|Original Published Date: October 30, 2018|
Pitching is their strength led by last June’s number one overall pick Casey Mize and 2017 first round pick, Matt Manning. While Mize checks all the boxes to be a solid number two pitcher, it would not surprise me if Manning turns out to be better. He has intriguing size and athleticism.
Daz Cameron is their highest upside offensive player with Christin Stewart ready to contribute in 2019 at in the big leagues. Neither are true impact offensive players but if Cameron can improve his contact skills, he has the tools that could make him a star.
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1. Casey Mize (RHP)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP
Casey Mize was the clear, some might call it, safe, number one overall pick last June. He had a celebrated career at Auburn wherein three seasons, he pitched to a 2.96 ERA striking out over 10 per nine while posting an impressive 1.45 BB/9 rate. The ability to throw strikes with swing and miss stuff made him the clear, but again, safe pick.
Why do I keep bringing up the word “safe”? Well, first, he’s really good. He has a ceiling of a number two pitcher with a fastball that sits 94 to 95 MPH and what I’ve been told is a “nasty splitter”. One guy compared it to a splitter that would come out of Japan. But, there’s no 80-grade fastball, no double-plus breaking pitch and nothing in the arsenal that would suggest he’s going to be Gerrit Cole, David Price or Stephen Strasburg; three recent pitchers that have gone on to be ace-caliber pitchers. But, he’ll be good…very good and assuming he stays healthy, which is a big if, he’s safe.
The Tigers will likely start Mize back in High-A where he pitched 11.2 innings last season. He’ll likely pitch well there with a chance to see Double-A by the end of the season. That should put him on schedule for a call-up in late 2020 or sometime in 2021.
2. Matt Manning (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 35 SP
I continue to be very high on Matt Manning. He’s got size at 6-foot-6, is extremely athletic and still has some physical projectable left to add velocity to his mid-90’s fastball.
The Tigers pushed him hard in 2018, staring him off in Low-A just to finish the season in Double-A. While he was a bit inconsistent, he managed to strike out 154 batters in 117.2 innings while only giving up 90 hits. What he didn’t do was throw consistent strikes. In those same 117.2 innings, he walked 51 or 3.9 per nine.
I say it all the time, do not give up on athletic pitchers that throw hard. I think Manning has the ability to throw more consistent strikes, he just needs to get everything to work together. I think it’ll come and he only turns 21 in January. In fact, I think his ceiling of a Top 35 starting pitcher might be low.
3. Franklin Perez (RHP)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
Franklin Perez and Daz Cameron were the centerpieces to the Justin Verlander deal that put the Astros over the top in 2017. Both are Top 100 prospects now, but just outside of the reach of the elite prospects. While we ranked Perez higher, we consider both to be solid prospects.
We are still betting “on the come” with Perez as he barely pitched last season. He started the season on the DL with a Lat strain and ended the year on the DL with a shoulder injury. The good news is that an MRI on the shoulder showed no structural damage, but it’s still a shoulder injury.
When healthy, he has a solid arsenal with a fastball that sits 94 to 95 MPH, a plus change-up but a curveball that still needs work. He also throws strikes as is demonstrated by his 2.75 career walk rate. While there is still work left, he has a great base and he only turns 21 in December.
4. Daz Cameron (OF)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
Daz Cameron and Franklin Perez were the centerpieces to the Justin Verlander deal that put the Astros over the top in 2017. Both are Top 100 prospects now, but just outside of the reach of the elite prospects. While we ranked Perez higher, we consider both to be solid prospects.
When Daz Cameron was going through high school, he was lauded as the next great number one overall pick. It didn’t quite work out that way as the Astros selected him with the first pick in the supplemental first round, he still got a huge signing bonus ($4,000,000). Then the real work started.
While it hasn’t been linear, Cameron is starting to round into shape to become a solid big league outfielder. His carrying tool continues to be his plus speed with a chance to steal 25 bases at the big league level. He hasn’t shown a ton of power yet, but his bat speed and swing indicate that he could hit 12 to 15 once he fully matures. The big question mark continues to be his ability to make consistent contact. As it stands currently, it will limit his upside. So, if you add it all together, the ceiling is a Top 45 fantasy outfielder with 15 home runs, 25 stolen bases, and a .260/.330 average.
5. Christin Stewart (OF)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 OF
Christin Stewart entered the season at age 24, needing to show significant improvement at the plate in order to keep his big league career alive. And guess what, he did just that. He improved his contact rate from 25% in Double-A to 20.7% in 122 games at Triple-A. He hit five fewer home runs and slug 20 points less, but the improved contact rate was much more meaningful. It all led to the Tigers promoting him for a September call-up. In limited action, he showed a similar contact rate and walk rate and also popped two home runs.
If the ability to control the strike zone can continue, I think Stewart could be an interesting fantasy player. It’s conceivable that 23 home runs could translate into 30 plus in the big leagues. He doesn’t have any speed, so his BABIP will be challenged, so a .240/.330 average is likely. But when you match that with 30 plus home runs, that’s a very nice fourth outfielder.
6. Willi Castro (SS)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS
Willi Castro was traded to the Tigers in exchange from Leonys Martin at the deadline deal with the Indians. I’ve always been intrigued by the overall skillset of Castro, even owning him in multiple Dynasty Leagues over the past couple of years. But, despite showing flashes of power and speed, he never hit enough.
