Note: In the future this will be a staff assignment, but for this particular segment, the answers are solely from Brian.
1) Rating/grading system: What does it mean? What is the vocabulary involved?
I should have made this a post in it of itself to begin with, but here we go: Scouts use the 20-80 grading scale (or sometimes 2-8, it doesn't matter) with which to grade the various parts of a players game. I stick with 20-80, because I like to grade by 5's (50, 55, 60, etc). 20 is obviously the worst (Bruce Rondon's present command) all the way through 80 being the best (Justin Verlander's fastball). 50 is major league average, which is actually pretty solid when grading a prospect, because you're grading them as to how their tools will play at the major league level, not at their current level. Now, for some vocabulary:
20-Simply the worst. Terrible, awful, etc. I strongly doubt that I'll ever scout someone for this site that earns a 20 grade in anything
30-Well Below Average
45-Fringy or Fringe-Average, meaning that this particular tool or skill is right on the cusp of being average. You might also see me say "decent" here
50-Average. I'll normally just say the word "average" here, as it's pretty self explanatory
55-Solid-Average. Not every scout uses "half grades" like 45 or 55, but I do. To me, solid-average means slightly above average, but not good enough to be graded 60
60-Plus or Above-Average. Even if you're new to reading about prospects and scouting, you've undoubtedly heard the term "plus" when describing a part of someone's game. Personally, I've heard Rod Allen say that Verlander has "4 plus pitches." I may also use terms like "excellent" or "very good" here when writing.
70-Plus-Plus, or Well Above-Average. Once we get up in to the higher grades, I'll normally just use the grading words to avoid confusion
80-Outstanding. If someone gets an 80 grade on something, I'll just say "so and so has an 80 arm". Just know that means the best there is. Bruce Rondon has an 80 fastball. Giancarlo Stanton has 80 raw power. Bryce Harper has an 80 arm. Billy Hamilton has 80 speed, etc.
I hope that clears it up!
2) Is Bryan Holaday ready?
As a backup catcher that is expected to do more defensively than offensively, yes. I have no problem going into 2013 with Holaday as our backup catcher. Of course, this is under the assumption that Avila stays healthy and hits lefties a bit better than he did in 2012, because I don't see Holaday as having the offensive impact that Laird had, although I like Holaday's D and Arm better than Laird's
3) Do we have any good middle infield prospects?
Yes, there's a few pretty good MIF prospects in the system. Namely Eugenio Saurez and Dixon Machado, both of whom are more known for their D than their O. Machado is the best defensive infielder in the entire system in my view, but he needs to add significant strength if he's ever to hit at the MLB level. I'm not sold on Saurez's bat, but he's the most "complete" MIF prospect we have right now. Also, guys like Harold Castro, Brandon Loy, and Hernan Perez all show at least minimal major league potential.
4) What are your thoughts on Dean Green?
I don't get very excited about guys who only profile as 1B/DH types, especially ones who don't play very good defense. But I like Green a lot. Good power, hits well, left handed, but he's going to have to mash at every level, and even then, he profiles as a poor 1B defensively, meaning he's pretty much pigeon-holed into a DH role. Not to say he can't have success with that, but I'm not going to rank someone very highly with that profile. He mashed at Lakeland late in the season, so I'd assume he'll start 2013 at AA.
5) How about Tyler Collins?
Collins is a guy I like a lot, and I'm higher on him than most are I believe. He profiles as a bat-first 4th OF, but I like him to potentially be a starter in LF, especially if the team he's on has plus defenders in CF and RF. He'll never grade out above 40-45 defensively, but I like his bat enough to where I think a team could get away with having him out there. He hit very well at Lakeland, commanded the zone well, had some pop, stole some bases, etc. Overall, he had a great year. He'll start 2013 at AA, and I'd assume that he'll stay there for the entirety of 2013. I could see a 2014 ETA for him. However, if the Tigers are sold on Garcia and Castellanos being the corner OF's of the future, then Collin's becomes a pretty solid trade chip
6) Thoughts on Jake Thompson?
Loved this pick. Ceiling of a #3 starter. Big kid. Only 18 and still growing, and he's already 6'4" 230-235. Currently sits at about 91-93, but his fastball has good late life. He gets a lot of weak contact. His arm speed and mechanics tell me that in time he could probably sit 93-94 and reach back for 96-97 potentially, but he's never going to be a "blow me away" pitcher. Projectable slider that flashes plus, and a projectable changeup that could become at least an average pitch for him. I'm hoping he goes to West Michigan in 2013 so I can see him more in person
7) Who can we expect next year at each level worth watching?
Erie jumps out to me first, seeing as I expect Nick Castellanos, Tyler Collins, Dixon Machado, Hernan Perez, Daniel Fields, Dean Green, James McCann and others there. Potentially also guys like Drew VerHagen, Eugenio Saurez, Alex Burgos, Will Clinard and others. I'm already planning a scouting trip out there.
West Michigan should also see several guys worth watching, namely: Austin Schotts, Jake Thompson, Danry Vasquez, Logan Ehlers, Jake Stewart, Edgar De La Rosa, etc out there.
Toledo will probably have Avisail Garcia, Casey Crosby, and Andy Oliver, Michael Morrison, Matt Hoffman, and Jose Ortega there, along with "maybes" like James McCann or Nick Castellanos. May also have Bruce Rondon here to start the season.
Lakeland will be down a little bit, but that doesn't mean there won't be guys to watch. Namely, Drew VerHagen, Kyle Ryan, Tommy Collier, Kevin Eichorn, Melvin Mercedes, Eugenio Saurez (if I had my way), Brandon Loy, Aaron Westlake, and Jason King should all be there.
It's kind of hard for me to project the GCL or Connecticut teams, since a lot of those guys have yet to be drafted. But off the top of my head, I'd assume Tyler Gibson and maybe others like Harold Castro will head to Connecticut.
8) Can Bruce Rondon close for the Tigers next season?
Can he? Probably. Will he? I'm not sure. Should he? I'd say no. I think he needs to spend some more time fine-tuning his command and secondary pitches. The fastball is ready to get major league outs right now, no doubt about it. But I'm not sold on his makeup or his command yet. It's doubtful to me that the command will ever grade above 40, but when the fastball is coming at 100+, command doesn't have to be pinpoint. I'm the anti-Tiger in this sense, that I like to air on the side of caution more so than the side of rushing prospects. I have little doubt that we will see Rondon pitching in Detroit in 2013, but I'm not sold on him as closer.
9) What's the scoop on Avisail Garcia? He's been dubbed "Mini-Miggy" and everyone raves about his raw tools, but what do you see? Will he live up to his nickname?
First of all, no. For him to live up to his nickname, he would have to become the best hitter on the planet for an extended period of several years, so I feel pretty safe in saying "no" to that. Everyone got really excited when Avi got called up, especially because he can run a bit, has a cannon arm, and hit pretty well (albeit with no power). He still has a long way to go, however. For me, his ceiling is above-average regular in RF. He's still very, very raw. In 2012, he finally found a bit of a handle on his wide skill set, and used that to bounce himself all the way to starting in the World Series. I'd like to see him go to Toledo to start 2013. He needs to work on his plate discipline, pitch recognition, power, and base running. Would he hold his own in the majors as a platoon guy only playing against LHP? Yeah, probably. But would that hinder his development? Yes. He needs to play every day against both RHP and LHP and simply develop. It's not a foregone conclusion that the plate discipline will come, but if he's always going to be a free swinger, then he definitely needs to develop that power more. His future is bright in Detroit, but not in 2013, at least to me