Since every other major prospect institution is getting involved in prospect rankings at this time of the year (and since we still have time to kill until pitchers and catchers) it makes sense to look over the farm system and take a look at some of the best and worst prospects kicking around in the minors. So, this is my top 20 prospect list (with a format modeled very closely off the one at Minor League Ball).
Of course, there's more than just this list. In the next few days, expect more in-depth comments for prospects 16-30 to pop up in some fashion. As for the top 15, well you'll just have to order the Maple Street Press 2011 Detroit Tigers Annual, won't you?
A primer on the grades:
Grade A Prospects: The best of the best, the cream of the crop, the elite of the elite. These are guys that turn into superstars (your Justin Verlanders and Curtis Grandersons). Grade A prospects will almost all make the major leagues barring injury (for pitches this disclaimer is very important) and these are the types of players that change hands for elite guys like Zach Greinke and Hanley Ramirez.
Grade B Prospects: Still very good players with tons of potential, but more question marks than Grade A players. Grade B prospects will, for the most part, make the big leagues in some fashion, though the younger they are the less certainty there is. Some of these guys might manage to turn into stars, but most turn into regulars like Brandon Inge or Carlos Guillen (when healthy). These grade B guys are the types of players that change in hands in smaller trades for players like Matt Garza.
Grade C Prospects: A mixed bag. Grade C players are either players who are low-ceiling finished products that will contribute on the bench or in the bullpen (Ramon Santiago, Brad Thomas) or toolsy, high ceiling guys that have tons of question marks and are a long way away (Giovanni Soto or Danry Vasquez). These are the types of guys you deal for complementary players (think the Jhonny Peralta for Giovanni Soto trade).
Bear in mind that players with the same grade are roughly interchangeable. Just because your favorite guy is a C at 18 doesn't mean he's worse than the C at 26, it just means that I prefer the guy at 18 slightly more. That being said, let's take a look at the Tigers below the jump!
1. Jacob Turner, RHP, Grade A-: Fantastic prospect that could be even more dominant next year.
2. Nick Castellanos, 3B, Grade B+: I'm being really optimistic here but he could be the next big impact hitter in Detroit if everything goes right.
3. Andy Oliver, LHP, Grade B: Doing a complete 180 on Oliver. I now think he's underrated and I wouldn't be shocked to see him in Detroit next year.
4. Chance Ruffin, RHP, Grade B: I'm high on him- he'll be the next Huston Street.
5. Daniel Fields, OF, Grade B-: Toosly guy who put up a league average OPS and walked a ton at High-A. At 19.
6. Robbie Weinhardt, RHP, Grade B-: I still think he can set up in Detroit.
7. Daniel Schlereth, LHP, Grade B-: Stuff is great, walks terrify me.
8. Brayan Villarreal, RHP, Grade B-: Numbers are good, but he's old for his level.
9. Casey Crosby, LHP, Grade C+: I'm fickle, but the health concerns have to worry everyone.
10. Charlie Furbush, LHP, Grade C+: A bit high, but I really like him.
11. Wade Gaynor, 3B, Grade C+: A bit high, but I really like him (and so do the Tigers).
12. Adam Wilk, LHP, Grade C+: A pitchability lefty and a potential #5 in Detroit.
13. Rob Brantly, C, Grade C+: I've heard great things about his swing, and he should stay at C. Big sleeper.
14. Zach Simons, RHP, Grade C+: FREE ZACH SIMONS! Could be a good 7th inning guy, maybe a setup man.
15. Casper Wells, OF, Grade C+: Not as good as the end of last year, but at worst a great fourth outfielder.
16. Francisco Martinez, 3B, Grade C+: Kind of irritated I put him so far down on this list now, but he's a tools project.
17. Danry Vasquez, OF, Grade C: Toolsy guy who the Tigers will undoubtedly push hard next year.
18. Andy Dirks, OF, Grade C: Scrappy guy, potential fourth outfielder who doesn't have one standout skill.
19. Lester Oliveros, RHP, Grade C: I have a reliever bias, but he's got some serious potential if he can hit the strike zone.
20. Drew Smyly, LHP, Grade C: He'll probably break out and make me look like a fool, but the low upside scares me.
22. Alex Burgos, LHP, Grade C: Moderate sleeper: his stuff is polished but not excellent. On the other hand, he's young. I like him.
23. Brandon Douglas, INF, Grade C: High-average type player, but has some potential as a bench guy.
24. Bryan Holaday, C, Grade C: Backup catcher of the future.
25. Cody Satterwhite, RHP, Grade C: High ceiling until labrum surgery, but I can hope, right?
26. Avisail Garcia, OF, Grade C: Toolbox who still can't quite play. Needs to stay at West Michigan.
27. Ryan Strieby, 1B, "LF", DH, Grade C: Good bat if healthy, but where does he play?
28. John Murrian, C, Grade C: Another potential backup catcher.
29. James Robbins, 1B, Grade C: Strikeout rate scares me, but he's got youth going for him.
30. Bruce Rondon, RHP, Grade C: Did I mention I hate relievers, especially relief prospects in the Gulf Coast League?
Overall: Pretty good pitching talent, but there are oh-so-many minor league relievers. I even tried to avoid putting relievers on this list and a bunch snuck on. Turner and Oliver are a good 1-2, and if I'm wrong on Smyly (like I was on another left-handed second round draft pick last year) then the Tigers are in a good place in the rotation. The bullpen prospects are pretty good, but I had to make a conscious effort to avoid putting incredibly young pitchers with good stuff on this list: bullpen talent at A ball does not mean that you are a top-30 guy. It means you are worth keeping an eye on.
The position player situation is miserable. It's Castellanos (ETA 2013-2014), Fields (ETA 2013-2014) and a whole lot of nothing. Guys like Will Rhymes (graduated), Scott Sizemore (no longer rookie eligible) and Casper Wells will help in the short run, but there are few reinforcements.
There's probably more C grade talent not on this list (Dixon Machado, Jose Ortega, Scott Green) but, again, it doesn't really matter. The Tigers have their handful of blue-chip players and a whole bunch of scratch-off lottery tickets.