2015 Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: The Tools

I finished the Top 20 last week, and if you read it, I thank you. I put a lot of work into it, and it ended up being something around 20,000 words. Anyways, I thought about adding something to sort of “streamline” all of that reading. And I came up with this: I’m going to, in this post, simply go back through my top 20, but instead of writing a thousand words on each guy and expecting you to pick up the grades I give on each tool…I’m going to do that for you. Keep in mind that all of these are projection grades. After the grades, I’ll put the OFP again, just as a reminder. Nice and easy, here we go:

*Note: When I’m referring to power, I’ll be giving grades both for raw power and game utility power for prospects who have at least a full grade differential between the two. You’ll see what I mean, most notably with Steven Moya.

**Note: When I grade command, I’m grading the potential command of the entire arsenal. There are reports (both professional and “private sector”) that grade the command of each individual pitch, but I don’t believe I have the ability to do so with conviction quite yet. I will get to that level, though.

#20: Kyle Ryan, LHP

The Grades (Projection): 

50 Fastball, 45 Cutter, 50 Slider, 40 Changeup, 55 Command.

OFP: 45 (swingman/spot starter/potential LOOGY)

Realistic Future Role: 40 (up-and-down long reliever)

#19: Anthony Castro, RHP

The Grades (Projection):

60 Fastball, 60 Slider, 50 Changeup, 50 Command.

OFP: 55 (#3-#4 starter)

Realistic Future Role: 50 (Back end starter/7th inning reliever)

#18: Greyson Greiner, C

The Grades (Projection):

40 Hit, 45 Game Power, 55 Raw Power, 60 Defense, 55 Arm, 30 Run

OFP: 50 (Average starting catcher)

Realistic Future Role: 45 (Solid backup at MLB level)

#17: Austin Kubitza, RHP

The Grades (Projection):

55 Fastball, 55 Slider, 40 Changeup, 50 Command

OFP: 50 (Back end starter)

Realistic Future Role: 45 (Middle Reliever)

#16: Edgar De La Rosa, RHP

The Grades (Projection):

70 Four-Seam Fastball, 55 Two-Seam Fastball, 55 Slider, 50 Changeup, 40 Command

OFP: 55 (#4 Starter/Back end bullpen)

Realistic Future Role: 50 (Back end starter/7th-8th innings reliever)

#15: Dixon Machado, SS

The Grades (Projection):

40 Hit, 30 Power, 60 Defense, 70 Arm, 55 Run

OFP: 50 (Average MLB shortstop)

Realistic Future Role: 40 (Utility player)

#14: Joe Jimenez, RHP

The Grades (Projection):

65 Fastball, 60 Slider, 50 Changeup, 50 Command

OFP: 55 (High-leverage reliever/Closer)

Realistic Future Role: 50 (7th-8th inning reliever)

#13: Javier Betancourt, 2B

The Grades (Projection):

55 Hit, 35 Power, 55/45 Defense (2B/SS), 50/40 Arm (2B/SS), 40 Run

OFP: 55 (1st division 2B)

Realistic Future Role: 45 (Utility player/fringy MLB starter)

#12: Tyler Collins, OF

The Grades (Projection):

40 Hit, 45 Game Power, 55 Raw Power, 40 Defense, 40 Arm, 45 Run

OFP: 45 (Platoon Corner OF)

Realistic Future Role: 40 (Bench Bat)

#11: Spencer Turnbull, RHP

The Grades (Projection):

65 Fastball, 55 Slider, 50 Changeup, 50 Command

OFP: 55 (Mid rotation starter)

Realistic Future Role: 50 (Back end starter/7th-8th inning reliever)

#10: Drew VerHagen, RHP

The Grades (Projection):

60 Fastball, 50 Curveball, 55 Changeup, 50 Command

OFP: 50 (Back end starter/7th-8th inning reliever)

Realistic Future Role: Same. I think VerHagen’s ceiling and floor are pretty close together.

#9: Domingo Leyba, 2B

The Grades (Projection):

55 Hit, 35 Power, 55 Defense, 55 Arm, 50 Run

OFP: 55 (1st division 2B)

Realistic Future Role: 45 (Utility Player/fringy starter)

#8: Kevin Ziomek, LHP

The Grades (Projection): 

60 Fastball, 50 Slider, 45 Curveball, 60 Changeup, 55 Command

OFP: 55 (#3-4 starter)

Realistic Future Role: 50 (Back end starter/bullpen arm)

#7: Hernan Perez, 2B/SS

The Grades (Projection):

55 Hit, 30 Power, 60/45 Defense (2B/SS), 55/45 Arm (2B/SS), 60 Run

OFP: 50 (Starting 2B)

Realistic Future Role: 45 (Super-utility player/fringy starter)

#6: Jonathon Crawford, RHP

The Grades (Projection):

65 Fastball, 65 Slider, 40 Changeup, 40 Command

OFP: 55 (Mid rotation starter/potential shutdown closer)

Realistic Future Role: 50 (Back end starter/7th-8th inning reliever)

#5: Buck Farmer, RHP

The Grades (Projection):

60 Fastball, 55 Slider, 55 Changeup, 55 Command

OFP: 55 (Average #3 starter/Good #4 starter)

Realistic Future Role: 50 (Backend starter/7th-8th inning reliever)

#4: James McCann, C

The Grades (Projection):

50 Hit, 40 Power, 55 Defense, 55 Arm, 30 Run

OFP: 50 (Average starting catcher)

Realistic Future Role: 45 (Good backup catcher/platoon partner)

#3: Robbie Ray, LHP

The Grades (Projection):

65 Fastball, 50 Slider, 55 Changeup, 55 Command

OFP: 55 (Mid-rotation starter)

Realistic Future Role: 50 (Back end starter/late-innings reliever)

#2: Steven Moya, OF

The Grades (Projection):

35 Hit, 55 Game Power, 70 Raw Power, 50 Defense, 50 Arm, 50 Run

OFP: 60 (1st division corner OF with 25-30 HR’s)

Realistic Future Role: 45 (4th OF/bench bat/potential platoon partner)

#1: Derek Hill, CF

The Grades (Projection):

55 Hit, 40 Power, 70 Defense, 55 Arm, 70 Run

OFP: 65 (All-star caliber CF)

Realistic Future Role: 55 (1st division starter)

2015 Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: #1

Alas, we come to the end. I’ve had a lot of fun writing up these prospects and doing these rankings, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them. Without further ado, here’s the number 1 prospect in the system:

#1: Derek Hill, CF

The Profile: 

Hill was taken by the Tigers in the 1st round of the 2014 draft out of high school in California. He was the first prep position player the Tigers had taken with their first pick since Cameron Maybin, all the way back in 2005. He signed for slightly over slot, and spent his debut season between rookie league GCL and short-season Connecticut. He had an ok season, production wise, but the scouting definitely overshadowed the on-field production. As with any teenage high round pick, the scouting should really always overshadow production, especially at the lowest levels.

The Scouting:

Hill stands 6’2″, weighs in at 195lbs, and can absolutely fly. His loudest tool at present is his speed, which grades out as an easy 7. He’ll turn in some 8 times down the line, but the consistent speed is a 7. His speed really translates to the OF as well, where he gets projection 7 grades from scouts on his glove. Seriously, I’ve heard from scouts that RIGHT NOW he’s the best defensive outfielder in the Tigers’s system (which isn’t saying all that much, but you get the idea). He’ll be a true impact player with his speed and defense, at the very least. His bat projects well, but not quite to a plus level. He shows good barrel control and bat speed, but will have a tendency to drift onto his front side at times, and is simply raw at the moment. It’s a line drive swing with a whole-field approach, as well as a good ability to work the count, get a pitch he can barrel, and take his walks. Overall, it’s a future 5/6 hit projection, with the potential to hit .270-.280 at peak while also having good OBP skills. The power is not much at the moment, but he does show the ability to drive the baseball, especially into the gaps. As he gets stronger and develops the overall hit tool more, he’ll have more power. At peak, I think you could project him as a guy who hits 25-30 doubles with 10-12 HR’s or so. His speed will be an asset on the bases, with the ability to steal 30 bases annually.

The Projection:

Hill has the highest upside in the system for me: A true defensive impact in the middle of the diamond with plus-plus speed, hitting ability, the ability to steal bases, and some power potential. That adds up, in my opinion, to a potential all star caliber player. Even if he doesn’t reach such a lofty ceiling, his plus plus potential defensively in CF all but ensures a MLB future, even as a teenager.

OFP: 65, perennial all star caliber player. Realistic 55, above-average starting CF on 1st division team.

2015 Projection: Hill is an interesting case, seeing as he’s more polished than your typical high school positional player, but at the same time, his warts are still with the bat. The Tigers have shown a propensity to push their young prospects (Austin Schotts comes to mind), so it wouldn’t be a surprise to me to see Hill in West Michigan to begin 2015. However, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tigers take it slow with him and allow him to spend the beginning part of 2015 at extended spring training.

MLB ETA: Think I don’t think 2018 is out of the question, but 2019 is a safer bet.

2015 Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: #5-#2

#5: Buck Farmer, RHP

The Profile:

Farmer was one of the cooler stories in all of 2014, both from the perspective of a fan and from the perspective of an evaluator. Drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 draft, he spent all of April-July in Low-A West Michigan, just blowing away the inexperienced hitters. He received a two-level promotion to Erie, where he made 2 starts. Then, surprisingly, he was called up by the Tigers to make a spot start in mid-August. Overall, Farmer had a really damned good 2014 season, both in terms of production and in terms of evaluation. The pitcher that had been seen pitching in the NYPL in 2013 was completely blown away by the pitcher seen during the 2014 season.

The Scouting:

Farmer is a big, durable starter, standing 6’4″ and weighing in the 220-225 range. I wrote up a full scouting report on Farmer after seeing him a few times in April/May, which can be found here. To sum it up, Farmer employs a balanced delivery with good hip rotation and a consistent landing spot; slight funk in the arm action to a 3/4 slot, slight arm hook but nothing overly violent, above-average arm speed with a 3 pitch mix. His fastball is plus, working comfortably in the 92-94 range, touching 95 pretty easily. Solid life on the pitch, with arm side run and a bit of sink, knows how to add and subtract, can command fastball to all 4 quadrants, and overall knows how to pitch with it. He complements the fastball with a slider and change up, both of which have at least average projection. When I saw him, the slider was ahead of the change, but other reports have it vice-versa. Slider works in the 78-82 range, good 2 plane break when on, will occasionally drop his arm slot on the pitch, can throw for strikes or as chase, think there’s an above average ceiling here. The change up could be average to above-average for me, thrown with solid velo separation from fastball (7-8 MPH), thrown from same arm slot and with same arm speed, flashes solid fade at times but will straighten out on him, lacks the command of the pitch that he has with his FB and SL, and lacks consistency with it.

