In this 6 part series, I will take a look at the Tigers' 2012 draft class, how they fared statistically in their first professional seasons, and shortly preview what to look for from them in 2013. 33 of the Tigers 39 selections signed with the team.
Pick No. 1: RHP Jake Thompson-2nd Round (91st overall)-Rockwell-Heath HS (Texas)
Stats (GCL Tigers-Rookie League): 1-2, 1.91 ERA, 28 1/3 IP, 14 H, 10 BB, 31 K, 0.85 WHIP, .149 BAA
Thoughts: Thompson was on a strict innings limit when he came into pro ball, what with being only 18 and having pitched a full high school season already, so don't be concerned by the seemingly low innings totals. He fits the mold of the prototypical big power right-hander, already standing 6'4" and weighing 235lbs. I mean, for comparison's sake, I grew nearly 3 inches after I turned 18, so there may still be some growing left for Thompson to do. He's a 3 pitch guy, with a fastball, slider, and change. Fastball currently sits at about 91-93, touching 95, and I see a bit of projection left there, so he could potentially sit 93-94 and reach back for 97 in the future. His slider already flashes plus potential, and could become a legitimate plus pitch with development. His changeup is average as it sits right now, but shows potential to develop into an above average pitch in the future. I see a 3 starter ceiling if all goes well, but there are a few scouts who see him moving to the bullpen as a late-innings reliever, especially if his changeup doesn't develop, but that move is still a few years away, if at all.
2013 Projection: I think he'll be in West Michigan's (Low-A) rotation to open the season, and ideally he'd stay there all year, but there is the possibility that he could move to Lakeland (Advanced-A) as the season progresses.
MLB ETA: He won't turn 19 until late January, and is still very raw. He won't move particularly fast, but that's by no means a bad thing. I'll say he gets a taste of the big leagues in 2015, with potential to stay permanently by 2016, and even that may be a bit fast.
No. 2: CF Austin Schotts-3rd Round (121st Overall)-Centennial HS (Texas)
Stats (GCL Tigers-Rookie League): .310/.360/.452/.812. 40 games, 155 AB, 48 H, 11 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 31 R, 12 BB, 41 K, 15 SB.
Thoughts: Schotts was a shortstop in high school, but was immediately converted to center field by the Tigers upon being drafted. He flashes 70 running potential, and is arguably the fastest runner in the Tigers system (Ismael Salgado and Rashad Brown are also burners). He's still learning the outfield, but already shows a knack for taking good, instinctive routes to balls, and his plus-plus speed allows him to make up for some of the rawness and inexperience he has. He's a very solid raw hitter, showing a good ability to make solid contact and drive the ball to all fields. He already possesses pretty good doubles power, and has projection for more HR power as he matures and fills out. Profiles as an above-average regular in CF at the MLB level, and should be a top-of-the-order hitter as well.
2013 Projection: I'm almost positive he'll go to West Michigan (Low-A) and play CF everyday there. He got a cup of coffee with Lakeland to end 2012, but I think that, barring an offensive explosion, he'll spend the entirety of 2013 with West Michigan.
MLB ETA: He's still learning how to play center field, and will still only be 19 years old in 2013, so I don't think he'll move abnormally fast through the system. If all goes well, he should be ready for a September call up in 2015, if only for his speed and defense, with the potential to earn a roster spot in 2016, although 2017 seems more likely given his age and rawness.
No. 3: RHP Drew VerHagen-4th Round (154th Overall)-Vanderbilt
Stats (Combined Rookie League GCL Tigers and Advanced-A Lakeland): 0-3, 3.48 ERA, 31 IP, 25 H, 14 BB, 19 K, 1.26 WHIP, .221 BAA
Thoughts: I tabbed VerHagen as my "fast-mover" of the Tigers draft class before he ever reported to the GCL team, and I was proven somewhat correct in that he spent the majority of his first professional season at Advanced-A Lakeland. Scouts are torn on whether VerHagen profiles better as a starter or reliever, but regardless of profile, he definitely fits the Tigers mold of starting pitchers, being that he stands 6'6" and has been clocked as high as 97 on his fastball. Perhaps what I like most about VerHagen is that he showed an ability to get strikeouts (19 in 31IP, albeit not an overwhelming amount) while at the same time showing a great ability to get ground balls (3.44 GO/AO) as well. Personally, I'm not a fan of VerHagen's delivery. It's full of effort and isn't smooth, and he sometimes has issues repeating it. Also, his secondary stuff, simply put, isn't very good right now. Both his curve and change have average projection, but he has a long way to go to reach that. If all goes well, he has a 4 starter ceiling, but I see a late innings reliever, especially if his secondary stuff doesn't significantly improve.
