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|1. Joe Jimenez, RHP|
|Born: 01/17/95||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 220||Throws: R|
Background: One of my personal favorite arms in the entire minor leagues – more on that later – Jimenez huffed and puffed and blew the bat out of everyone’s hands on his rapid ascension through the minor leagues last season. An undrafted free agent who signed out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy for $100,000 in 2013, Jimenez started the year off with Lakeland in the Florida State League and ended it with several loud knocks on the big league club’s door. In between, well, he sent all the little piggies running wee, wee, wee, all the way home. The flame-throwing right-hander posted a 28-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 17.1 innings in High Class A without allowing a run – either earned or unearned.
Detroit bumped him up to Erie in late May. And that trip lasted less than two full months. In between he threw 20.2 innings while fanning a whopping 42.5% and walking 10.0% of the total hitters he faced.
Jimenez got the call up to the International League in late July – where he would throw another 15.2 innings, mostly of the dominant variety.
When the dust settled on his three-level expenditure Jimenez had racked up 78 punch outs, just 17 walks, and an aggregate 1.51 ERA. Oh, and if you’re into those kinds of things, he also saved 30 games, tied for the fourth best total in the minor leagues.
Projection: Let’s take a trip on the WayBack Machine, shall we? Here’s what I wrote about the budding star when I ranked him as the fifth best prospect in the system in 2015:
“Granted, it’s two small sample sizes, but he’s been utterly dominant. And as far as initial returns on an investment, Jimenez has rewarded the club with more than enough hope. You’d have to assume that given the dominance and ease, the Tigers would think about moving him into the rotation down the line.”
I upped the ante even further when I ranked him as the club’s second best prospect heading into last year (and #81 in all of baseball), writing:
“Unfurling an upper-90s heater in the MLB Futures Game, Jimenez has the potential to develop into a top-notch starting pitcher – if the organization eases the reins a bit on the dominant hurler. Please, please push him into the rotation. I’m literally begging. He’s thrown just 87.2 innings in his career; it’s time to find out what he’s capable of.
One thing to watch in the coming years: he lived – without dying – by the fly ball last season, so homeruns may become an issue at some point in the near future, maybe.”
I really, really wish the Tigers would throw him in the rotation and watch him blossom into a very promising front-of-the-rotation caliber arm. They won’t. But, damn, I really wish they would.
Among all MiLB pitchers with at least 50 innings last season, Jimenez posted the sixth best strikeout percentage (38.4%) and the tenth best strikeout-to-walk percentage (30.1%).
What else is there to write? He’s freakin’ really, really good. He’d be way more valuable in the rotation…
Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2017
|2. Matt Manning, RHP|
|Born: 01/28/98||Age: 19||Bats: R||Top CALs: Cristian Javier, Brent Fisher, Kyle Allen, Trevor Reckling, Deryk Hooker|
|Height: 6-6||Weight: 190||Throws: R|
Background: After taking Beau Burrows with the 22nd overall pick two years ago, the Tigers once again dipped into the high school ranks and grab a high upside right-hander with their first pick – taking the 6-foot-6, 190-pound Manning with the ninth overall selection. The club came to terms with the California native, agreeing to sign him to the full allotted amount: $3,505,800. Manning spent his entire – brief – debut in the Gulf Coast League, simply blowing away everyone – and everything – holding a piece of lumber in their hands. He fanned a mindboggling 46 hitter while walking only seven in just 29.1 innings of work.
Projection: There’s not a whole lot of data to go off of. But just consider the following:
- Since 2006, here’s a list of 18-year-old pitchers to post a strikeout percentage of at least 37.0% with a minimum of 20 innings: Manning, Daniel McGrath (2013), Josh Hader (2012), Jose Berrios (2012), Alejandro Chacin (2011), Danny Duffy (2007), Trevor Reckling (2007), Brent Fisher (2006), and Clayton Kershaw (2006).
Obviously, Manning could end up being anything at this point. But it’s incredibly promising when half of the aforementioned names turned out to be pretty damn good hurlers. Per the usual with incoming prep prospects, it’ll be a wait-and-see approach until the sample size gets bigger.
Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell
MLB ETA: N/A
|3. Christin Stewart, LF|
|Born: 12/10/93||Age: 23||Bats: L||Top CALs: Sergio Pedroza, Zoilo Almonte, Dylan Davis, Jaycob Brugman, Khris Davis|
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 205||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact Part I: Stewart finished with the fifth most homeruns (24) among all High Class A bats last season. Fun Fact Part II: He slugged all those dingers in just 104 games with the Flying Tigers; the four players ahead of him on the homerun leader board appeared in at least 18 more games at the level. During his time in the Florida State League the former University of Tennessee stud was one of the most lethal bats in the minors last season, slugging .264/.403/.534 with 22 doubles, one triple, and, of course, those 24 long balls. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by a whopping 74%. The front office pushed him up to the Eastern League in early August for another 24 games. Overall, the former first round pick slugged an aggregate .255/.386/.517 with 24 doubles, a triple, and 30 homeruns.
Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about the lefty-swinging corner outfielder heading into the draft:
“Solid overall offensive toolkit without a true standout tool that would play well in the professional ranks. Stewart has an average approach at the plate, decent hit tool, and 15- to 17-homerun power. While his career ISO stands a couple ticks above .220, it’s important to remember that Tennessee’s home ballpark, Lindsey Nelson Stadium, slightly enhances offensive production as well.
In terms of professional ceiling, Stewart looks like a backup outfielder.”
Yeah, I got that one wrong. Stewart’s production in the Eastern League severely tainted his overall numbers. But after a rocky start with the SeaWolves he batted an impressive – and High Class A-like – .262/.364/.523 over his remaining 18 games. The patience at the plate was extraordinary. And the power, of course, was some of the best in the minors last season. If he can continue to handle lefties as well as righties then Stewart should have no problem handling full time duty at the big league club – even in Detroit’s spacious park. CAL links him to Khris Davis, which seems incredibly reasonable for a best case scenario.
Ceiling: 2.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2017/2018
|4. Beau Burrows, RHP|
|Born: 09/18/96||Age: 20||Bats: R||Top CALs: Jose Rios, P.J. Dean, Francis Martes, Anderson Espinoza, Zach Mcallister|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 200||Throws: R|
Background: Just like this year’s first round pick, Burrows, the club’s first round pick two years ago, turned in one helluva debut with the organization’s Gulf Coast League affiliate. In 28 innings of work, the Texas-born hurler tallied an impressive 33-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 1.61 ERA. The front office pushed the teenager up to the Midwest League in an aggressive promotion. And Burrows responded quite well. In 21 games with West Michigan, 20 of them being starts, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-hander fanned 67, walked just 30, and tallied a solid 3.15 ERA with a 3.47 FIP.
Projection: It wasn’t quite blue-chip caliber production. But Burrows, nonetheless, had a nice little year as he moved into full season action for the first time. He did a fine job limiting free passes, as well as keeping the ball in the park. The front office governed his innings, as they should, but he’s likely done enough to earn a promotion to High Class A at the start of 2017.
Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2019
|5. Tyler Alexander, LHP|
|Born: 07/14/94||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: ach lee, Edgar Osuna, Edgar Garcia, Gabriel Ynoa, Tim Berry|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 200||Throws: L|
Background: Texas Christian University’s churned out some impressive left-handed talent over the past couple of years – Brandon Finnegan, Alex Young, Matt Purke, and, of course, Tyler Alexander, whom the Tigers grabbed in the second round two years ago. Alexander, a stout 6-foot-2 and 200-pounds, was solid – yet far from dominant – during his two-year tenure in the Horned Frogs’ rotation. He would throw a combined 192.2 innings while averaging a mediocre 6.11 strikeouts and a video game-esque 0.98 walks every nine innings to go along with a 16-6 record and a 2.70 ERA.
Alexander proved to be too polished, too good for the New York-Penn League during his debut, throwing 37.0 innings with 33 punch-outs and just five free passes and a sparkling 0.97 ERA.
Convinced enough by the southpaw’s pitchability, the front office pushed him straight up to the Florida State League to begin last season – another test he easily passed. Across 102.0 innings of work, he posted an impressive 82-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 3.10 FIP. Detroit bumped him up to the Eastern League, the minors’ toughest challenge, later in the year for six more starts – mostly of the strong variety.
Overall, Alexander finished his first season with a combined 136.1 innings, a 2.44 ERA, and a 105-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Projection: Everything’s based off of Alexander’s ability to keep any excessive runners off base – meaning: his fantastic control. Just consider the following:
- There were 273 minor pitchers to throw at least 130 innings last season (including the Mexican League). Alexander’s walk percentage, 3.7%, was tied for the 12th best mark.
Besides that I cannot speak highly enough when a collegiate arm jumps up to Class AA before the end of his first full season in action.
His overall ceiling’s limited to that of a backend starting pitcher. He has to do a better job keeping the ball in the park.