The Projection:

Overall, you could project Farmer to pitch with a 6 FB, 5+ SL, 5+ CH, and solid command of the arsenal. That adds up to at least an average MLB starter, in my opinion, which equates to somewhere around a decent #3/good #4 starter. I alluded to 2014 being a great year for Farmer from an evaluative perspective, because the reports on him from the NYPL in 2013 were not great. He had been working in the 88-92 range, lacked bite on his SL, and the change was flat. Not encouraging, but also taken with a grain of salt. 2014 was a gigantic year for Farmer, in many ways. Realistically, Farmer’s ceiling and floor aren’t really that far apart. He’s shown an ability to get outs at the MLB level, and while it’s an incredibly small sample size, it’s still positive. He definitely needs some more time in the minors; namely to work on his command. But overall, I think his ceiling is that of a #3-4 starter, where his floor is that of a back end starter/bullpen piece.

OFP: 55 (Above-average MLB starter, good #4), Realistic 50 (Average MLB starter, #4-5 or back end bullpen piece)

2015 Projection: I assume Farmer will be in Toledo’s rotation

MLB ETA: Already reached MLB level

#4: James McCann, C

The Profile: 

McCann isn’t a new name to Tigers fans, as he’s been touted as the best catcher in the system for a few years now. Of course, when fans hear “catcher” and “good” and “system”, some of the first thoughts are “oh my god GET RID OF AVILA START MCCANN YEAH”. Well, that’s stupid, and I’ll explain why in time. Anyways, McCann was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft (he was the Tigers’ first selection that year), and has progressed pretty steadily through the system. He’s shown a very good ability to adjust at each level, as you can see from his numbers, he has struggled when first getting to a new level, only to adjust over time and end up posting solid numbers all around. He spent all of 2014 in AAA until his September call up, where he triple slashed .295/.343/.427. That’s pretty damned good for a catcher in his first AAA season at age 23-24. Actually, it’s damned impressive. Now, realistically, McCann probably isn’t going to OPS .770 at the major league level, especially not playing everyday, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t be very valuable, especially to the Tigers.

The Scouting:

McCann is a strong, sturdy 6’2″ 210, with good athleticism and agility behind the plate. His profile is more defense than offense, but unlike others, he does have some legitimate projection with his bat. His glove work is very good, with an advanced ability to handle pitchers as his true calling card. It’s an above-average defensive profile behind the plate, with good blocking, game-calling, and receiving ability. His arm will flash plus pop times, but settles into the above-average range, consistently in the 1.9 pop range in my viewings. That’s a strong overall defensive profile, and it’s really not dissimilar to Alex Avila (this is not a player comp). Basically what I’m saying is that while Avila is the overall superior defender at this point in time, due in part to his advanced feel for sequencing and handling pitchers, when McCann is in the game the overall defense behind the plate won’t take a major hit. McCann’s bat is more hit tool/contact oriented, with a good feel for the barrel, a mostly line-drive swing plane, and solid bat speed. He shows the ability to hit the ball out of the park, but it’s mostly gap power, good for a lot of doubles and a few HR’s at the major league level. Now, here’s what makes McCann 1) The perfect complement to Avila, and 2) Potentially more valuable to the Tigers than for any other team: He mashes left-handed pitching, and looks to be the absolute perfect platoon mate for Alex Avila. For example, in 2014 he posted an .879 OPS vs lefties, and a .724 OPS vs righties. He faced lefties significantly less than he did righties, which is obviously expected, but the split in production is there, going back through his minor league career. As we all know, Avila struggles mightily vs left-handed pitching, and does well vs righties.

The Projection:

To sum up, I think McCann is the perfect fit for what Detroit is looking for at the catcher position. Avila vs RHP and McCann vs LHP is the perfect catching platoon, in my opinion. Avila hits righties and is a good defensive catcher, McCann hits lefties and is a good defensive catcher. Realistically, McCann also shows the chops to be able to step in for Avila vs righties (at times), when Avila needs a break or inevitably needs a few days off vs a nagging injury. Whereas Bryan Holaday is an OK backup, McCann just adds much more in every facet of the game.

OFP: 50, solid everyday player, or perfect platoon partner. Realistic 45, platoon mate/backup catcher.

2015 Projection: I think McCann is ready to be Avila’s backup/platoon partner right away in 2015, but the Tigers may feel differently, delaying this idea until later in the season.

MLB ETA: He already reached the majors in September 2014.

#3: Robbie Ray, LHP

The Profile: 

Ray was drafted by the Nationals out of high school in 2010, and then was traded to the Tigers as the main piece of the Doug Fister deal last winter. He spent 2014 at AAA, making a few starts with the Tigers, and then playing in the Arizona Fall League recently. Obviously, and unfairly, Ray will always be judged by fans in comparison to Doug Fister. That’s simply not fair. Judge Robbie Ray for what he is: A left handed pitcher with mid-rotation upside and the potential for 2 plus pitches. But I’ll get to that later.

The Scouting: 

Ray has an excellent pitcher’s frame, standing 6’2″ and weighing in at around 190-200lbs. He’s lean, athletic, and strong, with a little body projection remaining for added strength if the Tigers feel that’s necessary. His delivery is nice and easy without any mechanical red flags, and the ball really does explode out of his hand. His fastball is the weapon pitch at present (and will continue to be), working in the 92-94 range consistently and touching as high as 96-97. Reports from the Arizona Fall League had Ray’s fastball with even more velocity, working more 94-95 and touching 98. From the left side, if he can work in the 92-95 range and reach back for more when needed, you’re looking at an easy 6+ fastball, especially when you take into account the ease in which it comes out of his hand. His secondary offerings are where the trouble starts, especially when it comes to spinning a breaking ball. He originally threw a curveball, but it never really made any progress, he couldn’t throw it with consistency, and it really didn’t project any better than below-average long term. He has since scrapped the pitch for a slider, which is an easier pitch to generate spin on. Again, I go to the Arizona Fall League evaluations, which saw Ray throw a consistently 40-45 slider, but with better overall projection than the curve, perhaps ultimately having average upside. The change up is his go-to off speed pitch, thrown in the low 80’s with some good fade, featuring good velo separation and arm speed for deception. It’s a present average pitch, with above-average potential. It will be Ray’s go-to off speed pitch, but he’s going to need the breaking ball if he wants to stick in a rotation.

The Projection:

Overall, Ray offers the upside of a #3 starter, with a 6+ fastball, 5 SL, and 5+ change up if everything comes together. The smoothness and ease of his delivery show the potential for the Ray to log a lot of innings, as it’s not a max-effort delivery. It’s a true starter profile, but it hinges on the development of the breaking ball. I think it’s a relatively safe bet for Ray to end up as a good #4 starter, but worst case scenario I think we could see him in the back end of a bullpen, where the FB may play to a 7 and the CH could be the sole secondary offering.

OFP: 55, #3 starter. Realistic 50, #4 starter/back end bullpen

2015 Projection: Depending on what the Tigers do for the rest of the offseason, Ray could be in a competition for a rotation spot in Detroit, but realistically I think he’ll start 2015 in Toledo’s rotation.

MLB ETA: Already achieved MLB level

#2: Steven Moya, OF

The Profile:

Moya is a massive human being, and not a single ounce of his body is fat. Seriously man, he’s like a chiseled specimen of muscle and power. He stands at least 6’7″, and his weight is somewhere around 240-250. He’s been known to Tigers fans for a few years due to his prodigious power and size, but it was in 2014 where he really burst onto the scene with an excellent campaign at AA. He hit .276/.306/.555 with 33 doubles, 35 homers, 105 RBI, 16 stolen bases and….161 strikeouts vs 23 walks.

The Scouting:

As I said, Moya is huge, and his power is equally huge. It’s truly massive raw power, but the questions with Moya come in with just how much he’ll be able to hit in order to unlock that power at the highest level. Due to his massive size and length, his swing is quite long. That’s to be expected for a man of his size, but it still limits the hit tool utility. He has a feel for the barrel of the bat, and has improved over the years in simply putting bat to ball consistently, but at the same time, he lacks knowledge of the strike zone and his approach lacks. As you’ll see from this Baseball Prospectus “Eyewitness Account” on Moya, Mark Anderson came away impressed with Moya’s progress with the bat, even going so far as to put a 65 OFP on Moya. As for the rest of his game, he’s a good athlete for his size who fits in an OF corner and could end up average defensively in either spot. The arm is strong but lacks accuracy, leading to an average projection grade. He’s a good runner, especially when you consider his size, and it’s not a stretch to say that he could steal a few bags. But, as we’ve said, his entire profile hinges on the hit tool. If he can hit .250, he could potentially play everyday and hit 25+ bombs. If he gets to the majors and gets chewed alive, he’s a bench bat. That’s a huge gap between ceiling and floor, but it’s still one of the highest possible upsides in the Tigers’ system. Oh, and he doesn’t walk. Like ever. It’s a problem, especially if he’s never going to hit above .250. He needs to get on base.

The Projection:

Moya is the toughest to project in the entire system, in my opinion. If you believe in the bat, then he’s an everyday player on a 1st division team with massive power. That’s like a 60 OFP. If you don’t believe in the bat, then he’s a bench bat who pinch hits because he might run into one. That’s like a 40 OFP. I tend to fall somewhere in between. I don’t believe Moya will ever hit enough to play everyday, but I do believe he has some utility as a platoon corner OF who hits against RHP.

OFP: 60, 1st division regular with prodigious power. Realistic: 45-50, 4th OF/strong side platoon.

2015 Projection: I expect Moya to spend 2015 at AAA Toledo.

MLB ETA: Reached MLB in 2014, I expect him to be fully in the MLB in 2016.

2015 Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: #10-#6

#10: Drew VerHagen, RHP

The Profile:

Drew VerHagen was drafted by the Tigers in the 4th round of the 2012 draft out of Vanderbilt, and spent most of his first professional season at Lakeland in High A. He’s moved pretty quickly through the system, spending his first full pro season splitting time between A+ and AA; and then pitching at AAA for pretty much all of 2014. He received his first major league action in 2014, making a spot start in July when the Tigers were dealing with a few injuries to their pitching staff. A back injury cut his season short, but overall it was a pretty good year for VerHagen. He pitched relatively effectively at AAA, and got his first taste of MLB action.

