Last December, we introduced our preseason top 30 prospect rankings for the 2019 season all at once. It was a new format for us, but one that we liked; there was little suspense to be had for the top prospect in the Detroit Tigers farm system — spoiler alert: it’s Casey Mize again — and only our most fervent readers would have truly cared who made the last few spots on our list.
With the 2019 MLB draft and All-Star break now behind us, it’s time for an update. Several players have made their way onto our rankings, while others have either graduated or dropped off. We have already named a few players who didn’t quite make the cut, and might follow up with a few more risers and fallers before we start unloading our individual profiles next week. There may be a shake-up or two along the way as well, as the July 31 trade deadline could result in another infusion of talent into the system.
Those changes will have to be added in later on, though. As our internal discussions have revealed, no prospect list is ever truly perfect. There is still debate going on right now, as our individual lists are quite diverse, and will certainly be some down in the comments below. Just remember, these lists are simply a snapshot in time, not a comprehensive list of who is guaranteed to make it to the majors and who will not.
1. RHP Casey Mize
A wonky shoulder is the only thing that has slowed down Mize this season. He obliterated opposing hitters in four starts at High-A Lakeland to open the year, allowing just one run in 26 innings. Double-A hasn’t been much of a challenge either, as he has put up zeroes in five of his nine starts for the Erie SeaWolves. He’s not only the top prospect on our list, he’s a top-five prospect in all of baseball.
2. RHP Matt Manning
Just like before the season began, Manning earned a couple of first place votes in our individual rankings. He too has dominated Double-A this year, and leads the Eastern League with 106 strikeouts in 91 innings. He still has areas to work on, as his performance in the MLB Futures Game showed, but the sky is still the limit for the 21-year-old righthander.
3. OF Riley Greene
Potential double-plus hitters don’t exactly grow on trees, and Greene has shown off his incredible gifts so far in pro ball. He dominated the Gulf Coast League and is doing the same so far at short-season Connecticut. Even though we’re talking about a minuscule 13-game sample, Greene has shown a mature approach at the plate, and will almost certainly be at Single-A West Michigan to open the 2020 season.
4. SS Isaac Paredes
Paredes has quietly gone about his business this year, but has managed an impressive .350 on-base percentage in 79 games at Double-A Erie as a 20-year-old. His power hasn’t been quite as present as we expected — he has just six home runs in 340 plate appearances — but reports indicated he was going the other way a lot to open the year. The power is showing up recently, though; five of his six homers have come since June 1.
5. OF Daz Cameron
Worried about Daz? We’re not. The 22-year-old has a poor .225 batting average at Triple-A Toledo, but has walked at a healthy 8.6 percent clip in 77 games, and is on pace for a 20-homer, 20-steal season.
6. C Jake Rogers
Call him up already! Rogers absolutely mashed at Double-A Erie to open the 2019 season, earning a mid-May call-up to Triple-A. His offensive numbers have been up-and-down since then, but he has seven home runs and a 9.7 percent walk rate in 37 games for the Mud Hens. He’s also an elite defender behind the plate, if you’re into that sort of thing.
7. RHP Beau Burrows
Of all the top-end pitching prospects in the Tigers’ farm system, Burrows seems like a lock to reach the majors first. The 22-year-old hit a little snag earlier this year with some shoulder inflammation, but has bounced back to the tune of a 1.38 ERA in his last three starts since coming off the injured list. His walk rate leaves something to be desired right now, but Burrows is still the potential back-end starter many projected when he was drafted back in 2015. Expect to see him in Detroit some time later this summer.
8. RHP Alex Faedo
What a difference a few months can make. Heading into the season, many were worried about Faedo’s potential after a very poor showing at Double-A towards the end of 2018. He has bounced back this year, however, with a 3.44 ERA and 5.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 89 innings for the SeaWolves. His 98 strikeouts trail only Manning among Eastern League pitchers.
9. RHP Franklin Perez
Once again, we haven’t seen much of Perez on the mound. The 21-year-old righthander has only made two starts, both at High-A Lakeland, and is again on the injured list with a nebulous shoulder injury. He was one of the tougher prospects on our board to rank, ranging from No. 6 to No. 13 in the system on our individual lists.
10. SS Willi Castro
Like Rogers, Castro might be an upgrade over the incumbent major league starter at his position right now. The 22-year-old shortstop has enjoyed an excellent season at Triple-A Toledo, hitting .295/.381/.442 in 82 games. His defense is holding him back, though; he already has 17 errors on the season, many of which have been described as mental lapses.
11. OF Parker Meadows
The old “don’t scout the stat line” adage certainly comes into play with young Mr. Meadows. The 19-year-old has a paltry .626 OPS on the year, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. For one, he’s still only 19, one of the youngest players in the Midwest League. Many of the pitchers he is facing are three or four years older than him. He has also displayed excellent plate discipline, walking in 10.8 percent of his plate appearances. The power is there, too. Just give him time.
12. 3B Nick Quintana
The Tigers’ second round pick in 2019, Quintana is the type of two-way position player fans have been hoping for. He is an excellent defender at third base, and put up amazing numbers at the plate in his three seasons at Arizona. His adjustment to pro ball has been a bit slow, but like Meadows, he is taking walks in bunches so far.
