Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 12, 2015

Detroit Tigers' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    Steven Moya is a big man with even bigger raw power.
    Steven Moya is a big man with even bigger raw power.USA TODAY Sports

    The Detroit Tigers have spent the last few years putting all their resources into the MLB club and ignoring the farm system. Therefore, while they’re winning at the highest level, the organization’s lack of impact talent and depth on the farm puts a lot of pressure on its big league roster to stay healthy. 

    It certainly didn’t help the state of Detroit’s system that it traded arguably its top three prospects before the July non-waiver deadline, with right-handers Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel going to Texas in the Joakim Soria deal, and highly touted 19-year-old shortstop Willy Adames going to Tampa Bay as part of the three-team trade for David Price.

    The Tigers have continued to ship off prospects in trades this offseason, trading second baseman Devon Travis to the Blue Jays, Robbie Ray and Domingo Leyba to the Diamondbacks, and finally, right-hander Jonathan Crawford (and Eugenio Suarez) to the Reds.

    However, pitching prospects Kevin Ziomek and Austin Kubitza, the team’s respective second- and fourth-round picks in 2013, are still in the picture, with both coming off equally successful seasons as part of Low-A West Michigan’s starting rotation.

    Center fielder Derek Hill, the team's top draft pick (No. 23 overall) in 2014, gives the Tigers system some much-needed upside at an up-the-middle position, while right-hander Spencer Turnbull (second round) is another power arm who’ll be given a chance to stick as a starter.

    Lastly, left-handed slugger Steven Moya enjoyed a monster year in the Eastern League, clubbing a career-high 35 home runs while pacing the league in most offensive categories. However, the 6’6” left-handed hitter’s swing-and-miss issues continue to fuel questions about whether he’ll make enough contact in the major leagues to utilize his robust power.

    Here are the Detroit Tigers’ top 10 prospects for 2015.

How They're Ranked

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: How well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: Number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: Approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present vs. projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

     

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: Delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: Present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: Feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal.
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

     

    Resources

Close Calls

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    SS Dixon Machado
    SS Dixon MachadoCarlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Dixon Machado, SS

    Joe Jimenez, RHP

    Edgar De La Rosa, RHP

    Javier Betancourt, 2B/SS

10. Tyler Collins, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 06/06/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 215 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: Sixth round, 2011 (Howard JC, Texas)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Tools Breakdown

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5050455050

     

    Scouting Report

    Collins cracked the Tigers Opening Day roster last season and spent the first two weeks on bench in a reserve role. He returned to Triple-A Toledo not long thereafter and turned in another respectable campaign, batting .263/.335/.423 with 18 home runs and 12 steals. The 24-year-old returned to the major leagues in September, where he picked up his first home run in The Show.

    At 5’11”, 215 pounds, Collins has good strength to his stocky frame with at least average raw power, although his ongoing swing-and-miss issues hurt its in-game utility. In general, Collins has a solid approach and projects for an average hit tool at maturity.

    Defensively, Collins is a fringe-average runner who is capable of playing center field in a pinch but better suited for a corner position. However, that should allow him to carve out a fourth outfielder/bench role with the Tigers next season.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 45 (below-average regular/reserve); Medium risk

9. Spencer Turnbull, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 09/18/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2014 (Alabama)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2017

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    65554545

     

    Scouting Report

    A second-round pick in last June’s draft, Turnbull struggled with his control over 11 starts in the Short Season New York-Penn League after signing, posting a 4.45 ERA with 14 walks in 28.1 innings.

    Turnbull looks the part of a starting pitcher who can throw 180 innings per season, especially after the 6’3”, 215-pound righty noticeably cleaned up his once-busy delivery last season.

    Turnbull throws his fastball in the low 90s with some arm-side run when he's spotting it in the zone, but his lack of command prevents the pitch from being a true monster. Thrown from a high three-quarters angle, the 22-year-old’s slider has good tilt with late bite, flashing enough potential to be at least an average offering in the big leagues.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 45 (late-inning reliever); Medium risk

8. Austin Kubitza, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/16/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 225 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Fourth round, 2013 (Rice)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2016

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    55604550

     

    Scouting Report

    Kubitza was one of several 2013 Tigers draft picks to shine in Low-A West Michigan’s rotation last season, as the 23-year-old right-hander pitched to a solid 2.34 ERA while allowing just 98 hits and fanning 140 batters in 131 innings.

    Kubitza’s 6’5”, 225-pound frame suggests he’s a hard-thrower, but his heater only registers in the low 90s, at times maybe a tick or two higher. However, what he lacks in velocity is made up for with sinking action, as the right-hander’s fastball plays heavy through the zone and generates lots of weakly hit ground balls.

    Kubitza’s best secondary offering—and best overall offering—is his slider, an above-average pitch thrown in the mid-80s with good tilt and hard bite. The right-hander also throws a changeup, but it’s only a fringe-average in the early stages of development.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 starter/late-inning reliever); Medium risk

7. Hernan Perez, SS/2B

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    Position: SS/2B

    DOB: 03/26/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 185 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2007 (Venezuela)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Debuted in 2012

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5035555050

     

    Scouting Report

    The Tigers opted to replace the injured Jose Iglesias with Eugenio Suarez last season rather than Perez, as the latter represented a weaker defensive option with a profile better suited for second base. Still, the 23-year-old has reached the major leagues in each of the last three years, batting a combined .205 in 79 plate appearances with Detroit.

    A 6’1”, 185-pound right-handed hitter, Perez has a consistent, level swing that produces line-drive contact across the entire field. He has well-below-average power, though his combination of gap power and solid-average speed make him an extra-base threat at the plate. His approach has improved over the last few years, as he’s trimmed some of the swing-and-miss from his game, but he’s still overly aggressive and vulnerable to quality breaking stuff.