The Scouting:

VerHagen certainly looks like a Tigers pitching prospect–he’s 6’6″ 230. When he was drafted, the scouting at the time seemed to be pretty similar to that of several Tigers draft picks over the past few years: Big righty, can throw hard, lacks third pitch, probably reliever, maybe a back end starter if it all breaks right. Now, seeing as he spent 2012-2013 between Lakeland, FL and Erie, PA; I didn’t get a chance to see him. However, in 2014, I was finally able to get eyes on him a couples times; once in Gwinett, GA and once at Toledo. Here’s what I came away with: He’s a huge dude, obviously. Generates good plane to the plate, good extension, long arm action to high 3/4 slot, good arm speed, rotational delivery with good balance. FB worked 90-94, T 95 with big sink at all velos, bat-breaking life, nearly impossible to square up when located down. Strike-thrower but quality of strikes (command) needs improvement. Showed 2 curveballs with varying profile. One is a loopy, high 60’s offering with 12-6 break but no snap. More of a get-me-over, eye-level changing pitch than a true swing-and-miss offering. Threw it for strikes, but that’s a dangerous pitch if you leave it up. Threw another CB, this one in the mid-high 70’s, more of a true curveball with 11/5 break and decent shape, lacked consistency of spin and bite, flashed a few solid-average. Maybe an average future. Showed change up, best secondary at present, low-mid 80’s with good arm speed deception, thrown from same keyhole, inconsistent movement but will turn over some good ones with fade, could end up above average with more consistency of movement.

The Projection:

VerHagen’s profile really hasn’t changed all that much since he was drafted. He’s a strike-throwing, ground ball pitcher who uses his fastball the vast majority of the time. The change up could end up as a 5+ pitch, and the curveball showed some 5 potential but it’s unlikely to end up there overall. The fastball is a 6 when you combine the velo and life. All of that fits together as a potential backend starter, but he could move to the bullpen where the fastball velo would conceivably play up, and would only have to focus on the change up as his secondary offering. Proximity to the majors and floor are factored into all of my rankings decisions, but perhaps more so here. Regardless, I think he has an MLB future.

OFP: 50 (back end starter or 7th-8th inning reliever)

2015 Projection: Rotation at AAA Toledo

MLB ETA: Already achieved MLB level.

#9: Domingo Leyba, 2B

The Profile:

Domingo Leyba was pretty much an unknown to Tigers fans prior to this time last year, when Baseball America ranked him 8th in the system, causing fans everywhere to scream “who the hell is Domingo Leyba? Can he pitch the 9th?” Leyba was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, and spent 2013 still in the DR playing in the DSL. In somewhat of a surprise move, when the Tigers brought him stateside for the 2014, he went to short-season Connecticut in the NYPL rather than the rookie league GCL. Then, even more surprisingly, when the Tigers traded away Willy Adames, Leyba got the call to Single-A West Michigan, where he spent the remainder of the season. Leyba saw just under 300 PA at West Michigan (as an 18 year old), where he posted a .323/.360/.423 triple slash. Impressive? No doubt. But does that production and excitement match up to the scouting?

The Scouting:

Leyba is a compact 5’11” 160, with good projection for added strength as he develops into his “man body”. He’s a switch-hitter, and while I admittedly saw him mostly from the right side, he looked comfortable swinging the bat from both sides. Quick hands, advanced barrel control for age and strength. Good bat speed, could end up above-average with added strength. Showed ability to pull hands in on plus velo (95+) and pull the baseball. The bat is definitely projectable as far as the hit tool goes, but I don’t see much power here beyond the extra base variety. The swing is linear and geared for hard, line drive contact; rather than a swing with lift designed to hit balls out of the yard. He’s raw in the IF (it’s a 2B profile), but the tools for an above-average defender are there. His feet are very quick, but the overall footwork required to play the IF at a high level is lacking right now. I’m not worried about that at all, though. He’s a teenager with the athleticism to play the position well, the fundamentals and mechanics of IF play will come with more and more professional instruction. Looks comfortable making the pivot, arm works well for position. Overall, there’s a lot to like, but it’s not exactly a top-tier, sexy profile.

The Projection:

Certainly some of the Leyba hype is warranted; after all, he did very well in full-season ball as an 18 year old. However; we need to temper our expectations. He’s not a high-ceiling prospect, nor does he have any flashy tools. There is something to be said, definitely, for the kind of poise it takes to do that well at 18 in the Midwest League. I think you could potentially project him to be an above-average defender at 2B with the ability to hit from both sides, but there’s no real power there and the defensive profile is limited to 2B. Potential first division 2B? Maybe, but that’s still really no more than a 55 OFP. Plus, he’s a long ways away and still very raw.

OFP: 55 (1st division 2B), Realistic 45 (utility player)

2015 Projection: Would expect him to repeat West Michigan, at least for the first few months.

MLB ETA: 2018.

#8: Kevin Ziomek, LHP

The Profile: 

Here’s a guy who I’m probably higher on than most, but that comes with the territory. I’m lower on others than the consensus in certain cases, but Ziomek is a guy I like. He was drafted out of Vandy in the 2nd round of 2013, and spent 2014 in the West Michigan rotation along with Chad Green (not ranked), Austin Kubitza (#17), Jon Crawford, and Buck Farmer. You’ll read about Crawford and Farmer later. Anyways, Ziomek really had an outstanding season, especially after the first month-6 weeks. On the season, he accumulated 123 innings with a 2.27 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. The strikeout totals were impressive, totaling 152 in those 123 innings, good for over 11 K/9. The walks were troublesome at times, totaling 53, which amounts to a too-high 3.9 BB/9. Regardless, it was an excellent full-season debut for Ziomek, who may move quickly now.

The Scouting:

Ziomek offers good size, standing 6’3″ and weighing 200lbs, but his profile is not that of a power left-hander. I saw him 3x through 2014, twice earlier on in April/May, and then once again in August, and the difference that 3-4 months had made was pretty impressive. Ziomek offers some funk in his delivery, adding deception but also hindering his command profile, and some would say that the delivery would inhibit him from being a starter long term. He throws with a bit of a crossfire delivery, ending up in a 3/4 slot, which is difficult for hitters to pick up at times. Early in the season, his FB was working 87-91 with some life, but he had minimal command of the pitch. However, later in the season, around early-mid August, Ziomek’s fastball was reaching 94-95 and sitting in the 91-92 range. A significant jump, yes, but it wasn’t unheard of, seeing as he’d been up to 93-94 in spurts in college. Regardless, the fastball velocity, life, and command were all significantly improved by the time I saw him again in August. He’ll also throw a slider and a change up, with the CH flashing above-average to plus potential, and the SL potentially being average to maybe a tick above. The change will show excellent deception, it mimics his fastball well out of the hand, but adds legitimate fade as it gets closer to the plate. It’s a true weapon pitch vs right-handed hitters. His slider will get a little inconsistent at times, sometimes getting slurvy, but when it’s on it’ll work in the mid-high 70’s and run away from left-handed hitters. It has tight spin, but will occasionally get flat and lack depth. The command profile is pretty solid due to the athleticism Ziomek has as a pitcher, but the funkiness of his delivery sometimes leads him to losing his arm slot, which can result in a loss of command. Regardless, I think he can have above-average command of his arsenal moving forward.

The Projection:

Ziomek gets mixed reviews from scouts, who have pegged him as anything from a #3 starter to a LOOGY, pretty much depending on how they feel about his delivery, arm action, and propensity to throw quality strikes. Personally, I fall into the higher end of that projection spectrum. I think he has legit #3-4 starter upside, pretty similar, in fact, to the projections put on Drew Smyly several years ago. This is not a player comparison. Thanks. Anyways, you could see Ziomek offer 2 plus pitches (FB/CH) and a 3rd average pitch (SL), along with deception and command, which certainly adds up to a nice pitcher. However, if you don’t believe his delivery and arm action will allow him to hold up as a starter (or if you just don’t believe in the stuff overall), then it’s conceivable to see him in the bullpen. Regardless, I believe he has the 2nd highest upside of any lefty in the system.

OFP: 55 (#3-4 starter), Realistic 50 (back end starter/bullpen arm)

2015 Projection: Ziomek is a polished college arm who breezed through Low-A in 2014, so I wouldn’t be particularly surprised to see him skip right past High-A and pitch 2015 at AA-Erie.

MLB ETA: Based on what I saw, I think Ziomek has every chance to move quickly, and be a candidate for Detroit in late 2016/early 2017.

#7: Hernan Perez, 2B/SS

The Profile: 

This is going to sound bad, but Perez is probably the most boring guy on this list. Not because he’s a bad player or anything, but because I feel like I’ve been writing about him for 4 years. Basically, I have. Anyways, you’ve all heard this before. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2007, and has steadily moved through the system since then. He spent 2008 in the VSL, 2009 bouncing all over the place, spent 2 years in West Michigan from 2010-2011, played at Erie in 2012, and then has been pretty much between Toledo and Detroit in 2013-2014. He has totaled less than 80 MLB PA’s, so he still counts for my list.

The Scouting:

Perez is a right-handed hitting infielder who can help you out in a pinch at SS, but is much better suited to play 2B, where he has been hailed as a plus defender. He’s very quick on his feet and his actions at 2B are excellent, covering lots of ground, making the pivot with good footwork, and on the whole just being a very good defender. He can put bat to ball, also, but lacks any real legitimate power. He’s also obscenely aggressive at the plate, swinging at anything and everything he can get his bat on. He can make contact on a ton, but his solid bat projection comes with a not-so-solid OBP projection. Even if you said Perez could be a 5+ hitter in the major leagues, which equates to around .270-.275, I don’t believe you would get an OBP much above .310 or so. He just doesn’t walk very much at all, and while he doesn’t strike out much either, it’s still a limited profile due to the low OBP projection. That being said, he’s still high on my list. Why? Well, because I think you could plug him into the Tigers 25 man roster as the utility IF and he would have success. His proximity to the majors could not be any smaller, and he’s arguably already reached his floor. In my opinion, there’s something to be said for “sureness” of a prospect, and Perez is as sure a thing as the Tigers have right now. He could play in the majors right now, hit some against LHP, play an outstanding 2B, manage SS or 3B in a pinch, and run pretty well.

