As we are now at the All-Star break at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, it seems a fitting time to compose a Detroit Tigers farm system-specific organizational All-Star squad for 2018. There are a handful of “organizational soldiers” who are putting up fine numbers in their respective leagues, as we would expect. The focus of this piece, however, is on legit prospects and guys who are starting to garner prospect-type attention based on their play between the lines this season.
C Jake Rogers
This was perhaps the toughest position to identify an All-Star worthy player. Rogers has underwhelmed with the bat in Erie. The Tigers’ top catching prospect entered the month of June hitting at a .157 clip, but now sits at .210 at the break. The strikeouts continue to pile up (30 percent rate) but his 10 percent walk rate is promising. Behind the dish, Rogers is an absolute weapon. He has cut down 56 percent of would-be base stealers, and frequently has runners at the corners scrambling to get back to the bag with lightning-quick snap-throws.
1B Rey Rivera
The Tigers’ 2017 second round pick has been an RBI machine this year in West Michigan, tallying 49 of them through 68 games. Rivera’s 23 doubles tie him for the Midwest League lead in that category. After a dismal debut season in Connecticut a year ago, Rivera is starting to look like the legit power threat the Tigers saw when they drafted him.
IF Will Maddox
You would be hard-pressed to find Maddox on any top 30 organizational prospect lists, and that’s because there are some glaring holes in his game. But it’s starting to get hard to ignore his .310 batting average, good for sixth in the Eastern League. Maddox hit safely in 20 out of 22 games in May, a month in which he hit .356. The lack of power is a concern, as evidenced by his .107 ISO. Couple that with his relative unwillingness to take a walk (5 percent) and that’s enough to hold back a guy who doesn’t have elite speed and isn’t a superb defender. That said, Maddox has managed to get on base at every stop in his career, and I’ll reward him with an appearance on this list.
IF Isaac Paredes
Unlike Maddox, the 19-year old Paredes has no concerns in the power category. He sports a .172 ISO in a very tough hitting environment against much older competition in the Florida State League. His 18 doubles tie him for fourth in the league, and his 41 RBI leads Lakeland. Paredes has spent the vast majority of time at shortstop this season, but has also played 20 games at second base and is just now starting to dabble at third. At 5’11 and 225 pounds, sticking at shortstop is probably unlikely, so it’s great for him to start getting the feel for other positions now. When he gets to Erie’s hitter-friendly ballpark in 2019, I think we’ll really start to get excited about his future.
IF Ronny Rodriguez
“El Felino” has had a career year with the bat down in Toledo, earning him two call-ups to Detroit in the process. His International League-leading .338 batting average is 22 points higher than the closest hitter, Kean Wong of Durham. Rodriguez has some pop in his bat, and he’s adequate — if perhaps a tick below average — at all three infield positions. If nothing else, that gives him a shot to stick around in a utility role. His over-aggressive approach at the plate, however, is his Achilles heel, and will likely be exposed by major league pitching unless he learns to be more patient and selective.
OF Jacob Robson
Many had begun the process of writing off Robson and labeling him as “another light-hitting outfielder.” He has answered those critics by posting a .187 ISO, .885 OPS, and exceeding his career minor league total in home runs (four in the last two seasons combined) in the month of May alone. A tendency to be a little pull-happy earlier in his career, Robson has warmed to going the other way, and is doing so with authority. He is firmly among the latter half of the top 30 prospects now, and looks like a potential fourth or platoon outfielder at the major league level.
OF Daz Cameron
The 21-year old exploded out of the gates upon being promoted to Erie. His 12 extra-base hits and 19 RBI through 20 games nearly matched his output in 58 games at Lakeland this year. Cameron has feasted on lefties to the tune of an .842 OPS in 93 plate appearances across both levels. The 27.5 percent strikeout rate is still very high, but he is a young kid who is proving he belongs, and his premium defensive profile is yet another reason for Tigers fans to be excited about him.
OF Christin Stewart
Despite missing the last two weeks of the first half due to a calf injury, Stewart’s 15 homers is still tied with Lehigh Valley’s Joey Meneses atop the International League rankings. Despite his well-chronicled defensive woes in the outfield, it appears Stewart is ready to make his entrance and hopefully serve as a run-producing power threat in the Tigers’ lineup for years to come.
SP Matt Manning
Despite battling some ups and downs with his fastball command early in the season, Manning has easily been the most dominant of the big time prospects in the Tigers’ system. When he threw strikes, Midwest League hitters had no chance. Manning earned himself a promotion to Lakeland, where he promptly sat down nine Jupiter Hammerheads in his five-inning debut. There’s a lot of work to be done in terms of locating all of his pitches and getting that curveball to be of the knee-buckling variety more times than not. But Manning is on his way.
SP Alex Faedo
It’s been a quietly good season for Faedo. Florida State League hitters were really no match for him. Despite concerns about his velocity being down, he was able to cruise through that league with his superb command and filthy slider alone. After allowing just four hits and two earned runs in his first two starts at Erie, Faedo faced his first real adversity when Binghamton tagged him for seven runs in 3-1/3 innings on July 5. Double-A is massive jump, and this is to be expected. By all measures, Alex Faedo is right where he should be at this stage of his development.
SP Kyle Funkhouser
As much as I want to put Burrows on this list, Funk has just been a little more consistent. Named the Organizational Pitcher of the Month in June, Funkhouser really found his groove after an up-and-down start to the season. In June, he posted a 0.94 ERA with 31 strikeouts and just seven walks in 28 2⁄3 innings, earning a July 10 promotion to Toledo.
RP John Schreiber
Everybody’s favorite side-armer has faced his challenges for sure, especially with the new minor league extra innings rule that puts a runner on second base to start innings ten and beyond. As a result, half of his 18 runs allowed this season have been of the unearned variety. Schreiber, who skipped Lakeland altogether, is striking out a touch over a batter per inning, and has still yet to allow a home run in 117 1⁄3 career innings pitched as a professional. That’s a remarkable stat, especially considering he pitches at UPMC Park half the time now.
RP Zac Houston
Speaking of strikeouts, Houston has mowed down more than 1.5 per inning this season, a rate that has only grown since his June 1 promotion to Toledo. After giving up a long ball in his first triple-A outing, Houston went on a run of ten straight scoreless appearances. Houston is a power arm with great action on his upper-90s fastball and an effective breaking pitch to accompany it. His ability to command — not just control — his arsenal will determine his level of success when he ultimately gets his shot with the Tigers.
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