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Tigers Den Roundtable: Which Tigers prospect has caught your eye this season?

The BYB staff discusses the farm system and which prospects are popping up on the radar.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Fall Stars Game Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

While the Detroit Tigers came out of the gate hot and gave fans a reason to be excited early on this season, most fans have still kept one eye on the farm system. The Tigers’ affiliates have fared better in 2018 than in recent years, led by the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, who lead the International League with a 30-15 record. The Single-A West Michigan Whitecaps are also in the playoff hunt, and High-A Lakeland is hovering around .500.

But as we know, wins and losses don’t mean much in the minor leagues. Individual performance and development is the primary focus, especially for a rebuilding team like the Tigers. Detroit has a number of interesting prospects in their pipeline, as well as some others that are popping up early on in 2018. Let’s see who has started off hot.

This week’s question: which Tigers prospect has caught your eye so far this season and why?

Kenon: Sergio Alcantara. The big question mark coming into this year was Alcantara’s hit tool and how it would play against Double-A pitching. So far, I would say he is handling it just fine. Through 36 games, Alcantara is hitting .295 (.344 from the right side, .278 from the left). There’s no pop there, and probably never will be. But when I saw him up close in Akron a couple weeks ago, I was stunned at how young he looks. Even though he turns 22 in July, I think there might still be a little bit of physical maturation there that will beef him up bit. I also like that he knows who he is as a hitter. He doesn’t try to do too much, just tries to put the barrel on the ball and find a way on.

Defensively, he’s as advertised. I’m not making an Omar Vizquel comparison here, but he has that same look about him in terms of the glove being an extension of his hand. I saw him make a nifty, leaping sweep tag on a tailing throw from Jake Rogers that looked like it was headed into center field. I also saw him show off that plus arm charging a slow roller, rifling it across his body to get a speedy runner. He will probably never hit enough to be an everyday shortstop, but I think he is a guy who will play in the majors and help the Tigers win some baseball games.

Jay: So what separates that from Jose Iglesias?

Kenon: I don’t think Alcantara’s bat projects him as an everyday shortstop right now. He should be a utility guy. Every baseball team needs one of those, too. And to be honest, there hasn’t really been a single prospect that has caught my eye otherwise (Stewart notwithstanding). Jake Rogers struggling mightily is eye-opening, but not much fun to write about.

Chris: Christin Stewart. We know he’s close and that it’s a matter of “when” he makes it to Detroit this year rather than “if,” but I definitely didn’t expect to see him play the kind of ball he has played so far in Toledo. His .291/.370/.589 line is impressive. He also leads the league in home runs (11) and total bases (89), and is within the top three in RBI (29, 2nd), slugging percentage (.589, 2nd), and OPS (.959, 2nd). His walk rate remains around 10 percent while strikeout rate is, so far, down to 18.5 percent, which is a more than welcomed development. His defense is an entirely different story, however. But that’s not what the Tigers are interested in when it comes to Stewart. They want him to be a power bat for them down the line and he’s certainly performing as such as he reaches the final stages of his minor league development.

Ashley: Stewart. I can’t add much that hasn’t been said, and I know he has his downsides, but oh boy am I excited to see him come up and knock some baseballs out of the park.

Kenon: Triple-A All-Star game is here in Columbus this year. So I’m hoping to get some video footage of him in the Home Run Derby. The short porch in right field at Huntington Park should make for some really good moonshots. Speaking of the “Moon,” I hear he’s our new top prospect behind the dish!

Ron: Josh Turley, the reason being he really wasn’t on my radar prior to this season. I knew he existed and was a decent pitcher, but I never thought a knuckleballer would succeed this much in a farm system built and tailored for power pitchers. In his last three starts, he has given up two earned runs over 20 innings pitched while allowing three hits and eight walks vs. 22 strikeouts. While his walk numbers are a bit elevated, so are his strikeout numbers when you consider he’s a knuckleballer. If the Tigers have to call up another starter besides a spot-start, Turley should be the next man up with how he has preformed in Triple-A this season. He’s currently 11th in ERA in the International league and 18th in strikeouts. Add that to the fact that he’s not on any of the top 30 Tigers’ prospect lists and is only 27 years old, he could end up being an impact starter for the Tigers during the rebuild if he continues his success.

