Prospects Poised To Break Out in 2013
RF Steven Moya (Class A+ Lakeland)
In his second go around at low A West Michigan, the 6'7 255 pound 20 year old (during last season), Moya started to show flashes of his batting practice light tower power in games. Unfortunately, his season was cut short by Tommy John surgery a couple months into the season, but the outfielder looks to be in better shape than ever. Heading to A+ could be a tough assignment for him, but if he improves as much from last season to this season as he did from 2011 to 2012, Moya should be fine. Still young and insanely raw, as he's only played in professional games, I'd like to see Moya improve on his BB/K ratio. Since coming stateside, he's walked 29 times while striking out 250 in 739 plate appearances. That's a 3.9% walk rate and a 34% K rate. Needless to say, that's awful. No question that he's improved upon the 64 strikeouts in 144 PA of 2010, but 10 K's for 1 walk is not a way to make it to the big leagues.
With all of that being said, Moya's a wonderful physical specimen, and it seems like he's starting to grow into his "man" body. Last season, he made solid contact more than ever before, smashing 23 xbh in only ~250 plate appearances, and hitting .288. While he has high ‘bust' potential, it's good for the Tigers to start adding some high-risk-high-reward type talents to their currently barren system. All it takes is one or two of these guys to hit for the risks to pay off. The way the team is currently built, it's hard to get a job on the big club, and it's not like a team full of prospects is going to be taking the field at Comerica anytime soon.
RHP Will Clinard (Class A+ Lakeland)
In the words of Brian, "lather me up". I love me some Will Clinard. Drafted in the 18th round of last year's player entry draft out of Vanderbilt, the 6'4 225 pound right hander put up some solid numbers in the Connecticut league before ending the season with West Michigan. In total, he ended up throwing 37 innings, surrendering 35 hits and 9 walks, striking out 39 and holding opponents to a 2.41 ERA. Numbers are all well and good, but as a minor league player progresses, it's important to see how exactly they are putting up their particular numbers, more than just the numbers themselves. While this type of thing has been spoken to many times on this site, if minor league numbers were the most important thing, Brad Eldred and Adam Wilk would be stars. But they aren't.
Anyway, back to Clinard. In my best Jon Gruden voice "this guy's cutter is something special. You just don't see cutters like this out on a ball field anymore." And he'd be right. While the 23 year old right hander does have an above average fastball that comes in at 91-92, a passable slider, and a change up that will probably be scrapped sooner rather than later, the cutter is his token to the major leagues. As a reliever, the three pitches are more than enough, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him throw a Mike Adams-esque 45% cutters. In fact, it wouldn't shock me to see Clinard come up in September. Detroit has shown in the past that they are more than willing to let relief prospects fly through the system, especially someone with an advanced repertoire like Will's. Keep an eye on this guy, because after 30 or 40 good appearances, you may see him in Comerica Park before long.
LHP Logan Ehlers (Class A West Michigan)
As of right now, Ehlers is still in extended spring training. However, I think that by the time the 2013 season is over, Ehlers will have shot through the Midwest League (West Michigan) and may end up in High-A. I've made no mistake in letting people know just how big of a fan of Ehlers' I am (he's sort of the pitcher version of Devon Travis for me, meaning that I'm really, really high on them while others may not be). He's a lefty with good stuff and the command to go along with it. He'll sit in the 92-93 range with his four-seamer, occasionally bumping a bit higher, but commanding the pitch well with excellent plane to the plate. He'll also throw a 2 seamer a tick slower than his 4 seamer (around 89-91), but with good sink that generates a lot of groundballs. He also features a slider that grades as plus pretty consistently, and a curve/change combo that offers average projection as well. Ehlers has somewhat of a rough health record, with no significant injuries but a few instances of shoulder fatigue (most recently at the end of 2012). The latest report I have is that he's healthy and throwing at extended spring training, so I believe it's only a matter of time before he's in West Michigan's rotation; and if he's right, it shouldn't be much of a challenge for him.
SS Dixon Machado (Class AA Erie)
Machado is on the DL to start the season with a minor injury, but once he returns I think he could have a legitimate breakout season in 2013. Now, for Machado, a "breakout" season in my mind is continuing to play plus-plus defense, steal 20+ bases, while hitting in the mid-high .200's. This spring training he looked noticeably bigger and stronger, and it showed in the small sample size of at bats that I was able to see. He's always had good contact skills, but he's never been strong enough to generate enough bat speed to make anything more than weak contact consistently. This year, that looks to have changed. He'll never be a plus hitter, nor will he ever hit for much power; but his glove work is so elite that even if he can hit .250 at the major league level, he's an everyday shortstop. Now, I don't think we're looking at a future star here, but as I've said, if Machado can maintain his contact skills, defense, and speed while making more solid contact with more consistency, the Tigers "shortstop of the future" may be closer to Detroit than any of us thought.
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