13. RHP Kyle Funkhouser
The injury bug bit Funkhouser once again in 2019, but he wasn’t out for too long. The 25-year-old righthander has made 12 starts at Triple-A Toledo this year, including six since coming off the injured list in June. Unfortunately, they haven’t been very good. Funkhouser has 54 strikeouts in 49 innings across all levels this year, but has also walked 34 batters. He will be Rule 5 eligible this winter, but the Tigers will want to see him rein in his control a bit before he reaches the majors.
14. LHP Tarik Skubal
Is there a player in the Tigers farm system that is harder to rank right now than Skubal? Hell, we asked you guys for help last month. Skubal has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks this year thanks to gaudy numbers at the High-A level. He hasn’t missed a beat in two starts at Double-A either, with 21 strikeouts in just 10 innings. Durability and his secondary pitches are still a concern, though, so some of us are hesitant to move up too far up the list just yet.
15. IF Andre Lipcius
Lipcius finally tapped into his considerable raw power at Tennessee this year, hitting 17 home runs in 61 games for the Volunteers. He has only gone yard once since reaching the pro ranks, but it’s too early to judge him on those results. More interesting, I think, is what he is doing on the other side of the ball. Lipcius was drafted as a third baseman, but has played more second base and shortstop for the Whitecaps so far.
16. 2B Kody Clemens
Clemens has had a bit of an up-and-down season, but things have been trending upward lately. He struggled mightily in April, with a .534 OPS, but put up big numbers in May, and has nine homers and a .789 OPS over the past 2 1⁄2 months. He has really struggled against lefties, with a .483 OPS in 57 plate appearances.
17. SS Wenceel Perez
We preached patience with Perez after he caught some attention in an eye-popping stint with West Michigan last summer, and his 2019 numbers are why. The 19-year-old infielder has a .584 OPS on the year, and doesn’t have the same gaudy walk rate to point at like Meadows. Still, Perez is rather young for the level, and his bat perked up a bit in June. Don’t panic with him.
18. RHP Elvin Rodriguez
Rodriguez has quietly had an excellent season down in Lakeland, managing a 3.12 ERA in 86 2⁄3 innings. He is walking a few more hitters than he did at West Michigan last year, and will need to add muscle to his slender frame to maintain velocity later into starts. He’s raw still, but there is potential here.
#Tigers RHP Elvin Rodriguez— James Chipman (@_jchipman) April 25, 2019
Slender build; thin wiry frame.
H3/4 slot w/ mod effort; struggles repeating; pred seq; control over cmnd.
FB: 91-93 t94 min arm side life, loses velo ~60 pitches; CB: 77-79 11/5 action, lacks consistent shape & feel; CH: 86 firm lacks fade & convic.
19. RHP Anthony Castro
Castro’s overall numbers in 2019 don’t tell the story. The 24-year-old, always a bit behind developmentally because of a Tommy John surgery earlier in his career, has limited opponents to a 2.60 ERA and .557 OPS as a starter this season. Unfortunately, his future probably lies in the bullpen, where he has struggled this year.
20. OF Jake Robson
Robson is another Tigers prospect who has quietly gone about his business this year. He has hit .266/.342/.399 in 73 games with Triple-A Toledo, and could flirt with 30 stolen bases when all is said and done. Rule 5 eligible at the end of the year, Robson might be in line to get a few at-bats in Detroit if Nicholas Castellanos is traded later this month.
21. RHP Bryan Garcia
We showed faith in Garcia earlier this year, putting him on our preseason top 30 even though he missed all of 2018 due to Tommy John surgery. He hasn’t missed a beat in his return, striking out 31 batters in 23 innings across three minor league levels. Better yet, his control has been there, too — he has walked just five batters in 22 appearances.
22. RHP Wilkel Hernandez
Hernandez’s 4.31 ERA isn’t anything special, but he has solid strikeout and walk numbers pitching as a young 20-year-old in the Midwest League. He’s still raw in all areas, and his secondary pitches in particular need more work. He could be a back-end starter if things click.
23. RHP Hugh Smith
Smith finally made his pro debut this season after the Tigers grabbed him in the sixth round of last year’s draft, and the results have been solid so far. He has 38 strikeouts in 33 2⁄3 innings, but a few too many walks for comfort. He’s working as a starter for now, but his future is likely in the bullpen.
24. OF Derek Hill
Hill drew some eyes earlier this year after getting off to a hot start in Double-A Erie, but he has since fallen back to Earth. Since May 1, he is hitting .206/.264/.353, albeit with seven home runs. But hey, at least he has been healthy this time around.
25. LHP Gregory Soto
Soto is close to graduating from this list after logging 27 1⁄3 innings in nine innings at the major league level, and it’s easy to see what he is at this point: a potential above-average reliever, but certainly not a starter. Soto had a lot of trouble getting through the lineup a second time in his starts, but he could be a nice 1-2 inning weapon to use in the middle innings.
26. RHP Carlos Guzman
27. C Cooper Johnson
28. OF Bryant Packard
29. SS Sergio Alcantara
30. OF Kingston Liniak
Want to see our individual top 30 lists? Check them out here.