Brandon: I’ll leave out Matt Manning since he always has my eye, and go with Reynaldo Rivera. Left for a lost cause to a degree after struggling at Connecticut last year, he’s off to a fine start this season. The power has been as advertised, and Rivera has shown more of the disciplined approach that was his calling card. It was easy to dislike him as a pick, but that’s behind us now, and Rivera appears to have the raw tools to develop into a pretty dangerous bat down the road. His progress should have its fits and starts, but I’m interested.

Rob: I could have gotten away with a great Casey Mize joke here last week.

Patrick O.: Eudis Idrogo is a 22-year-old left-handed pitcher from Venezuela who started his third season at Single-A West Michigan this season. In six starts and 37 innings of work, he posted a 0.49 ERA with a 0.86 WHIP. He pitched two complete games, striking out 34 batters against 8 walks, holding opposing hitters to a .188 batting average. He did not allow a run in four of his starts. He was rewarded with a promotion to High-A Lakeland. For his minor league career, he has a 2.68 ERA with a WHIP of 1.12. And he has a cool name!

Kenon, the buzzkill: He got shelled in his Florida State League debut, though.

Jay: As the season started, I’m not sure anyone was higher on Alex Faedo than I was. His mediocre numbers to open the year have been the subject of much discussion, but I still haven’t lost faith. The slider is for real. As the season has grown out of its infancy, the reports on his velocity have risen from 89-90 to 91-93 miles per hour, where it needs to be. He had one spectacular start where he went seven innings of two-hit ball that only saw him walk one. The season numbers aren’t eye-popping, but he has given up fewer baserunners than innings pitched, and things are tilting upward lately. Once he shakes off the rust, I think he’ll surprise nation-wide evaluators who have mostly forgotten about him.

Kenon: Idrogo had the lowest ERA in all of professional baseball up until that point though. Surprised to see him working out of the bullpen in Lakeland so far.

Brandon: Same here. I haven’t heard if it’s permanent, a la Alfred Gutierrez, or what. Idrogo seems destined to be a reliever, but he was killing it so much it seems weird to change his role right now. Maybe the bullpen was just taxed.

Kenon: Lakeland is congested with starters right now, and I have to think Burris Warner could be headed there soon as another long relief/spot starter. Faedo doesn’t have much left to prove to me in High-A. I’m ready to bump him up and see what we’re dealing with in Erie.

Brandon: They could, although he’s been erratic to the point I’d rather he sit in Lakeland another month. Idrogo to the bullpen may be the plan here.

Kenon: From what I understand, he doesn’t have three passable pitches to remain an effective starter.

Patrick O.: He’s not a big strikeout guy. Eleven of his 34 strikeouts came in one outing — a three-hit shutout. Maybe they move him to the ‘pen just out of need, although that’s quite a jump if he winds up in Detroit. June promotions will be very interesting this year.

Kenon: Outside of Faedo’s one nightmare outing, he has a 1.94 ERA, 32 strikeouts and seven walks in 41 23 innings. Another month seems about right. And I think Tom De Blok’s days might be numbered.

Cameron: Faedo’s fastball has disappeared, and I’m pretty concerned about that. Unless he didn’t do anything to condition himself in the eight months he had off, he shouldn’t have come to camp throwing five miles per hour slower than in college.

Kenon: Fangraphs bumped Faedo down to 13th in our system based on the velocity drop. I can’t get a consensus as to whether we should be worried. I’m told his mechanics haven’t changed, and he’s not having trouble locating. My conclusion is that he’s dialing it back deliberately. As one evaluator told me though, “If he has 94 available, we would have at least seen it once or twice, and we haven’t.” So I don’t know what to believe.

Brandon: Maybe, Cam. He had been off a long time. The Tigers do seem to have this happen regularly. If Faedo looked like he was working on his mechanics I’d be less concerned. I was already worried his fastball was bad last summer. He needs to be 93-95 mph or it’s a problem. But... it’s early. We’ll see if he gets some back as time goes on.

Rob: Last word here, but I did a double-take a week or two ago when I saw what A.J. Ladwig was doing in Triple-A. I had all but forgotten about him as a Tigers farmhand, but here he is with a 5-0 record and 3.26 ERA through 38 23 innings. He isn’t striking many guys out, but is limiting walks and home runs. We might see him regress — he has a .247 BABIP right now — but he is missing barrels and generating a ton of pop-ups. And he’s much younger than you think, at just 25 years old. There isn’t a ton of upside here, but even squeezing some spot starter/swingman value out of Ladwig, a former 11th round pick, would be nice.