Here in the 2,017th year of our common era, the Detroit Tigers are in a rough spot. Unlike in the previous two seasons, the fanbase is not split between the categories of “buy” and “sell,” but rather, “sell” and “get rid of anything not bolted down.” That proposition is one made more frightening by the fact that Detroit’s front office is led by a first-time general manager who hasn’t shown he is willing to make big moves.
However, there is reason for Tigers fans to be happy, with the release of the new Top 100 Prospects list by Baseball America. Three Tigers prospects — right-handed pitchers Beau Burrows, Matt Manning, and Alex Faedo — were included in the rankings.
The lowest-rated of the three is 2015 first-rounder Beau Burrows. A flame-throwing high schooler when he was drafted, Burrows has found success in refining his approach. This has required that he dial himself back and focus more on consistency and effective use of his off-speed pitches, but it has made him a better prospect. He forced the organization’s hand and was promoted to the Double-A Erie SeaWolves, where he has struggled, but is starting to come around.
Matt Manning, the next of Detroit’s top three prospects, was the only top-100 player when the season started. At that time, their evaluators had called him the 81st prospect in baseball. They have him moved up three spots, and he now sits in the 78th spot after a strong start that has seen him dominate the short-season competition in a Connecticut Tigers uniform.
Seen at the beginning of the season as Detroit’s top minor leaguer, Manning is now not even close to their top-rated prospect. No, Detroit’s minor leagues has a new champion: Alex Faedo, who sits at No. 53 on Baseball America’s list.
Coming into the season, Faedo was under consideration for the top overall pick in the MLB draft after an utterly dominant sophomore season for the Florida Gators. If you had told any team’s scouting department outside the top five picks that they would have had a shot at the righty, those men and women would have jumped for joy. If you had told any team outside of the top 10 selections that they could have had Faedo, they may have fainted. Instead, due to issues with his command and a small drop in velocity springing from arthroscopic surgery, he slid all the way to the 18th selection, where the Tigers happily snapped him up.
Faedo is fairly polished and has a devastating slider. He will not pitch with the organization this season, but when he does start to pitch in affiliated ball, he will be a fast riser. He was named Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series, and broke his own single-season strikeouts record for the Gators. There are still some who are a bit wary about the arthroscopic surgeries, but there are not enough doubts to prevent the Tigers from getting an very highly ranked prospect.
The last time a major source placed three Tigers on a Top 100 list was in 2011, when Baseball America placed Jacob Turner, Nick Castellanos, and Andy Oliver on their list for that season. That trio was pretty ill-fated, with Turner bouncing from team to team as a fringy reliever, Castellanos falling short of expectations thus far, and Oliver washing out completely and fading into obscurity. While it is understandably exciting to have this number of prospects so highly rated, it is important to keep expectations for these three hurlers tempered.