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.
Things are getting exciting as we near the midpoint of our midseason prospect countdown. Gone are the days where players ranked in this region of the Tigers’ farm system are just future middle relievers or organizational fodder. Even going back to our last set of prospects, there are some potential impact players to be found in what is now a much deeper Tigers farm system.
#18: SS Sergio Alcantara
MLB Pipeline Grades: Hit 45 | Power 20 | Run 50 | Arm 70 | Field 60 | Overall 45
It’s not often that MLB.com bestows a double-plus grade on a position player, but Sergio Alcantara’s arm certainly warrants the praise. The 21-year-old shortstop is a defense-first prospect who has the arm to play anywhere in the infield. He will stick at shortstop all the way up to the major leagues, and his defensive floor is high enough that he should see some big-league time as a utility player. He also runs pretty well — other sites have his speed graded higher than MLB Pipeline — but isn’t a game-changing pinch-runner by any means.
The problem is the bat. Alcantara has displayed above-average bat speed in the lower minors, but that won’t translate to any power as he gets older. He is hitting a decent .271 with an adequate .340 on-base percentage in High-A ball this year, but is only slugging .349 in 491 plate appearances (most of which came in the hitter-friendly California League). Even saying he has “gap power” would be a stretch at this point. Both TigsTown and MLB Pipeline ranked him 23rd in the Tigers’ farm system after the trade that brought him to Detroit, much lower than our No. 17 ranking.
Still, there’s some potential here. Alcantara fields shortstop well enough that he could be a bottom-of-the-order hitter who provides solid value through his glove. If he continues to draw walks, steals a few bags — he has 14 this year — and plays good defense, he could be a viable starter. If not, there’s nothing wrong with a slick-fielding, homegrown utility infielder.
#17: LHP Tyler Alexander
MLB Pipeline Grades: Fastball 50 | Curveball 50 | Slider 50 | Changeup 55 | Control 60 | Overall 45
The Tigers surprised everyone when they took Tyler Alexander with their second round pick in the 2015 MLB draft. Alexander, a soft-tossing lefthander from TCU, wasn’t ranked anywhere near the top 100 on most draft boards, yet was drafted with the No. 65 overall pick. Detroit had their eyes on the crafty southpaw for a while, though; they also drafted him out of high school in 2013.
As a lefty with a mature arsenal, Alexander made quick work of the lower minor leagues. He only gave up four earned runs in 37 innings at short-season Connecticut the year he was drafted, then posted a 2.21 ERA with a 5.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio at High-A Lakeland the next season (he skipped West Michigan altogether). Predictably, Alexander has struggled at Double-A Erie. Crafty lefties typically meet a lot of resistance at the Double-A level, as they are finally facing hitters who know what to do with a curveball or changeup. In 155 1⁄3 total innings at Double-A since arriving in Erie last summer, Alexander has a 4.69 ERA.
However, Alexander’s peripheral numbers are much better. He has maintained the high strikeout-to-walk ratio, in large part thanks to his plus command. He has only walked 47 batters in 294 1⁄3 innings of pro ball, a rate of just 1.4 per nine innings. His curveball and changeup could both be average pitches at peak, with FanGraphs predicting the changeup might be a tick above average (55).
Alexander works 88-91 with his fastball and will show the occasional 93 or 94. He can manipulate it by adding sink, and some think he has a natural ball/hand relationship to add a cutter at some point. Alexander also has a sweeping, two-plane slider in the low 80s that he can throw for strikes, bury beneath the zone and work in to right-handed hitters. He has a competent plan against righties, in general, which includes the breaking ball and an average, low-80s changeup.
If Alexander can refine his command and avoid the middle of the plate, he’s a potential back-of-the-rotation starter. His stuff might perk up a bit with a move to the bullpen, but at just 23 years old and with such a diverse pitch repertoire, he deserves a bit more time to see if he can’t crack the major league rotation.
#16: CF JaCoby Jones
MLB Pipeline Grades: Hit 45 | Power 45 | Run 60 | Arm 55 | Field 50 | Overall 45
Power and speed. It’s a tantalizing combination for an athlete in any sport, and baseball is no different. JaCoby Jones is one of these players. He has plus speed, which helps him cover plenty of ground in the outfield. His instincts in center field are still raw, but he is the type of rangy player the Tigers have been missing since Austin Jackson was traded in 2014. The eye test and advanced metrics agree; in a very small sample of innings, Jones was worth +6 Defensive Runs Saved. While he won’t maintain that elite pace, he certainly looked the part of an above-average defender.
Jones’ speed should also translate to a few stolen bases, but his real offensive value comes from his powerful bat. He possesses plus raw power, and could be a 20-20 player if everything comes together.
Unfortunately, Jones has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game. He struck out 30 percent of the time in 329 plate appearances at Triple-A Toledo last year, and has only cut that rate down to 26.5 percent this year. These mechanical flaws give him a below-average hit tool, limiting his upside. He can certainly overcome them — especially with how well-rounded the rest of his game is — but unless he can replicate (or improve upon) his Triple-A numbers in the majors, he won’t be a viable starter, even in center field.