The Projection:

As I’ve said, Perez is damned near his ceiling as it is, in my opinion. If you squinted on the bat, you could maybe see an average starting 2B, but I don’t really believe that. I think he is what he is: A very good utility player, who can play 2B and 3B, with some SS ability, and probably even LF. He can handle the bat, he can run, and he’s not strikeout prone. That’s a very good utility profile.

OFP: 50, 2nd division 2B. Realistic: 45, good utility player on 1st division team

2015 Projection: Everyday 2B/SS at Toledo, or Tigers utility IF

MLB ETA: Already reached MLB level

#6: Jonathon Crawford, RHP

The Profile: 

Finally, we get to a Tigers’ first rounder! Crawford was taken in the 1st round of the 2013 draft out of Florida, and has spent his first two pro seasons between Connecticut (2013) and West Michigan (2014). He’s a bit undersized as a right-handed starter, standing about 6’1″-6’2″ and weighing in right around 200lbs. He was (and still is) more raw than a typical college starter coming from a power conference, but the stuff, as you’ll see, can be mouth-watering from an evaluation and projection perspective. Crawford was the Whitecaps starter I saw the most often in 2014, as I managed to see him 5 different times across the course of the season. I’ll break down the scouting here shortly, but if you’d like, I wrote a full scouting report on Crawford after seeing him a few times in April/May, which you can find here. Furthermore, I saw Crawford again on a few separate occasions later in the season, in early-mid August. I wrote up a “scouting update” on him at that time, which is found here.

The Scouting:

Simply put, Crawford is similar to a lot of other pitching prospects in that his future hingers on the development of a third pitch as well as command. At present, Crawford’s FB/SL combo projects to be very good at the major league level, with at least future 6’s on each pitch. However, his change up, command, and ability to repeat his mechanics are all in question. The FB can work anywhere from 90-97, depending on the day, really. His most impressive “fastball start” that I witnessed saw Crawford work 92-95, touching 96-97, with good life. He couldn’t command it, but the fastball itself was very good, in terms of velocity and movement. The slider is the weapon pitch, working 84-87 with insane spin and very sharp 2 plane break. It’s a swing-and-miss pitch vs RHH or LHH, and I’ve seen 7’s put on it by other evaluators. His change up lags significantly behind, and I’ve never even seen it flash above-average. He does show the ability to throw it with the same arm speed as his fastball, which tells me he does have some feel for the pitch, but it lacks consistent movement. He’ll also drop his arm slot at times, which effectively tips it to the hitter. If you put a gun to my head, I’d say that at best it ends up as a below-average pitch. Can a starter get away with a 6/6+ FB, 6/7 SL, and a 4 CH? Perhaps, but when combined with his struggles to throw quality strikes as well as his struggles to simply repeat his delivery, it doesn’t exactly instill a ton of confidence in a mid-rotation starter projection.

The Projection:

The bottom-line here is that the Tigers are going to give Crawford every possible chance to start, but at the very least, if that doesn’t work, he could potentially end up as a closer pitching with a 7 FB and 7 SL in short spurts. If he can develop the change up and get his command to an average level, you could see a #3 starter here, albeit one who misses bats but isn’t necessarily a workhorse/innings-eater. Realistically, Crawford is either going to end up an average MLB starter (#4) or a back end bullpen piece. Valuable, absolutely. First round pick worthy? Ehhhh

OFP: 55, Above-average MLB starter (#3), Realistic 50 (#4 starter/back end bullpen)

2015 Projection: Crawford isn’t as polished as his West Michigan rotation mates like Ziomek and Farmer, so I think he’s definitely headed for High-A Lakeland in 2015.

MLB ETA: He could move quickly as a reliever, but seeing as I believe the Tigers are years away from making such a move, I’ll put the ETA as late 2017/early 2018.

2015 Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: #15-#11

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#15: Dixon Machado, SS

The Profile: 

Machado is another prospect whose name should be known to most Tigers fans, as he’s been in the system since he was signed as an international free agent in 2008. He spent the 2009 season in the Dominican Summer League, then came stateside in 2010 where he split time between the GCL and NYPL. He made his full season debut in 2011, playing at West Michigan, then received a promotion to Lakeland in 2012. 2013 was an injury-shortened campaign, which, in addition to a lack of development with the bat, led to his prospect stock falling off a pretty good amount. 2014 was a bounce back year for Machado, a year which saw him promoted to AA after 41 games in Lakeland. He finally came through with the bat, posting a combined .286/.375/.404 line across 500+ PA’s.

The Scouting:

Machado’s profile has always, and will continue to be, built on his defensive prowess in the middle infield. He’s easily the best defensive shortstop in the organization not named Jose Iglesias, drawing consistent plus projection grades on his glove. His arm is also a weapon, receiving rave reviews from scouts, who have no problem putting a 7 on it (even a few 8’s). He can run, as well, turning in plus times down the line but settling in consistently in the 50-55 range; he runs the bases well, takes the extra base, etc. However, while all of that speaks to a legitimate prospect, the profile takes a hit when it comes to the bat. Machado has always been able to command the strike zone, striking out less than 14% of the time in his minor league career while walking at a >10% clip. His approach is strong, his pitch recognition skills are strong, and his knowledge of the zone is strong. The problems come in when it comes to making good contact. Machado is a very thin and wiry player who lacks the strength to consistently hit the baseball hard, and while he has made big strides with strength in the past few years; he still struggles with hitting the ball hard. He lacks bat speed, and while he can control the barrel well, the lack of bat speed and overall strength leads to a lot of weak contact and weak outs. In 2014 he took a big step forward, knocking out 38 XBH, and while 31 of those were doubles and I’m sure quite a few were more “leg doubles”, the actual accounts of those watching him in 2014 back up the stats as well. He IS stronger now, and he DOES hit the ball harder than he used to. All that being said, the bat still doesn’t project to average, and the power is bottom of the scale.

The Projection: 

Machado has a major league future, I’ve been sure of this for awhile now. His glove work, arm, and general feel for the game are simply to strong to be wasted as an organizational player. However, as I’ve said, the difference between being a starting MLB SS and a utility guy rests on the hit tool utility. If he hits .250 (4 hit tool), gets on base, limits strikeouts, can handle the bat (bunting, etc), all while playing stellar defense…that’s a starting shortstop for someone. However, if that bat doesn’t materialize to that level (and it likely won’t, as with all projections), then he still has a future as a utility player. He can play plus defense in the middle of the infield, run, and lay down a bunt if needed (I hate bunting but it’s still a part of the game).

OFP: 50 (average MLB shortstop), realistic 40 (utility infielder)

2015 Projection: Hard to say. His 2015 home may depend on a few things. Will he be added to the 40 man to protect him from Rule 5? Will he be claimed by another team if he’s not protected? Will he play in AA while Saurez plays in AAA? Will the Tigers keep Saurez on the 25 man while Machado plays in AAA? Too tough to call here.

MLB ETA: Glove is ready now, but another season in the minors won’t hurt the bat. 2016.

#14: Joe Jimenez, RHP

The Profile:

Jimenez was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2013 draft, for reportedly around 100k. I don’t know the whole/exact story, but the story I got was that Jimenez made some really high bonus demands before the draft, which caused him to fall down boards and ultimately go undrafted. Then, for whatever reason, he decided to sign with the Tigers for what ended up being mid-round money. Jimenez represents probably the single most intriguing player in the system for me, simply because I haven’t seen him at all. I know people who have, certainly. I’ve heard reports on him throughout his career, absolutely. I’ve spoken to people within Perfect Game who saw him as an amateur. I think I have a good idea of who the player is, which is why I feel comfortable ranking him where I did, but at the same time…I gotta see him, man. Anyways, Jimenez spent 2013 in rookie ball where he had great success in limited innings; and then spent 2014 at short-season ball in the NYPL, where he really began to shine. He struck out 41 hitters in only 26 2/3 IP in 2014, while only walking 6 (!!!!). He obviously overmatched the NYPL hitters, but it wasn’t a bad idea for the Tigers to move slowly with the 19 year old Puerto Rican.

The Scouting:

Jimenez stands 6’3″ and weighs in at a sturdy 220lbs. After he signed and was sent to rookie ball, the word was “hey, this guy the Tigers signed, legit MLB upside, holy crap what a steal, we might have a #3-4 starter here!”. Reports came trickling down from a variety of sources that Jimenez worked in the low 90’s with good life, had a slider that could end up plus, and an advanced feel for the change up; all with a durable starter’s frame and no big time mechanical red flags. Jordan Gorosh even went so far as to rank him #17 in the system prior to the 2014 season (you can find that write up here). At this time (about 9-10 months ago), I was sure that Jimenez would be developed as a starter. I don’t have many connections within the Tigers organization, nor I do pretend to. I know a few scouts, and we text on occasion, but no one I’m close enough with to say “hey man what’s the developmental path for Joe Jimenez look like?” So, with my lack of inside info and the “starter profile” reports I had heard, I was just positive that we would be seeing a starter developed here. However, in 2014, it was reportedly decided to develop Jimenez as a shutdown backend reliever. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, I don’t know exactly when, but that was (reportedly) the decision made. Regardless, the results so far have been outstanding. Through 2014, Jimenez’s arsenal took on new life. The fastball jumped to the mid 90’s, working consistently in the 94-96 range, touching higher. Hell, there were even reports of him hitting triple digits (link here), all with a potential plus slider that projects as a true bat-misser. Sounds like a potential setup/closer to me.

The Projection:

I need to see Jimenez personally before I project him with certainty, but if he can work in the mid 90’s with life, touching higher when he needs it, a plus slider, and the ability to command it all…that sounds like it could be a closer. I’m sure he’ll be in full season ball in 2015 barring unforeseen developments, and I hope to be able to see him early in the year.

OFP: 55, high leverage reliever (setup/closer). Realistic 50, 7th-8th inning arm.

2015 Projection: As I said, I assume he’ll be in West Michigan to start, and could conceivably make it to Lakeland, but keep in mind that he won’t turn 20 until mid January and has only thrown 45 professional innings.

MLB ETA: A reliever-only with that kind of stuff and advanced pitchability tends to move quickly regardless of age, but at the same time, he’s going to pitch the whole of 2015 at 20 years old. Realistic ETA is probably 2017.

