Detroit Tigers' Top 10 Prospects for 2014
The Detroit Tigers farm system once again ranks in the bottom tier headed into the 2014 season, with only one potential impact prospect and a host of probable late-innings arms.
Headlining the organization’s crop of young talent is Nick Castellanos, who reached the major leagues in late 2013 after a quick rise through the minors. A natural third baseman, the 21-year-old was moved to the outfield in 2012 to expedite the arrival of his bat at the highest level. Although the decision ultimately panned out, Castellanos will return to the hot corner in 2014 following the departure of Prince Fielder and will compete for the Opening Day job this spring.
Beyond Castellanos, Detroit’s system thins out in a hurry, with a plethora of powerful arms but none that carries a favorable projection as a major league starter. They’ll have a bottomless supply of relievers to call on next season, such as Corey Knebel, Drew VerHagen and possibly even Jonathan Crawford. The Tigers could also give catcher James McCann a look behind the plate next season, and if all goes as planned, the right-handed hitter could potentially assume a platoon role opposite Alex Avila.
Here’s a look at the Detroit Tigers’ top 10 prospects for the 2014 season.
10. Eugenio Suarez, SS/2B, Detroit Tigers
DOB: 07/18/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 180 pounds
Signed: Oct. 2008 (Venezuela)
ETA: Late 2014
5’11”, 180-pound middle infielder continues to make steady improvements; right-handed hitter with a consistent, level swing; comfortable working counts and making pitchers work; below-average power; strikes out too often; approach and on-base skills continue to improve.
Fringe-average speed impedes his overall range and projection at shortstop; solid glove and instincts; slick defender with fluid actions; will get lazy and sit back on balls; average arm strength; well-rounded reserve profile.
Projection: Utility infielder
9. Steven Moya, OF
DOB: 09/08/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 230 pounds
Signed: 2008 (Dominican Republic)
Moya is an enormous human being at 6’6”, 230 pounds; elite raw power accurately reflects his enormous size; can hit the ball a country mile; good athlete with arm strength and glove for career in right field; swing has serious length that’s conducive for jumping the yard but not making contact; struggles to recognize spin; bat will offer most utility in a platoon role against right-handed pitching.
Projection: Platoon corner outfielder
8. Drew VerHagen, RHP
DOB: 10/22/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 230 pounds
Drafted: Fourth round, 2012 (Vanderbilt)
ETA: Late 2014
VerHagen has a tall, lanky build at 6’6”, 230 pounds; good athlete for size; struggles with his release point at times and will get under the ball; fastball projects as his only plus pitch, registering in the 92-95 mph range; can reach back for something extra; pitch cuts through zone and steep plane and induces groundouts; secondary arsenal is dependent on fastball command and leaves something to be desired; changeup and curveball are serviceable but lack upside.
Projection: Late-innings reliever
7. Endrys Briceno, RHP
DOB: 02/07/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 171 pounds
Signed: 2009 (Venezuela)
Tall, wiry build at 6’5”, 171 pounds; projectable body with room to add strength; athletic delivery but inconsistent mechanics; loose, easy arm action generates fastballs in the 90-96 mph range; body type and arm action suggest consistent high 90s at maturity; present feel for an advanced changeup; turns it over well with fastball-like arm speed; below-average curveball lacks significant action and will require considerable refinement; fringe pitchability and command profile; combination of size and stuff gives him breakout potential in 2014.
Projection: No. 3 or 4 starter
6. Corey Knebel, RHP
DOB: 11/26/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 210 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2013 (Texas)
ETA: Late 2014
Strong, projectable frame at 6’3”, 210 pounds; stands to add more strength to lower half; some effort to his delivery; quiet leg lift with tall-and-fall stride; tends to rush upper body and arm; relies on arm pure strength and natural deception; doesn’t consistently finish over his front side.
Fastball sits consistently in the mid-90s and has reached 98 mph; will work in the low to mid-90s as a starter; pitch features late life; slight run to the arm side; isn’t afraid to challenge hitters on the hands or at the top of the zone.
