2013 Detroit Tigers Top Prospects


System Overview: Detroit dealt away a significant portion of the system at last season’s trade deadline, sending Jacob Turner, the organization’s top pitching prospect, Brian Flynn and Rob Brantly to Miami, as well as Marcelo Carreno to the Chicago Cubs, all of whom would have ranked among Detroit’s top 16 prospects.

It’s a modestly deep system, particularly among the lower levels, with its top bat — Nick Castellanos — and top arm — Bruce Rondon — ready to step in sometime in the very near future.  Outside of those two most of the team’s better prospects have tremendous red flags that could likely mean the difference between developing into everyday players and becoming useful bench bats.

On the pitching side of things, the Tigers’ system is very, very weak, particularly among starting options. The early returns on 2012 second rounder Jake Thompson are favorable, and one of the team’s better starting pitching prospects, Adam Wilk, was recently sold to the Korean Baseball League.

Nick Castellanos Photo Courtesy of lakelandlocal via Flickr.com


#1.Nick Castellanos, Age: 21, Position: 3B/OF

Saying Castellanos destroyed High-A pitching would be an understatement of sorts. The 2010 first rounder stroked .405/.461/.553 in 55 games. According to Weighted Runs Created Plus, his total offensive production was 88% better than the league average. This comes, of course, despite the fact that he was two years younger than the average Florida State League hitter.

With nothing left to prove, Detroit pushed Castellanos to Double-A where his numbers were far less impressive. In 79 games (341 PA), he hit .264/.396/.382 with little power or patience at the plate.

Projection: Depending on the type of adjustments made during the offseason, Castellanos has a shot to open 2013 in Triple-A, though there’s really no need to rush his development. He shows a strong eye at the plate, solid contact skills, but the power really hasn’t developed into anything more than gap-to-gap at this point. Obviously, his bat plays far better at third base than a corner spot in the outfield, and the ideal thing to do would be to leave him at the hot corner until Victor Martinez’s contract expires. Then the team could push either Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder to DH and leave third to Castellanos. He won’t be a power hitter per say. But he could develop into a solid 20+ homerun threat.

Ceiling: 5.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average to Inevitable

#2. Bruce Rondon, Age: 22, Position: RHP

Coming off a 2011 season in which he walked 34 in 40 innings — as well as 11 wild pitches — Rondon began to transform from thrower to pitcher last season. Split between High-A and Double-A, he coughed up 19 free passes in 45 combined innings (3.8 BB/9) while keeping his trademark K-rate among the better ones in the minors (11.4 K/9). Detroit then promoted the 21-year-old to Triple-A where the number of walks — seven in just eight innings — tends to skew his overall production.

Projection: Rondon is the heir apparent to the Tigers’ closer job, be it next season or a few years from now. He not only misses a tremendous amount of bats, but he does a good job limiting homeruns (five in 196 career innings) because of the amount of groundballs he generates (50% in 2012).

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

#3. Eugenio Suarez, Age: 21, Position: 2B/SS

The best offensive shortstop in the Midwest League, Suarez hit .288/.380/.409 while showing good speed (21 stolen bases), an above-average eye at the plate, and the potential to become a 15+ homerun threat somewhere down the line. Defensively, he continued to make strides, enough so that it looks like shortstop can be his long term position, though minor league fielding data is exceptionally raw.

Projection: Suarez has a nice build — 6-foot-0 and 180 pounds — with enough offensive upside that he could develop into one of the better shortstops in the game, not elite but certainly above-average. He should be headed for High-A in 2013 and could finish the year in Double-A.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average

#4. Avisail Garcia, Age: 22, Position: OF

Garcia capped off a reasonably successful season with a 23-game stint with the Tigers during the stretch run, hitting .319/.373/.319 thanks in large part due to an ungodly .405 BABIP.

As a prospect, Garcia’s an exceptionally fascinating case. His overall numbers last season were strong; he hit .299/.333/.455 as a 21-year-old split between High-A and Double-A, with solid power and above-average speed. But his walk rate — 3.5% last season — is insanely low, especially considering the level of success he’s displayed against much older competition.

Projection: Outside of horrendously low walk rates, the amount of groundballs Garcia hits is staggeringly high (56.5% overall in 2012), especially considering his decent power output. But what’s really concerning is the amount he hit while in Double-A, a ridiculous 65%. The tools are there to become a reasonably valuable big league regular. But between the walk and groundball rates, I’m not convinced he can overcome both.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average

#5. Austin Schotts, Age: 19, Position: CF

The Tigers’ most recent third rounder, Schotts flashed five-tool potential during his 40-game stint in rookie ball, slugging .310/.360/.452 to go along with some promising peripherals: 6.8% BB%, 23.2% K% and .142 ISO. He also had three assists from the outfield as well.

Projection: Because Shotts has spent just one season in pro ball — half of a season, really — I’m going to reserve making any long term evaluations just yet, other than saying that he could likely become quite the steal in the third round.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A


#6. Danry Vasquez, Age: 18, Position: OF

Updated: Vasquez, who flopped in his early season debut in A-Ball (.217/.253/.304), dominated the New York-Penn League, hitting .311/.341/.401 with a pair of homeruns and six stolen bases, despite being the league’s only 18-year-old.

Projection: At 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, Vasquez’s power should start to develop in the coming years, perhaps peaking in the 15- to 20-homerun range. Overall, though, he certainly looks the part of a potential big league regular thus far. On the positive side, despite the struggles in A-ball, Vasquez’s plate discipline was relatively solid  (6.3%), albeit in a smallish sample size. He will need to improve against lefties as well (.217/.253/.304).

