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.
#15: C Sam McMillan
MLB Pipeline Grades: Hit 50 | Power 45 | Run 35 | Arm 55 | Field 50 | Overall 45
The Tigers were able to squeeze enough bonus pool money out of other picks in order to sign McMillan away from his commitment to the University of Florida this summer. In doing so, they are hoping that the young backstop can maximize a profile lacking one standout tool. McMillan has shown decent bat-to-ball skills, but isn’t a hitting savant. He doesn’t have plus raw power, nor does he have a cannon for an arm.
However, McMillan doesn’t have any major deficiencies either. Both TigsTown and MLB Pipeline project that he could become an average hitter at his peak. He doesn’t show much power projection, but will still bulk up a bit as he ages. His glove and arm are both solid, he frames well, and he shows above-average projection with both tools. He is below-average as a runner, but so is nearly every other catcher in the pro ranks.
Our friends at 2080 Baseball dove deeper before the 2017 draft:
One of the quietest receivers in the class, McMillan boasts a balanced profile devoid of a glaring weakness but also lacking in a standout plus tool. He moves well behind the plate, shows solid arm strength with a clean release, and generally handles himself well as a field general. In the box, there’s some drag in the barrel and the swing lacks finish, limiting his ability to lift and drive the gaps. While he’s done a solid job of squaring the ball up and producing hard contact this Spring, there are some concerns among evaluators as to how much ceiling there is in the stick.
All told, it’s a volatile profile with a low floor and a high ceiling. If McMillan can’t make progress as a hitter, no amount of defensive prowess will carry him to a starting job in the major leagues. But, if everything clicks, McMillan could be a first-division starter. He won’t be a middle-of-the-order hitter, but could still manage double-digit homers and an average offensive profile while playing above-average defense behind the plate.
#14: RHP Bryan Garcia
MLB Pipeline Grades: Fastball 60 | Slider 50 | Changeup 45 | Control 45 | Overall 45
It shouldn’t surprise fans when a reliever drafted out of a big college program rockets through the minor league ranks, but here we are. Garcia is turning that trick in 2017, just one year after he was a sixth round pick out of Miami. He has 78 strikeouts in 54 innings across four (!) minor league levels, including 12 in 12 1⁄3 frames at Triple-A Toledo. Fans hoping to see Garcia in September will likely be disappointed — he’s not on the 40-man roster and has already logged 54 innings this year — but probably won’t have to wait long for his major league debut in 2018.
Thanks to a plus fastball that reaches as high as 96 miles per hour, he should be able to get outs once he arrives. Garcia’s fastball comes out of a three-quarters arm slot, which could help generate a few more ground balls if the movement is right. He pairs that heater with a slider that profiles as an above-average pitch. Some scouts have also praised his changeup, while MLB Pipeline called it “serviceable.” He also utilized a curveball coming out of college, but it lags behind his other offerings.
#13: LHP Jairo Labourt
MLB Pipeline Grades: Fastball 60 | Slider 55 | Control 40 | Overall 45
When Labourt arrived from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, he came with a power fastball-slider combination that dreams are made on. The fastball can reach as high as 96 miles per hour, while the slider is a true swing-and-miss weapon. All that was missing from his mid-rotation profile was a third pitch.
Oh, and any semblance of command.
Labourt walked 15 batters in 35 1⁄3 innings at Advanced-A Lakeland down the stretch in 2015, then another 70 in 87 1⁄3 innings — an astounding 7.2 batters per nine innings — for the Flying Tigers in 2016.
Somehow, a move to the bullpen seems to have sorted those issues out. Labourt walked just 10 batters in 44 1⁄3 innings between Lakeland and Double-A Erie to open the year, all while racking up 58 strikeouts. He has walked a few more batters since arriving in Triple-A Toledo, but is still holding opponents to just 4.1 hits per nine innings and a 1.80 ERA.
If Labourt can harness his command, he can be a true shutdown reliever. He has two pitches with plus potential at his disposal — scouts say the fastball is already there, while the slider is close — and throws from the left side. Don’t be surprised if we see our first real glimpse of him in September.
Editor’s Note: I apologize for the delay in getting these posts up over the past week or so. I was without internet for over a week, and writing for a website can be difficult without wifi.