    While can hold his own at shortstop, Perez’s speed and range are cleaner fits at the keystone, where he shows a solid glove and natural instincts. He’s blocked from everyday playing time at both middle-infield positions for years to come, meaning his most likely role moving forward is that of a well-rounded reserve.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 45 (below-average regular/utility); Low risk

6. Drew VerHagen, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 10/22/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 230 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2012 (Navarro JC, Texas)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    60505050

     

    Scouting Report

    VerHagen spent most of 2014 in Triple-A Toledo’s starting rotation, pitching to a 3.67 ERA and 2.0 BB/9 over 19 starts, though he did earn a trip to the major leagues in mid-July, where he allowed three earned runs in five innings and struck out four in his MLB debut.

    At 6’6”, 230 pounds, VerHagen is tall and lanky but still a good athlete for his size. His fastball projects as his only above-average pitch, registering in the 91-94 mph range while cutting through the zone on a steep plane so as to induce groundouts. The right-hander’s secondary arsenal is dependent on fastball command and leaves something to be desired, as both his changeup and curveball are average, serviceable offerings but lack upside.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 45 (No. 5 starter/long reliever); Low risk

5. Kevin Ziomek, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 03/21/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 200 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: Second round, 2013 (Vanderbilt)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2016

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    55505545

     

    Scouting Report

    Ziomek was arguably the star of Low-A West Michigan's loaded starting rotation last season, as the 22-year-old paced the Midwest League in ERA (2.27) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.1 K/9), all the while holding opposing hitters to a .201 batting average.

    A 6'3", 190-pound left-hander, Ziomek piles up strikeouts without a true plus pitch, instead pounding the zone with three average to solid-average offerings, each of which is masked by the deceptiveness in his delivery. The southpaw delivers his fastball in the high 80s/low 90s with decent life, while his changeup and curveball are both effective in keeping hitters off balance. 

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 starter/late-inning reliever); Medium risk

4. Buck Farmer, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 02/20/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 225 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Fifth round, 2013 (Georgia Tech)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    60504550

     

    Scouting Report

    A fifth-round pick in 2013 out of Georgia Tech, Farmer was busy last year in his first full professional campaign, beginning the season at Low-A West Michigan before moving up to Double-A Erie and the making his big league debut in mid-August.

    A 6’4”, 225-pound right-hander, Farmer pounds the zone with his fastball, which typically registers in the 92-95 mph range with good plane and sinking action. Neither his slider nor his changeup are particularly advanced, and he should settle in around average in a starting role, though both pitches can respectively flash above average at their bests.

    Farmer’s long-term role is still up in the air, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the Tigers used him as a swingman next season.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 or 5 starter/long reliever)

3. James McCann, C

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    Position: C

    DOB: 06/13/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 210 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2011 (Alabama)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 3

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5045355555

     

    Scouting Report

    A second-round draft pick back in 2011, McCann took a big step forward last year in Double-A Erie and continued to improve last season at Triple-A Toledo, posting a career-best .295/.343/.427 batting line in 109 games, before receiving a call-up in September.

    Defensively, McCann has a good blend of strength and athleticism at 6’2", 210 pounds, and he’s a good receiver who understands game-calling and sequencing. His arm strength is slightly above average but plays up thanks to his quick release, and it helped him throw out base-stealers at a 42 percent clip last season.

    A right-handed batter, McCann’s overall hit tool could become average with refinement, and it’s likely to play at least a half grade higher against left-handed pitching, which he mashes. That could make him more of a platoon option than an everyday player, although his bat will always carry extra value given his strong defensive profile.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (major league regular); Low risk

2. Derek Hill, CF

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    Position: CF

    DOB: 12/30/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Elk Grove HS, Calif.)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2018

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5540705070

     

    Scouting Report

    Hill was assigned to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League after signing, where he posted strong numbers before having to miss time with a lower-back issue. Things didn’t get any better for the 19-year-old after moving up to the Short-Season level, as he finished his professional debut with a .208 batting average in 173 at-bats.

    Hill has a realistic chance of reaching his ceiling, as most of his value comes as a defensive wizard in center field. He's not going to give much with the bat, but his top-flight speed should help him turn a lot of singles into extra-base hits. Therefore, it can be argued that Hill has all the makings of a throwback leadoff hitter, since he's not going to offer much power but he will beat out a lot of infield hits and while stealing upwards of 30-40 bases.

    In addition to stealing bases, Hill's legs allow him to cover a ton of ground in center field, as he has range for days to go along with routes that are clean and precise. He’s so natural in center field that it's easy to project a Gold Glove or two in his bright future. 

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular); Extreme risk

1. Steven Moya, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 08/09/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’6’, 230 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Signed: 2008 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 9

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4070506045

     

    Scouting Report

    Steven Moya’s nearly elite raw power has long ranked among the best in the minor leagues, but a rash of injuries—including Tommy John surgery—caused him to fall behind the developmental curve, which is why he reached Double-A Erie for the first time this year in his sixth professional campaign.

    Suffice it to say that Moya helped to make up for the lost time in a big way, as he was named MVP of the Double-A Eastern League after leading the circuit in home runs (35), RBI (105), extra-base hits (71) and slugging percentage (.555)—all career highs. On top of that, his 35 bombs, 286 total bases, 71 extra-base hits and 105 RBI were single-season franchise records for Erie.

    The Tigers rewarded Moya for his breakout performance with a September call-up, and there’s a good chance the team will at least consider him for a bench role to begin the 2015 season.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular); Medium risk

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