The ranking of the top 30 prospects moves into full scale with 26-29 on our list. (Here's No. 30, in case you missed it.)
Just a side note, I was unable to get video of a few of these prospects. Better phrased, I was unable to get video that I could track down the user and ask permission. If you type these guys in on YouTube, there are a few random snippets here and there.
29. Buck Farmer: 6'3", 220 lbs., RHP
Farmer was taken in the 5th round of the 2013 draft out of Georgia Tech. This was the third time that he had been drafted (Braves in '09 and Brewers in '12). Farmer projects as a back of the rotation starter, who can contribute innings to a contending team.
Projected 2014 team: Low-A West Michigan
Video courtesy of Al Skorupa
Farmer was the sixth pitcher taken by the Tigers in the 2013 draft, and, no surprise, he comes from a big school, he's large, and right handed. The Tigers limited his work load to 32 innings after he signed, as he had already thrown 113 innings for Georgia Tech throughout the college season.
Farmer has a bit of a funky delivery, and he drops and drives towards home plate, which I dislike. At this point in his career, it's pretty difficult to change natural habits or make a delivery overhaul, so if it works for him, it makes sense to stick with it. He hides the ball behind his back, and slings it from a 3/4 arm angle. While he keeps the fastball down really well, his delivery inhibits him from generating downward plane, and therefore, he has trouble sinking the fastball. He gets his hands into a solid position at the top of his delivery, but immediately breaks them and falls downward toward the third base dugout. I would like to see him use some finger pressure in order to manipulate the fastball, running it inside to right-handed batters. Sometimes, he has the propensity to crouch into a question mark on the rubber, and while his fastball control is above average, it can cause him to lose command on both sides of the plate. His fastball ranges from 89-93 miles per hour.
He does, however, have two very usable secondary offerings. The curveball is a bit slow at 72-75 miles per hour, but features good bite, and tight spin when he snaps a good one off. Farmer drops down a bit in his delivery, which can prohibit his fingers from getting on top of the pitch, and it can come out of the side of his hand. With more repetition and work, the curveball should be a tick above average, or even a plus pitch. Of his two breaking pitches, the curveball and the slider, the curve ball is the one that will end up sticking in his bag of tricks at the big league level. The slider is a "show me" pitch at this point, and doesn't add much to his arsenal. He does show the ability to generate spin, and actually has the arm slot and arsenal to add a cutter. You'll notice that I request this of a lot of projected back of the rotation starters, simply because the cutter is a pervasive pitch in baseball right now, and plenty of pitchers have had success adding it to their arsenal.
Farmer's changeup is advanced for a right-handed pitcher at this point as well. He has the ability to throw it for a strike, even as the first pitch in a sequenece. It's not a swing-and-miss pitch necessarily, even though it possesses good movement, but comes out of the same arm slot as his other pitches, and is about 10 miles per hour slower. It's pretty close to a major league average pitch at this point, and should also get better with more reps.
At this point in time, Farmer peppers the strike zone, however, he needs to refine his overall command profile in order to pitch in a major league rotation. He's the type of guy who will eat up lower minor league hitting, but may struggle in the higher minors before making adjustments. His delivery makes him difficult for right handed hitters to pick up, and if he can make that leap in command, he should be able to stick in a major league rotation.
28. Connor Harrell: 6'3", 215 lbs., OF
Projected 2014 Team: High-A Lakeland
Harrell was taken in the seventh round of the 2013 draft out of Vanderbilt. Surprise! The Tigers like guys from the SEC. Stop me if you've heard this before. Harrell has an excellent baseball body, a physical player, whose body projection is limited. However, he's essentially in his "man body" at this point, which is completely fine.
Unfortunately, I do not have usable video on Harrell at this time.
I wrote about Harrell in my West Michigan Scouting notes from August 24 and 25, which you can read here. Aforementioned, he's got a prototypical baseball player's body, with plus speed and athleticism. I clocked him at 4.14 seconds from home to 1B. He has shown the ability to handle all three OF positions at the pro level, and as long as his speed holds up, he should be able to play CF at the major league level. Although I didn't see him air out any throws, reports state that his arm is major league average, or even a tick above.
At the plate, Harrell was able to barrel up Midwest League fastballs, which is unsurprising, as he's a guy from a big time school in the very low minors. When I saw him, he made hard contact various times, and had a plan of attack at the plate. There was a small hitch in his load, which could be the cause of his diminished numbers throughout his 2013 season, but I would expect that to be ironed out sooner rather than later. He showed some pop in his bat as well, even though the stats don't necessarily support that at this point. I'm anxious to see Harrell against higher level pitching, specifically how he reacts to breaking balls. He has had issues with pitch recognition in the past, and may expand the zone against more advanced pitching.
Harrell fell in the draft due to a poor junior year, hitting only .241/.353/.433. He hit well his first two years at Vanderbilt, and even hit .300/.381/.414 starting as a Freshman in the SEC. If Harrell can improve his barrel control and pitch recognition skills, he has the raw tools in order to be a very good 4th outfielder, as he can impact the game in a variety of ways. I don't believe he'll be able to hit enough to be an every day player, but he possesses a similar skill set to Daniel Fields (who will be featured in this top 30), with about 90% of the upside. I like when the Tigers draft players in this kind of mold, and wish they'd do it more often.