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

#7. Jake Thompson, Age: 19, Position: RHP

Selected in the second round of the 2012 draft out of Rockwall-Heath High School (Heath, Texas), Thompson immediately started paying dividends. In seven starts (28.1 innings), the 6-foot-4 right-hander averaged more than a punch out per inning to go along with a promising BB-rate (3.18) and a lot of groundballs (54.7%).

Projection: Much like Schotts, it’s still too early to get a feel on just how good (or bad) Thompson will be long term. Obviously, he laid a promising foundation thus far. And the only reason why I ranked him lower than Schotts is because of injury nexus that plagues young pitchers.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

#8. Steven Moya, Age: 21, Position: OF

Arguably the best power in the entire system, Moya, who’s listed at a towering 6-foot-7, had a bit of a breakout season during his second stint in A-ball, hitting .288/.319/.481 with nine homeruns and five stolen bases in 58 games.

Projection: Moya’s still incredibly raw, but he managed to show tremendous improvement in 2012, increasing his walk rate from 3.6% to 4.3%, and just as importantly, dropping his strikeout rate from an absurd 37.7% to a very manageable 22.9%. As a lefty swinger, he has handled southpaws (.278/.305/.424) better than right-handers (.227/.260/.410) in his career.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player, conservative

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate, conservative

#9. Tyler Collins, Age: 23, Position: OF

A mid round pick out of Howard College in 2011, Collins hit .290/.371/.429 at an age-appropriate level (High-A). He showed a strong eye (10.7% BB-rate), good contact skills (11.8% K-rate), above-average speed (20 SB in 23 attempts) and average power (.140 ISO) while showing no discernible platoon splits.

Projection: There’s really not a whole lot to like about Collins as a prospect. He does everything well enough without having one standout tool. You would like to see him perform as well against older competition, which he’ll get the chance to do in 2013. For now, though, he looks to be a fringe everyday player/quality fourth outfielder.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

#10. Casey Crosby, Age: 24, Position: LHP

Armed with a four-pitch repertoire — a low 90s fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup — Crosby turned in another solid minor league season, unfortunately without showing much development. He continued to show a strong a K-rate (8.02) but his control is below-average at best (4.66 BB/9).

Projection: Crosby’s been in the farm system for five seasons already and his control has yet to show any real improvement. Despite having the repertoire to succeed as a starter, he’s definitely headed to the bullpen at some point in the very near future.

Ceiling: 0.5-to 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

#11. Adam Wilk, Age: 25, Position: LHP

A finesse lefty that’s always shown elite walk rates, Wilk turned in another solid season in Triple-A in 2012, posting a 3.39 SIERA while averaging 7.7 K/9 and 1.68 BB/9, numbers that fell exactly in line with his career norms.

Projection: Wilk really has nothing left to prove in the minors, but he’s likely not going to see a tremendous amount of big league action as a result of a numbers game. He has the ceiling of good fifth starter, though he could just as easily end up as a semi-useful bullpen arm. The lone red flag is the lack of groundballs (35.5%), especially troubling considering how his K-rate will likely hover near 6.0 K/9 in the big leagues.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win starter; Replacement Level to 0.5-win reliever

Update: Wilk was recently solid to the Korean Baseball League

#12. Franklin Navarro, Age: 18, Position: C

As a 17-year-old in the Venezuelan Summer League, Navarro hit .315/.360/.452 with decent power and walk numbers while managing to throw out one-third of would-be base stealers. A switch-hitter that handles lefties far better than righties (no surprise), he has the chance to develop into a solid catching prospect.

Projection: The Tigers could opt for another go-round in the Venezuelan Summer League or just as likely move him to one of the stateside rookie leagues. There’s not enough data available to draw any type of conclusion, but he’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

#13. Tyler Clark, Age: 24, Position: RHP

Clark turned in his most successful professional to date, posting career bests in strikeouts (11.9 K/9), walks (4.1 BB/9) and SIERA (2.61).

Projection: While Clark was quite dominant last season, it was, in fact, against much younger competition. Still, though, the amount of strikeouts remain intriguing, but unless his control takes another dramatic step forward he’ll have a hard time becoming anything more than bullpen fodder.

Ceiling: Replacement Level to 0.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

#14. Javier Betancourt, Age: 18, Position: 2B

Betancourt had a strong debut showing in the Venezuelan Summer League, hitting .333/.391/.455, albeit in a small sample size (139 PA). The young second baseman showed solid patience (7.2%), modest power (.122 ISO), and decent speed.

Projection: The cautious approach would be to send Betancourt back to the VSL in 2013, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the organization brought him stateside either.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

#15. Jeff Ferrell, Age: 22, Position: RHP

A 26th round pick out Pitt Community College in 2010, Ferrell has shown enough promise early in his career to suggest that he could turn into a serviceable big league arm down the line. After just a six-game stint and elbow surgery in 2011, the right-hander repeated A-ball in 2012, showing decent peripherals (7.92 K/9 and 2.84 BB/9).

Projection: Ferrell is still young enough to continue refining his craft as a starter, but his long term future’s probably as a serviceable middle relief arm.

Ceiling: Replacement Level to 0.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

#16.  Manuel Joseph, Age: 19, Position: SS

Joseph was a touch too old for the Dominican Summer League competition, but showed a well-rounded approach at the plate, hitting .295/.370/.435 with a strong eye (9.4% BB-rate), good contact skills (13.6 K-rate), average-ish power (.140 ISO) and decent speed (seven stolen bases), though his technique needs improvement.

Projection: It’s too early to get a good read on Joseph’s potential and the fact that he was a bit old for his level of competition is also a concern. We’ll likely get a better picture once he moves stateside in 2013.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A




After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.