2014 Detroit Tigers Top 10 Prospects

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After a long delay – something measured in the months, not days –  I have a bit of an announcement to make: I will be publishing the first ever Prospect Digest Annual sometime late January/early February.

The Prospect Digest Annual will feature each organization’s Top 30 Prospects, ranking the farm systems, and several additional articles.

Until the big day happens, I will be posting each organization’s Top 10 Prospects, starting with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Enjoy!

For more Top Prospects click HERE

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1. Nick Castellanos, Position: 3B/LF, Age: 22

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

AAA

595

121

.276

.343

.450

9.1%

16.8%

.174

37

1

18

4/5

Profile: One of the top bats available in the 2010 draft, the Tigers nabbed the high school star with the 44th pick and signed him to a hefty $3,450,000 bonus. Since then Castellanos has been a steady climber through the minor leagues, reaching both Class AAA and the big leagues at the ripe old age of 21.

Analysis: Advanced approach at the plate with one of the best hit tools in the minor leagues, Castellanos’ lone underdeveloped tool, power, finally started to come to fruition last season. The 6-foot-4 converted third baseman slugged a career high 37 doubles and 18 homeruns while surpassing the International League average offense by 21%. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Castellanos peak as a Victor Martinez-type offensive player, hitting in the neighborhood of .300/.375/.500 with 20- to 25-HRs.  

Ceiling: 5.0 to 5.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average

 

2. Jake Thompson, Position: RHP, Age: 20

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

A

83.1

3.13

3.48

9.83

3.46

24.6%

8.7%

0.43

40.3%

Profile: Another high ceiling high school product grabbed in the opening rounds of the draft by Detroit, Thompson, the club’s second round pick in 2012, spent the year as one of the Midwest League’s youngest hurlers. The Texas-born right-hander finished the season with the sixth highest K-rate among pitchers with 80+ innings.

Analysis: Detroit is slowly bringing along Thompson, who’s tossed just 111.2 innings through his first 24 games. Solid control, above-average ability to miss bats, and plenty of youth on his side, the big right-hander’s name could start to jump this season as the training wheels are taken off.

Ceiling: 4.5- to 5.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

3. Robbie Ray, Position: LHP, Age: 22

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

A+

84.0

3.11

3.20

10.71

4.39

29.3%

12.0%

0.96

41.8%

AA

58.0

3.57

3.51

9.31

3.26

23.5%

8.2%

0.62

41.1%

Profile: The centerpiece of the much criticized deal that sent the underappreciated Doug Fister to Washington, Ray, for his part, was nearly lights out last season. In 142.0 innings split between the Carolina and Eastern Leagues, the 6-foot-2 southpaw struck out 160 and walked 62, finishing with the best rates of his four-year career.

Analysis: Look, it was a poor trade in terms of the final return. But Ray has a shot to be an above-average big league starting pitcher, maybe even posting some WAR totals comparable to Fister’s current marks. It’s just that, well, several things have to break right for Ray, most importantly staying healthy.

Ceiling: 4.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

4. Eugenio Suarez, Position: SS, Age: 22

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

A+

122

147

.311

.410

.437

11.5%

20.5%

.126

6

2

1

2/5

AA

496

102

.253

.332

.387

9.3%

19.8%

.133

30

4

9

9/20

Profile: Suarez made a quick 25-game stop in high Class A before spending the majority of the year in the Eastern League. Combined, the 21-year-old shortstop hit .264/.347/.396 with 30 doubles, six triples, 10 homeruns and 11 stolen bases. For his career, he’s hit .277/.363/.404 against mostly older competition.

Analysis: Vastly underrated prospect, even in Detroit’s system, Suarez has performed above the league average at each stop he’s made. Slightly better than average patience at the plate, doubles power that could turn into 12 to 15 HRs down the line, and double-digit stolen base ability. The defense is still raw, but he could be a .275/.340/.400-type hitter.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

5. Devon Travis, Position: 2B, Age: 23

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

A

339

160

.352

.430

.486

10.3%

9.4%

.134

17

2

6

14/17

A+

237

174

.350

.401

.561

7.6%

13.5%

.210

11

2

10

8/9

Profile: Travis went from solid collegiate performer to one of the most dangerous bats in the minors last season, posting a combined 161 wRC+, tied with Minnesota’s Byron Buxton for the seventh best mark in the entire minor leagues. The former Florida State Seminole finished the year with a .351/.418/.518 triple-slash line while slugging 48 extra-base hits.