#13: Javier Betancourt, 2B

The Profile:

Betancourt was signed by the Tigers as an international free agent out of Venezuela in summer 2011, making his pro debut in 2012 in the VSL. Immediately coming stateside as an 18 year old in 2013, he played with the GCL Tigers where he played shortstop and 2B, hitting to the tune of an .814 with an impressive 14:12 K:BB. Betancourt was challenged in 2014, sent to full season A ball in West Michigan, where he made his debut as a still-18 year old kid. He responded brilliantly, leading the league in hits through the first several weeks, before tapering off down the stretch. He finished with a triple slash of .269/.307/.344 in nearly 600 PA’s, which is certainly more than holding his own for an 18-19 year old in his first full-season assignment. He became more aggressive as the season went on, not necessarily swinging and missing more, but certainly expanding the zone and making weaker contact on pitches he should let go.

The Scouting:

I wrote a full scouting report on Betancourt back in August, which you can read here. To sum it up, Betancourt’s profile is actually pretty similar to Devon Travis. This is not a player comparison, seeing as I don’t do those, but the profile is pretty similar in regards to the tools. Betancourt can hit, no denying that, but as I mentioned above he will tend to get overaggressive at times, swinging at and making weak contact on pitches that he should simply let go. The overall bat to ball is impressive, as well as the balance he shows in the batters box. Controls the barrel well and is able to make contact on pitches all over the zone (and out of it) which can be a detriment at times. His pitch recognition skills are advanced for a player of his age, as is his knowledge of the strike zone. While he will get overaggressive and expand, the knowledge of what is a ball and what is a strike is present at a high level within him. He uses the whole field and his swing is more line drive oriented than built for power. He shows the ability to backspin the ball into gaps and will hit the occasional bomb, but power is not, nor do I project it to be, a big part of his game. Defensively, he projects well at 2B with excellent hands and good footwork, although the overall range, foot speed, quickness, and agility are somewhat limited. He makes up for such physical limitations with understanding of situations, positioning, and just excellent defensive fundamentals. The arm is fine from 2B, but, like the defense, would play as fringy from SS. He’s a below average runner at present as well.

The Projection:

Betancourt projects as a guy who could play above-average defense at 2B, with the ability to handle SS or 3B in a pinch and not kill you defensively. He can hit, but it’s not going to be with much behind it; and I don’t think it’s ridiculous to expect him to get on base at a solid clip as well. That’s not a sexy profile, but it is one of a guy who can be expected to play in the major leagues and contribute in some variety. Not to mention that he still isn’t yet 20 years old, so it’s not unrealistic to expect some physical growth as well.

OFP: 55 (starting MLB 2B), realistic 45 (utility player/2nd division starter)

2015 Projection: Betancourt passed the test in 2014, and could certainly be promoted to High A for 2015, but I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect him to begin 2015 at West Michigan to keep his developmental curve steady.

MLB ETA: While advanced for his age, he’s still going to take some time to fully develop. Late 2017/2018 ETA for me.

#12: Tyler Collins, OF

The Profile:

Collins is another relatively well-known Tigers prospect, especially after bursting onto the scene during spring training in 2013, then making the Opening Day roster in 2014. However, Collins is a prospect whose actual upside and scouting profile don’t actually match the hype of Tigers fans (similar to Devon Travis…sigh…). Collins was drafted in the 6th round of 2011 out of Howard JC in Texas, and spent his pro debut raking in the NYPL. Pushed aggressively in 2012, Collins skipped over Low-A West Michigan all the way to High-A Lakeland, where he played the entirety of the season, posting an .800 OPS in 500+ PA, walking a good bit, not striking out much, stealing some bases, and hitting for a good amount of extra base power. It was after 2012 when the prospect hype train starting rolling, despite Collins being a LF-only type player with limited defensive ability and a profile that hinged almost entirely on his bat. Collins spent 2013 at AA Erie, where he hit for more power…but struck out a lot more and hit for significantly less average. Collins made the Opening Day roster in 2014, only to spend the vast majority of the year at AAA before a September callup for the stretch run.

The Scouting:

Collins is a strong dude, standing 5’11” and weighing in at a stocky 215lbs. Don’t let the numbers fool you, as Collins is a ball of muscle. As I said above, he’s a left field-only profile defensively, with limited range and limited arm strength. He’s not a train wreck in the Delmon Young mold in LF, but he’s not going to be a real benefit out there either. He can play RF somewhat, but the arm strength becomes a weakness out there. At bat, he employs a strength-driven left handed swing with good raw power and solid bat speed, but he’s inconsistent mechanically, and often tries to sell out for that power, sacrificing some bat-to-ball in the process. His swing is more linear than the traditional “power swing”, with some leverage but not a lot of lift, and the HR’s he hits are more produced by pure strength rather than bat speed. His profile is that of a bat-first corner OF with some pop, but I don’t believe his bat will ever be enough to support an everyday player profile. To me, he’s more of a bench bat/4th OF, who can do some damage offensively and spell your everyday corner guys, but I’m not sure he’s much more than that, which is honestly fine.

The Projection:

As I said, I think Collins can find a home in the major leagues, but I don’t believe it will be a starter and I also don’t believe he’s even really capable of being a full platoon partner. He’s defensively limited, and while he’ll provide more defensive value than a typical “DH-only” type player, I don’t think a team could get by starting him in an OF corner everyday. That being said, I think the bat will play in spurts. I don’t have a problem saying he can be a productive bench bat who gets 200 or so PA’s across the course of a season. Is that a limited profile? Sure. Is it a productive one? Certainly could be. Collins could help the Tigers in 2015, especially if they go into the season with only 3 legitimate OF’s on their roster. Collins, despite his limited profile, is ranked this highly because of his proximity to the majors and the highness of his floor.

OFP: 45 (4th OF/platoon partner), realistic 40 (bench bat)

2015 Projection: Starting OF at AAA Toledo, up and down to Detroit as needs arise

MLB ETA: Already reached MLB level

#11: Spencer Turnbull, RHP

The Profile: 

Turnbull was drafted in the 2nd round out of Alabama by the Tigers in 2014, #63 overall. He fits the mold of a Tigers draft pick, standing 6’3″-6’4″ and weighing a burly 220lbs. He was assigned to short-season Connecticut for his pro debut, where he worked as a starter, pitching on a true rotation, but limiting his innings to 2-3 per start to preserve his arm. This is a common practice when drafting starting pitchers, as they’ve already thrown a lot of innings by the time they’re drafted. Turnbull posted a 4.31 ERA across 31 1/3 IP, racking up 23 strikeouts but allowing 33 hits and 15 walks. There’s really not much to take from the stats of a college starter from the SEC pitching limited innings in short season ball, but at the very least we can see that he struggled to throw strikes, which matched up with the scouting from this summer.

The Scouting:

As mentioned above, Turnbull is a big, burly right hander with the potential for an equally big fastball. As soon as he was drafted, I called up a D1 college coach whose team had faced Turnbull just a few weeks previous for a scouting report. This is what I was told: “Big dude, bulldog mentality, big fastball up to 97 with life, maintained velo deep, OK slider but was inconsistent, no 3rd pitch, attacked hitters, seems like a reliever to me but if he can develop a 3rd pitch, watch out”. Now, of course, I was a bit discouraged. “Shocking, the Tigers take a reliever in an early round”. But, this was only one game that the coach I referred to saw, so I held my judgement until reports began surfacing from area guys who saw him throughout the spring, as well as other reports from folks who got eyes on him in the NYPL. Now, I didn’t see Turnbull in 2014. I’m hoping to get my first eyes on him in 2015 when he’s presumably at West Michigan, but we’ll see. Reports from the spring and summer paint a similar picture, although one with a bit more promise. Turnbull projects to pitch with a 6/6+ fastball, one that can work in the 92-95 range and bump higher when needed, with life and the ability to get ground balls. The slider is the best secondary pitch, showing above-average potential, and the change isn’t as far behind as I’d thought, flashing some potential to be average. The mechanics work, he has a durable frame and a workhorse body, and has the mentality to attack hitters.

The Projection:

Turnbull projects as an innings-eating #4 starter, who could end up with a 6+ FB, 5+ SL, and 5 CH if it all comes together. If the change doesn’t come along, he could slot into the 8th inning with a good FB/SL combo and the ability to miss bats. Either way, while far from an exciting 2nd round pick, this looks to be a solid pick by the Tigers. Again, I’m really excited to get my own look at Turnbull in the spring, and I’ll undoubtedly have updates on my thoughts at that time.

OFP: 55 (Mid rotation starter), Realistic 50 (back end starter/set up)

2015 Projection: Starting rotation at West Michigan

MLB ETA: While Turnbull is a college arm from a power conference with lots of experience, his profile doesn’t come with a ton of polish. He’s not going to move quickly, nor will he be a “slow burn”. I’d say 2017 ETA.

2015 Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: #20-#16

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I’m just going to jump right into this, but quickly: As you may have noticed, I’m doing this in increments of 5. That means, if everything goes as planned, I’ll have this all wrapped up by Friday. I’d like to do like a Q&A response article regarding the rankings, so ask questions and then look for answers early next week, since I will not be near a computer this weekend.

If you missed it, I intro’d this list in addition to naming 6 prospects who “just missed” my list yesterday. I’m not going to give you another link, since it’s literally the article right under this one.

#20: Kyle Ryan, LHP

The Profile: 

Ryan has been on the radar for some time, as he was drafted all the way back (sarcasm) in 2010, and spent 2 full seasons at West Michigan. He’s listed 6’5″, which is definitely accurate. I’ve referenced Jay Chipman from TigsTown on these rankings before (and will continue to do so), and it was Jay who trademarked the hashtag #BigManCanPitch in reference to Ryan when he was in Lakeland in 2013. Jordan Gorosh of Baseball Prospectus has also shown an affinity for Ryan over the past several years, just to name a few. Ryan made his major league debut in 2014, pitching at the age of 22 (having turned 23 in late September), so his profile comes with significantly less risk than other prospects, seeing as he’s already reached the majors.

