Every year, we publish a list of rankings of the top prospects in the Detroit Tigers' organization. While this seems like an exercise in futility -- five of our top eight prospects from last year are no longer with the Tigers -- it helps introduce fans to the next wave of talent in the organization.
In the past, we have had the luxury of relying on some talented prospect writers. Jordan Gorosh did some excellent work on last year's list, and now he works for the prospect team at Baseball Prospectus. Brian Sakowski is now a scout for Perfect Game. David Tokarz is still around, but is too busy enriching young American minds to put together a comprehensive list.
Instead of being stuck with me, we're turning the tables in 2015. Remember last year's Top 50 Tigers countdown? We're running it like that, starting at the top and working down the list. We'll toss out a few names today, throw a poll at the bottom of the post, and let you decide. Tools? Ceiling? Proximity to the majors? Prioritize what you want. The prospect with the most votes gets his own profile post, and the vote for #2 begins.
Without further ado, here are some possibilities for the best prospect in the Tigers organization.
Edgar De La Rosa, right-handed pitcher
If you think Steven Moya is a big guy, De La Rosa might be even larger. Measuring at 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds, De La Rosa is an imposing presence on the mound. He became more imposing in 2014, pumping mid-to-high 90s fastballs at hitters in the Advanced-A Florida State League. Yes, "at." He hit 11 batters in 2014 and walked 53 batters in a career high 139 innings. His strikeout rate isn't as high as some would expect given his velocity, and many believe a transition to the bullpen is in his future. If the Tigers decide to move him to the pen, he could be a quick riser through the system.
Buck Farmer, right-handed pitcher
The 2014 season was a big one for Farmer. He ranked 29th on our prospect list last season, but an excellent first half at Single-A West Michigan led to a quick progression to the high minors and a pair of starts for the Tigers. He wasn't quite as strong in the second half, but it's hard to blame him. After being promoted -- and skipping Advanced-A Lakeland, no less -- Farmer made trips from Erie to Detroit to Toledo to Detroit to Toledo to Detroit. And that was just August. Farmer was a fifth round pick out of Georgia Tech in 2013, and will be 24-years-old in 2015.
Derek Hill, outfielder
The trendy pick as the organization's top prospect by just about everyone, Hill was selected in the first round of the 2014 draft. He was a high school outfielder out of California, and has already drawn comparisons to Torii Hunter for his defensive prowess. Already one of the best defensive outfielders in the organization, Hill split 197 plate appearances between the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues in 2014. He hit .208/.296/.295 with two home runs, and stole 11 bases in 13 attempts. Hill may start 2014 at Single-A West Michigan, but a repeat of short season ball wouldn't be surprising.
James McCann, catcher
McCann might be the newest darling of the Tigers' fanbase. Many fans clamored for him to platoon with Alex Avila during the second half of 2014, and it's hard to blame them. McCann hit .295/.343/.427 with seven home runs and 54 RBI in his first trip to Triple-A Toledo, including an .865 OPS in 144 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers. McCann didn't get many opportunities to showcase his skills in a September call-up, but all signs point toward 2015 being a dress rehearsal for the 24-year-old McCann taking the starting job in 2016.
Steven Moya, outfielder
Moya might be as divisive of a prospect the Tigers have had in a long time. Blessed with prodigious raw power, Moya started to put things together in 2014. He hit .276/.306/.555 with 35 home runs and 105 RBI in 549 plate appearances at Double-A Erie. The Eastern League might be the most hitter-friendly level that Tigers prospects see, but Moya's performance was still impressive. He does have issues, though. The Tigers have already said that he needs to work on his plate discipline and pitch recognition, one of the reasons why he played in the Arizona Fall League this year. With Yoenis Cespedes now on the roster, expect Moya to spend most of 2015 at Triple-A.
Hernan Perez, infielder
It seems like Perez has been around forever, but the right-handed infielder is still only 23-years-old. Perez signed with the Tigers out of Venezuela in 2007 and slowly progressed his way through the minor league system. He made his MLB debut in 2012, but has only seen action in 44 games. His rookie eligibility expired in 2014, but most still consider him a prospect due to his young age and relative inexperience. He most likely projects to be a utility infielder -- and may fill that role for the Tigers in 2015, given his lack of remaining minor league options -- but some still believe Perez has the chops to be an MLB starter one day.
Spencer Turnbull, right-handed pitcher
The Tigers drafted Turnbull out of the University of Alabama in the second round of the 2014 draft. A six foot, three inch right-hander, Turnbull's fastball can reach the mid-90s. However, his secondary pitches are somewhat lacking, and he profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter even if he gets the slider and changeup working. He spent most of 2014 at short season Connecticut, where he allowed a 4.45 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in 28 1/3 innings. Now 22, expect Turnbull to start 2015 at Single-A West Michigan.
Kevin Ziomek, left-handed pitcher
Ziomek was the Tigers' second round pick in 2013, and the Vanderbilt product put together a sharp season in 2014. The 22 year old tossed 123 innings at Single-A West Michigan, striking out 152 batters while walking 53. His 2.27 ERA led the staff, and his 2.98 FIP was nearly as good. While he was age appropriate for the Midwest League, this kind of dominance isn't surprising for someone who thrived in the SEC during college. This could be a make-or-break season for Ziomek's prospect stock, and it wouldn't be shocking to see a mid-season promotion to the high minors if things are going well.