After the trade to the Tigers, that all seemingly changed. In 31 games, he hit .310 with four home runs and four stolen bases. Unfortunately, if you dig into the stats, the batting average was all BABIP driven. The strikeout rate and lack of walks were basically the same. So, we are still waiting for him to improve the ability to control the strike zone so that he can tap into his speed and power combination. For now, I remain optimistic as he’s still only 21-years-old with already 500 at-bats above High-A.
7. Alex Faedo (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP or Middle Reliever
Alex Faedo made our Top 100 list entering 2018 (pick 45) but after a poor season where he lost a grade in velocity, he’s dropped. The drop in velocity was evident once promoted to Double-A wherein 60 innings, he gave up 15 home runs. While he has the ability to manipulate his fastball, when he throws it up in the zone, sitting 89 to 90, things will not end well.
It wasn’t all bad as he’s got a wipeout slider which missed a ton of bats. He also throws strikes and has the size to be a starting pitcher. But, the delivery has effort and the Tigers might decide to let him air out the fastball to get back to the mid-90’s and pair that with his slider in the bullpen.
8. Parker Meadows (OF)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
Austin’s little brother was drafted by the Tigers in the second round (44th overall) in last June’s draft. Like his brother, he’s pretty tooled up with above-average raw power and plus foot speed.
He got off to a nice start to his professional career by slashing .290/.377/.473 across the GCL and New York Penn League. He also struck out 29% of the time and that’s what concerns most of the people I’ve spoken to about his upside. Sure, he has the skills that fantasy owners love on their squad, but will he hit enough to be more than a fourth outfielder? The Tigers believe he will. I’m torn but would still consider him in a Dynasty League redraft league in the middle rounds.
9. Beau Burrows (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
The Tigers had Beau Burrows repeat Double-A and despite a better ERA, his broader stats were pretty much the same. He struck out over 8.5 per nine while walking close to four per nine. He also gave up 12 home runs in 26 starts.
Burrows does have a good fastball that can hit the upper 90’s in spurts (sits more 94 to 95). His slider has gotten better, but the change-up is still below average and his splits continue to reflect that. I think he’s still a starter, but the ceiling is no more than a number four pitcher.
10. Isaac Paredes (2B)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 2B
Isaac Paredes had a nice season in both High and Double-A. Across both levels, he slashed .278/.359/.456 with 15 home runs. I was actually surprised at the number of home runs as I didn’t think he had the type of power. He only turns 20 next February, so you can argue there could be more in the tank.
What he can do and what he has done his entire career is hit. Last season in Double-A, he posted a 14.2% strikeout rate and walked nearly as much as he struck out. While he’s a below average runner, he could easily hit .290 with a 15 to 18 home runs while scoring plenty of runs. While that’s not a fantasy stud, it’s a nice low-end second baseman or middle infielder.
11. Wenceel Perez (SS)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS
Wenceel Perez should be on Dynasty League owners’radar. In 118 minor league games, he’s hit .313 with 29 stolen bases. He isn’t showing any power yet, but he has plenty of bat speed and is only 18-years-old.
While a .313 batting average looks nice, what really tells the story is his 9.4% strikeout rate and that he’s walked almost nearly as much as he struck out. The strikeout rate will likely increase as he adds more power to his game, but if it all comes together, he has the ceiling of a .280/.350 average with 20 plus stolen bases as well as double-digit home run potential. That’s a lot of “potential”, but that’s what you get when you’re still 18.
12. Kyle Funkhouser (RHP)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 65 SP
Kyle Funkhouser spent the majority of 2018 pitching in Double-A and had a nice season. In 17 starts, he pitched to a 3.74 ERA striking out a batter an inning while walking nearly four per nine. He did make two starts in Triple-A at the end of the season, and things did not go well.
Throughout his professional career, Funkhouser has performed very consistently. He has a good fastball that he can run up to 95 MPH with an above-average slider and average change-up. The problem is he doesn’t throw enough strikes and therefore, it’s hard to put his ceiling at anything higher than a number four pitcher.
13. Jose de la Cruz (OF)
Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF with extreme risk
Jose de la Cruz was the Tigers big off-season signing out of the Dominican Republic. They ponied up $1.8 million dollars for the 6-foot-1, 16-year-old, but he has yet to put up a stat line anywhere in professional ball.
He’s a tooled up kid with great bat speed that could one day turn into plus power. He’s a plus runner currently, but as he fills out, the speed will likely degrade a grade or two. The question will be on his hit tool and associated approach. However, the Tigers liked what they saw and agreed to the bonus. As fantasy owners, we have to respect that and put him on our radar.
14. Matt Hall (LHP)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 SP
The Tigers decided to move Matt Hall to the bullpen to begin the 2018 season and he flourished. Then, in late June, they moved him back to the starting rotation and he continued pitching well. Off to Triple-A as a starter and he continued to pitch well. All of this earned him a September call-up as…drum roll…a reliever.
Long-term, Hall’s probably better suited in the bullpen. However, the indecision by the Tigers on his position is never good for arm-health. Hopefully, he’s physically ok as he didn’t pitch well at all in his call-up. He’s a name to know, but for now, can be ignored in most fantasy leagues.
15. Kody Clemens (2B)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
By name recognition alone, Kody Clemens will be drafted on a lot of Dynasty League teams. But, will it be worth it? If you look at his junior year at Texas where he posted a 1.170 OPS, it’s easy to get excited. In fact, the Tigers spent $600,000 to sign him in the third round, so they clearly believe he has enough to eventually get him to the big leagues.
On the negative, it was really his only season in which he performed well. Plus, he turns 23 in May and suffers from being an “old prospect”. I’m not sure I’ll be drafting him, but I am intrigued. He has good bat speed and some raw power and if he can hit, then there could be something there.