The Scouting:

Ryan relies on a 5 pitch mix from the left side, combining 2 fastballs, a cutter, a slider, and a change, with none really grading out above average. He’s a pitchability guy, plain and simple. A classic “touch and feel” lefty, but with the ability for his stuff to play up a bit out of the bullpen. For example, as a starter, he’ll work with his fastball around 87-89 T 90 with a cutter about 1-2 MPH below that. But thanks to Pitchf/x, we can see that once he moved to the bullpen with Detroit (and this is a small sample size, further diluted by the fact that he often went many days in between pitching), the velocity played up. Fastball went from averaging 88-89 to to more 91-92, and the cutter jumped from 87-88 to more 89-90. A legitimate jump, no doubt. I’m kinda rambling here, but the bottom line is that Ryan pitches with a fringy fastball as a starter but it shows the ability to play up a half to a full grade when he’s in the pen, just velocity wise. He’s always needed command to be effective due to a lack of overpowering stuff, and he shows the ability to keep the ball down with consistency while pounding the zone. He’s always been a strike thrower, as I’ve said before, but the quality of his strikes has needed to get better. He’s athletic, but at 6’5′ with long, lanky levers, he will always have to battle to repeat his delivery due to the fact that he just has so much length to control. As I mentioned, Ryan throws the fastball, sinker, and cutter the vast majority of the time, but he also features a slider and a change up. The change lags behind a bit now, and I don’t really think it has an average future, whereas the slider does show some potential.

The Projection:

I think Ryan has a future as a long reliever/swingman type. I mentioned Jordan Gorosh before, and I’ll mention him again here: Jordan has been quoted as saying that he thinks Ryan could find a future as a specialist if he was able to drop his arm slot, and I tend to agree with that assessment. Essentially, I think Ryan belongs in the pen, where (and again, SSS caveat) his stuff has shown the ability to play up. He has a starter’s durability and the ability to pound the strike zone, but with his stuff I question his ability to consistently turn over major league lineups.

OFP: 45, swingman, long reliever, potential lefty specialist

2015 Projection: AAA rotation, MLB bullpen

MLB ETA: Already reached MLB level

#19 Anthony Castro, RHP

The Profile:

Anthony Castro was signed as an international free agent in 2011 out of Venezuela, and spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons playing in the Venezuelan Summer League. He came over in 2014 to play in the rookie Gulf Coast League, and while the stats aren’t overwhelming (you really can’t pay attention to complex league stats anyways), the scouting was very encouraging.

The Scouting:

Castro is one of the (very) few prospects who I haven’t actually laid eyes on, but I have been able to glean some info from various sources. In addition to speaking with scouts on pro coverage in the GCL, Jordan Gorosh of Baseball Prospectus penned an excellent scouting update on Castro in the Detroit Free Press back in July. You can find that article here. I’ll sum it up quickly: Castro stands around 6’0′-6’1″, throws with minimal effort despite needing some mechanical refinements, and throws a 3 pitch mix with a FB, SL, and CH. The FB works 90-93 with some projection remaining, showing solid life and potential average command. Slider works 79-82 currently, showing the sharpness and bite to become a plus pitch in time. What sets Castro apart, according to Jordan and other scouts, is the feel for a change up that he has. Jordan believes it has an average future, which would give Castro the potential future of a 6 FB, 6 SL, and 5 CH; all with at least 5 future command. That’s the recipe for a solid #4 starter, as Jordan mentioned. While he’s a little shorter than you’d expect a Tigers RHP prospect to be, he’s still only 19 (won’t turn 20 until mid April) and shows the raw stuff to warrant legitimate interest.

The Projection:

I mentioned this above, but Castro, while still coming with the high risk factor of any complex-level arm, seems to be a bit more polished and a bit more advanced in terms of feel for pitching than the usual rookie league guys. He shows the potential for 3 average-or-better pitches, all with a solid command profile, and he’s due to pitch in full season ball by age 20 or 21. At the very least, due to the fastball/slider combo, he could have a future towards the back end of a bullpen, although the Tigers will certainly give him several years to develop as a starter, and there are no real “red flags” at present that speak to a definite future in the bullpen.

OFP: 55 (average #3/good #4 starter or potential 7th-8th inning reliever)

2015 Projection: I feel like he’ll pitch at West Michigan at some point, although the Tigers could very easily keep him at extended spring training for awhile before sending him into a Midwest spring to pitch.

MLB ETA: 2018

#18: Greyson Greiner, C

The Profile: 

Greiner was drafted in the 3rd round in 2014 out of South Carolina, and was immediately assigned to Class A West Michigan upon signing his contract. He accumulated about 100 PA at West Michigan before an injury (broken bone in left wrist due to HBP) cut his season short by about a month. He did well in a small sample size, hitting .322/.394/.444 with 18 strikeouts and 11 walks, showing the ability to command the strike zone and drive the baseball.

The Scouting: 

Greiner is a massive human being, listed at 6’6″ 215, and as we’re all aware, catchers of that size are rare. Notably, Joe Mauer (not a catcher anymore) and Matt Wieters are/were both catchers standing 6’5″, but that’s really it off the top of my head. However, somewhat surprisingly, Greiner’s ability to stick behind the plate and be solid there hasn’t really been questioned by scouts. As a matter of fact, his defense behind the plate is really his calling card. I only got to see him twice before he got hurt, and while I was fine with calling his defense potentially above-average, I’ve spoken to a few scouts who put a future 6 on the glove. He’s an excellent receiver, a skill no doubt honed by catching premium stuff for 3 years in the SEC, with the ability to block balls both side to side and straight down despite his significant size. He couples this defensive ability with above-average arm strength, showing consistent game pops of 1.85-2.0, although occasionally his transfer and release will get a bit tangled and slow down some. The questions on Greiner’s profile come with the bat, where scouts question his ability to reach an even average hit tool. Due to his size and overall length his swing is naturally longer than you’d like to see, but he does show the ability to put bat to ball, as well as the ability to drive the ball due to his natural strength. Again, I only saw about 8 at bats total (really looking forward to getting an extended look at him in 2015), but he did show the ability to command the zone, although the length of the swing leads to increased swing and miss; especially against plus velocity. As I said, he’s a strong dude with the ability to drive the baseball up the gaps and out of the park, and the batting practice can be impressive. The raw power approaches a 6, but the game power is more likely a 5 long term due to the overall hit utility. If everything comes together perfectly, he could be a guy who hits .260ish with 15 home runs, but there’s some significant risk in that projection.

The Projection:

Greiner’s carrying tool will be his defense, and with a few scouts putting a 6 on the glove and a 55 on the arm, his floor is pretty high. Even if the bat doesn’t develop fully, he still has a future as a backup catcher who can play 2-3 times a week without hurting you, especially if you shield him against arm side pitching. However, if the bat comes together and reaches an average grade; he’s a no doubt starting catcher on a 1st division team. But, as I said, that’s a big separation in projection, with 2 full grades being added to the present hit tool. Realistically, he’ll fall somewhere in between the present hit and potential future, settling in somewhere around a 4 bat, which still leads to a projection as a very good backup catcher, maybe 2nd division regular.

OFP: 50 (Average 1st division catcher, realistically a good 2nd division starter or good backup)

2015 Projection: Due to his injury-shortened 1st season and his underdeveloped bat, I’d expect him to start at West Michigan, with a possible promotion to Lakeland (High-A) on the horizon.

MLB ETA: 2017.

#17: Austin Kubitza, RHP

The Profile:

Kubitza was drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 draft out of Rice, and he spent his pro debut between the GCL and Lakeland, limiting his innings while pitching out of the pen to middling success. He spent the entire 2014 season at West Michigan, where he was arguably the Whitecaps’ best starter in a rotation of 4 guys who all threw very well. He threw 131 innings in 2014, with a 2.34 ERA, over a strikeout per inning, only 6.7 hits per 9, and an obscenely high 3.72 GO/AO. To say the least, he dominated the Midwest League in 2014. However, I have some questions about how much of his success was due to stuff versus how much of his success was due to being an advanced college arm pitching in A ball at 22 years old.

The Scouting:

Kubitza passes the eye test of a Tigers’ starter, standing 6’5″ and weighing in at a durable 225 lbs. However, Kubitza lacks the premium velocity that Dave Dombrowski so often covets, working his FB velo in the 87-90 range (in my viewings), but he supplements the lower velo by sinking the holy blue hell out of the baseball. It’s a very heavy fastball with big sink down in the zone, making it extremely hard to lift. He generates a ton of ground balls with the pitch, as evidenced by the 3.72 GO/AO he posted in 2014. Despite the below-average velocity, I believe that the movement of the pitch allows it to play as an average offering (since I take movement into account when grading a fastball, while others have separate grades for velocity and movement). However, while the pitch is truly heavy and backed up by scouting, I question how it will play against more advanced hitters. The slider is a weapon pitch, and while some have put a future 6 on the pitch, I’m not quite that in on it. It’s mostly horizontal break without a ton of depth, and while it’s sharp and undoubtedly effective, it didn’t show a plus future for me. He was basically a 2 pitch guy in the games I scouted, flashing a change up that had some feel, but lagged significantly behind the fastball and slider.

The Projection:

I believe Kubitza is a reliever long term, where ideally his FB will retain the heavy sink that has made him effective thus far, but potentially gaining a few ticks of velo. He’s a guy who can be an effective middle reliever/7th inning arm with 2 pitches, but the Tigers are going to give him every chance to start, especially given his success as a starter so far. If moved to the bullpen, he could move quickly through the system, but as a starter he’ll take longer due to the underdeveloped 3rd pitch. If it all comes together, he could slot in as a backend starter who can eat innings, but as I said, I like him more as a potential 7th inning guy with the ability to go multiple innings if called upon as well as miss bats with an above average slider.

OFP: 50 (Back end starter/7th inning reliever)

2015 Projection: Starting pitcher at Lakeland (High-A)

MLB ETA: 2017 as a starter, 2016 as a reliever.

#16: Edgar De La Rosa, RHP

The Profile:

De La Rosa is a mammoth human being, listed at 6’8″ 235, and realistically being every bit of that listed height and weight. I’m 6’4″, and I stood next to him last year at West Michigan, and he straight-up dwarfed me, man. Long levers with tons of strength, although the usual “holy crap he’s huge how does he repeat a delivery with all that body” concerns apply here. I saw DLR several times at West Michigan in 2013, and while the fastball was undoubtedly impressive, nothing else was (except for his size), and he got hit around far too much. He rebounded nicely in 2014 at Lakeland, putting together his best season as a professional by throwing 139 innings, allowing less than a hit per inning, and overall showing an increased ability to throw quality strikes. However, he’s still not missing as many bats as one would expect (less than 6 per 9 IP), and still struggling with walking too many (3.5 per 9, although that’s really not that bad).