2013 Projection: I expect he'll start the season in Advanced-A Lakeland's rotation, and depending on what the Tigers want to do, he could move to Erie as the season progresses. He's probably ready for Double-A as a reliever, but not as a starter, so as I said, it depends on what the Tigers want to do with him.
MLB ETA: If he's converted to a full-time reliever, I expect we'll see him in Detroit by 2014. If not, then 2015 is a safer bet for him to see the MLB as a starter.
No. 4: LHP Joe Rogers-5th Round (184th Overall)-Central Florida
Stats (Connecticut Tigers-Class A Short Season): 2-1, 2.28 ERA, 23 2/3 IP, 20 H, 12 BB, 28 K, 1.35 WHIP, .220 BAA
Thoughts: I really, really like Joe Rogers. He's a lefty that can get his fastball up to 93-94 in short bursts, while sitting comfortably at 90-92, and flashes a plus curveball that can miss bats. He also throws a circle change that earns consistent 50 grades with minimal future projection. He has a chance to start, but I like him better as a reliever. He has a future 7th-8th inning profile as a reliever, for me at least, and like VerHagen, he could move quickly if converted strictly to the bullpen. That's not to say I'm opposed to giving him a shot at starting, as scouts far more talented than I have been on record as saying they like him as a starter.
2013 Projection: I expect Rogers to go to Class Low-A West Michigan to begin 2013, and should he go as a starter, he'll probably stay there for the majority of the season. Should he go as a reliever, I could easily see him working his way to Advanced-A Lakeland and potentially even Double-A Erie in 2013.
MLB ETA: Again, not unlike VerHagen, this depends on if Rogers is a starter or reliever. I could see him making his MLB debut as a reliever as soon as 2014, but as a starter, 2015-2016 becomes more reasonable of an expectation.
No. 5: LHP Jordan John-6th Round (214th Overall)-Oklahoma
Stats (GCL Tigers-Rookie League): 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 5 K, 0.27 WHIP, .091 BAA
Thoughts: Obviously, this is a ridiculously small sample size to go judging a player by, so I'll do my thoughts segment based on scouting reports and what I saw on film from him in college. To my knowledge, and feel free to refute this if you have other information, John was shut down after signing with Detroit just for the sake of limiting his innings. As far as I know, there was no injury of any kind, just merely a precaution before throwing in late August in preparation for instructs in September. Anyways, John is one of those prototypical left handers that is much more touch-and-feel than pure stuff. He already flashes plus command, and probably has the best command of anyone drafted by the Tigers in 2012 (although an argument could certainly be made for Hudson Randall as well). He works with an average fastball, usually sitting 89-91 and touching 92, and shows real potential with his 12-6 curve. He could fit in as a back of the rotation starter or as a bullpen lefty. Personally, I lean towards the latter.
2013 Projection: I expect John will be a fixture in West Michigan's bullpen to start 2013, depending of course on how spring training goes for him. Could see a promotion to Lakeland if 2013 goes well.
MLB ETA: John's plus command could make him a fast mover, because as we've seen with other notable pitching prospects like Andy Oliver, Casey Crosby, Daniel Schlereth (gulp), and Ryan Perry (face palm), command can really determine whether you stay in the big leagues or not, regardless of your pure stuff. Therefore, I could see John getting to the MLB in 2014.
No. 6: RHP Hudson Randall-7th Round (244th Overall)-Florida
Stats (GCL Tigers-Rookie League): 0-1, 3.00 ERA, 12 IP, 11 H, 3 BB, 8 K, 1.17 WHIP, .239 BAA
Thoughts: Randall challenges Jordan John for the best command of the 2012 draft class, due to the fact that he can throw any of his 4 pitches for strikes at any time, and spots them all very well. He features a fastball that usually sits 88-91 touching 92, a slider and curve that both have potential, and a change that works well in short bursts. His fastball has some solid late life and sink, leading to a lot of weak contact and ground balls, which is a good sign considering Randall's less-than-dominant stuff. I'm a big fan of Randall's delivery--it's clean, smooth, and seemingly effortless. He repeats it very well. Unfortunately, Randall's frame and arm speed do not show future projection in the way of added velocity, leading to his ceiling being that of a back of the rotation starter. His plus command could carry him a long way, however, and I'm of the belief that he'll pitch in the majors one day.
2013 Projection: This is kind of a tough call for me, since I'm not sure how the Tigers see Randall's role. Since he's very polished with plus command, I'll say that he pitches in West Michigan's rotation in 2013.
MLB ETA: I'll say 2015 here