Detroit Tigers: The Franchise's Top 5 Prospects of 2012

Matt Buck@@BR_MattBuckCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2012

Jacob Turner leads the class of Tigers prospects in 2012
Jacob Turner leads the class of Tigers prospects in 2012Leon Halip/Getty Images

When scouring Detroit's minor league prospects, there's one thing that is glaringly recognizable: Lots and lots of pitching.

The consensus No. 1 prospect in the organization has been the same for many years now, but there have been a few changes to the rest of the order.

1. Jacob Turner, RHP

Most people can agree that Turner is at the top of the class for Detroit Tigers prospects. The righty had a crack at the big leagues in 2011, though only on a limited basis.

Expect to see Turner a bit more this season. There's an outside chance that he'll be the No. 5 starter in the Tigers' rotation consistently this season, although manager Jim Leyland has said on multiple occasions that the team is still looking to sign a veteran fifth man.

At the minor league level, Turner has displayed great control with all of his pitches. With five different pitches that he throws consistently, Turner has moved himself into the top 15 in terms of all minor-league prospects.

2. Nick Castellanos, 3B

Though it cannot be specified, there's a pretty significant gap between No. 1 and No. 2 on this list.

That said, Castellanos is the best position prospect on this year's list. While he is still lacking a bit in terms of range at third base—he chalked up more than a few errors last year at Low-A West Michigan in his first year of being a third baseman—Castellanos is arguably the most consistent hitting prospect the Tigers have.

Andy Oliver could see more big league time in 2012
Andy Oliver could see more big league time in 2012Leon Halip/Getty Images

With the signing of Prince Fielder and the subsequent move to third base by Miguel Cabrera, it's difficult to figure out where Castellanos will fit into the puzzle at the big league level. With both Fielder and Cabrera having many years left with the Tigers, perhaps Castellanos could see a move back to shortstop, depending on how long things last with Jhonny Peralta.

Overall, Castellanos probably still has a year or two before he sees big league action, but it's hard to believe that the Tigers won't give him a chance at some point. Either that or he'll be included in some form of trade package.

3. Drew Smyly, LHP

There's a great deal of competition between the third through fifth ranking, but Smyly barely edges out two other lefties who are also quite talented.

Smyly has three quality pitches that he regularly uses in his fastball, curveball and changeup. The fact that Smyly is a lefty would make him an even greater commodity on most teams, but since Detroit has a few lefty prospects it becomes diluted a bit.

Smyly definitely favors his fastball, and that's become a bit of his go-to pitch. His location is pretty impressive, though he still has some work to do.

His biggest downfall would have to be his secondary pitches. While he's shown flashes of skill in his curveball, he still has quite a ways to go in order to master the pitch.

There's been a lot of trade talk this offseason involving Detroit, and most of it has involved Smyly. It wouldn't surprising to see him get shipped off at some point this season if the Tigers need another Major League-ready arm or bat.

4. Andy Oliver, LHP

Like Smyly, Oliver is a great lefty prospect who has the potential to be a decent starter in Detroit. Unlike Smyly, Oliver actually has some big league experience, though it has never translated into a consistent starting role.

Oliver's biggest strength is just that. The lefty has a cannon for an arm, as his fastball frequently hits 96 mph on the radar gun.

His changeup is also pretty impressive, although his location leaves a lot to be desired.

Oliver is the kind of prospect that may have a high ceiling, but needs to work a great deal on his control if he wants to make it in the big leagues consistently.

5. Rob Brantly, C

Rob Brantly has shown for the past two seasons that he's one of the more consistent positional players in the Detroit organization.

While there really isn't a glaring strength to his game, Brantly is extremely well-rounded at catcher. Although his defense is only average at best, his poise at the plate cannot be denied.

It's not all that likely that Brantly will ever be a full-time catcher at the MLB level, but he could become a valuable part-time guy. Although his defense won't do anything to impress people in the big leagues, he could provide a consistent spark in the lineup.


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