One of our favorite points in the preseason calendar is the release of a new FanGraphs top 100 prospect list. There aren’t any big surprises in this year’s edition from a Detroit Tigers’ perspective, but it’s always instructive to read their commentary. In the larger scheme of things it’s also the perfect entrance point into following prospects and farm systems for fans interested in broadened the scope of their baseball habit.
The top prospect in baseball is now Baltimore Orioles catching prospect Adley Rutschman, who FanGraphs had third last year. The 24-year-old reached Triple-A in 2021 and continues to show the makings of a plus hit, plus power catcher with outstanding defensive ability. Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco hit the big leagues with an impressive rookie campaign in 2021 after holding the top spot prior to the season. San Diego Padres lefty Mackenzie Gore was second on FanGraphs list this time last year, but had a rough year plagued with minor injuries and plummeted a whole scouting grade down to a 50 future value (FV) tag.
After Rutschman, Kansas City Royals shortstop prospect, Bobby Witt Jr. checks in second overall. With the ability to stick at the position and bone-crushing raw power, he’ll likely be fun for the Tigers to deal with in the AL Central soon. The fruits of Baltimore’s run of miserable seasons is clear in Grayson Rodriguez, FanGraphs third-ranked prospect. Graded a 65 FV, Rodriguez is a pretty spectacular young pitching prospect and gives the Orioles the best 1-2 punch of any farm system in the game. Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez, a strong corner outfielder with huge power and a plus bat, checks in at fourth overall, the last of the prospects graded more than 60. As they always emphasize, the grade tiers are far more meaningful that the individual rankings within those tiers.
Still, it’s nice to be ranked highest in the 60 FV tier, as our favorite, 1-2 punch in the minor leagues comes with Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, ranked fifth and sixth overall. The prospect team of Eric Longenhagen, Kevin Goldstein, and Tess Taruskin had some high praise for the Tigers young hopefuls.
His raw power is near or at the top of the scale, but he’s also a sound hitter with a compact swing and feel for barrel control, with some scouts projecting a future plus hit tool once his closes up some holes at the bottom of the zone.
His swing has a controlled ferocity (Greene has remarkable lower half flexibility) that creates all-fields spray, and comes with enough raw juice to put balls out toward either gap.
At this point, the accolades are familiar. The confidence is what stands out. No one can be sure if Torkelson or Greene will be really good or even great players, but there is a lot of consensus that both are likely to be good major league regulars at least. This is the theme of the Tigers season. They’re about to add two good young position players to a squad that was surprisingly strong in 2021. With the timing coming together, they went out to add a pair of good free agents, and a new era of Tigers baseball is now underway.
Probably the most interesting note from the Tigers’ perspective is that 2021 third overall pick Jackson Jobe is ranked 33rd overall in baseball. Now that draft philosophy debates over position players versus pitchers in the draft have quieted, the simple fact is that Jobe is a really good young pitching prospect. Marcelo Mayer, who the Tigers passed on, ranks 19th, but with a 55 FV grade over Jobe’s high 50. Don’t sweat it. There are no safe bets with pitchers, but you still have to draft them too. Jobe has fantastic stuff already, and the Tigers are willing to bet that his athleticism, mentality, and work ethic will carry him the rest of the way.
Welcome to pro ball, Mr. Jobe. Also, hey how about Manuel Sequera?
This was the first home run Jackson Jobe has given up, anywhere. He was gracious in talking about it.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) February 23, 2022
“Welcome to pro ball, I guess,” he said. https://t.co/U0X9MUGTjr
The final note for the Tigers was catcher Dillon Dingler, ranked 108th. He still gets a 50 FV grade, like Jobe, so the organizational does have four 50 or better prospects, which is a better crude measure of the top of a farm system than pure rankings. The strong defensive profile, combined with solid power, overall athleticism, and a still developing bat make him one of the better catching prospects in the game, even if that bat has a lot to prove yet.
In the end, prospect lists can never be more than rough guidelines, as there are just too many variables involved for any group to be really accurate. FanGraphs consistently does a fine job and explains their methodology in great detail, and their list is well worth a read. As for the Tigers, rumors of the imminent demise of the farm after Greene and Torkelson graduate are probably over-stated, as the organization does have far more talented, but not yet heralded, young players to work with than we’ve ever seen in the system. Certainly at the top of the scale the organization will need some things to go their way to continue producing top prospect talent, but we have a feeling the new player development staff will surprise the industry this year with some breakouts. Obviously the goal is to win MLB games and titles, not prospect lists, but it will be interesting to see how the Tigers measure up again a year from now.