a timeline the Tigers are perfectly willing to wait upon when a pitcher this talented, at age 21, already has crashed Double A.
18. Sam McMillan, 18, C, 6-1, 195: The Tigers have scored on an unusually high number of prospect catchers. They might have struck again with McMillan, whom the Tigers gambled on with a fifth-round pick in June’s draft. McMillan was headed for the University of Florida until the Tigers paid him $1 million, which was more than three times the slot-size money a fifth-round pick was supposed to receive according to big-league baseball’s payscale guidelines.
19. Christin Stewart, 23, OF, 6-foot, 205: He’s one of the minor leagues’ big power guys, and he has an extraordinary eye. But a left-handed batter, even one with Stewart’s strengths, needs to be a more consistent hitter. And he’ll need to yet show he can be trusted at a corner outfield spot.
20. Joey Morgan, 20, C, 6-foot, 185: Here’s a McMillan repeat, with one difference. Morgan is two years older and already has seasoning at the University of Washington. He also has a strong, all-fields bat and is particularly praised for his arm and deftness on defense. It’s a Grade A package, scouts tend to agree, which is why the Tigers nabbed him in the third round of June’s draft.
Post script: Among those prospects who easily could have finished in a Top 20 listing: Cam Gibson, OF; Artie Lewicki, RH starter; Grayson Long, RH starter; Zac Reininger, RH reliever (now with the Tigers); Jason Foley, RH reliever (now recovering from Tommy John surgery); Derek Hill, OF; Jose Quero, 1B