The Detroit News top 50 Detroit Tigers prospects for 2019

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Tigers right-handed pitching prospect Casey Mize was the No. 1 overall pick in 2018.

Click through the gallery above to view The Detroit News’ top 10 Tigers prospects heading into the 2019 season, compiled by Lynn Henning. (Go here if you have trouble viewing the gallery.)

Lynn Henning of The Detroit News ranks the top 50 prospects in the Detroit Tigers organization.

1. Casey Mize, RH starter, 21, 6-3, 220: Those who argue Matt Manning should sit in that top slot have a case. You could go with either Mize or Manning here. But only because his four pitches are more refined is Mize winning the bluest of blue ribbons. He was last June’s litter-pick as the best amateur talent in America. He’ll get a chance to show at Lakeland and Erie, and maybe higher in 2019, why he’s a potential jewel in a remade Tigers rotation.

2. Matt Manning, RH starter, 21, 6-6, 190: Credit the Tigers scouts on this call. It’s gutsy to take a prep pitcher, having no more experience than Manning had in 2016, with a ninth overall pick. But what a payoff it should bring. Manning gets better, stronger, and more overpowering each week during his farm seminars. He has one of the best curveballs anywhere in minor-league ball and is throwing harder as strength and mechanics and pure athleticism coalesce. Could be a staff ace.  

3. Isaac Paredes, IF, 19, 5-11, 225: Yes, 19 years old — for a few more days, anyway. This is what he did in 39 games last year at Double A: .321 batting average, .406 on-base, .864 slugging. He has a right-handed swing that as early as next season could be a trigger to the Tigers’ reconstituted lineup. He probably is headed for third base unless he drops 30-40 pounds, which would be one mean feat. The bat will find its way into the lineup’s mid-order, wherever Paredes plays.

4. Franklin Perez, RH starter, 21, 6-3, 197: A year ago, Perez was atop our best-50 Tigers farm report. This year he slips three spots, mostly because he pitched in only seven games last season due to LAT muscle and shoulder issues that have since healed. He should return with Perez-like prowess in 2019. This was the premier prize in the Tigers’ three-player trade return for Justin Verlander. A healthy spring camp and no black cats accompanying him to the mound during the regular season should restore his prospect prestige.

More: Tigers' Franklin Perez feeling good, eager to forget 'frustrating' 2018

5. Parker Meadows, RF, 19, 6-5, 185: Tigers believe they got first-round talent in the second round when they grabbed Meadows last June. He got dinged during some rookie games but should unveil that left-handed bat, speed, and all-around portfolio in 2019. The Tigers desperately needed this kind of player and hitter in their system. They got him — as 2019 should affirm. He's fresh out of high school, but a gifted talent whose brother, Austin, already has cracked the big leagues.

Tigers pitching prospect Beau Burrows reached Double-A Erie last season, and could make his Detroit debut in 2019.

6. Beau Burrows, RH starter, 22, 6-2, 200: This chap has done nothing but pitch well, stay healthy, and improve at every level since the Tigers got him as one more perilous prep starter who looks as if he’ll do just fine. Yes, stuff happens. It can happen to any player. Burrows will start the year at Triple A. A good bet you’ll see him in Detroit in 2019, perhaps earlier than later.

7. Wenceel Perez, SS, 19, 5-11, 170: The Tigers paid him royally three years ago to join their Comerica Park Corps. He could be Detroit-bound rapidly. He’s a switch-hitter who, if 2019 goes as well as projected, would invite thoughts about how soon Perez will be your next Tigers starter. This is one of the team’s thoroughbred talents. Have fun watching him in 2019 — and beyond.

8. Daz Cameron, CF, 22, 6-2, 195: Focus for a moment on Cameron’s work in last year’s Arizona Fall League, a sturdy stage, indeed. Cameron in 20 games batted .342/.435/.468/.903. Not the fattest body of work, but given he played well at three levels last year, including Triple A, one can sense Cameron could quickly be planting spikes on Comerica Park’s turf. There is a question about whether he will simply be an OK all-around player. Or one who can be upper-tier. Deeper insight is en route in 2019.

9. Willi Castro, SS, 21, 6-1, 165: Here, most likely, is your Opening Day shortstop in 2020. A plus player at short? Impossible to say when Castro remains so young. But in 26 games at Erie, after the Tigers had gotten him from Cleveland in the Leonys Martin trade, Castro’s numbers were .324/.366/.562/.928. He has serious skill. It’s of course a matter of his right-handed bat. But it’s no deep leap to think Castrol will grow into a nice everyday big-league shortstop.

