OF/3B Nick Castellanos heads a thin Tigers' farm system.
However, they’ll have to rely on big-league talent, as the organization features one of the game’s worst farm systems headed into the spring training.
Even though they lack projectable talent beyond Nick Castellanos, Avisail Garcia and Bruce Rondon, the Tigers do have several intriguing under-the-radar prospects.
In selecting players for this article, I targeted prospects that are behind the developmental curve relative to their age, have a concerning medical history, lack significant professional experience or are simply under-appreciated.
Here’s a look at the three most underrated prospects in the Detroit Tigers’ farm system.
A second-round pick of the Nationals in 2009, Kobernus has moved at a one level per year pace, and spent the entire 2012 season at Double-A Harrisburg. Although he played in only 82 games due to a broken rib (via hit-by-pitch), the 24-year-old batted .282/.325/.333 with 42 stolen bases.
Kobernus’s only loud tool is his speed, which is obvious on both ends of the ball, and should ultimately get him to the major leagues in a reserve role.
Although he’s played second base almost exclusively over the last three seasons, his speed and instincts could also be utilized as a defensive replacement in the outfield.
The Red Sox popped Kobernus in the Rule 5 Draft in early December, and promptly flipped him to the Tigers. And let it be known: someone within the Tigers’ organization believes that he’s the next Don Kelly. Interpret that as you wish.
After seeing a significant jump in velocity over last two years as he grew into his wiry frame, Paulino missed the entire 2012 season after injuring his right shoulder and undergoing surgery.
Before the injury, the 6’4”, 170-pound right-hander showcased a fastball that sat in the low-to-mid 90s and occasionally scraped a few ticks higher. He also threw from three-quarters angle. Therefore, I’m curious to see what adjustments he makes upon returning to the mound.
After not pitching last season, Paulino is one of the more exciting sleeper prospects in the Tigers’ organization. If he recovers from the injury, the right-hander could have the highest ceiling of all their pitching prospects.
After three seasons in the complex leagues, Suarez was finally promoted to Low-A West Michigan last year for his full-season debut. The shortstop enjoyed a breakout campaign, as he batted .288/.380/.409 with 34 doubles, 21 stolen bases and 116/65 K/BB in 135 games.
The 6’, 180-pound middle infielder showed improvements across the board last season, especially regarding his defense and on-base skills.
Suarez’s best tools are his speed and defense. He started to see more playing time at second base last season, as he’s a smooth defender with fluid actions, an above-average glove and plus arm that’s suitable for any infield position.
Considering the Tigers' lack of a legitimate up-the-middle prospect, especially at shortstop, Suarez’s breakout 2012 season offers reason to be optimistic in what may lie beyond Jhonny Peralta.