|Original Published Date: October 29, 2019|
The Tigers are in rebuilding mode and have improved their system greatly since the Dombrowski days. In fact, you can argue that their top three pitchers: Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Tarik Skubal can rival any organizations Top three pitching prospects.
Now the bats are a different story. They spent over $6 million to sign Riley Greene over the summer and while I like the upside, he’s a borderline impact player for me. After that, there are several players that I can see in a Major League uniform, but I just don’t see any stars in the upper minors. Daz Cameron flashes impact skills but just has never put it together. Further away, there are several intriguing players in rookie ball and the DSL. But all of them are years away and simply lottery picks for now.
Prospect Quick Shot
- Top Prospect: Casey Mize
- Biggest Mover: Tarik Skubal
- Emerging Prospect: Roberto Campos
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1. Casey Mize (RHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 SP
- Tools Summary: He has plus stuff with polish, but a mid-season shoulder injury slowed his progression and does raise a red flag.
In April and May, Casey Mize looked like he was ready for the Major Leagues. He was shoving it in every start that included a no-hitter in his first outing in Double-A. The prospect world was excited, heck, the entire baseball world was excited to get him to the Major Leagues. But baseball can be cruel. In a June outing in Reading, he felt shoulder discomfort and hit the IL with a shoulder impingement. After a month, he returned and was very inconsistent the remainder of the year.
The obvious question is he ok? I don’t know. He says he’s ready to go and the Tigers are guardedly optimistic, but shoulder injuries can linger and can be difficult to recover from.
Mize has all the tools to pitch at the top of the rotation. However, it’s a different type of profile than you normally see in an ace or near ace. Let’s me explain. Mize doesn’t have the 80-grade fastball or Max Scherzer level slider. Instead, he commands a fastball that sits 92 to 95 MPH with several plus secondary pitches including a slider, curve and his knockout pitch, a splitter. It’s the splitter that really moves his arsenal up to the elite level as it has tremendous drop and deception. In fact, if you’re looking for a comp, it’s more Yu Darvish with better control and command instead of the Gerrit Cole/Justin Verlander type of “blow you away” stuff.
Assuming health, he should see Detroit at some point in 2020. Given the quality of his split, he could also have early success. This is also different than another top of the rotation arms that more emerged into their roles. While I don’t see Mize mentioned as one of the best pitchers in the game, he has a chance to be very good with the ceiling of a Fantasy Ace, or just short of that.
2. Matt Manning (RHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP
- Tools Summary: One of the best pitching prospects in the game. Stuff, size, and athleticism.
I continue to be very high on Matt Manning. This season in Double-A, he’s had no trouble with the level of competition. In 24 starts, he’s posted a 2.56 ERA, striking out over 10 per nine while keeping his walks to a minimum (2.6 per nine).
While Casey Mize is the higher-rated pitcher, it’s not by much. In fact, on our mid-season Top 100 list, Manning was only 13 spots behind Mize, checking in a number 18. He’s got the size, premium arsenal and athleticism to pitch at the top of the rotation.
The delivery has also really taken shape. I had a chance to scout a game in June and the extension he gets is impressive. It reminds me of the extension that Tyler Glasnow gets and given his size, it looks like he’s on top of batters. There’s plenty of 6’s and 7’s on the radar gun with a plus curveball and a change-up that has really improved.
He’ll likely start 2020 in Triple-A and given the injuries that Mize has endured, he could be the first one up. Regardless, the Tigers have a great 1-2 in Mize or Manning…or vis, Versa.
3. Riley Greene (OF)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 OF
- Tools Summary: Solid future power potential with a chance to hit.
Riley Greene was the fifth overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft and has done everything the Tigers would have hoped. In 57 games across three levels, he slashed .271/.347/.403 with five home runs and five stolen bases.
Greene has good bat speed and a good understanding of the strike zone that should translate into a 20-plus home run bat with a .250 to .260 batting average at the highest level. He’ll have to guard against his swing getting long and creating holes, but assuming he can keep his swing compact, the bat should play. At 18 and 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he’s already a big kid, so long-term I don’t see stolen bases as part of the profile.
If you add it all up, he profiles as a solid Major League corner outfielder with the production level of Mitch Haniger or Max Kepler.
4. Isaac Paredes (3B)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
- Tools Summary: Plus hit tool with a chance to hit for 20 home run power.
After Isaac Paredes split his time in 2018 between High and Double-A, the Tigers had him return to Erie in the Eastern League where he had little trouble. In 127 games, he’s slashed .282/.368/.416 with 13 home runs and five stolen bases. As he’s always done, he controls the strike zone very well and walked as much as he struck out.
While Paredes carry tool is his approach and ability to put the barrel on the ball, he lacks plus secondary tools (speed and power) and therefore that will scare off many fantasy owners. However, he did hit 15 home runs in 2018 and added another 13 in 2019. As he gains strength and works with the Major League ball, a ceiling of 20 home runs could be in the cards. While that might not be incredibly exciting to fantasy owners, when it comes with a .280/.360 average and a handful of stolen bases, he will have sneaky value in 15-team mixed leagues.
