The 2017 season has not gone as planned for the Detroit Tigers. The major league club has struggled for most of the year, leading them to trade players like J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson, and Alex Avila prior to July’s non-waiver trade deadline. They received a quintet of middle infield prospects in return, leading many Tigers fans to pay far more attention to the team’s farm system than usual.
Naturally, that is where our focus is heading as well. Last week, we asked you to rank the Tigers’ top prospects. We were blown away with the response, as over 40 readers submitted lists of their top 20-30 Tigers prospects on the site, on our Facebook page, and on Twitter.
The list proper will be revealed over the next several days, starting with the No. 30 prospect in the system. First, we are going to profile several of the players who just missed the cut.
RHP Adam Ravenelle
Ravenelle was the clear No. 31 prospect in our voting, falling just 10 points shy of our top 30 list. A fourth round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2014, Ravenelle’s professional career got off to a slow start. He battled injuries and a mysterious illness in 2015, limiting him to just 34 1⁄3 innings at Single-A West Michigan. He came back stronger in 2016, posting excellent numbers in Lakeland before struggling in his first stop at Double-A Erie. He impressed scouts at the Arizona Fall League, flashing premium velocity out of the bullpen. However, an elbow injury during spring training stunted his development once again, but he has managed a 4.07 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning for the SeaWolves. He can reach triple digits with his fastball on a good day, but still needs to hone his command if he is going to last in the major leagues.
RHP Anthony Castro
At 22 years old, Anthony Castro isn’t young for the Midwest League. However, that’s a bit misleading. Castro may be as old as most college pitchers who come through and dominate Single-A ball, but is far less experienced. He missed the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery, and only pitched 50 2⁄3 innings in the Gulf Coast (Rookie) League in 2016. That he has a 2.70 ERA and 83 strikeouts to just 30 walks in 92 1⁄3 innings for the Whitecaps this year is still impressive. He was TigsTown’s No. 9 prospect in the Tigers farm system heading into this season — and No. 24 on our preseason list — thanks to a mid-90s fastball and a plus breaking ball. He may not be the most likely of West Michigan’s 2017 starters to reach the majors, but he certainly has the most upside if he can develop a usable changeup.
RHP Spencer Turnbull
The Tigers’ second round pick in 2014, Turnbull is a bit of a forgotten man. He missed most of 2016 with a shoulder injury, only totaling 44 1⁄3 innings across all levels. He has managed a decent 3.05 ERA in 82 2⁄3 innings at Advanced-A Lakeland, but his stuff has taken a step back. He only has 64 strikeouts in those 82-plus frames, and isn’t featuring the high-90s heat that made him such a hot commodity to the Tigers a few years ago. It’s looking more and more like he will end up in the bullpen, which could still work out if his velocity returns.
RHP Zach Houston
There isn’t much to say about Zach Houston that we won’t say 10 times over with other players on this list. Houston is a hard-throwing right-handed reliever who relies on a big fastball and a slider that flashes plus potential. The Tigers’ 11th round pick in 2016, Houston enjoyed a spectacular four months at West Michigan that saw him strike out 71 batters in 46 1⁄3 innings. He has only made four appearances at High-A Lakeland, but the Mississippi State product probably won’t be challenged until he reaches Double or Triple-A.
OF Cam Gibson
More than a few people cited Gibson’s bloodlines when listing him near the bottom of their rankings. As the son of a Tigers legend, Cam Gibson has big shoes to feel, but he doesn’t appear to have the requisite tools to do so. He is a true burner — one that was graded as a plus-plus runner coming out of Michigan State — that has already stolen 48 bases in roughly two seasons of pro ball. His bat has also taken a major step forward this season; he is hitting .274/.350/.488 with 13 home runs in 96 games across two levels of Single-A ball.
Stats don’t tell the whole story, though. Scouts were worried about Gibson’s ability to hit and hit for power, and he hit a woeful .221/.302/.331 at Single-A West Michigan last year. Even the big drop in strikeout rate that had everyone excited at the start of this year has corrected itself in the Florida State League, as he has fanned in nearly one-quarter of his 125 plate appearances at High-A.
RHP Myles Jaye
Jaye was a savvy pick-up for the Tigers in 2016, when they shipped Bryan Holaday to Texas in exchange for Jaye and veteran backstop Bobby Wilson. The 25-year-old Jaye has posted solid numbers at both Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this year, with sub-4.00 FIPs in 115 combined innings. He features a rather vanilla four-pitch arsenal that plays up when his command is on, but is still walking nearly three batters per nine innings this season. He may be a decent spot starter down the road, but probably isn’t someone you want making several starts in a row at the major league level.
SS Alvaro Gonzalez
If you aren’t familiar with Gonzalez’s name, don’t worry. The team just signed him out of Venezuela in July for a cool $1 million, the largest signing bonus the Tigers have ever issued to an amateur free agent. He was MLB Pipeline’s No. 23 prospect in this year’s international free agent class. A switch-hitter, Gonzalez has flashed solid bat speed with some gap power. He may eventually move to third base as he matures physically — he’s still only 16, by the way — but has the arm to stick there.
IF Anthony Pereira
Pereira is arguably the most interesting name in this group, yet few people are talking about him. A 20-year-old infielder from Venezuela, he has kept his head above water in his first crack at full season ball, hitting .260/.311/.380 in 443 plate appearances for the West Michigan Whitecaps. While the walk rate isn’t much, Pereira has added a handful of doubles and 10 stolen bases to his stat sheet. A 96 wRC+ isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off — Isaac Paredes is performing better in the same league as an 18-year-old — but it’s not nothing. Pereira doesn’t have a standout tool, but he does everything well enough that he could eventually become a starting caliber shortstop. As such, TigsTown ranked him 14th on their midseason Tigers prospect list.
RHP Tom de Blok
The West Michigan Whitecaps have been victims of their own success this year. With so many starting pitchers posting excellent numbers and earning promotions, the ‘Caps have had to get creative to fill their rotation. One such idea has been de Blok, a 21-year-old righthander Detroit signed after he wowed for Team Netherlands during the World Baseball Classic. de Blok features your standard four-pitch arsenal, which he has had to dip into more often now that he has transitioned back to the rotation after starting the year in the bullpen. He has performed well in both roles, but as we’ve seen with many other prospects in recent years, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee more success as he moves up the minor league ladder.
RHP Zac Reininger
An eighth round pick by the Tigers way back in 2013, Reininger has enjoyed a breakout season this year. He has struck out 57 batters to just 17 walks in 60 innings across three levels, and is continuing to put up zeroes at Triple-A Toledo. His velocity has ticked upward since being drafted, and the low walk rate is certainly a welcome sight for this organization. Still only 24, Reininger could be on the MLB radar in 2018.