Analysis: A bit tricky to analyze. Travis performed well, but he’s a polished collegiate player tearing up the minor leagues. And everything about his time in low Class A screams fluke, his age, background, .375 BABIP, except that he performed even better upon his promotion to High-A. He’s likely to show more development as a hitter next season, though his overall production could decline as his BABIP drops. Good hitter, some pop and solid defense.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

6. Bruce Rondon, Position: RHP, Age: 23

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

AAA

29.2

1.52

2.56

12.13

3.94

33.9%

11.0%

0.30

49.2%

MLB

28.2

3.45

3.67

9.42

3.45

24.6%

9.0%

0.63

44.4%

Profile: The eventual heir to Detroit’s closer, Rondon bounced between the big leagues and Triple-A last season. In 58.1 combined innings, the hard-throwing right-hander fanned 70 (10.8 K/9) and walked 24 (3.70 BB/9).

Analysis: Rondon’s fastball averaged a smidge over 99 mph during his tenure with Detroit. Big, big strikeouts. Potential dominant backend reliever. Rondon will never possess above-average control, but he should remain dominant as long as he’s pumping elite fastballs.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average to Inevitable

 

7. Jonathon Crawford, Position: RHP, Age: 22

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

A-

19.0

1.89

3.22

9.95

4.26

25.3%

10.8%

0.00

53.8%

Profile: Coming off of a sensational sophomore campaign and an impressive summer showing against Cuba, Crawford was on the outer fringe of potential #1 draft talk. The University of Florida star, however, saw his strike rate drop and walk rate increase for the second consecutive year. Nonetheless, the Tigers grabbed Crawford with the 20th pick in last June’s draft.

Analysis: Prior to the draft I wrote: “There’s some upside here given his track record, including his dominant sophomore season (8.46 K/9 and 2.78 BB/9) as well as his work during the following summer. But he’s taken a large step back, developmentally speaking, and one wonders if it’s from a long 2012 season. Unless he can rediscover some of his peripheral magic, Crawford looks like a backend filer, potentially peaking as a #4/#5-type guy.” At the very least, he could be a better than average setup man.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

8. Steven Moya, Position: LF/RF, Age: 22

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

A+

388

106

.255

.296

.433

4.6%

27.3%

.178

19

5

12

6/6

Profile: The Tigers signed the colossal corner outfielder out of the Dominican Republic in 2010. Moya, who stands 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, moved to Lakeland after back-to-back seasons in low Class A. In 93 games, he posted a .255/.296/.433 and was 6% better than the league average.

Analysis: Massive raw power, tops in the system, Moya has totaled 33 doubles, eight triples and 21 homeruns in 144 games over the past two seasons. And that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg. The problem is his inability to put the ball in play and his abhorrence to the walk, though he’s made major strides in the last two years. There’s a chance he develops into a decent #5/#6-type hitter.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

9. Domingo Leyba, Position: 2B/SS, Age: 18

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

RK

247

194

.348

.446

.577

13.8%

10.5%

.229

15

8

5

16/24

Profile: As the Dominican Summer League’s top performer, Leyba made quick work of the competition, hitting .348/.446/.577 with 28 extra-base knocks in 57 games. His overall production was a whopping 94% better than the league average.

Analysis: Other than destroying the absolute lowest level of pitching there’s very little to go on. Leyba, whom the Tigers signed for $400,000 in July 2012, showed impressive power for a middle infielder playing half his games in a pitcher-friendly field. Certainly a name to watch.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

10. Austin Kubitza, Position: RHP, Age: 22

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

RK

8.1

2.16

2.51

5.40

1.08

16.7%

3.3%

0.00

69.6%

A+

17.0

5.82

4.43

7.41

5.29

18.0%

12.8%

0.00

51.0%

 Profile: One of my favorite collegiate players in the draft, the Tigers grabbed the Rice University stalwart in the fourth round last June. Kubitza’s 134 punch outs ranked fourth in the nation, trailing NC State ace and likely 2014 first pick Carlos Rondon, third pick Jonathan Gray, and Kyle McGowin. Kubitza tossed an additional 25.1 innings in pro ball, averaging 6.8 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9. 

Analysis: Love the swing-and-miss ability Kubitza showed during his three-year career at college powerhouse Rice. But control issues have plagued the 6-foot-5 right-hander. Over his last two seasons in college, Kubitza averaged 4.08 BB/9. Not entirely convinced that he’ll average more than eight punch outs per nine innings in pro ball, but he could be a nice #3/#4 option in a few years.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate




About

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.


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