Following the Detroit Tigers’ farm system hasn’t always been the most rewarding endeavor. Under former president and general manager Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers’ farm system was consistently barren. For years, their system ranked among the worst in baseball, with nearly every meaningful prospect shipped out for major league talent at the earliest opportunity.
Things haven’t changed a ton yet. The Tigers still rank in the bottom third of MLB farm systems — they are currently 24th, according to ESPN’s Keith Law. However, they are trending upward for the first time in a while.
With some actual excitement surrounding the farm system for the first time in nearly an entire decade, we are excited to roll out our prospect rankings for the 2017 season. You will have to wait until Wednesday to read about the top prospect in the organization — spoiler alert (but not really): it’s righthander Matt Manning — and we’ll be rolling out one prospect per day afterward.
Before the reports come out, we thought it would be important to review a few key scouting terms that will be littered throughout our articles.
Ceiling: This term is used to refer to both pitchers and position players. A player’s ceiling is how good he could be if everything goes right for him in his development, not how good he is going to be. For example, Tigers’ prospect Beau Burrows has a rough ceiling of an excellent #3 starter. However, that relies on him being able to improve his control, develop good command of his fastball, and make his curve into an out pitch. If he doesn’t accomplish any of these things, he will not reach his ceiling.
Command/control: These are terms that are used in reference to a pitcher’s ability to control the strike zone. They are frequently confused with one another, especially in prospect circles. Control is a pitcher’s ability to hit the strike zone consistently, whereas command is a pitcher’s ability to locate the ball where he wants inside the strike zone.
Floor: This term is used to refer to both pitchers and position players. It refers to the worst possible outcome for a prospect. That would mean that everything goes wrong in his development as a player. A player’s floor has nothing to do with his ceiling. For example, Mike Gerber has a high floor and a low ceiling, but other players, such as Gerson Moreno have a decent ceiling and an abysmally low floor.
Raw: This term is used mostly in the context of position players, but it could also be used to describe pitchers. To say that a player is raw means that he has a good set of skills, but they need to be developed quite a bit more. To say that a specific skill is raw, for example, a player’s hit tool, means that it could be good but it needs a lot of work.
Stuff: This term is used to refer to pitchers only. A pitcher’s stuff is the pitches he throws.
20-80 Scale: This is the scale on which all prospects’ tools are measured. On this scale, a grade of 50 is MLB average, and every tool is graded in increments of 5 based on how they compare to MLB average. Often, a scouting report will grade a tool with two numbers (for example, Arm: 45/60). In this case, the first number is how the tool compares to MLB average right now, and the second is how well scouts project it to be. For a very thorough explanation of this scale, check out FanGraphs.