For the first time in a number of years, the Detroit Tigers are no longer the most important team in their own organization. Sure, we want to see the big league club succeed, but with the franchise now entrenched in its first rebuild in over a decade, MLB wins aren’t as important as minor league development. The Tigers have recently bolstered their farm system depth through the draft and trades, and now boast one of the better collections of minor league talent in baseball. They’re not a top system just yet — probably not quite top 10 at this point — but there is talent to be found here.
Now that we’re halfway through the season, it’s time to take a look at the farm system as a whole. We put together our top 30 Tigers prospects list at the start of the season, and it’s time to re-evaluate how they (and we) did.
21. LHP Gregory Soto
Stats: 67.0 IP, 4.43 ERA, 72 SO, 51 BB for High-A Lakeland
Previous rank: 12
Soto is precisely the type of prospect that populated the Tigers farm five years ago. He arose from the depths of obscurity in 2017 courtesy of a monster season in the Midwest League. The source of his successes is simple: a blazing fastball that attracted attention to the big lefty, and regularly receives double-plus grades. He backs that up with a curve that eats up low-level hitters with wicked bite. His command leaves quite a bit to be desired, and it’s likely what’s keeping him in the low minors. He will need a far better tertiary offering if he is going to start long-term as well. There’s still a chance that he figures everything out, but a move to the bullpen seems likely in his future.
22. SS Sergio Alcantara
Stats: 298 PA, .271/.330/.338, 12 2B, 6 SB for Double-A Erie
Previous rank: 22
Alcantara was part of the J.D. Martinez trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks last July, and is known as a glove-first shortstop to the extreme. He puts the ball in play with very little authority, consistently making contact without any power. That's not a great recipe for success, but he has made it work with a no-doubt middle infield defensive profile. He has had much better luck in the batter’s box this season, but it doesn't move the needle much on his prospect stock. For now, he still looks like a utility player — though a very capable one defensively — in his prime.
23. RHP Spencer Turnbull
Stats: 68.0 IP, 4.24 ERA, 79 SO, 28 BB for Double-A Erie
Previous rank: 21
Another year, another shoulder injury. The story of Spencer Turnbull’s professional career is that of the innings-eater that never was. He is built as any workhorse starter [Ed. One might say “like a brick s***house”], and in theory should be able to carry a starter’s load. His arsenal could work out fine at the back of a rotation if he were able to stay healthy. A pitcher who is constantly hurt, though, can never provide plenty of innings, and that may be Turnbull's downfall. Evaluators have long stated that his heavy sinker and power slider would work better in the bullpen, and he may end up there in the long run. If he moves to the ‘pen, more see him as a middle reliever, and that puts a definite cap on his value. Whether his health allows him to ever reach a major league stadium remains to be seen.
24. LHP Matt Hall
Stats: 57.0 IP, 1.58 ERA, 76 SO, 25 BB for Double-A Erie
Previous rank: 25
Though he led Division-1 baseball in strikeouts his junior year of college, Hall has never been able to overwhelm hitters with any of his pitches. A completely unremarkable fastball is the worst of his three pitches, but he is able to get the most out of it thanks to his other two pitches — a curveball and changeup. His curve is far superior to the change, and is arguably the best in the system. While his changeup lags behind, it creates a problem for hitters trying to time any of Hall’s offerings. The weak contact and ugly swings that follow create a much more effective pitcher than one might expect. If his recent resurgence as a starter is for real, he could soon be a valuable asset.
25. C Joey Morgan
Stats: 219 PA, .216/.304/.311, 9 2B, 0 SB for Double-A Erie
Previous rank: 20
Detroit’s seemingly mandatory college catcher pick was fulfilled by Joey Morgan during the 2017 draft cycle. One of the more vanilla profiles in the system, he sports a relatively high floor thanks to his defensive acumen. He plays well behind the plate, quietly making defensive maneuvers and handling an often wild Whitecaps pitching staff with skill. Unfortunately, Morgan’s offensive approach is a little deficient. He has a long swing that leaves him vulnerable and saps his power potential. In the end, he may take a while to develop because the wrinkles in his game are not easy ones to fix.