The last two seasons were ones to forget for Detroit Tigers fans, but there are plenty of reasons to look forward to a brighter future. Craig Edwards and the FanGraphs prospect teams released their farm system rankings on Monday, which can only be seen as a good sign for the Tigers. Detroit ranked eighth overall according to their rankings, which is not a common sight for this organization.
For those unfamiliar with the process, Fangraphs grades prospects on future value (FV), which is fit to the 20-80 scale, although no player tops 70 FV. While this may seem a bit confusing and/or arbitrary, there is a lot of logic to the method Fangraphs employs and it helps quantify farm systems from simple lists of rankings.
The recent end-of-season update includes 31 Tigers prospects in the rankings. Casey Mize, Daz Cameron, and Isaac Paredes all received a 55 FV rating, while Matt Manning, Franklin Perez, Christin Stewart, and Beau Burrows come in at 50 FV. Much of this group should join the major league team somewhat soon, and five of the seven were former first round picks.
However, though the Tigers have more depth than they have had in many years, the system sits at eighth for a reason. No prospect in the organization reached a 60 FV rating or above, meaning Detroit lacks a top-20 player per FanGraphs. Each of the seven clubs ranked ahead of the Tigers feature at least one of these players, while three of the five teams directly below them in the rankings do as well.
This is not necessarily a cause for concern, but it does paint a different type of picture. The Tigers have done a good job rebuilding the depth of the farm system, and many of the current prospects will get a chance to find a home in Detroit. When the team looks to be competitive again, many of the core players will be under team control on friendly contracts for a period of time.
Still, the lack of top-end talent shows that the Tigers will need to be competitive in the free agent market as well. Unless multiple prospects vastly outperform their projections, Detroit will be without truly elite players. Fortunately, the team will have money to spend and organizational depth to put together a balanced roster. Another good draft class — including a top-five pick — will only help the cause as well.