Baseball Prospectus weighed in on the growth in the Detroit Tigers farm system over the past year with the release of their Tigers prospect rankings on Monday. There were some surprises, but the top dog wasn’t one of them. Righthander Franklin Perez, acquired from the Houston Astros in the Justin Verlander deal, is the clear consensus top prospect in Detroit’s system.
Beyond that, however, things get a little more interesting.
The Tigers’ 2015 first round pick, 21-year-old righthander Beau Burrows, was a bit of a surprise on BP’s list, coming in at number two. Most scouting sites and prospect watchers don’t regard Burrows quite that highly. Burrows doesn’t have a lot of projection left on his fastball, and his curve hasn’t taken the jump many are looking for from him. On the other hand, Burrows already features good velocity in the mid-90s, and made some strides with his changeup last season. He also diminished previous concerns about his strikeout rates by carving up over a batter per inning, both in the Florida State League and after making the jump to Double-A ball.
BP complimented Burrows on his simple, repeatable mechanics, and gave a solid run down of his arsenal.
“He changes eye levels with the pitch (fastball) and it show good arm-side run down in the zone. The change is the most advanced secondary and should allow him to stick in a rotation. He maintains his slot and arm speed well, which covers for less than ideal fade.”
With 2017 first round pick Alex Faedo claiming the number three spot, the real intrigue comes in the middle of the top 10. You can take it as a good sign that the Tigers have a pair of up-the-middle players claiming the fourth and fifth spots, with Daz Cameron and Isaac Paredes drawing a good deal of love from most observers. However, 2016 first round pick Matt Manning saw his stock fall to sixth in BP’s eyes.
Manning is undoubtedly a raw arm with risk to match the potential high reward. He didn’t even pitch much in high school, so it’s not too surprising that he has still been erratic on the mound. That volatility in his profile has led to a pretty wide range of opinions on his progress.
Baseball Prospectus is the most bearish thus far, though. While they continue to regard Manning’s velocity and his developing curveball as having enormous potential, they also knock him heavily for inconsistent mechanics and velocity.
“Even when Manning was going good, the command and mechanics were being battled to at best a stalemate. He struggles with his release point and had two different arm slots within 10 days of each other. Needless to say he is a work in progress here despite his obvious athleticism.”
Catcher Jake Rogers, who was recently lauded for his elite defensive ability, checks in at seventh on the list. He is followed by lefthander Gregory Soto, who had something of a breakout season in A-ball last year.
Rounding out the top 10 are outfielder Christin Stewart and infielder Dawel Lugo. Stewart continues to look the part of a future designated hitter, showcasing excellent power and a solid eye for the strike zone but precious little ability to play the outfield competently. There are still a few holes in his swing that leave Stewart on the outside looking in, as well. His profile is totally dependent on becoming a high-end power threat, and that will continue to put major pressure on his bat to deliver in 2018.
On the plus side, Lugo, who was received with groans when the J.D. Martinez deal didn’t prove as rich in prospect returns as most hoped, impressed many observers with his conversion to second base. Lugo continued to make plenty of hard contact, but needs to add a little more selectivity to avoid getting exploited by pitchers at the major league level. His defensive versatility gives him multiple pathways to the majors should his bat take another step forward, and Baseball Prospectus is bullish on that front.
“Though capable at shortstop and third base, the Tigers moved him to second base following his acquisition, and he showed a good first step, soft hands, and plenty of arm strength to make throws from the hole and on the pivot.”
The Tigers’ rebuild isn’t exactly in high gear as of yet, but the amount of quality talent, as well as the organizational depth, is clearly much improved. They continue to lack the elite pieces that would turn them into a top 10 system, but they will have a chance to remedy that with the first overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft. In the meantime, they need players like Paredes and Cameron to build on the progress they made over the past year, and for Manning to put a lot more polish on display this summer.