There is a lot of really good prospect content coming out here at Bless You Boys, and why not? The Detroit Tigers’ farm system is getting some national recognition, which comes with the territory of having a top five pick two years in a row. The farm will only get better with another No. 1 overall pick in 2020.
Because of that that, we are diving a little deeper into the Tigers’ farm than usual. Our top 30 prospects list is filled with names to know, and we have already outlined a list of six guys who just missed the cut.
Even with those 36 names, there are a few others well worth mentioning. That is what this list is: the guys who weren’t necessarily considered for the top 30 list, but still might be names to monitor down on the farm.
OF Kingston Liniak
This name should be familiar to those who have followed the Tigers’ system for the past couple seasons. In fact, just a year ago he slotted at 27th on our top 30 rankings. Liniak was taken in the fourth round of the 2018 as a toolsy high school bat. During his draft year, the young outfielder did show some holes in his hit tool. He also showcased what made him prospect worthy: his athleticism and speed. In short, he has a nice, high ceiling and a not-so-nice low floor.
In 2019, Liniak totaled 200 at-bats with the team formerly known as the Connecticut Tigers (now the Norwich Sea Unicorns!). He hit barely over the Mendoza line while striking out at a 27 percent clip. Not much went right for him, statistically speaking, which is part of the reason he dropped out of our top 30, but he is a talented player. That will make for an interesting 2020 season.
OF Jose Azocar
Azocar is coming off a really good season at the plate. The Venezuelan-born outfielder debuted professionally in 2013, and was considered a rising prospect in the Tigers’ organization for a little while. Throughout his career, he has been known as more of a speed and defense guy; FanGraphs graded him as a double-plus arm with plus (60 grade) speed. And after his performance in 2019, it seems as if a hit tool might be showing up for the 23-year-old.
Azocar got his first taste of Double-A action last year, and spent the whole season there. He accumulated hit .286/.317/.399 (a 108 wRC+) with 10 homers and 10 steals in 129 games. The swing-and-miss was still very much a part of his game — he struck out 24.5 percent of the time — but walks were not, at under a four percent rate. There was more pop in his bat than in years past, though. Azocar is still somewhat young; he will turn 24 in May, so it’s good to see the offense coming around.
OF Brock Deatherage
Armed with an 80-grade name, Brock Deatherage is a hard player to forget about. The hype train gained steam when he caught fire immediately in his pro debut, shortly after being drafted in the 10th round in 2018. It was simply kismet. The lefty outfielder is entering his age-24 season after spending all of 2019 in High-A Lakeland.
Deatherage’s sophomore season wasn’t quite up to par with his 2018 debut, though. He saw his batting average drop all the way to .228, with even more severe declines elsewhere. The biggest drop was seen in his walk rate, which dipped down to 4.7 percent. He did show nice speed on the basepaths, swiping 45 bases. If he can get back to the more selective approach he had in 2018, his 2020 outlook might get back on track.
SS Ryan Kreidler
The Tigers selected Kreidler out of UCLA in the fourth round of the 2019 MLB draft. He is an excellent defender at shortstop despite being large for his position, but he likely will not offer too much with the bat. Draft day expectations for the 6’4 Kreidler weren’t very high, and he was basically the player we anticipated during his first professional showing. He hit .232/.307/.351 at short-season Connecticut (now Norwich), accompanied by 13 doubles and four triples. He also stole nine bases. It was an unimpressive showing, although in a small sample of game action (257 plate appearances).
The thing to keep in mind with Kreidler is that his leading tool will always be his glove. If he is able to stick at short, that may be enough for him to find a role in the majors someday, especially now that MLB rosters can carry 26 players. The Tigers seem to love hard-nosed gamer typed like Kreidler, which may also aid in his ascent. However, there is also a chance he gets pushed to third because he is so tall and may lose a step. There’s little chance his weak offensive traits will be sufficient if that happens. He could be an outstanding defender at the hot corner, but that’s simply not what the modern game environment prioritizes anymore.
RHP Nolan Blackwood
It’s time to take a trip to the bullpen for Blackwood. He found his way to the Tigers’ farm system by way of the Mike Fiers trade in 2018. Blackwood was a 14th round pick of the Athletics back in 2016. The righty is a sidearmer who doesn’t rely much on strikeouts, but more on creating weak contact. His arm slot gives his fastball sinking action, and he will also flash a changeup and slider.
Blackwood was with Double-A Erie for most of 2019 outside of a brief three outing stint in Triple-A. With the SeaWolves he posted a 22.8 percent strikeout rate and 9.7 percent walk rate on his way to a 1.76 ERA and 3.19 WHIP. Blackwood figures to get a much longer chance with Toledo in 2020.