The Detroit Tigers now have a top-five farm system in all of baseball, depending on who you ask. MLB Pipeline, who has been higher on Detroit’s rebuild than most, recently ranked the Tigers system fifth among MLB clubs, up from 10th last spring and sixth at their 2019 midseason rank.
“Help is on the way thanks to the Tigers’ wave of upper-level pitching prospects,” Pipeline’s prospect team said, “and the club also has a promising crop of young hitters that could move faster than originally thought.” Those hitters, led by outfielder Riley Greene and infielder Isaac Paredes, still have a lot of pressure on them to support the Tigers’ young arms, but Greene’s breakout spring has a lot of people excited for things to come.
The Tigers’ young arms have also been impressive, which has helped boost their ranking. Pipeline praised lefthander Tarik Skubal for his work on Monday against the Houston Astros, in which he gave up a run and struck out three hitters in 2 2⁄3 innings. He is the No. 46 prospect in Pipeline’s top 100 rankings this year, and the No. 4 prospect in the system.
Skubal, who has made two appearances this spring, saw his prospect stock sky rocket last year as he dominated in his first full season. Not only did the lefty pitch to a 2.42 ERA over 24 starts, but he racked up 179 strikeouts over 122 2/3 innings and posted double-digit strikeout performances in seven of his final nine regular-season starts.
Righthanders Casey Mize and Matt Manning have also shown flashes of brilliance this spring, though their respective ERAs are not as shiny as Skubal’s. Mize, who was victimized by a bit of bad luck in an early outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates, has struck out six hitters and walked two in four innings.
Casey Mize’s ridiculous splitter on full display pic.twitter.com/WNfiuWwwV7— Frank Stampfl (@Roto_Frank) February 29, 2020
Manning, the No. 24 prospect in Pipeline’s rankings, has given up four earned runs in five innings, but is coming off an excellent 2019 campaign in which he led the Double-A Eastern League with 148 strikeouts in 133 2⁄3 innings. He has been ranked as the top prospect in the Tigers system by some, and was neck-and-neck with Mize in Keith Law’s newest prospect rankings at The Athletic. Manning should begin the season at Triple-A Toledo, and could be a call-up candidate later in the year.
Speaking of Law, it’s worth noting that Pipeline’s organization rankings represent the most positive outlook on the Tigers system. Law put the Tigers farm system 19th in his recent organizational rankings, citing a big drop-off from their top few prospects to everyone else in the system. Baseball America is right in the middle, ranking the Tigers 11th.
Ultimately, these farm system rankings don’t matter; development does. The Tigers need to get the most out of their current crop of prospects, and hit on future acquisitions, including the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 MLB draft. That player, presumably a hitter of some sort who should move quickly through the minors, will be a key component of the Tigers rebuild as their young arms start to take their place on Detroit’s major league roster in the next couple years.