Prospect season is upon us! Here at Bless You Boys, we are knee-deep in our coverage of the Detroit Tigers’ farm system for the 2020 season. Our top 30 prospects list was released earlier this week, and Jay profiled a few players who just missed the cut yesterday.
We still have plenty of content to come, but with the weekend fast approaching and productivity at work surely at an all-time high, we thought we’d have some Friday fun and ask you for your thoughts on the farm system as a whole, as well as the players within.
There’s a lot to take in here (/glares at Zane), so let’s get right to our question of the week.
This week’s question: Which Tigers prospect are you most excited to follow this season?
Rob, in vain: One prospect, everyone.
Peter: Riley Greene. The Tigers are stuffed fuller than me eating Christmas cookies on December 26th with pitching prospects, and darn good ones too. I really want to see how the Tigers can develop a very toolsy high school bat to provide some desperately needed hitting in their system.
Trevor: Bryant Packard, hands down. College bats usually are advanced enough to show well at the lower levels, and reacting to numbers only in draft season isn’t recommended. That said, I like what Packard showed in terms of ability to hit, and I’m a believer. Seeing his first full season, which should start in High-A Lakeland, should be a lot of fun.
Peter: Christin Stewart, Willi Castro, and Isaac Parades have potential, but they likely don’t have the elite top end potential that Greene offers. The Tigers need a cornerstone bat to build their lineup around. And if they want to avoid spending mega dollars for said bat on the free agent market, that player will have to be developed internally. Greene has the tools to potentially become that star talent. It’s up to the Tigers to unlock it.
Brandon: I’ll go with Parker Meadows. We roughly know what the Tigers have in the upper minors and in Riley Greene. Meadows has been underwhelming so far, but the tools remain compelling, and it feels like a bit of a make-or-break year for him. We need to see some better work at the plate and improvements in his swing and overall strength. Another stagnant year and he is going to enter Derek Hill territory.
Trevor: Interesting that in a system led by arms the first three answers are bats.
Rob: One might argue that the bats are more important because of their scarcity.
Brandon: Yeah, and we have less questions about the pitching. I guess it’s how we define excitement!
Trevor: I agree, but the question is about excitement so that would probably mostly lie in the arms in this system. My answer was a bat, I totally get it. Just a devil’s advocate thing.
Rob: If we’re talking pure excitement, it’s Casey Mize. Barring injury, he will reach the majors this year, and I want to see how his stuff fares against MLB hitters. He didn’t strike out as many guys as we would like to see in the minors last year, but there are reasons why stuff like that might not happen. Maybe the Tigers wanted him to work on other stuff, and had him shelve the splitter (we heard whispers of this, I think).
Brandon: No it’s a good point. I’m excited to be able to see Mize, Matt Manning, and Tarik Skubal at Triple-A Toledo... but expectations are already high. It’s hard to do more than live up to them.
Rob: We could always modify the question slightly. If it’s purely out of interest for what may happen in 2019, my answer changes to Nick Quintana. He was so bad last year, but in a small sample.
Trevor: If I were to give a pitcher-hitter combination it would be Packard and Hugh Smith. Packard for the same reasons as I stated before, and Smith because he is just flat-out interesting with his size. But I still pick Packard overall.
Ashley: I’m boring, so I am going with Mize. I hope to see him play in Detroit this year, and while I’m not sure he is going to dazzle, per se, I’m excited to see if he can hold his own against the big boys.
Adam: I’ll take Matt Manning. Dude is a stud and my No. 1 prospect in the system.
Zane, warning us: I’m on a Greyhound from Grand Rapids to Ann Arbor right now, so I think it’s time for one of my roundtable essays.
Zane: For me, it’s still the big three. Mize was absolutely electric during the first half of last season, and his no-hitter in his Double-A debut was not only a sign of things to come, but the most exciting moment in the Tigers organization in 2019. Manning built upon an impressive 2018 by matching Mize’s accomplishments in 2019. I sincerely am anticipating a Mize-Manning one-two punch for years to come, barring one of them becoming the Kyle Sleeth to the other’s Justin Verlander (not that either will live up to perhaps the greatest pitcher of this generation, but it’s an analogy).
Rob: Don’t bring that evil on us.
Zane, on a roll: Which brings me to Tarik Skubal. Man. The success rates of pitching prospects clearly states that all three won’t pan out. But if Tarik Skubal is 15-to-20 percent worse this year than he was last year, he is still a force to be reckoned with and a potential ace in the making. Watching him strike out 48.2 percent of batters in his Double-A stint last year was special. Nine starts, 42 1⁄3 innings, a 1.26 FIP and 1.27 xFIP. Hitters may have been getting lucky with a .343 opponent BABIP off of him, and his strand rate was a very normal 75.2 percent. I’m not one to scout the stat line, but he was overpowering everybody.
I have faith in Mize and Manning at this point — their fate is in the hands of the Injury Gods. Tarik Skubal is my guy to watch right now, though. If the Tigers rotation suddenly boasts a lethal trio of young guys, I’m getting season tickets even if the lineup continues to be the equivalent of nine Andrew Romines. I love me some good pitching. (But also, please sign hitters. And actually make a real bullpen this decade. PLEASE.)
Rob: One prospect.
Zane: Hey now! technically I ended it by saying Skubal is my guy.
Patrick: Casey Mize. He is the highest-rated prospect in the Tigers’ system and the one most likely to have a major impact at the major league level.
Brady: Obviously, I’m exited to see guys like Mize and Greene to see how they develop, but I’m going with Skubal. He had his awesome breakout — now what? I want to see whether he can keep that level of excellence up to prove that he’s legit.
Jay: One prospect I’m extremely interested to see play in 2020 is Kingston Liniak. When the Tigers drafted him in 2018, he was sushi-level raw, and we know almost nothing about him. What little we can decipher leads to the conclusion that he has the tools to be a legit prospect if he can put them together. He’s a crack defender, has excellent bat speed, and his thin frame leaves a lot of projection remaining. He should be in West Michigan to open 2020 and will more than likely play there all year, so I expect to be able to get several in-person views of him. We weren’t able to find room for him in our top 30 prospects because there’s so little information available on him, but if he is as good as we think he could be next year, he will almost certainly grab a place among the Tigers best hopefuls. He is one of the few picks in recent years where the Tigers have sprung for sheer upside regardless of the risk. Their scouts obviously like his tools, especially considering they overpaid for him in the draft. I’m curious to see with my own eyes how this pick will play out.