Prospect Mailbag: Questions Answered

Jeff Gross

In this segment of the Detroit Tigers Prospect Report Prospects Mailbag, Brian takes a look at various topics as suggested by the readers, including Aaron Westlake's stock, Danry Vasquez's future, when Eugenio Suarez might be ready for the big leagues, and much more.

Question: Why did Aaron Westlake's stock drop so far, so quickly?

Keep in mind that I didn't do one of these rankings lists last season, so going by others, prior to the 2012 season, Westlake was generally ranked somewhere in the 20-30 range of the Top 50 Tigers prospects. After the 2012 season, I have him ranked as the #44 prospect in the Tigers system. So while that's a substantial fall, it's not like he fell from the top 10 to outside of the top 50. Moving on, the reasoning behind the fall has several parts. For 1, Westlake was billed as an above-average defender at 1B with plus defensive potential coming out of college by amateur scouts. This turned out to be quite untrue, as Westlake is no more than below-average defensively. While it's true that 1B prospects are generally viewed more for their bats, it didn't help Westlake's stock that his defense was not as good as had been thought. Furthermore, Westlake has plus raw power in his bat, with the ability to drive the ball to all fields, and even out of the park to all fields. In 2012, his power didn't play in games as had been expected, as he only posted a .391 SLG%. Now, that's not a "bad" number in it of itself, but for a bat-first 1B prospect with plus raw power, it's rather bad. Furthermore, Westlake was also billed as a guy who had a plus approach to hitting, with an excellent eye, good patience, and excellent contact skills to go along with his power. In 2012, Westlake did show an ability to take walks (9% BB rate), but what was concerning was that he posted a 20% strikeout rate as well, at a level (Class A), that he was actually a bit old for. All of that combined led to his stock dropping significantly.

Question: Same with Tyler Gibson--I thought he would be way higher than he was. What's his area of concern?

I have Tyler Gibson at #29 on my list, and while his numbers in 2012 were significantly less than desirable, he's still a solid prospect. Gibson is one of those guys who is absolutely loaded with tools, with plus speed, plus raw power, plus D, and the potential for a plus arm from the OF. His hit tool is what holds him back, as he still has a ton of swing and miss in his game, and the hit is so raw that it doesn't allow his power or even speed to play much offensively. I have him this "low" because I can't rank a guy very high SIMPLY based on potential or tools. If I was doing a rankings list based solely on potential or raw tools, then Gibson would be very high. But for me, I can let a guy sit highly on my list based on projection if there are at least SOME results; but with Gibson, he has almost zero results to back up his tools. It's a similar situation to Daniel Fields, who was ranked as high as top 5 by some after being drafted based on his raw tools, but a lack of production or maturation of those tools have seen his stock drop. Gibson, with a good 2013 both from a production and maturation standpoint, could see himself vault quite highly on this list next year.

Question: What is Avisail Garcia's power potential? Everyone says he will eventually hit for power, but how much exactly?

It's always tough to put an exact numerical estimation of how someone's tools will manifest in game situations, with power being perhaps the most difficult to project, because it hinges so heavily on the development of the hit tool. Garcia has plus raw power, and based simply on his power alone, has the potential to hit 20-25 HR's annually at the major league level. But if his hit tool doesn't develop to an average or better level, that power won't manifest itself in game situations.

Question: Danry Vasquez-what do you foresee from him, both from a projected numbers standpoint and a growth/development standpoint? How likely is he to start the season at West Michigan and stay there all year?

Vasquez is among the most exciting prospects in the Tigers system. He's truly a hitting machine, currently showing the ability to spray line drives all over the yard, with the potential to be a .300 hitter consistently at the major league level. His HR power has yet to manifest itself in games yet, but the belief is that he will eventually be a plus hitter with above-average to plus power in time. Like I said above, it's hard for me to put a numbers estimate on guys, especially with someone like Vasquez who is still so young and so raw, but if he lives up to his potential and the power comes, I could see him being a #3 hitter who hits .300 consistently with 20 HR power, down the line. As for West Michigan, I think it's almost a given that he starts 2013 there, and unless he is entirely overmatched (like he was in 2012), then the odds are high that he stays there all season.

Question: Will Eugenio Suarez be ready to challenge for a major league spot by next spring? Will he be ready to take Peralta's spot at SS?

Suarez is the most complete MIF prospect the Tigers have in my view, although I'm not quite sold on his hitting ability yet. He's a very solid prospect, and, as it sits, is the closest thing to the "SS of the future" that the Tigers have. That being said, no, I don't think he'll be ready to challenge for a major league spot by next spring. He performed quite well at Class A-West Michigan in 2012, and even with an aggressive assignment to Class Double A-Erie in 2013, that still doesn't put him in line for a spot on the Tigers roster in 2014. I could see him making a case for the starting SS position in 2015, but not 2014.

Question: Michael Morrison: Gets sent to the AFL, gets a spring training invite, so the team at least has some inkling that he's ready to pitch in the majors, but he's still way down on prospect lists?

