Baseball America announced its Detroit Tigers 2018 prospect rankings on Wednesday, and you can begin to get a sense for how the franchise’s rebuild might pay off. Franklin Perez, acquired when Detroit traded Justin Verlander to the Astros at the last minute in August, and 2017 first-round draft pick Alex Faedo were atop the list. Both are talented young pitchers leading the charge as the organization’s arms-first philosophy begins to take shape.
In fact, four of the top ten prospects on the list are right-handed starting pitchers, and three of them were drafted in the first round, with Matt Manning and Beau Burrows rounding out BA’s top four. Manning was the Tigers’ 2016 first-round pick. A year earlier, the team drafted Burrows.
You can also see how important trading Verlander appears to be for the team’s future. Perez instantly became the organization’s top prospect, while catcher Jake Rogers ranks fifth and outfielder Daz Cameron ranks sixth.
Although pitching is a strength, Baseball America writer J.J. Cooper notes what the list is missing: run-producers. “Paced by Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, the Tigers' lineup has been potent for years,” Cooper writes. “The foundation of the next great lineup isn't here yet. Detroit does have some up-the-middle prospects who could be big league regulars, but there are few players in the system who project as potential above-average hitters.”
Infielder Isaac Pardes came to Detroit in the trade of Justin Wilson and Alex Avila to the Cubs at the July deadline; and infielder Dawel Lugo came to the organization in the J.D. Martinez trade.
Rounding out the list are a pair of players the Tigers recognized as their Minor League Players of the Year, outfielder Cristin Stewart and left-handed pitcher Gregory Soto. BA calls Stewart the best power hitter, but says Soto most likely ends up as a good bullpen arm.
Remember: all prospect lists are a little biased
A word of caution about lists like this though: you can always tell they’re at least partially influenced by how the organization talks up their players to prospect writers behind the scenes, and Detroit has a lot of marketing to fans to do after trading almost everyone they knew and loved away.
And all prospect rankings tell a bit of a narrative, too. As much as we’d like to say they’re pure objective measures, both the people who rank things and the people who play the game are human.
Still, it’s easy to see things are looking up down on the farm.