#15: Dixon Machado, SS
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.