On Wednesday afternoon, righthander Anthony Castro had a gem of an outing for the Erie SeaWolves. Castro, a 24-year-old prospect whose development has been delayed by a lengthy rehab from Tommy John surgery, allowed just one hit and one run in seven innings while striking out 11. While his ERA is a bit high, Castro, who has been shuttling between Erie’s rotation and bullpen this year, has racked up 56 strikeouts in 47 1⁄3 innings. He has also allowed just two home runs, an impressive number given how hitter-friendly Erie and the Double-A Eastern League can be.
The big names in the Tigers’ farm system have dominated headlines this year, and for good reason. Casey Mize and Matt Manning have been incredible, and Alex Faedo has bounced back after a rough 2018 season. Isaac Paredes and Willi Castro are also coming on strong.
Today, I want to focus on some names further down the list. Anthony Castro has put up solid numbers this year, as mentioned, while others have also exceeded expectations. Even Spencer Turnbull, our No. 14 prospect in the system heading into this year, is flirting with the AL Rookie of the Year race three months into the regular season.
Our Question of the Day asks you to identify someone you like that is flying under the radar.
Who is the most underrated prospect in the Tigers organization?
My answer: As a longstanding advocate for Derek Hill’s skill set, I really want to list him here. However, I’m still rather puzzled that everyone else is so down on Jake Rogers relative to us here at Bless You Boys. He is widely regarded as the best defensive catcher in the minors, and his offensive profile — he draws a lot of walks and has some solid raw power — fits in perfectly with the modern game. He has struggled at the Triple-A level so far, but has still managed five home runs and a .228 isolated power (ISO) in 23 games.
What makes Rogers so underrated, though, is just how low the bar is for other catchers around the league. Throughout Major League Baseball, catchers are batting just .240/.312/.405 this year, an 89 wRC+. Last season, they hit .234/.304/.372. That is a looooow bar to clear, one that projection systems like Steamer already expect him to approach in 2019. ZiPS projects him for 3.5 fWAR over the next three years, nearly all from his glove. If he exceeds expectations at the plate, he’s an above-average starter for years to come.
Not bad for a prospect most publications have somewhere in the No. 12-14 range in the Tigers system right now.