I think Morrison will pitch in the majors at some point in 2013. The reason he's found so low on prospects list is because he lacks upside past that of a middle reliever. I believe he can be effective at the majors as a 1-2 inning middle reliever, maybe topping out as a 7th inning guy, but that profile doesn't translate into a high prospect ranking. For example, I have Morrison at #48. I have Luis Marte at #25. Both will pitch in the majors in 2013 (I believe), and both are more of the "middle reliever" mold. But I think Marte has significantly better stuff, has much less of an injury history, and has a higher ceiling. Therefore, Marte is higher for me. I'm not sure if this entirely answers your question, but for me, Morrison is a low-ceiling guy, that while still having a major league future, doesn't warrant a higher ranking.

Question: I saw Dean Green twice in 2012 and both times he just smashed the ball. Does he have a future with us or will he be a part of an eventual trade package?

Green is among the best hitters in the Tigers organization, both from a hit and power tools perspective. He has the natural hitting ability to hit at the .300 level, and the power to smash 25-30 HR's. However, he's strictly a DH prospect, at least for me. He's quite bad at 1B, with zero projection to play anywhere else on the diamond. While Aaron Westlake is a below-averahe defender at 1B, he wouldn't be a total defensive liability. Green, on the other hand, would be. Therefore, he becomes solely a DH prospect, and with that profile, you need only look at the Tigers current roster to see why doesn't have a place, currently. If I had my way, I'd have Nick Castellanos move back to 3B, where I believe he can be a solid-average defensive 3B. That would allow Miggy to move back to 1B, where he can also be average (as opposed to a well below-average 3B). This would push Prince Fielder to the DH role (in a couple years). Even if you don't consider the fact that Victor Martinez has 2 years remaining on his contract, there is no place for Green, unless the Tigers are convinced that Miggy at 3B and Prince at 1B will be their corner alignment for the next several years (I don't). Green is a helluva hitter, and one I'd love to see in Detroit, but would you take him at DH over Prince Fielder in 2 years? No way. Therefore, I think he becomes an excellent trade piece, definitely within the AL, and you could see him moved as early as this season, since I believe he's only 1-2 years away.

Question: Where's Ben Guez on the organizational depth chart? He didn't make your top 50 prospects list, so where would you rank him? With the Tigers searching for a RHH OF to play with Dirks in LF, will he get a look?

To be honest, I don't know much about Guez. I went to Toledo several times last season, but I was always concentrating more on watching Casey Crosby, Andy Oliver, Bruce Rondon, Drew Smyly (rehab), or Rob Brantly and Bryan Holaday. I, admittedly, skipped over Guez while I was scouting, which was an error on my part. However, based on what I DO know about Guez, as well as other scouting reports, I would have him somewhere in the 65-75 range if I did a full Top 100 list (I'm not going to). I don't believe he's a major league player, aside from the occasional call-up due to injury (similar to Quintin Berry). He has solid speed, but not plus. His power wouldn't even play as average at the MLB level. His defense would play in LF as probably above-average, but his hit tool would justify a full platoon with Dirks out there. He's a nice org guy to have, and could get the proverbial "cup of coffee" at the MLB level, but to be completely honest, I'd take a look at someone like Jamie Johnson over Guez. For a more detailed report on Guez, I'd ask our own Jordan Gorosh (Twitter: @JGoro8), who has seen him more and scouted him more extensively than I have. Jordan has told me that he doesn't believe Guez is a MLB player either, but you can ask him for more details.

Question: The Mud Hens outfield looks to be packed. How certain is it that Castellanos and Garcia start there? With guys like Guez, Berry, Boesch, Castellanos, Garcia, Russo, Tuiasosopo, and Kobernus all potentially being slated for AAA, how will that shake out?

Ok, this may be a long answer, because it could go several ways. First, the Tigers have said repeatedly that Castellanos will start the season in Toledo, and will continue to play OF, so I think it's almost a sure thing that he plays LF for Toledo to start the season. As for Garcia, I think he will also start the season at AAA, barring some kind of magical performance in spring training that earns him a spot with Detroit. Personally, I want Garcia to play everyday to aid his development, and he will only be able to do that in Toledo, so I think he'll be their starting RF. As much as I'm infuriated with Boesch, the Tigers love the fact that he's a left handed hitter with power, so I think he makes the team as the 4th OF/left handed bench bat. I think Kobernus makes the Tigers due to his versatility and speed, which pushes Berry to AAA. I think Russo and Tuiasosopo are prime candidates to be cut, since they were signed for organizational depth purposes rather than for their prospect status or talent. I think Guez is someone who the organization will keep around, but could easily be sent to AA, since AA will be rather devoid of OF's aside from Tyler Collins and Daniel Fields. As for the "hole" in Toledo's CF that you alluded to, I think that Jamie Johnson will fill that role quite well, which puts Berry as Toledo's 4th OF. That's how I see it shaking out, but again, one single move could change that entire scenario.

Ok folks, that's it for now. Thanks for your questions! As always, you can follow us on twitter @TigersProspects, and feel free to like our Facebook page as well!

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