After last week’s trade deadline, Matt Schoch ranks the top 50 prospects in the Detroit Tigers organization.
Preseason rankings done by Lynn Henning are noted next to each prospect, as well as their composite rankings from The News and seven other publications: Baseball America, Bless You Boys, Detroit Free Press, FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline, The Athletic, and Tigers Minor League Report.
(See below for composite rankings.)
The new prospects, acquired before last week’s deadline, have only been ranked by The News and four others, so their composites were only averaged as such.
Spencer Turnbull (No. 12), Gregory Soto (19), Victor Alcantara (21), Dawel Lugo (26) and Matt Hall (32) have graduated off our preseason prospect list by hitting benchmarks of either at-bats, innings pitched, days of pre-September MLB service time or age.
Tier I: The building blocks
1. Casey Mize, RH starter, 22 (preseason: 1, composite: 1): His recovery from the shoulder scare solidified this ranking, but it was still a tough choice, with all three top candidates drawing consideration. Mize is a consensus top-10 prospect in all of baseball with creeping durability concerns the only reason to have pause.
2. Matt Manning, RH starter, 21 (preseason: 2, composite: 2): A strikeout artist with workhorse potential, Manning’s fastball will send a lot of batters walking back to the dugout at Comerica Park, likely starting next summer. He’ll hit 98 mph, devastate with the curveball, but his change-up development is the key to an even higher ceiling.
3. Riley Greene, OF, 18 (preseason: N/A, composite: 3): Greene has been the impact bat Tigers’ fans craved since he was taken No. 5 in June’s draft. Through 31 games in the Gulf Coast League and with short-season Connecticut, Greene was hitting .317 with three home runs and 15 RBIs.
Tier II: Potential building blocks
4. Tarik Skubal, LH starter, 22 (preseason: 38, composite: 8): The list’s biggest riser from the preseason, his strong results have even improved on the all-important jump to Double-A Erie. After a strong 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings in Lakeland, Skubal has an otherworldly 18.8 strikeouts-per-nine rate in Erie.
5. Isaac Paredes, IF, 20 (preseason: 3, composite: 4): Playing against much-older competition in Double-A Erie, Paredes is heating up late in the season, going 15-for-25 (.600 average) over a six-game stretch last week. Paredes is the gem of one of Al Avila’s best trades, the Justin Wilson and Alex Avila deal with the Cubs in 2017.
6. Franklin Perez, RH starter, 21 (preseason: 4, composite: 9): The fact that the oft-injured Perez is this high is both a testament to his four-plus pitch potential and an indictment of a poor summer for many others on this list. It’s possible his durability issues mean he’s better suited out of the bullpen.
Tier III: There’s a chance
7. Willi Castro, SS, 22 (preseason: 9, composite: 12): Getting Castro from Cleveland for Leonys Martin and Kyle Dowdy is likely Avila’s best trade. Castro’s strong offensive season in Toledo would be even better without his 21 errors. It’s unclear whether he is ultimately a shortstop, but he should get a shot in Detroit soon.
8. Daz Cameron, CF, 22 (preseason: 8, composite: 5): Entering Saturday, Cameron was batting .221 and his 120 strikeouts were sixth-most in the International League. If you’re looking for a bright side, Cameron’s current Triple-A stall has allowed JaCoby Jones time to prove he could man Detroit’s center field for a few more years.
9. Jake Rogers, C, 24 (preseason: 11, composite: 6): Here’s believing Rogers is in Detroit to stay, most importantly as a stabilizing receiver of the forthcoming parade of pitching prospects. He’ll never be Lance Parrish offensively, but 49 home runs over three seasons in the minors is an encouraging starting point.
10. Alex Faedo, RH starter, 23 (preseason: 14, composite: 10): His two minor league seasons since being drafted 18th overall in 2017 have been uneven. But when projecting his ability to handle upcoming stress, we can’t shake the 2017 College World Series from our minds when Faedo threw two absolute gems for champion Florida, earning Most Outstanding Player.
