The Detroit Tigers’ 2017 season has not gone to plan, to say the least. Instead of contending for a playoff spot, they were forced to sell at the July non-waiver deadline. In doing so, they acquired a quintent of middle infield prospects with promising futures. Those new players, along with a solid 2017 draft class headlined by hard-throwing righthander Alex Faedo, have given the Tigers their deepest farm system in years.
Naturally, Tigers fans are excited. In order to capitalize on that fervor, we polled our commenters on how they would rank the Tigers’ prospects. If you’re interested in the individual rankings (and how certain players were clustered), you can check out our master spreadsheet.
On Wednesday, we profiled the first three of 30 prospects ranked by you, the reader. This group wasn’t all that far ahead, with just three points separating Jose King and outfielder Jose Azocar, our No. 28 prospect.
#27: SS Jose King
Tigers fans were largely underwhelmed by the trade that sent J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks, but they have seemingly taken to King, an 18-year-old infield prospect who has yet to appear above rookie ball. King’s carrying tool is his excellent speed, which TigsTown’s Paul Wezner labeled as 70-grade, or double-plus. An excellent athlete with a big frame, King could ultimately play anywhere in the infield, though we’re a long way from determining where he fits best.
“Long way away” is the best way to describe most of King’s attributes. He is an extremely raw and risky prospect, as teenagers tend to be. He has performed well in the Gulf Coast League so far this year, hitting .283 in 28 games. His plate discipline and power both seem to need work, though; he has only walked three times in 111 plate appearances, and his only extra base hits are a pair of triples.
Baseball Prospectus’ Mark Anderson gave a more in-depth description of King’s skill set shortly after he was traded.
King is the ultimate wild card among the prospects in this deal. He's a premium athlete who has physical projection remaining, and aside from the general athleticism the profile is highlighted by plus-plus speed that plays well in the field and on the bases. King has some feel for the barrel and a chance to develop a contact-oriented bat with limited power. He fits better at second base due to a fringe arm, but he could be an above-average glove at the position.
#26: RHP Mark Ecker
Every year, there is a relief prospect or two who shoots through the minor leagues and wins the hearts of the Tigers faithful. This year’s “can’t miss” reliever is Bryan Garcia, who (spoiler!) will appear elsewhere on our prospect list. However, fellow 2016 draftee Mark Ecker has also fared well. Taken a round before Garcia, Ecker posted a solid 3.50 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 43 2⁄3 innings with High-A Lakeland to start the year. However, his peripherals were much better; he struck out 63 batters in those 43 2⁄3 frames, and his 2.50 FIP was a full run below his ERA.
Ecker’s success largely stems from an advanced profile. He features a typical mid-90s fastball, but has two usable secondary pitches: a slider and changeup. He can locate both off-speed pitches in the strike zone, which is typically overwhelming for most hitters in the lower minors. He is only six feet tall, though, and can’t generate the same downward plane with his pitches — the fastball, in particular — that taller players can.
Like many relievers from big college programs, Ecker shouldn’t meet much resistance in the minor leagues. He hasn’t yet thrown enough innings at Double-A Erie for us to properly analyze his performance, but should continue to overpower inconsistent minor league hitters with his solid stuff and command. If he continues to perform well, he could reach the major leagues as soon as 2018. However, without truly premium stuff, he only projects as a potential middle relief arm.
#25: LHP Matt Hall
MLB Pipeline Grades: Fastball 45 | Curveball 60 | Changeup 45 | Control 50 | Overall 45
Prior to the 2016 season, very few people knew who Matt Hall was. An unheralded sixth round pick out of Missouri State in 2015, Hall quietly put together some solid innings in rookie ball that summer. Hall made waves in 12 Midwest League starts last spring, however. He went a perfect 8-0 while pitching at Single-A West Michigan, and limited opponents to a 1.09 ERA. With 72 strikeouts in 66 1⁄3 innings and nearly 3.5 punchouts for every walk, fans wondered if there was something more to the crafty lefty.
While Hall has continued to pitch well — he has managed a 2.44 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 103 1⁄3 innings for High-A Lakeland this year — his ceiling is limited. His fastball is a below-average pitch and rarely even hits 90 miles per hour. His changeup, a pitch that could help him slow down righthanders, is also below average. His command is solid, but not so good that it can mask his deficiencies. TigsTown didn’t even rank him among the Tigers’ top 50 prospects in their latest update.
That doesn’t mean we should write him off, though. MLB Pipeline currently has Hall ranked as the No. 26 prospect in the system, and gives him an overall grade of 45 (fringe-average). Hall’s curveball is a true plus pitch, and one of the best benders in the entire system. That weapon, along with a relatively deceptive delivery, should at least net him a look as a left-handed specialist. Any uptick in command or raw stuff could earn him a chance at being a No. 5 starter.