Fast arm action creates tight rotation on curveball; excellent shape and pace; loses the pitch high and to the arm side when arm and body aren’t in sync; tendency to bury it when front shoulder pull opens; flashes plus potential; should serve as a bat-misser at the next level.
Command may be challenged as a professional; will have to hit spots rather than overpowering hitters with velocity or spin; decent feel for pitching relative to his arsenal and role; fierce competitor who isn’t afraid to attack opposing hitters.
Projection: Setup man
5. Robbie Ray, LHP
DOB: 10/01/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 170 pounds
Drafted: 12th round, 2010 by Nationals (Brentwood HS, Tenn.)
Athletic and durable frame at 6’2”, 170 pounds; left-hander has been slow to develop due to mechanical issues and lack of a viable third pitch; fastball velocity will vary depending on release point but usually registers in the 91-95 mph range; low 80s changeup noticeably improved last season and projects as an average offering at maturity; breaking ball is yet to develop; inconsistent pitch that is rarely serviceable; command will be challenged over full season in high minors.
Projection: No. 4 or 5/late-innings reliever
4. Jake Thompson, RHP
DOB: 01/31/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 235 pounds
Drafted: Second round, 2012 (Rockwall-Heath HS, Texas)
6’4” right-hander was a two-way standout in high school and also received draft consideration as a hitter; physically mature but still involves some projection; possesses more athleticism than his size suggests; large physical frame makes him both durable and projectable; pounds lower half of strike zone with heavy fastballs in the 88-92 mph range; should be a consistent low to mid-90s arm as he becomes more mechanically efficient; slider is an inconsistent pitch but flashes plus potential with occasional two-plane break and hard bite; mixes in both a changeup and curveball, but neither pitch projects as better than average.
Projection: No. 4 or 5 starter
3. James McCann, C
DOB: 06/13/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 210 pounds
Drafted: Second round, 2011 (Arkansas)
ETA: Late 2014
McCann has a good blend of strength and athleticism at 6’2’, 210 pounds; stands out for strong defensive profile; good receiver who understands sequencing frames throughout the zone; arm strength is slightly above average and plus up thanks to his quick release.
Right-handed batter with moderate gap power; hit tool could become average with refinement; potential platoon profile given struggles against right-handed pitching; bat carries extra value due to defensive profile.
Projection: Backup/platoon catcher
2. Jonathan Crawford, RHP
DOB: 11/01/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 205 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2013 (Florida)
Some strength and athleticism to 6’2”, 205-pound frame; lacks durability; wiry arm; effort to his delivery; tends to wrap arm; creates natural deception; inconsistent use of lower half; needs to elongate stride; lack of extension toward plate places stress on shoulder.
Yet to showcase the same mid-90s velocity he did at Florida in 2012; still has some late life in 90-93 mph range; bumps 95 mph; poor command of pitch; stressful delivery and arm action impede his ability to locate.
Slider is best pitch in mid-80s; currently above average but will flash plus at times; has legitimate feel for offering; thrown with velocity; comfortable using it in any count; good depth and tilt; likely swing-and-miss offering with refinement at the next level; fringy changeup that’s rarely thrown; lacks feel; crucial to his potential development as a starter.
Projection: No. 3 starter; late-inning reliever
1. Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF
DOB: 03/04/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 210 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2010 (Archbishop McCarthy HS, Fla.)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013)
Pure hitter with highly advanced bat-to-ball skills; ability to consistently barrel the ball; natural inside-out swing with most power to right center field; quick hands and bat speed; loose wrists and a fluid swing; lots of extension after contact but not a lofty swing; not physically strong for his size but possesses plenty of wiry strength.
Power should continue to develop as he gains more experience at higher levels; swing makes him susceptible to inner-half velocity; will chase sliders low and off the plate; has barrel control to be a better-than-average hitter in the major leagues; noticeably improved approach and pitch recognition last season at Triple-A.
Drafted and developed as a third baseman until mid-2012 but moved to the outfield as a way to potentially expedite his arrival in the big leagues; shifting back to third base following the Prince Fielder trade; not a strong defender at either position; average defensive profile; strong arm is carrying tool on the infield.
Projection: First-division regular