The Scouting:

De La Rosa’s mammoth size is backed up by a mammoth fastball, registering in the high 90’s with the four seamer consistently. When I saw him, he would consistently sit 95-97 touching higher, but it was often straight and way too often left up in the zone, leading to him getting hit way too much when considering the raw power of his fastball. According to James Chipman of TigsTown, who saw DLR many times in 2014, the fastball effectiveness and command took a big step forward in 2014. He’ll pitch in the low 90’s with a two seamer, showing some arm side run and some sink; and then he’ll ramp up the four seamer into the 95-98 range with more life than I had ever seen, making the 2 fastballs both effective pitches while being able to give hitters different looks. He also throws a slider and change to round out his arsenal, although neither offers the upside and promise that his fastball does. The slider is shorter, although it has legitimate bite and he has made progress with the command of the pitch to where he can now throw it as a chase pitch as well as for a strike. The change up lags, and while he throws it with good arm speed and it offers deception due to velo separation and the aforementioned arm speed, it lacks movement down in the zone.

The Projection:

If it all comes together, DLR could pitch with a two seamer, four seamer, slider, and change up; all with average or better potential. The fastball is a near elite offering, and the slider could end up above-average, with the change showing some promise as a useable pitch. That’s the recipe for a solid #3-4 starter at the major league level, but it comes with a certain amount of risk. To reach that projection, De La Rosa needs to continue to refine his command, miss more bats, and develop the off speed offerings. Realistically, he’s going to slot in as a late-innings reliever. As a reliever, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him pitch with an 8 fastball complemented by an above-average slider, which speaks to the profile of a legitimate set up man. However, as is the common theme, the Tigers will give him every chance to start and continue to build on his very solid 2014 campaign.

OFP: 55 (#4 starter or late innings reliever)

2015 Projection: Would assume he pitches 2015 at AA Erie

MLB ETA: 2016 as a reliever, 2017 as a starter.

2015 Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: Just Missed

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Hello again, everyone. ‘Tis the season for ranking prospects, so I figured I’d come back and try my hand at ranking the top 20 Tigers prospects for 2015. This is going to be a depressing exercise, especially after the trade of Devon Travis (my heart will go on…), but we’ll give it a try anyways.

Usual caveats apply here. This is a subjective list, meaning that it’s my opinion. I’ve seen the vast majority of the prospects I’ll be ranking, and therefore all of the information written here (unless otherwise noted!!) will be my own. If you disagree, agree, whatever, that’s wonderful. I do hope this will spark a discussion. Feel free to use the comments section or Twitter to do so.

Further caveat: I don’t know anything about the guys the Tigers have in the DSL or VSL. I just don’t. I could conceivably glean scraps of scouting info from various sources about them, but I don’t believe that’s enough for me to justify ranking them. Therefore, these guys won’t be included in my rankings. I don’t know if any of them are top 20 guys anyways–they might not be–but I just don’t know enough about them, so I’m excluding them from my rankings due to lack of info.

I’m going to start these rankings off with a “just missed” segment. These are just a handful of guys who I consider “prospects”, but didn’t fall into my top 20. They are not ranked here, I’m just writing about them in alphabetical order.

Endrys Briceno, RHP

Briceno is not a new name to Tigers’ prospect followers, as he’s been on the radar for a few years now. Standing 6’5″ with smooth mechanics, plus arm speed, and some of the easiest out-of-the-hand gas you’ll see, it’s pretty easy to see why he’s highly thought of. Hell, Briceno was a top 10 guy last year. I saw him many times at West Michigan in 2013, and he was as big of a prospect tease as I can remember scouting. One day he’ll paint with 97, follow it up with a change up that will flash above-average, ooze projection, and show the makings of a usable breaking ball. If you saw one of those outings, it wasn’t a silly idea to put a 60 OFP on him. However, he was maddeningly inconsistent with pretty much everything, and the scouting never matched the production. Now, I’m a scouting guy, I’ll always trust the eye test more than I will minor league numbers, but still…a guy with Briceno’s stuff and profile should not get hit as much as he did, and he should have missed a ton more bats. He moved up to High-A Lakeland for the 2014 season and made a few starts before being shelved due to Tommy John. Normally, a single injury wouldn’t push a guy 10+ spots down a list for me, but when you see that Briceno will be 23 in February, has thrown a total of 16 innings above Low-A, and is still as raw as he is, I couldn’t justify a high ranking. Now, that being said, Briceno probably has the most potential helium on this list. Realistically, he still has one of the highest upsides in this system. If he can spend 2015 getting his arm back in shape and throw some quality innings at Lakeland, he sets himself up to be on track to pitch in AA when he’s 24, which is age appropriate. The upside here is that of a solid #4 starter, because he’ll flash the ability to pitch with a 6+ FB and a 5+ CH, but the lack of a breaking ball holds him back. In all likelihood, he’ll end up the bullpen, in my opinion.

Harold Castro, 2B

Castro has always been a mystery wrapped inside of an enigma to me, because I’ve always thought that he is one of the best pure hitters in the Tigers org. He combines a short left handed stroke with solid bat speed and good hands, which lends credence to the future 6 you see some (including myself) put on his bat. He uses the whole field and makes hard contact, but the power is limited to the extra-base variety. He shows the raw ability to end up as an average defender at 2B, and has played some 3B as well. If you just look at the tools and even the production (he’s hit .289 in his minor league career, albeit with low OBP and SLG), you’d think this would be a top 10 guy in the severely depleted Tigers system. However, for whatever reason, the Tigers don’t seem to think too highly of him. Now, I say this with zero inside information. I’ve heard rumors about certain things, but I don’t know nearly enough with any certainty to “report” such things. He’s ranked this low on my list because it’s hard for me to rank a guy highly who just doesn’t play enough. Seriously, he had 283 AB’s in 2014. For a guy with the raw hitting skills that he has, you’d think he would play more. Again, I don’t know. I just don’t. So I’m taking the more “safe” route here by ranking him low. His upside is that of an average 2B, but that comes with a ton of risk. Realistically, he can end up a quality utility guy who can put bat to ball and play a few different positions off the bench.

Daniel Fields, OF

I don’t even need to write a blurb about Fields. You all know who he is. But anyways, Fields is the guy who is closest to the majors with the ability to actually play CF at an average-or-better level. He can definitely play CF better than anyone on the current roster not named Anthony Gose, and he can run some, although he’s not what you would classify as a burner. He also has one of the better approaches at the plate that you’ll find in the system. He commands the strike zone, takes walks, and has above-average raw power. However, what limits him is the utility of the hit tool. He just doesn’t make enough contact at this point to project as anything more than a 4th OF/possible platoon guy. He’s hit much better vs RHP in his career (except for the small sample size 2014 season) across the board (AVG/OBP/SLG). In retrospect now that i’m actually writing this, he should probably be higher, just because of his closeness to the majors and the fact that he can actually play CF, but I’m not one to fight my gut instinct, and my gut instinct put him here on my list. It’s not unrealistic to expect him to play some with Detroit in 2015, but the presence of Anthony Gose impacts that projection, seeing as they’re both LHH OF’s who will do best in a platoon. If you anticipate Gose and Rajai Davis getting the vast majority of time in CF, then Fields becomes more of an afterthought. Regardless, I believe he has major league upside, even if it’s upside as a 4th OF.

Connor Harrell, OF

I wanted to rank Harrell higher, I really did. I like the guy. I saw him several times towards the end of 2013 in West Michigan, and Jay Chipman from TigsTown kept me updated on his progress throughout 2014 when he was at Lakeland. Harrell is a toolsy guy, with above-average raw power, average speed, and the ability to play all 3 OF positions, at least at an average level. Again, a recurring theme, Harrell’s “prospect lumps” come in the contact department. While his 2014 triple slash looks solid (.270/.344/.423), he struck out quite a bit (26%) playing in High-A at age 23. Still, as we all know, prospects can have major league projection despite contact issues, and while Harrell has them, they’re not entirely stock-killing. His upside has always been that of a 4th OF, due to the profile that I outlined already. He can play all 3 OF positions, and while he’s best in a corner, the ability to play CF raises the profile. He can run some (it’s mostly average speed, highlighted on the base paths by solid instincts and the ability to take the extra base) and can steal you a bag. He shows the ability to hit the ball out of the park, although he’s more of an XBH threat due to a more linear swing path than true lift. Regardless, he should play 2015 at AA, where we’ll undoubtedly see if the guy can play or not.

Joe Mantiply, LHP

Mantiply is probably the prospect I’m most confused about on this list, honestly. I saw him a few times at West Michigan in 2014 where he had a ton of success, and then he received a 2-level promotion to Erie, where he again had success in a small sample. The Tigers sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where he continued his success. Seeing as he was a 27th round pick out of college, it’s easy to see why he was quite off the radar, but he seems to have reinvented himself as a reliever, where he’s seen his prospect stock rise to someone with actual major league upside. He throws from a lower slot with a FB working in the high 80’s, and complements that with a slider as his primary secondary pitch. When I saw him, he was very, very effective, but I believed (and still believe) that part of that success was due to the fact that he was an older college arm pitching in Low-A. The command was solid, the fastball had life, and the slider–while inconsistent–flashed average. Overall, it’s the profile of a lefty specialist, but one who could get to the Tigers quickly. He’s a big dude at 6’4″ 220 or so, and the arm slot coupled with a solid breaking ball lends credence to such projection. I expect he’ll be in AAA in 2015, due to his overall success in AA and the AFL (despite it being a small sample).

Zac Reininger, RHP

Reininger came to the Tigers as an 8th round pick in 2013, billed as someone with the ability to both start and come out of the pen, depending on the Tigers’ developmental strategy with him. I saw him early in the 2014 season, and was underwhelmed, as his FB was flat at 88-91 and his curveball, while showing flashes, lacked consistent sharpness. I billed him, at the time, as a potential swingman-type right handed reliever, as I believed he had projection going forward and the curveball showed the makings of a good pitch. Fast forward several months to when I saw him in August, and I was quite pleased. His fastball had jumped several notches, and was working 92-94, touching 95, with good life down in the zone. The curveball had taken a step forward as well, showing big depth and more consistent bite with 11/5 break. He struggled to consistently command the ball down in the zone, and got hit when he left the FB up, but the profile definitely rose (in my view) on that day. Athletic guy with a potential 6 FB and 5+ CB (which is what I have him written up as) speaks to a guy with legitimate middle relief upside. He’ll turn 22 in a few months, and I would expect him to spend 2015 at High-A, so we’ll see, obviously.