Tier IV: Hopefully solid
11. Joey Wentz, LH starter, 21 (preseason: N/A, composite: 7): The 40th-overall pick in 2016, Wentz was one of two tall Kansas City-area first-round picks that headlined last week’s deadline haul. Wentz’s production has soured this season, and had an oblique injury last year. The hope is Wentz returns to form, and ticks up his currently below average velocity, after a healthy offseason.
12. Beau Burrows, RH starter, 22 (preseason: 6, composite: 13): Shoulder issues complicate his prospect standing, but a strong finish to the season — perhaps including his debut in Detroit — could ease concerns. The projections vary between whether Burrows is a mid-rotation starter or a possible bullpen piece.
13. Parker Meadows, OF, 19 (preseason: 5, composite: 11): Patrolling center field in Fifth Third Ballpark in West Michigan, Meadows is learning the ropes. Ultimately, he might be a corner outfielder as he moves up. But more importantly, he needs to hit consistently and for power in the Midwest League sooner rather than later before we start souring.
14. Wenceel Perez, SS, 19 (preseason: 7, composite: 14): After a hot finish to last season in Low-A West Michigan, Perez has struggled this year with the Whitecaps. His age is an ally, but his struggles with routine plays is growing concerns that start with his poor offensive season. He’s no longer the clear front-runner for Tigers “Shortstop of the Future” status.
Tier V: Some potential
15. Nick Quintana, 3B, 21 (preseason: N/A, composite: 15): West Coast cool with the guitar skills to match, Quintana has to make more contact to pan out. Through 153 West Michigan plate appearances, the third baseman has struck out 49 times and is batting .167.
16. Bryan Garcia, RH reliever, 24 (preseason 20, composite: 19): Regarded as one of the organization’s top relief prospects before Tommy John surgery last year, Garcia might be the best one now. The former Miami Hurricanes reliever is pretty good now and should improve next season as he gains back his form.
17. Roberto Campos, OF, 16 (preseason: N/A, composite: 30): There’s not a lot known about Campos, other than his $2.85 million signing bonus from last month. The outfielder is working out in Detroit’s Dominican Republic academy and will start playing games next year. The Tigers like his tools, drive, personality, and his 6-foot-3 frame.
18. Kody Clemens, 2B, 23 (preseason: 10, composite: 16): The son of fireballer Roger Clemens took a step back this season in High-A Lakeland, batting .230 with 11 home runs. The third-round pick from 2018 still has a shot to follow in his father’s footsteps in the bigs though.
19. Anthony Castro, RH starter, 24 (preseason: 16, composite: 18): There’s nothing seriously wrong with Castro as a prospect, he’s just boxed out by better (and younger) prospects. That means he could be a bullpen piece, a trade piece for a bat, insurance if Avila sends out a prized arm in a deal or a Rule 5 candidate.
20. Andre Lipcius, IF, 21 (preseason N/A, composite: 21): June’s third-round pick should be a versatile infielder on defense, and is already hitting .276 in his first 152 at-bats in Low-A West Michigan. His ability to play all over the infield could help him move up levels and grab at-bats all over the place.
21. Kyle Funkhouser, RH starter, 25 (preseason: 15, composite: 17): It’s back to Toledo again for Funkhouser, who has struggled mightily in Triple-A. The Louisville product might someday just have to be tested in Detroit or moved to the bullpen for good. Soon.
22. Jose De La Cruz, OF, 17 (preseason: 33, composite: 42): We’re taking a bit of a leap of faith here in Avila’s infrastructure in Latin America. After a reported $1.8 million signing bonus as an international signee, the Dominican has showed the organization a plus-arm and plus-power for his age, with eight home runs and 190 at-bats in the Dominican Summer League.
23. Carlos Guzman, RH starter, 21 (preseason: 13, composite: 24): A forearm strain likely ended his season after just seven starts in Low-A West Michigan. If it weren’t for that, the Venezuelan would be higher up this list.
24. Alex Lange, RH reliever, 23 (preseason: N/A, composite: 22): He’s tall (6-foot-3) and Avila says he’s headed to the bullpen in Erie, perhaps out of necessity with a crowded rotation in the system’s middle tiers.