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2017/2018
|6. Grayson Greiner, C|
|Born: 10/11/92||Age: 24||Bats: R||Top CALs: Steve Lerud, Zane Evans, Brian Peacock, Blake Forsythe, Alex Castillo|
|Height: 6-6||Weight: 220||Throws: R|
Background: Back from the scrap heap after a terrible, terrible 2015 season with the bat. Greiner, a third round pick out of the University of South Carolina three years ago, looked like he was swinging a wet noodle with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, hitting a lowly .183/.254/.2250 with just 12 doubles and three homeruns in 312 plate appearances. His overall production that year, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was a laughable – at least to an outsider – 43% below the league average mark. But the .278/.364/.435 career collegiate hitter found his stroke last season.
After another – albeit, a more successful stint back with the Flying Tigers, Greiner spent the second half of the year with Erie, as well as getting a one-game look with Toledo in the International League. Overall, Greiner slugged a much-improved .293/.339/.424 with 15 doubles, three triples, and seven homeruns in 91 games of work.
Projection: Per the usual with top collegiate picks, here’s what I wrote about him heading into the 2014 draft:
“Not entirely convinced he sticks behind the plate and if that’s the case I’m not entirely convinced his stick plays anywhere else. Plus, the raw defensive data doesn’t look entirely strong either.
The hit tool and plate discipline are average at best, but there’s some projection left in the power department, perhaps peaking with 20- to 22-HR down the line. If everything breaks right – and by that, I mean everything – he could be a lite version of Mike Napoli.”
Well, after his craptacular year in 2015, Greiner got back on track to be a lite version of Mike Napoli. Prorating his production from last year over a full 162-game season, here are his numbers: 27 doubles, five triples, and 13 homeruns. But Greiner didn’t really tap into his power potential until moving up to Class AA; he slugged nine of his doubles and all seven homeruns in 59 games with Erie. Defensively, he’s thrown out 31% of would-be base stealers in his minor league career.
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2017
|7. Steven Moya, LF/RF|
|Born: 08/09/91||Age: 25||Bats: L||Top CALs: Randal Grichuk, Jerry Sands, Willy Garcia, David Winfree, Peter O’Brien|
|Height: 6-7||Weight: 260||Throws: R|
Background: For the third consecutive season, the big bopper from Puerto Rico reached the 20-homer plateau. And for the third consecutive season Moya spent some brief time in Motown. The massive, 6-foot-7, 260-pound lefty-swinging corner outfielder slugged a respectable .284/.310/.501 with 23 doubles, three triples, 20 homeruns, and three stolen bases. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 20%. As for his time with the Tigers, well, he swung big, hit him far, and missed a lot. He batted .255/.290/.500 with four doubles, two triples, and five homeruns with a 106 wRC+.
Projection: A poor man’s Three True Outcomes type hitter. Moya’s raw power remains some of the best in baseball as he generates incredible loft from his massive 6-foot-7 frame. But he barely walks – his 3.5% walk rate last season was the worst of his career – though he did manage to post the best strikeout percentage of his career (22.5%). Even though it’s a relatively short sample size, Moya’s 133 plate appearances with the Detroit are indicative of his actual talent level: .250/.293/.452 with a 96 wRC+.
Ceiling: 1.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
|8. Kyle Funkhouser, RHP|
|Born: 03/16/94||Age: 23||Bats: R||Top CALs: Jason Stephens, Tom Chism, Sam Brown, Ben Watkins, Felix Santos|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 220||Throws: R|
Background: “It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for him.” – DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story. That line’s become rather famous on the Interwebs. And it certainly applies to the big right-hander from the University of Louisville. The Dodgers originally drafted Funkhouser with the 35th overall pick two years ago, but couldn’t come to terms – despite reportedly offering a deal between $1.7 and $2 million. Funkhouser, according to those same reports, didn’t even fly out to see the team after his selection. So he headed back to Louisville for his senior season.
And let’s just say things didn’t work out quite as well.
After struggling with his control over the first two years of his collegiate career, Funkhouser walked a career low 3.61 BB/9 during his junior season. That number jumped back up during his final year, averaging 4.53 walks per nine innings. He still maintained an impressive K-rate (9.16 K/9) but battled long ball issues for the first time as well.
The Tigers grabbed the sliding former first round pick in the fourth round last June, the 115th overall pick. Funkhouser, now forced to sign as a senior, agreed to an over-slot bonus of $750,000 – or about a cool $1 million difference between his 2015 offer. He made 13 appearances in the New York-Penn League, posting a 34-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 37.1 innings of work.
