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FanGraphs’ Top 100 prospect rankings features only Franklin Perez

Perez just snuck in at No. 100.

Detroit Tigers Introduce Jordan Zimmermann Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The season of new prospect rankings continues, and generally speaking, the Tigers’ farm system isn’t making a strong impression. Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel released their top 100 for FanGraphs on Monday, and it was a fairly sobering assessment of the Tigers’ organization. The only Detroit prospect to make the list was starting pitcher Franklin Perez, who checked in at No. 100.

Pitchers Matt Manning and Beau Burrows and outfielder Christin Stewart were all cited as just missing the cut for the list. However, each received 50 future value (FV) grades, just as the No. 43-99 ranked players. What this means is that the difference in grade between the No. 42 ranked player, who was last in the 55 FV tier, and the No. 43 ranked player, is greater than between No. 43 and No. 100. You can read more about the connection between FV and future WAR here and here. FanGraphs emphasizes the FV grading tiers as much more meaningful than the individual rankings, but presumably the four Tigers prospects strike them as among the riskiest in that tier.

It’s hard to feel great about this.

“Our list is just the top hundred of 6,500 minor leaguers” is less than comforting when your team barely has one of them.

Fangraphs’ write-up on Perez praises his fastball and changeup, while arguing that both breaking balls, as well as his durability, are still open questions.

He’s had some knee trouble, and Houston spaced out his starts pretty liberally late last year as a way to limit his inning. His 86 innings last year were a career high, so while Perez is advanced from a stuff and pitchability standpoint, he likely won’t reach Detroit and stay there until he’s capable of handling more innings. He projects as an above-average big-league starter with a bit more developmental distance to travel than you might think given his level.

It bears noting that most of the other players one might have thought would get a mention here had somewhat obvious reasons to be omitted. Daz Cameron impressed everyone with an offensive breakout in 2017, but conservative opinion isn’t fully biting on that until he backs it up with another strong year including the jump to Double-A. Matt Manning was under serious inning restrictions, still looked raw at times and just didn’t pitch much. He also didn’t consistently feature the kind of velocity people were looking for. Beau Burrows had an excellent year as a 20-year-old, but it seemingly didn’t change many opinions.

Alex Faedo is a more curious case, but FanGraphs isn’t alone in leaving him out of the top 100. To those of us who only saw his final few starts of the season that’s surprising, but there is clearly some skepticism about his durability and remaining projection in the industry.

It’s nothing to lose sleep over

FanGraphs’ top 100 is the Tigers’ roughest showing on a major prospect list. While all caveats about prospects apply, it’s pretty clear the organization doesn’t have a single high-end talent most can agree on. There are wildly varying opinions on Daz Cameron and even Derek Hill, from top-100 prospects down to fringe-average guys in some quarters. The same is true for Manning, Burrows, and Faedo. Every other major prospect ranking had Franklin Perez far higher than FanGraphs did. It should be interesting to read Longenhagen and McDaniel’s reports on individual teams’ top-10 lists once they’re released.

Overall, the Tigers’ farm system is certainly in dramatically better shape than it was even a year ago. The rebuild is underway, there is quite a bit of young talent, and the Tigers already have Jeimer Candelario slated to start the season at third base. However, after the amount of trades the Tigers have made over the past year, it’s also discouraging that the farm system remains so light at the top.

The Tigers have had five first round draft picks since 2013, including the compensatory round selection of Christin Stewart in 2015. Detroit lost its second and third round picks in 2016 due to free agent signings, but since 2014 — when Willy Adames, Corey Knebel and Devon Travis were dealt in an effort to maintain the Tigers as a postseason threat — Detroit has largely hung onto its prospects.

Add all those draft picks to the prospects acquired over the past year for Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson, Justin Upton and Ian Kinsler. That’s a lot of assets, both in picks and in veteran talent, expended to be told your best prospect is the 100th best in the game.

In one sense, their list just makes clear in bolder strokes what has already been plain. The Tigers’ farm system is well stocked with solid prospects, but it’s still badly lacking a few high-end talents. If there’s a shock here, it’s that there isn’t one arm in the Tigers’ system that FanGraphs is really willing to put their money on.

During the 2018 season, the Tigers really need to see some of their prized pieces improve substantially. And they absolutely have to nail the draft as they sit holding the first overall pick. Prospect lists are a matter of opinion, and things could look different a year from now, but there’s substantial consensus at the moment that the Tigers haven’t drafted any clear high-end talent in the past few seasons. That will have to change if they’re going to turn a rebuilding effort into a push back toward a winning one.