Along with the news that Tigers top prospect, infielder Colt Keith, was being promoted to Triple-A Toledo on Monday, the team’s representatives for the 2023 MLB Futures Game were also announced. Keith will play for the American League squad as expected, with Justyn-Henry Malloy joining him. The 24th edition of the prospect talent showcase is held during MLB All-Star week and will take play on July 8 at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
These are the Tigers top two hitting prospects in the system.
Keith was the Tigers fifth round selection out of high school in the truncated 2020 amateur draft. The Tigers got him on a nice over slot deal that is turning out to be one of Al Avila’s better decisions as general manager. Keith has done little but rake this season, tearing it up as one of the youngest players in the Eastern League. The 21-year-old’s precocious power and contact ability were a key driving force in powering the Tigers’ Double-A affiliate, the Erie SeaWolves, to a first half division title.
Recent re-rankings of top 100 prospect lists at MLB Pipeline and Baseball America have had Keith as one of the fastest rising prospects in the game. He’s now 43rd overall on Pipeline’s list, up from 80th. Baseball America has him 27th overall.
So far this season the left-handed hitting Keith has 14 home runs in 59 games played. His .325/.391/.585 line, good for a .976 OPS, has him third in the Eastern League behind the Orioles’ Coby Mayo, and the Pirates top catching prospect, Henry Davis.
The key concern with Keith remains his defensive position. He’s put a lot of work into improving his speed and agility but the Tigers continue to experiment with moving him off his primary position at third base. He’s played second base more recently, and with average footspeed could also perhaps shift to a corner outfield spot at some point. Keith has the arm to play right field, though a minor arm issue kept him in the designated hitter spot for his final series with the SeaWolves. Either way, the Tigers need to figure it out relatively quickly, because his bat has him on track for a major league debut in the near future.
As for Justyn-Henry Malloy, the 23-year-old came to Detroit from the Atlanta Braves in an offseason trade for reliever Joe Jimeñez in one of new President of Baseball Ops, Scott Harris’, first moves running the Tigers.
Malloy hit the ground running in his new organization but cooled in June as teams adjusted to him and began throwing him a lot more breaking balls in the zone. His excellent eye at the plate still has him holding a 15.3 percent walk rate and a slash line of .264/.386/.434, with 11 home runs in 72 games.
A third baseman in the Braves’ system, the Tigers kept Malloy at the hot corner for the first 10 weeks of the season, but have recently begun moving him to corner outfield. He has enough arm and footspeed to handle right field, but isn’t going to wow anyone with his defense no matter what the position. Like Keith, his value is almost totally tied up in his bat, but the potential for a good major league hitter is in place. If he can settle in as an outfielder and heat up again offensively, there’s still a fair chance we’ll see him in Detroit later this summer.
The Tigers continue to churn out useful pitchers, but the position player side of the farm system remains well behind the curve. Keith and Malloy are currently the Tigers two best hitting prospects, so it’ll be good to have them representing the organization in the prospect showcase as they work to take the next step and reach the major leagues.