Projection: So, here’s what I wrote about the talented right-hander prior to the draft two years ago:
“A big, big arm with mid-rotation potential as he sits today – just as the case with Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer.
But Funkhouser comes with some added risk: nearly 16% of his season’s strikeouts have come from his dominant performance against Alabama State to open the season; he whiffed 12 in seven innings. Since then he’s averaged just under 7.8 punch-outs-per-innings.
He looks like a #3-type arm who could very easily slide into a backend reliever role in the coming years.”
And here’s what I wrote prior to last year’s draft after his up-and-down senior season:
“Well, the big arm from Palos Heights, Illinois, looks more like a relief option than he does a starting pitcher.
Funkhouser has never shown anything better than suboptimal control; he’s averaged 4.35 BB/9 in his career. But he does a good job keeping the ball in the park and will average about a whiff per inning.
It’s pretty safe to assume that whichever team grabs him in the draft this year will give him a couple opportunities to start – so he may figure it out in the minors – but he could be pushed quickly when he makes the move to a backend relief option.”
Ceiling: 1.5-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2019
|9. Mike Gerber, RF|
|Born: 07/08/92||Age: 24||Bats: L||Top CALs: Brandon Jones, Blake Smith, Scott Cousins, Marvin Lowrance, Zoilo Almonte|
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 190||Throws: R|
Background: A tremendous little find in the 2014 draft – at least in terms of value vs. draft slot. The Tigers grabbed the senior outfielder in the 15th round, 460th overall, after a stellar career at Creighton. He left the school as a career .278/.350/.476 hitter with 34 doubles, 13 triples, and 27 homeruns in 192 total games. A little more than two years later, he reached the Eastern League. Gerber turned in a solid debut, hitting .298/.367/.492 and followed that up with a rock-solid showing in the Midwest League in 2015: he slugged .292/.355/.468 with 31 doubles, 10 triples, 13 homeruns, and 16 stolen bases (in 20 attempts). His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 35%.
The Tigers bumped him up to High Class A at the start of last season, which lasted 91 games, before getting the call-up to Class AA. Overall, he batted .276/.345/.466 with 30 doubles, six triples, 18 homeruns, and eight stolen bases.
Projection: Gerber’s prospect status can be summed up with one simple word: efficient. He does everything well enough to actually have a shot at developing into a fringy big league regular outfielder, without truly raising too many red flags. He walks some with some higher-ish swing-and-miss totals. He shows enough speed to be a double-digit stolen base threat and leg out a few triples.
Keep an eye on his ability – or inability – to handle fellow southpaws. He struggled mightily against them two years ago, but looked solid vs. them last season.
Ceiling: 1.5-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2019
|10. Derek Hill, CF|
|Born: 12/30/95||Age: 21||Bats: R||Top CALs: Delta Cleary, Daniel Carroll, Reymond Fuentes, Austin Jackson, Henry Ramos|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 195||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact: The speedy center fielder, who is the son of Dodgers scout Orsino Hill, was the fourth outfielder picked in the 2014 draft, being taken behind Alex Jackson, Michael Conforto, and Bradley Zimmer. And while the two elder ball players of the aforementioned group zoomed through the minors, Hill and Jackson have struggled over the course of their 2.5 seasons in professional ball. Hill looked overwhelmed – and quite poor – during his 47-game stint debut between the Gulf Coast League and short – season action, hitting a disappointing .208/.296/.295 with just eight extra-base hits.
Undeterred, however, the club pushed him straight up to the Midwest League the following season. And, of course, he failed – and flailed away – at the more advanced pitching.
In a shortened 53-game season, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound outfielder batted a disappointing .238/.305/.314 with just 11 extra-base hits and 25 stolen bases in 235 trips to the plate. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 18% below the league average mark.
So Detroit did the prudent thing and sent him back to Low Class A for another – hopefully more successful – stint. It was. It just wasn’t impressive. In yet another injury-shortened campaign, Hill batted a slightly below league average .266/.312/.349 with 17 doubles, six triples, and one homerun while going 35-for-41 in the stolen base department.
His 2016 season ended on a mid-August throw from center field. He underwent the knife for reconstructive elbow surgery and is expected to miss half of the 2017 season.
Projection: Speed – it’s the only thing that Hill has to offer at this point. It’s certainly not power because he’s slugged just three homeruns across his first 193 games. And it’s definitely not health as he was limited to just 146 total games the last two years.
And he can’t even count on his best skill because he hardly finds first base often enough; he’s sporting a disappointing .306 career OBP. At this point, it’s hard envisioning him developing into anything more than just a backup big league outfielder.
Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2019
Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com