25. Derek Hill, CF, 23 (preseason: NR, composite: 25): Hill’s 13 home runs in Double-A have been a revelation for a system looking for a little power wherever they can get it. Next year in Toledo will be a sink-or-swim season, though with his tools, one wonders if there’s some Rule 5 potential.
Tier VI: Long-ish shots
26. Wladimir Pinto, RH reliever, 21 (preseason: 25, composite: 39): Pinto is dominating from the outset in Double-A Erie after his promotion last month, the first level where he’s done that. If he can maintain enough command, Pinto could be a big-league bullpen arm.
27. Sergio Alcantara, 2B/SS, 23 (preseason: 18, composite: 20): Part of the lackluster package for J.D. Martinez in 2017, the light-hitting defensive wizard with a rocket arm has seen time at second base and shortstop this year. He’s a switch-hitter, which helps, but his lack of power potential hurts his value.
28. Cooper Johnson, C, 21 (preseason: N/A, composite: 34): Probably the most delightful surprise out of June’s draft class, the sixth-round pick out of Ole Miss could be the club’s next-best catching prospect after Rogers graduates. That speaks to his outstanding receiving, game-calling and throwing ability, but also to the front office’s failure in drafting quality catchers despite often using high picks on them.
29. Ulrich Bojarski, OF, 20 (preseason: NR, composite: 35): The South African-born and Australian-raised slugger was a Midwest League All-Star for the Whitecaps. His power capabilities put him a rung or two higher on this list in a system without much of it, though cutting down the strikeout rate could raise his ceiling.
30. Bryant Packard, OF, 21 (preseason: N/A, composite: 26): Manager Lance Parrish was starved for offense this summer at West Michigan, and got a nice gift with Packard, this year’s fifth-round pick from East Carolina. It was short-lived because of an injury, but he gave Grand Rapids a quick peek of what he could do.
31. Brock Deatherage, OF, 23 (preseason: 24, composite: 40): Like Clemens, Deatherage took a big step back after overachieving at three levels during his draft year. The 10th-round pick from last summer has the tools, but needs to clean up the strikeouts after 107 of them so far this year.
32. Paul Richan, RH starter, 22 (preseason: N/A, composite: 23): Richan is taking his four-pitch arsenal to High-A Lakeland after last week’s trade from the Cubs. His pro numbers have been solid, including just 23 walks in 127⅔ innings over two seasons.
33. Marco Jimenez, RH pitcher, 19 (preseason: NR, composite: 50): A hard-throwing righty with a good breaking ball, Jimenez was given an aggressive push to Connecticut after pitching in the Dominican Summer League last year. It’s too early to say if he’s a starter or reliever, but the tools are there to keep an eye on.
34. Adinso Reyes, SS, 17 (preseason: NR, composite: 28): A 2018 international signing with a reported $1.45 million signing bonus, Reyes has shown pretty good hitting ability and could hit for power as time goes on. As he grows his 6-1, 195-pound frame, the Dominican might ultimately move to third base.
35. Jack O’Loughlin, LH starter, 19 (preseason: 43, composite: 52): The second player on this list raised in Australia, the power-pitching O’Loughlin has improved this summer in his second go around in Connecticut. O’Loughlin threw the first six innings of a nine-inning no-hitter on July 28.
36. Hugh Smith, RH starter, 22 (preseason: NR, composite: 38): Smith is making a bid to be the tallest Tigers player ever, although he admits he’s an inch shorter than his listed height of 6-10. With huge velocity potential — and already some injury issues — Smith might be better suited out of the bullpen.
37. Ryan Kreidler, SS, 21 (preseason: N/A, composite: 33): Kreidler is the everyday shortstop and always hits near the top of the order for Connecticut, a table-setter for Greene. The fourth-rounder from UCLA helped the Bruins to a fantastic season that Michigan ended in the NCAA Tournament.
38. Travis Demeritte, OF, 24 (preseason: N/A, composite: 32): There’s things to like, in particular the first-round pedigree from 2013 and the redemptive backstory after a 2015 banned substance suspension. His 20 Triple-A home runs with Atlanta’s Gwinnett before the Shane Greene trade far exceeded anyone in the Tigers’ system, pushing him up this list.
