Baseball America released their organizational talent rankings for the 2019 season earlier this month. The Detroit Tigers find themselves placed dead in the middle at 15th, wedged between the Seattle Mariners (14th) and the Cleveland Indians (16th). For comparison, Detroit’s other American League Central rivals rank sixth (Chicago White Sox), seventh (Minnesota Twins), and 27th (Kansas City), essentially making the Tigers a middle-of-the-pack team in their own division as well, according to this assessment.
Baseball America’s summary for the Tigers is short and sweet.
Long accustomed to using their prospects as trade chips under former general manager Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers are now trying to build from within. Casey Mize, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, leads the pack in a stockpile of power arms.
The Tigers had previously ranked 28th, 30th, 26th, 25th and 20th from 2014 to 2018, respectively, by Baseball America’s metrics. The team appears to be trending in the right direction these past few years after seasons of shallow farm systems due to the aforementioned proclivity of the team’s former management. Rather than using prospects as trade currency, general manager Al Avila has focused on youthful talent acquisition and player development as the primary focus in bolstering the franchise — especially in the form of strong pitching, which is something of a holdover from the previous regime.
The three Tigers prospects that rank in Baseball America’s Top 100 who helped to bolster this rise are Casey Mize, who is 16th on their list, Matt Manning (50th), and Isaac Paredes (94th). Despite the lack of true blue-chip talent in the pipeline, the organization is flush with mid-range Future Value prospects, which provides ballast to their ranking. The chart below illustrates where the club lies in comparison to other teams in terms of Future Value ratings, according to FanGraphs.
Additionally, in comparison to other organizational assessments, the Tigers’ placement on Baseball America’s list hovers in between the more pessimistic take of ESPN’s Keith Law, at number 18, and the more optimistic appraisal offered by FanGraphs, placing the club in the top 10 at number eight. MLB Pipeline also has the Tigers in their top 10, but has yet to reveal exactly where. Remember, Baseball America’s judgement is simply one of many takes on a topic that is more subjective than one might think, despite the increased use of analytics in scouting circles.
While Detroit’s ranking is not exhaustively justified in the article, what it does offer is a barometer by which we can measure the franchise’s progress into a leaner, younger future. It may be difficult to stomach the process of the rebuild at times, but many indicators from observers outside of the organization appear to be growing more bullish on the team’s farm system, and by extension, the Tigers’ future.