FanGraphs prospect writers, Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel, are two of our favorites on the prospect beat here at BYB. They have a pretty transparent process, plenty of experience, and are pretty open to answering questions and explaining their opinions. They also don’t obligate themselves into arbitrary lists by tens or hundreds. Instead, they rank all players by their future value (FV), and however many there are in a given FV tier, that’s how many players will end up on their top prospects list. 100 is old-fashioned. Their brand new list goes 131 players deep.
There are only five players on the list graded higher than 60 FV, which is the equivalent of an all-around plus player. Who is ranked better than plus? Well, you have Vladimir Guerrero Jr., of course, and Ronald Acuna, is still ranked until he accumulates more service time. Those are the only two 70 FV prospects in the game per FanGraphs. Padres SS prospect, Fernando Tatis Jr., White Sox slugger Eloy Jimenez, and Nationals CF prospect Victor Robles, round out the top five with 65 FV grades. 14 players graded at 60 FV are next, and then we reach the above average tier, 55 FV, where the Tigers have their first representative.
Casey Mize #31
No big surprise here. There remain some questions about Mize’s fastball, but literally everyone had Mize ranked as the best amateur player in the country heading into the draft. He’s easily the Tigers’ highest representative, in fact, the last FanGraphs list featured exactly no one in the top 100. Unfortunately, we seem unlikely to see much of Mr. Mize for the rest of the year. A career high innings total, and a rough outing in his playoff duel with Brady Singer over the weekend, may signal an end to his 2018 season.
Christin Stewart #80
Despite his limited profile, and liabilities as a defender and baserunner, Stewart’s bat just can’t be denied. A 50 FV prospect on his bat alone, Stewart is pretty clearly one of the best hitting prospects in the game. The 24-year-old has settled in nicely at Triple-A Toledo, and after a red-hot start, has cooled only a little bit. He’s still rocking an .889 OPS, and leads the International League with 13 home runs. Once the season progresses beyond the trade deadline on July 31st, you can expect to see Stewart at some point. Should an injury bite Victor Martinez, or they sensibly decide to move on from him, Stewart is a likely candidate be promoted to shore up the offense a bit, and get his first exposure to major league pitching.
Franklin Perez #115
Perez suffered a lat strain back in mid-March, and his inactivity, combined with concerns over how quickly he’ll rebound, naturally affects a pitcher’s ranking. Still, Perez is basically unchanged on FanGraphs’ list. A 50 FV arm who has shown an advanced set of pitches and good control, Perez is back on a throwing program, but is unlikely to take the mound against live hitters until after the All-Star break. Presumably, he’ll return to the Erie SeaWolves and look to salvage the second half of his season.
Matt Manning #119
When you take a seriously inexperienced arm like Manning’s, extra patience was always a likely requirement in developing the lanky right-hander, even by prep pitcher standards. Still, progress must be made this season or Manning is liable to slip out of the public eye. Tigers fans shouldn’t concern themselves overmuch. Manning is still absolutely dominant when he’s got his mechanics sorted out. He still often seems a bit stiff and mechanical as he works to integrate the adjustment he’s working on. Developing more fluidity takes time. Learning to make corrections on the fly and to control the game out of the stretch, are elements Manning is working to, and must, master. His stuff however, remains undeniable.
Tall pitchers often take longer to find their command. The hope is that when things click for Manning, the leaps will be substantial. So far this season, the walks have continued to hurt his numbers. 62 punchouts in 41 2⁄3 innings says the stuff is still electric. The 20-year-old will remain on a standard pace assuming he graduates to Advanced-A this summer to take on a more seasoned brand of A-ball hitter. The upside remains enormous.
Beau Burrows #126
Burrows has been something of a sleeper the past two seasons, despite his presence on several top 100 lists. The additions of Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, Franklin Perez and now Casey Mize pushed him out of the spotlight a bit, but Burrows has one of the higher floors of the bunch at this point. His development has been slow and steady, and he’s succeeded with each promotion. His initial introduction to Double-A was a little rocky last summer, but Burrows closed out the season with numerous strong outings, and he’s carried that success into his 2018 campaign.
Burrows’ strikeout rate is down a bit so far this season, but the walk rate is solid, and hitters aren’t doing much damage against him. At this point, Burrows is in refinement mode, possessing plenty of stuff to handle major league hitters on his best days. He needs consistency and repetitions to learn best how to apply his stuff to better hitters as he goes along. Look for him to hang at Erie while older pitchers like Spencer Turnbull or Sandy Baez are promoted ahead of him. Burrows is likely to see Toledo before year’s end, and his steady progress continues to have him looking like a future back-end piece of the Tigers’ rotation, and maybe more.