27. Will Clinard: 6'4", 225 lbs., RHP
Will Clinard was drafted in the 19th round of the 2012 draft out of Vanderbilt. The Tigers drafted a senior from a big school. Really, this is my shocked face. Clinard, however, looks to be a steal, as he's progressed nicely in the Tigers minor league system. His year was clearly a tale of two parts, as he absolutely dominated A+ and struggled in AA.
Projected 2014 Team: Double-A Erie
Video above is from Tri state of mind baseball
|Trajectory and Movement - from 03/30/2007 to 01/19/2014|
|Pitch Type||Count||Freq||Velo (mph)||pfx HMov (in.)||pfx VMov (in.)||H. Rel (ft.)||V. Rel (ft.)|
Above data is from Brooks Baseball. It was taken from Spring Training 2013. I understand it's only 19 pitches, but it's all that is registered. If nothing else, it speaks to the fact that Clinard relies heavily on his cutter.
Sometimes, when looking at players, you have to go against consensus and go with your gut. There are a few guys in this top 30 that I am far off from the consensus, be it higher or lower. Clinard happens to be a guy that I am higher on than the prospect community. In fact, at the beginning of last year's run at Lakeland, I projected that Clinard could make an impact in Detroit's 2014 bullpen. In fact, I still believe that.
Clinard has a prototypical pitcher's body at 6'4", 225 lbs. with thick legs. His mechanics have no red flags, and he is able to throw on back to back days. Clinard's arsenal includes four pitches (a straight fastball, change up, cutter, and slider) but his most standard offering is his cutter. The change up and slider lag behind at this point in time. He also throws a two-seam fastball that breaks the opposite way of his cutter, and that's typically in the low 90s. His cutter is around 89-91, and has boring action in on left handed hitters with late life. This is a pitch that can be thrown at any time, in any count, and generate either a swing and miss, and also accounts for his high ground ball rate.
In Double-A Erie, Clinard struggled to command his cutter as well as he was earlier in the year at High-A Lakeland, and it showed up in the box score. He was unable to move the ball around in the strike zone, and his stuff would flatten out. He absolutely dominated Lakeland, allowing only 5 earned runs in 28 innings, yet was touched up a bit in Erie, surrendering a 5.50 ERA in 34 innings. He also struggled to throw strikes, yielding 20 walks in as many innings, after only walking five in A+. Control has not been a problem throughout his career, so I wouldn't glean too much from a series of appearances which he struggled to throw strikes. He was also often afraid to come inside to both left-handed and right-handed hitters, and they were able to leak out over the plate and barrel up his offerings. Clinard has an aptitude for pitching, so I believe he will make adjustments in this upcoming season, and due to his advanced age (24), along with his strike throwing prowess, he could throw some innings down the stretch for the Tigers.
Clinard needs to continue to refine his cutter, and work on his overall command going forward. He also needs to focus on changing hitter's eye level, and making sure that he moves his pitches around in the zone. Sometimes his pitching patterns would become too predictable. His cutter is one of the best in all of minor league baseball, however, and could be his calling card. Remember, relievers are fungible. Their performance varies year to year. With a couple of adjustments, a guy like Clinard could go from struggling at Double-A to pitching the seventh inning for the Tigers, especially when he possesses a plus MLB cutter. Clinard's ceiling is that of a solid late innings reliever, not a closer at the MLB level, and he should continue to move quickly through the Tigers system.
26. Zach Reininger: 6'3", 170 lbs., RHP
Reininger was drafted out of Hill Junior College (#Texan) in the eighth round of the 2013 draft. He absolutely dominated short season college ball as Connecticut's closer last summer. Reininger remains a project, but he's got advanced pitchability, and still some projectability remaining for a 21 year old (on January 28), and looks like a steal in the 8th round of the draft.
Projected 2014 Team: Low-A West Michigan
No video is available for Reininger at this time.
The Tigers did a nice job of identifying a projectable talent in the 8th round of this year's draft. Reports indicate that Reininger was 85-87 in late 2012, and he was already 90-92 this past summer in Connecticut. He has also recently gone through a growth spurt. Reininger has a thin build, and has the frame to carry and additional 20-30 pounds. I wouldn't be surprised to see him add another tick in velocity either.
While he was the closer for Connecticut last season, I'm going to guess that he's a starter for at least some point in 2014. He's got a starter's body, the stuff plays, and they may as well see if it works. I don't know exactly how they'll handle him, whether it'll be piggybacking starts, or if he's a starter half the year then a reliever, or what exactly the protocol is going to be. In fact, the Reininger situation is one of the most abstract in the Tigers system to me at this point, so I'm anxious to see how it shakes out.
Reininger has a large and distinctive leg kick, and peppers the strike zone with his fastball. He certainly has an idea of how to pitch, and completely abused some college hitters in Connecticut this past season. His command is ever improving, and he's able to sequence his pitches at an advanced level. He's got two breaking balls, both a curveball and a slider that don't have much velocity separation from one another. Each show promise at this point, yet lag behind his fastball. He mixes in a change up as well, but it's certainly a work in progress
I would project Reininger as a back end starter for now, but there's the possibility that he is able to add a tick to his fastball, and would then become more of a middle of the rotation guy. There are still some question marks, like whether or not he can sustain a full season workload of starts, how his body will add weight, and also the development of his off-speed pitches. Reininger is a bit abstract at this point, even though he's 21 years old. The next 18 months are integral in his development, and I'm looking forward to watching him pitch this season.