10. Kody Clemens, 2B, 22, 6-1, 170: Those who wanted the Tigers to spend last year’s first-round pick on Nick Madrigal could rest more comfortably when the Tigers nabbed Clemens with the third round’s first pick. Clemens isn’t Madrigal, a wondrous two-way player whom Clemens bests in only one key category: power. But that’s huge at second base. Clemens torched Big 12 Conference pitching at the University of Texas. He turns 23 in May, so this year is critical. But it’s a good bet Clemens soon gets his first peek at Comerica Park.

Jake Rogers is polished as a catcher, but will need to hit better to make his way up the Tigers system.

11. Jake Rogers, C, 23, 6-1, 190: Eye him behind home plate and you’ll feel as if you’re watching Picasso paint. Rogers is that effortless, that smooth, that gifted, defensively. His bat has enough crunch to make any number of wise-owl scouts believe he’ll hit in the big leagues. Taking in his evolution at Toledo in 2019 will be worth a ticket to Fifth Third Field.

12. Spencer Turnbull, RH starter, 26, 6-3, 215: Among delectable “surprises” a rebuilding team always seems to unveil, it is submitted Turnbull could be one of those finds in 2019. A key trait — a powerful right arm with corresponding pitches — is in place. Yet to be determined is if a Tigers’ second-round pick from Alabama in 2014 finally has grown into a guy you can toss into a rotation. Expect to have your answer — soon.

13. Carlos Guzman, RH starter, 20, 6-1, 170: This isn’t a man widely known among those who bird-dog the Tigers farm. But assuming he and his right arm are intact in 2019, the Tigers crowd will at some point this season be aware of Guzman. He is from Maracay, Venezuela. As that lean body fills out, expect him to add more strikeouts to the one-per-inning he now sports (79 in 78 innings, actually) after his first two years at Rookie League and Single A rungs. He has a 1.04 WHIP in 27 games. Jot down Guzman on any 2019 to-follow list.

14. Alex Faedo, RH starter, 23, 6-5, 230: This would rank as your basic Important Year for a first-rounder (2017, University of Florida) with an uncomfortable slider and, last year, a more comfortable fastball that hitters too often nailed. No one quite knows where the fastball fire went. But Detroit’s development gurus believe Faedo will reclaim heat in 2019 and look more like the budding rotation piece the Tigers last year were sure they had secured.

More: Tigers’ Alex Faedo is a left-hander — in almost everything but pitching

More: Tigers' Casey Mize enjoying new wheels, wedding planning

15. Kyle Funkhouser, RH starter, 24, 6-2, 220: Funkhouser likely has expended his wheelbarrow full of irritating and freak injuries displayed during two full seasons in the Tigers’ hatchery. Assuming he has not further roiled the pitching gods, Funkhouser should be on a pleasing path in 2019. That could change with another mishap. His status might also shift if he moves to the bullpen, as some project.  

16. Anthony Castro, RH starter, 23, 6-2, 180: He is another of the Caracas, Venezuela, contestants the Tigers through the years have signed. Castro could be a fast-mover. He had a rough time during a short audition at Double A, but he’s a year older and stronger. He needs work. Of course, that’s what the farm is for.

Tigers pitching prospect Zac Houston saved 10 games in 33 appearances last season for Triple-A Toledo.

►17. Zac Houston, RH reliever, 24, 6-5, 250: You look at his minor-league numbers, at every level, and wonder why this guy isn’t in the Tigers bullpen — now. Houston has pitched 143 innings and has 220 strikeouts. Opposing hitters are knocking him to the tune of a .138 batting average. His career WHIP is 0.96. Here’s the wrinkle: He does not throw thunderbolts. His fastball is 92-96. He has a bit of loop on his curveball. What he has is size and deception. Does it transfer to Detroit? We soon shall see.

►18. Sergio Alcantara, SS, 22, 5-9, 168: If tempted some evening to buy a ticket to a game in which Alcantara is playing, do so with the certitude you will see something extraordinary: His arm. Over the top. Snap throw from beneath. Whatever. This guy is glorious. His bat? It looks like your basic back-up infielder’s weapon. But Alcantara’s a switch-hitter with a lot of Ramon Santiago to his game. That says plenty about his chance to someday help.

