Righthander Casey Mize has thrown all of 13 2⁄3 innings in the Detroit Tigers organization so far, but that hasn’t stopped multiple publications from naming him the team’s top prospect for 2019. Baseball Prospectus did so last week, and (spoiler alert) he will be our top guy when our list comes out next February. Mize also topped Baseball America’s top 10 Tigers prospects list for 2019, which was released recently.
Just behind Mize is righthander Matt Manning, who was also second on BP’s list. Manning enjoyed an incredible 2018 season, with 154 strikeouts in 117 2⁄3 innings. He threw those frames for three different affiliates, including his last 10 2⁄3 innings for Double-A Erie to close out the year. While still incredibly raw, Manning’s floor as a prospect is much higher than we thought just a year ago. He still has ace potential, and his risk of flaming out entirely is significantly lower than before.
Joining Mize and Manning in the top five are shortstop Isaac Paredes, righthander Franklin Perez, and outfielder Daz Cameron. Paredes, who was also No. 3 on BP’s list, was our Minor League Player of the Year after a stellar 2018 campaign. He hit .278/.359/.456 with 15 home runs in 502 plate appearances, and put together a stellar .864 OPS in a handful of at-bats for Double-A Erie.
This performance is even more impressive when you consider his age; Paredes was one of four teenagers to appear in the Double-A Eastern League, and two others — Juan Soto and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — are considered among the best prospects in baseball. Paredes also joined Giancarlo Stanton as one of the few teenagers to hit double-digit home runs in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League in recent memory.
Perez struggled with injuries for nearly all of 2018, and was limited to just 19 1⁄3 innings. The top prospect in the system a year ago, he has now fallen to the No. 4 spot on Baseball America’s list (and No. 6 on BP’s) after losing a year of development. He is still a big part of the Tigers future, though; he will spend the 2019 season in Double-A as a 21-year-old, and has the potential to make his big league debut in late 2019 or midseason 2020, assuming he stays healthy.
The first real surprise on the list comes at No. 7, where outfielder Parker Meadows ranks a little higher than expected. Meadows, the team’s second round pick in 2018, is a talented, toolsy outfielder with plenty of raw power. He hit well in his pro debut, and showed a good eye at the plate against advanced competition in the short-season New York-Penn League. The rest of his game is also raw, however, and it’s surprising to see him ranked above more advanced players like Alex Faedo and catcher Jake Rogers.
Speaking of Faedo, Baseball America seems a bit spooked by his 2018 struggles.
The first thing that jumped out about Faedo in 2018 was his missing fastball velocity. He sat 89-92 mph as a pro, down a couple of ticks from the 92-94 he sat in college. The lessened velocity affected all his pitches. Faedo’s average changeup sometimes lacked separation, and his once plus slider dropped a grade because of his lack of arm speed.
He was Baseball America’s No. 50 prospect heading into the 2018 season, but it seems safe to say that he will not be on anyone’s top 100 this spring. That said, he still managed a 4.02 ERA with over eight strikeouts per nine innings in his first season of pro ball. If he is able to make adjustments and regain some of his fastball velocity, he could end up being just fine.
Rogers was the most glaring omission from Baseball America’s list. He is eighth on BP’s top 10 rankings, but appears to have fallen out of favor elsewhere — he is currently 12th on MLB Pipeline’s list. While he struggled early on at the plate in 2018, his bat picked up as the season went on, and he is still one of the best defensive catchers in all the minor leagues.