Scouting the Tigers’ September Positional Callups

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During the Jim Leyland years, the Tigers didn’t really utilize the roster expansion of September 1st very much. They thought it best to only call up a few guys, usually an extra catcher, Danny Worth, and an extra pitcher or two. This year, Brad Ausmus and company have turned that precedent on it’s head, and called up nearly 10 players from the minor leagues. Since I don’t want this to turn into a 3,000 word post, I’m going to do two separate ones: One for positional players, and one for pitchers.

Steven Moya, OF: Moya stands at least 6’7″, and weighs in at a chiseled 250-ish pounds. He is “what they look like”, according to Rod Allen, and Rod is not wrong. He’s a physical specimen in every sense of the phrase. He has massive raw power, amongst the top raw power anywhere in the minor leagues. However, questions about his contact ability limit his profile and his ultimate ceiling in the major leagues. He swings and misses a lot, struggles against arm-side pitching. struggles with recognition, lacks knowledge of the zone, and overall he is just a very raw hitter still. That being said, he made huge strides in 2014, but still has a long way to go. He’s a solid fielder in RF or LF, with plus arm strength that is limited due to inconsistent mechanics and accuracy. His best utilization at this time is probably that of a late-innings pinch hitter against a right handed pitcher.

Tyler Collins, OF: Collins is a grinder-type outfielder who lacks a plus tool, but who can still be a valuable asset both right now and in the future. He’s best in LF, where he still falls short of being an average defender. Fringy arm strength, but he manages to get the job done for the most part in left. He “can play” center field, but that wouldn’t be a wise decision, in my opinion. He can run a little bit, but his stolen base numbers are more indicative of good baserunning skills and good instincts moreso than raw speed. He’s a pesky hitter at his best, with some pop in his bat (as we saw the other night), but at his peak I don’t think he’s better than a .250-.260 hitter (40-45 on the 20-80 scale). I think he’s a better option than Moya at this point if we’re talking daily utility, but Moya would be the one more likely to hit one 500ft and look gorgeous doing it.

Hernan Perez, IF: Perez is a 2nd baseman by trade who played a lot of shortstop in AAA this season. and while he’s not sexy there, I’ve long believed him to be a better option than Andrew Romine as a utility IF. He can play 2B at a plus level, a fringy (passable) SS, and truth be told I’m sure he could handle 3B and LF if given some reps there. That speaks to a valuable utility option, moreso when you include that he can hit the baseball. He features a compact, short stroke, and an advanced ability to put bat to ball. He’s aggressive, and won’t walk a ton, and doesn’t come with much beyond doubles power. While he shows the ability to potentially hit in the mid-high .200’s, the lack of walks and lack of power make that an empty batting average, which in my mind limits his profile to more of a utility guy than an everyday player. All that being said, he’s still a better option than Andrew Romine. He may see some time as a pinch hitter, pinch runner, or defensive replacement down the stretch, but I don’t think he’ll start many games (if at all).

James McCann, C: Ahh yes. James McCann. The savior of the franchise from the dastardly Captain Nepotism. In all reality though, James McCann is probably the best prospect on this list in terms of the combination of upside, polish, ceiling, floor, etc, etc. Moya has a higher upside, sure. But McCann is a helluva lot more polished, a helluva lot more major-league ready, and a helluva lot closer to his ceiling than Moya is. And his ceiling is still that of a solid major league catcher. Jordan Gorosh at Baseball Prospectus has been saying for years that he believes a platoon of Avila and McCann would be extremely valuable, and I tend to agree with him. We should see such a platoon on display in 2015. Anyways, scouting. McCann is a good defender, probably a 55 on the 20-80 scale behind the dish. He’s a heady player with good athleticism, blocks well, receives well, and handles pitching staffs well. He’ll also show off a plus arm at times, though he’s more consistently in the above-average range in terms of pop times. He’s a good hitter, though he lacks home run power. Realistically he’s a guy who can hit in the .265-.270 range at his peak, while not striking out a ton (although he won’t walk a ton either), with 20+ doubles and maybe 5 HR’s or so. Like I said, pair him with Avila in a platoon and that’s excellent production from the catcher’s position.

 

I’ll scout the pitcher callups in a seaparate post tomorrow.

 

Javier Betancourt Scouting Report

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Javier Betancourt, 2B/SS

Date Seen: 5/5-5/7, 8/5-8/6 (2014)

Where: Fifth Third Ballpark-West Michigan Whitecaps (Comstock Park, Michigan)/Classic Park-Lake County Captains (Eastlake, OH)

Body: Listed 6’0″ 180, which is seemingly a touch off. Looks closer to 5’10” 170 to me, but at 18-19 years old, 6’0″ 180 might be a realistic idea of where he’ll end up. Good frame, good build. Could handle some more weight, especially if he gets taller.

Hit: Balanced stance and set up, no unnecessary movement, quiet lower half pre-swing. Quick hands to and through the zone. Stays inside the ball well. Line drive swing plane, bat stays in the zone through the swing, finishes well, has good plate coverage. Likes to go the other way, but shows ability to use the entire field. Advanced recognition of off speed, good knowledge of the strike zone, but can be aggressive. Solid bat speed, shows good barrel control.

Grade (Projection): 55

Power: Line drive swing plane that is more built for contact than power. Touch above average bat speed, shows ability to backspin the ball. With added strength he should develop more gap power. Swing has some leverage, but again, it’s built more for contact than power. Could see 15-20 doubles and 5-7 HR’s annually at maturity.

Grade (Projection): 35

Run: Average runner at present, consistently timed him in the 4.5 range on digs H-1. Very good instincts on the bases, gets good reads on batted balls. Instincts allow raw speed to play up a bit. Better as he gets going. Should settle in as a below-average runner long term, but instincts should allow him to steal a few bases along the way.

Grade (Projection): 40

Defense: Hands are what stand out in the field. Very soft hands, fields anything he can get to cleanly. Shows a smooth transfer from glove to hand, quick with no wasted movement. Solid range side to side, lacks plus lateral quickness, lacks plus agility, but shows good-enough range at both SS and 2B. Very good around the bag, good footwork and quality understanding of positioning. 2B will be his primary position long term, but could handle SS in a pinch and not kill you.

Grade (Projection): 55 (at 2B), 45 (at SS)

Arm: Above-average arm strength from 2B, fringy from SS. Quick release, accurate, makes all of the throws from both positions, but lacks the “zip” that is requisite for a plus grade. No problem making throws on the pivot when playing 2B.

Grade (Projection): 55 (at 2B), 45 (at SS)

Overall Future Potential: Betancourt is an easy player to like, and Devon Travis isn’t a terrible comp for him, although Betancourt’s ultimate ceiling is higher than Travis. Above average potential hit with above average potential D at 2B (with the ability to play SS and perhaps 3B) is a nice profile, but it’s not a sexy one. There’s no plus tool here, but it’s also important to remember that he’s putting bat to ball consistently and playing solid D in full-season ball at age 19. He’s in line to be in High-A ball before he turns 20. While the ceiling isn’t particularly high, I think his floor is a solid utility guy.

OFP: 55 (Everyday 2B on a 1st division team)

Realistic: 45 (Utility player w/ ability to play 3 defensive positions w/ moderate success and hit some)

Scouting Notes: West Michigan @ Lake County

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My scouting notes from the West Michigan @ Lake County game (8/5/14).

West Michigan:

2B Domingo Leyba: Switch hitter, saw mostly from RH side. Very quick hands, advanced barrel control. Above-average bat speed. Barreled up inside velo with relative ease. Excellent foot quickness, but overall footwork in the field is rough. Game looks a bit too fast for him at times. Can cover some ground at 2B, but overall defensive skills are raw. Tools are there for a plus defender at 2B, but it’s raw right now. Knows the game, understands situations.

1B/3B Dom Ficociello: Good feel to hit, but overall mechanical package isn’t smooth. Noisy hands (from the right side, anyways). Line drive swing path; swing is built for contact more so than power. Played 3B, but I don’t believe he has a future there. Lacks first-step quickness and necessary agility to field the position at an average level. Can come in on balls relatively well, solid athlete for size. Average arm, maybe a touch more, from 3B. Would really like to see him in the OF. He’s a nice player, but the profile is tough. A guy who can hit some, but lacks power, playing 1B? If he could handle RF, I’d like him more. Right now seems like a solid organizational guy.

RHP Zac Reininger: Had seem him before, and was mostly 88-91 T92 in that viewing. Came out in this viewing pumping 92-94 T 95 for a full inning. FB shows very good late life, can sink it down in the zone, will flatten out on him when left up. Tall, lanky guy with short arm action and some legit arm speed. Struggled to keep the ball down in this viewing, but showed ability to work FB to both sides of plate. Showed an 11/5 CB with good depth and some sharpness, but pitch needs overall refinement. Could see a middle relief upside here.

LHP Ryan Longstreth: Worked 88-92, T 93 over several innings. FB had a little late life, enough to miss barrels. Showed a short SL with some vertical action that he threw to righties and lefties. First year back from Tommy John, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a little more velo coming. Reports of him sitting 91-93 pre-injury. Should find success as an organizational middle reliever.

Lake County:

Clint Frazier: Has made some mechanical adjustments since previous viewings. Lower half is much quieter, and he’s done away with the exaggerated leg kick. Bat speed is still there, and the hands are still very quick. Has made progress with recognition skills, and overall approach has improved. Willing to take walks. Will always swing and miss, but he’s looking like he could end up a 5/5+ hitter with big power. Right now he’s fine in CF, but I think he ends up in a corner long term. Shows plus arm strength, but due to accuracy and inconsistencies, should settle in as an above-average tool, and should play just fine in RF. Encouraged by the improvements he’s made, but he still has a long way to go.

LF Dorssys Paulino:

Didn’t see him challenged in LF. Made two routine plays, so at least we know he’s able to catch fly balls? Still believe that he will hit. Showed the ability to barrel up inside heat as well as soft stuff away. Backspun a double in LCF gap. Gap power present, but leveraged swing with loft and the eventual addition of strength lead me to believe that he’ll hit some HR’s too. Very aggressive hitter on anything in/around zone. Needs to tighten up strike zone discipline, also needs to work on pitch recognition.

RHP Justin Brantley:

Interesting arm. Worked 94-95 with some arm side run. Comes over the top with big extension. Not a big fan of the arm action, as there’s some stab in the back. Also has spine tilt present, doesn’t generate a ton of plane. SL worked 86-88, short vertical break. Showed ability to work to both sides of plate with both pitches, worked down.

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