19. Gregory Soto, LH starter, 23, 6-1, 240: Soto has been slapped with an uninvited 20-game vacation this season because of unspecified conduct neither the Tigers nor big-league baseball cares to divulge. Not good. Soto needs a clean, upward path, the sooner the better, when 2019 looms as crucial, indeed. Soto has a marvelous fastball, which is a big reason he has whiffed 474 batters in 435 innings. He also has walked 261. A bit more discipline, in all respects, is essential for Soto in 2019.

20. Bryan Garcia, RH reliever, 23, 6-1, 203: Welcome back, Senor Garcia. The Tigers await with hugs and hosannas Garcia’s reappearance after missing 2018 with Tommy John surgery. He is restored, and so, quickly, should be one of the best bullpen repertoires anywhere in the Tigers chain. Comerica Park in 2019? Very. Possibly.

►21. Victor Alcantara, RH reliever, 25, 6-2, 190: One forgets how strong Alcantara pitched during his 27 games for the Tigers in 2018: 2.40 ERA, 1.03 WHIP. Could be a bulldog in this year’s bullpen back end.

►22. Jason Foley, RH reliever, 23, 6-4, 215: He’s back — the 100-mph blowtorch who was shaping up as one of the Tigers’ biggest late-round draft steals in years until Tommy John protocol arrived last season. Tigers expect a rapid return to old ways.

23. Alvaro Gonzalez, SS, 18, 6-0, 165: He’s another Venezuelan talent the Tigers enticed with a plump paycheck. He was still 17 last summer and looked as if he was worth every cent. Distant star to watch here.

►24. Brock Deatherage, OF, 23, 6-1, 175: He’ll make it by name alone. Fans will insist on it. His bosses like him as a potential 10th-round piece of draft larceny (North Carolina State) from June. He’s a left-handed batter with crunch. If he can keep the whiffs in check, Dr. Death could be something.

25. Wladimir Pinto, RH reliever, 20, 5-11, 170: He struck out 30 in 16 innings at West Michigan and followed up with 47 punch-outs in 33.1 frames at Single-A Lakeland. Needs a better relationship with the strike zone, but what an arm.

►26. Dawel Lugo, 2B, 24, 6-foot, 190: Must cover the outside plate and take a few pitches that certifiably are not strikes. Chances of that happening? In probability, not great.

27. Sandy Baez, RH pitcher, 25, 6-2, 180: He slipped in 2018, but could/should revive this season. Big power arm and repertoire. Might wish to resolve that he’s going to pitch like the big-league stud he yet could become.  

►28. Wilkel Hernandez, RH starter, 19, 6-3, 160: He was part of the Angels’ payoff when Ian Kinsler was traded by Detroit. Tigers like his chances — a lot — when he adds some heft and refines a few pitching basics.

29. Nolan Blackwood, RH reliever, 23, 6-5, 185: He arrived last summer by way of the Mike Fiers trade and is another of those drop-down slingers the Tigers of late have been bringing aboard. Bosses very much count on him helping, probably quickly.

30. Logan Shore, RH starter, 24, 6-2, 215: He was the other half of last year’s A’s trade dowry that brought Mike Fiers to Oakland. Was a second-round A’s pick (University of Florida) in 2016. Big test coming this year at Erie.

31. Adam Wolf, LH starter, 22, 6-6, 225: Tigers got him last June in the fifth round (Louisville). Could evolve into a back-end starter or long-relief option.

Lefty Matt Hall pitched five games for the Tigers last season.

32. Matt Hall, LH starter, 25, 6-foot, 200: He needs more than his curveball, which was evident in five games last season for the Tigers. That’s his job in 2019: Make that bender even less hittable while pruning a second pitch.

33. Jose De La Cruz, OF, 17, 6-foot, 195: It required nearly $2 million last summer to wrest De La Cruz from another salivating club. He’s a right-handed hitter who can put pitches into the clouds. Begin growing familiar with young Mr. Cruz and his drive-train.

34. Esney Chacon, CF, 18, 6-1, 160: A teen from Venezuela the Tigers were delighted to have enlisted two years ago. Bats right-handed, has a pleasing tool chest of skills.

35. Elvin Rodriguez, RH starter, 20, 6-3, 160: Not a bad trivia question to ask just which players came from the Angels in the Justin Upton deal. Rodriguez is one of them. Tigers liked his long-term look –- and at age 20, still do. Solid numbers last year at West Michigan.

