The Detroit Tigers farm system still isn’t quite at the elite tier according to most prospect analysts, but they’re getting close. The thing holding them back continues to be the lack of other highly touted bat or two. On Wednesday, Baseball America released their new top 100 prospect rankings for 2020, and for the first time since the list debuted, the Tigers have five representatives.
Casey Mize (13) and Matt Manning (17) lead the way, checking in as two of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Baseball America notes that a clean bill of health this year will clear the way for Mize to begin making an impact late in 2020. They note an average fastball velocity of 93 mph in 2019, and grade him as having three plus pitches, with the infamous splitter checking in with a double-plus grade of 70 on the 20-80 scale.
Manning gets plenty of love as well, with plus grades across the board for each of his three pitches. He checked in with a 94 mph average on his heater in 2019. We’ve noted that Manning’s changeup really made a leap in quality and consistency in the first half of the year, and Baseball America seems to agree, writing that, “the Eastern League pitcher of the year fanned 148 batters thanks in part to a step forward with his changeup, which now projects as plus.”
Manning seemed to lose feel for the changeup late in the summer, but there was enough there from April to June to be excited about the pitch’s improvement.
Tarik Skubal continues to be the fasting rising name on many prospect boards. Baseball America pegs him at 34th overall, giving plus grades to both his fastball and slider, while the changeup and curve draw above average grades of 55. His fastball averaged 93 mph in 2019. The challenge in 2020 is simply backing up his outrageous 2019 campaign and proving to the remaining doubters that it wasn’t a fluke. We feel pretty confident that he will.
The Tigers first round pick in the 2019 draft, outfielder Riley Greene, checks in at 49th best in the country, giving the organization four top 50 prospects in Baseball America’s estimation. They note that Greene may carry five average or better tools, and specifically laud his, “advanced hitting ability for his age to go with plus raw power.” Greene’s average exit velocity off the bat in 2019 was 88 mph.
Finally, infielder Isaac Paredes squeaks onto the list in 100th position. Paredes is nagged by a laundry list of minor concerns about his athleticism and final position, but the precocious pure hitting ability he’s displayed in his time in the Tigers’ organization can’t be denied. A likely move off of the shortstop position and a lagging ability to find his raw power in games will continue to keep him in the bottom half of the top 100, but as BA notes, “Paredes has always been one of the youngest hitters in whatever league he’s in. He’s always hit.” Paredes also checked in with an 88 mph average exit velocity.
Baseball America’s method is to have each writer put together their own top 150 list. They then merge the lists into a final top 100. Only one Tigers’ prospect not previously mentioned drew a spot on any top 150 list. That player was right-hander Alex Faedo, illustrating that at least on the pitching side, there is a quality depth behind the blue-chippers.