39. Eliezer Alfonzo, C, 19 (preseason: 48, composite: 49): Touted as intelligent beyond his years, the Tigers like his defense and hand-eye coordination at the plate. Through Saturday, Alfonzo is hitting .337 in 101 at-bats with Connecticut.
Tier VII: Longer shots
40. Esney Chacon, CF, 19 (preseason: 34, composite: 55): It’s been a struggle for Chacon in the Gulf Coast League, the Venezuelan’s first summer in the states. The 160-pounder needs to get stronger and buy into the strength and conditioning program. He can run and play defense, but the bat will be the wild card.
41. Zac Houston, RH reliever, 24 (preseason: 17, composite: 46): The farthest faller that remained on this list, Houston was knocked around in Toledo and then he got hurt — although he was activated by Erie on Sunday. Command is an issue for a 6-5 reliever who came into the season with such promise.
42. Jacob Robson, OF, 24 (preseason: 36, composite: 31): It’s been another strong offensive season for Robson, who is fast but strikes out too much. The lefty leads the Mud Hens in walks, but needs to take everything up a notch to become more of a part of Detroit’s plans.
43. Sam McMillan, C, 20 (preseason: NR; composite: 44): A 2017 high school draftee, it’s worth noting that McMillan is still younger than Johnson. Still, it’ll be a big year for McMillan next season as he tries to work up the Tigers’ catcher hierarchy.
44. Jose Azocar, OF, 23 (preseason: 44, composite: 41): A great start has cooled for Azocar, who still strikes out too much and doesn’t walk enough. His eight home runs in Erie this season is more than his first six years in the system combined, which is a good sign.
45. Cesar Calderon, SS, 17 (preseason: NR, composite: 57): He’s 6-2 with a natural swing and is already driving the ball in the Dominican Summer League. The franchise believes his future could possibly be at third base, but there’s lots of time to figure that out.
46. Jimmy Mojica, OF, 19 (preseason: NR, composite: 59): Hitting over .300 for the second straight season after moving up from the Dominican Summer League to the Gulf Coast League, Mojica is a good contact hitter. The Tigers believe he can eventually hit for some power and play all three outfield positions.
47. Elvin Rodriguez, RH starter, 21 (preseason: 35, composite: 29): Acquired in the 2017 trade for Justin Upton, Rodriguez is a tall, wiry pitching prospect from the Angels. Beware of the frame though, as it brings durability concern to an otherwise strong prospect.
48. Wilkel Hernandez, RH starter, 20 (preseason: 28, composite: 45): Acquired for Ian Kinsler in 2017, Hernandez is a just like Rodriguez — a tall, wiry pitching prospect acquired from the Angels. Hernandez is a year younger than Rodriguez, but on the same steady trajectory.
49. Angel De Jesus, RH reliever, 22 (preseason: 40, composite: 63): He was older than most of his peers in rookie ball last season, so the Tigers gave him a push to West Michigan and then to Lakeland. He’s performed well, and has a good fastball.
50. Kingston Liniak, OF, 19 (preseason: 39, composite: 37): Since being drafted in the fourth round last year, Liniak hasn’t shown much to get excited about. There’s plenty of time, but we’ll learn more about him next year in West Michigan after his rough six-game stretch there earlier this summer.
Best of the rest
Here are 25 more players to keep an eye on as you dream of better Tigers baseball days.
Nick Ames, 1B; Austin Bergner, RH reliever; Nolan Blackwood, RH reliever; Drew Carlton, RH reliever; Ethan DeCaster, RH reliever; Mark Ecker, RH reliever; Rodolfo Fajardo, LH starter; Wilmer Fenelon, RH starter; Jason Foley, RH reliever; Cam Gibson, OF; Alvaro Gonzalez, IF; Zack Hess, RH reliever; Jake Holton, 1B; Eduardo Jimenez, RH reliever; Jack Kenley, IF; Iverson Leonardo, OF; Andrew Magno, LH reliever; Dustin Peterson, OF/IF; Chris Proctor, C; Dylan Rosa, OF; John Schreiber, RH reliever; Logan Shore, RH starter; Eduardo Valencia, C; Adam Wolf, LH starter; Danny Woodrow, OF
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.