36. Jake Robson, CF, 24, 5-10, 175: One of those greenhorns who’s headed for spring camp and who could find his way even this year to Detroit. Stop us if you’ve caught this one before: It’s all up to his bat, which has been strong in the bushes.

37. Danny Woodrow, RF, 24, 5-10, 160: There might be a leadoff batter gestating on the Tigers farm. Woodrow keeps impressing people with his legs, his left-handed stick, his bunting skills — there's a lot in him to follow in 2019.

38. Tarik Skubal, LH pitcher, 22, 6-3, 215: Another reason why so many talent snoops appreciated the Tigers’ 2018 draft. Skubal was still healing from Tommy John surgery and tumbled to the ninth round. He might well be a prize.

39. Kingston Liniak, CF, 19, 6-2, 170: Tigers bet on the talent arc last June and figured Liniak’s overall inventory might pay off. Fourth-round pick. Making contact is an imperative.

More: Tigers trying to find a fit for prospect Isaac Paredes

40. Angel De Jesus, RH starter, 21, 6-4, 185: Not on a lot of dockets, but should be. Tigers signed him later in the game (2016) and age has helped him star at the minnow-level farm stops. But size, arm, and stuff are blue-chip.

41. John Schreiber, RH reliever, 24, 6-3, 215: The guy from downriver could be moving upriver — all the way to Comerica Park, even this year, if that sidearm stuff plays at Triple A. It’s worked everywhere else.

42. Mark Ecker, RH, 23, 6-foot, 180: Might be a decent bet in 2019 to make some of the firmer progress of any pitcher on the Tigers farm. He should be in the thick of young bullpen prospects. Was a fifth-rounder out of Texas A&M in 2016.

43. Jack O’Loughlin, LH pitcher, 6-5, 210: Hard to say what’s incubating here. But it might be quite the left-handed power package. He’s a teen from Australia. Time will be his friend.

44. Jose Azocar, OF, 22, 5-11, 185: A rather critical 2019 season for Azocar. He either hits, and swings at fewer balls, or his time could be growing short. Made some inroads in 2018. Needs this summer to take a bigger leap.

45. Eric De La Rosa, CF, 21, 6-4, 175: Once again, there was a bit of a roulette wheel spinning at last June’s Tigers draft. The Tigers liked raw potential. De La Rosa is a right-handed hitter who tends to get his swings, even if they don’t always find the ball. Wait and see how 2019 unfurls.

46. Ildemaro Escalona, SS, 19, 6-foot, 170: For all its ills, the Tigers have stayed tight to Venezuela, and Escalona is yet another prodigy. Right-handed stick, lots of ability. Observe his work in 2019.

47. Cam Gibson, OF, 24, 6-1, 215: Still in the picture, but turns 25 on Feb. 12. Career farm batting average is .243. Outfielders need that bat, fundamentally, so there’s rapid work ahead.

48. Eliezer Alfonzo, C, 19, 5-10, 155: Good one here, perhaps. He, of course, is from Venezuela and doubles as a switch-hitter whose early numbers have been sharp.

49. Dane Myers, RH starter, 22, 6-2, 205: Sixth-rounder from Rice (2017) and has pitched well at the lower end of Single A. He’ll get a heavier test this summer at Lakeland.

50. Grayson Long, RH starter, 24, 6-5, 230: Another one-time Angels farm kid who landed in Detroit courtesy of the Justin Upton deal. Missed most of last year, but has healed. Could be a swing man. Was a third-rounder from Texas A&M in 2015.

Best of the rest

Players who could easily be interchangeable with others in the latter 25. Given baseball’s mercurial ways, on the farm and in the big leagues, you might see any of these gents rise to significantly higher status in 2019.

►Tyler Alexander, LH starter; Drew Carlton, RH reliever; Tom de Blok, RH starter; Ethan DeCaster, RH reliever; Rodolfo Fajardo, LH starter; Reed Garrett, RH reliever; Alfred Gutierrez, RH reliever; Derek Hill, OF; Eudis Idrogo, LH pitcher; Garett King, RH pitcher; Jose King, IF; Billy Lescher, RH reliever; Eduardo Jimenez, RH reliever; Garrett McCain, OF; Sam McMillan, C; Joey Morgan, C; Chris Proctor, C; Troy Montgomery, OF; Gerson Moreno, RH reliever; Joe Navilhon, RH reliever; Cole Peterson, SS; Danny Pinero, IF; Dylan Rosa,OF; Paul Voelker, RH reliever; Burris Warner, RH reliever; Spenser Watkins, RH pitcher.