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.
The Tigers have long been maligned for their draft day strategy; namely, their propensity for taking college arms with big velocity and little else to their profile. Today’s group of prospects bucks that trend... somewhat. Gerson Moreno is a hard-throwing international signee, while Joey Morgan and Jacob Robson are a pair of recently-drafted position players who could offer some big league upside.
#24: RHP Gerson Moreno
MLB Pipeline Grades: Fastball 70 | Slider 50 | Changeup 40 | Control 45 | Overall 45
Of all the high-octane fastballs in the Tigers’ farm system, Moreno might have one of the best. He regularly works in the high 90s out of the bullpen and can reach triple digits, making it a double-plus pitch that some publications — include our friends at 2080 Baseball — rate even higher.
Moreno has a simple, compact delivery and does not need a ton of effort to generate significant arm speed and a 75-grade heater. His fastball gets some late tailing life in the zone with occasional sink to the arm side. Given how easy his arm action is, he should be able to dial up some hard sink as he gets stronger and develops more body control.
Moreno pairs the heater with a slider and changeup that still need work. The slider is the better of the two right now, and could potentially be an above-average offering with some swing-and-miss potential down the road. The changeup isn’t entirely necessary — plenty of great relievers get by on two pitches — but could make batters look silly if he can get the arm action down pat.
Moreno burst onto the scene in 2016 with a dominant half-season in a West Michigan Whitecaps uniform. He struck out 27 batters in 25 innings and held opponents to a 1.08 ERA. He struggled after his midseason promotion, but conquered the High-A level in 2017. Through 22 1⁄3 innings, Moreno allowed just five earned runs while striking out 30 hitters. His ERA has climbed since a midseason promotion to Double-A Erie, but he is still striking out over 12 batters per nine innings.
Still only 21, Moreno has a bright future ahead of him. We may see him in 2018 if things go well, but he probably won’t get a longer look until the 2019 season.
#23: C Joey Morgan
MLB Pipeline Grades: Hit 45 | Power 40 | Run 30 | Arm 55 | Field 55 | Overall 45
If there is one type of player the Tigers have drafted and developed well in recent years, it’s college catchers. Alex Avila, James McCann, and Bryan Holaday all reached the majors in a Tigers uniform, while Grayson Greiner — our No. 29 prospect in these midseason rankings — is on his way to the show. Add in players who debuted elsewhere like Rob Brantly and Curt Casali, and a trend emerges.
University of Washington product Joey Morgan could be the latest in this line. A third round pick in this year’s draft, Morgan has struggled at the plate in his first couple months of pro ball. He is hitting just .222 with one home run in 113 plate appearances at short-season Connecticut, resulting in a paltry .594 OPS. This is in sharp contrast to what he did for the Huskies earlier this year, though; Morgan hit a robust .324/.427/.500 in 53 games, and led his club with 45 RBI.
That offensive outburst helped Morgan boost his draft stock. Primarily known for his defensive skills, Morgan should be able to reach the majors on those alone. MLB Pipeline praised his “excellent catch and throw skills,” while multiple outlets have commented on his above-average arm strength. Hero Sports also noted that Morgan does well blocking balls in the dirt, though he played on FieldTurf in college.
As most prospects go, though, Morgan’s future will be determined by his bat. If he can make enough contact and hit for more power at the pro level, he could be a second-division starter. If he continues to struggle, he may be slated for backup duty.
#22: OF Jacob Robson
MLB Pipeline Grades: Hit 50 | Power 30 | Run 65 | Arm 40 | Field 50 | Overall 45
We should know shortly whether Robson will be a major league caliber talent. As a productive top-of-the-order hitter at a big SEC program (Mississippi State), Robson was expected to blaze through the lower minors. He has done that so far, hitting .329/.408/.395 in 60 games for Single-A West Michigan this year. He slowed down somewhat after reaching High-A Lakeland, but still has a .759 OPS in 205 plate appearances.
One thing not expected out of Robson is power. He only hit one home run in his final season at Mississippi State, and only has four in 681 total plate appearances as a professional. However, he has been a productive hitter thanks to decent bat-to-ball skills and a discerning eye at the plate. Robson has drawn 52 walks in 472 plate appearances this season, helping him to maintain a .387 on-base percentage between his time in West Michigan and Lakeland. He is a capable defender in center field as well, though not as rangy as someone like 2014 first rounder Derek Hill. Robson also has the speed to swipe a few bases, though his instincts might not be the best — he has 17 steals this year, but has been caught stealing 15 times.
The big test for Robson, like so many advanced college players, will be Double-A ball. We should get a long look at how he fares in the Eastern League next season, with a potential major league debut in 2019 if everything goes well. He might not have the chops to remain a leadoff-type hitter in the big leagues, but provides enough value with his legs and glove to be a capable fourth outfielder.