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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.