5. Tarik Skubal (LHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: One of the breakout pitchers in 2019. Strike thrower with plus stuff from the left-side.
Tarik Skubal was one of the breakout pitchers in 2019. In 24 starts across High and Double-A, he pitched to a 2.42 ERA striking out 13 per nine and walking less than three per nine (2.7 BB/9). In fact, you could put his production on par with what both Casey Mize and Matt Manning accomplished.
The stuff is good and getting better. It starts with a fastball that sits 92 to 93, scraping 96. While the velocity is plenty good, especially from the left side, the offering isn’t an explosive pitch. He can command it though and that is setting up his slider that is showing nice tilt and boring action – it’s a tough pitch on lefties. His change-up is also showing promise. But it’s the control that is allowing his pitches to play-up and this is what gives me hope that he can reach his ceiling of a mid-rotation starter.
6. Willi Castro (SS)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 SS
- Tools Summary: Emerging power, speed and it looks like he can hit a little. Playing time is key and he should have that.
Originally signed by the Indians in 2013, Willi Castro made his Major League debut in 2019. We’ve always found him an intriguing prospect as he has a little bit of pop and a little bit of speed and makes enough contact to warrant some at-bats at the highest level. While things didn’t go all that well in his first taste, he did play well in Triple-A hitting .301 with 11 home runs and 17 stolen bases. He only makes average contact and if it weren’t for a .369 BABIP, he would have hit in the .260 neighborhood.
In the end, his upside might be a utility performer, but I think he can more. He’s a solid defender and has improved his game as he’s gotten older and stronger. Plus, he should get a nice run at short over the next couple of years and for fantasy owners, playing time is half the battle.
7. Daz Cameron (OF)
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 OF
- Tools Summary: Toolsy player with 20+ stolen base potential. He did not have a very good season in Triple-A which raises concerns about his ability to hit enough to be an impact Major Leaguer.
Every organization has a Daz Cameron in it. Athletic, toolsy, and in Cameron’s case, a great Major League lineage. However, after batting .214 in Triple-A last season with a 29% strikeout, questions on his ultimate ceiling must be raised.
I was able to scout him in the Arizona Fall League in 2018 and saw the tools up close. He’s a plus runner that allows him to play a great outfield and steal plenty of bases. While there is power, the swing lacks loft, so I would put his power output more in the 15 to 18 range assuming the current Major League baseball. His problem is his ability to make consistent contact. The swing looks ok, but he does expand the strike zone and that is leading to a poor contact rate.
I don’t think there is a Lewis Brinson type of wipe-out with Cameron, but if I’m a Dynasty League owner, I would set my expectations for more of a Top 50 outfielder as opposed to a Top 30 outfielder. I think a good baseline would be a .240/.320/.400 slash line with a 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases.
8. Alex Faedo (RHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
- Tools Summary: Strike thrower but lacks a true plus pitch giving him a ceiling of a back-of-the-rotation pitcher.
If you like Alex Faedo, you see a polished college pitcher with a good strikeout rate and a walk rate with a one-handle. If you add it up, you get the ceiling of a number two starter. If you are on the other side of the fence, you see a low-90’s fastball that is straight and consequently a pitcher who will also be homer prone. Those types of pitchers usually wind up being number four starters.
I’m in the second camp. Faedo’s fastball taps out at 93 MPH and is not very explosive. Straight fastballs without the benefit of double-plus velocity tend to get hit a long way. Want an example? Go look at Dylan Bundy’s pitchFX data. In fact, Bundy might be a pretty good comp, although I would put Bundy’s secondary pitches at a grade higher than Faedo.
9. Adinso Reyes (3B/OF)
- Highest Level: DSL ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: A big international sign in 2018 with big raw power.
Signed in 2018 for a $1.45 million dollar signing bonus, Adinso Reyes had an impressive professional debut in the DSL in 2019. In 62 games as a 17-year-old, he hit .331 with seven home runs and three stolen bases. His approach needs some work as it is very aggressive, but he kept his strikeouts under control at 19%.
Reyes carrying tool is double-plus raw power who has a chance to hit for plus in-game power as he matures. While his strikeout rate last season was encouraging, he’s up there looking to pull the ball and clear the fences. Therefore, he’ll need to work on not only being more selective at the plate but hitting the ball to all fields. He’s listed as a shortstop, but his body type will likely dictate a move to third or a corner outfield role.
10. Parker Meadows (OF)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
- Tools Summary: Above-average speed with a little pop but needs to cut down on his strikeouts. Fourth outfielder risk.
Austin’s little brother was drafted by the Tigers in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft. Like his brother, he’s pretty tooled up with above-average raw power who is a plus runner.
He played the entire season in 2019 in Low-A where he held his own as one of the younger players in the league. In 126 games, he hit .221 with seven home runs and 14 stolen bases. He improved his strikeout rate, but questions persist about how much he will eventually hit. His swing is a little stiff and he’ll expand the strike zone. Still, he’s posted a consistent 9.4% walk rate throughout his short professional career.
From a fantasy standpoint, I’m still not ready to add him to Dynasty Leagues that roster less than 300 minor leaguers. While I like the speed and believe there will be some pop, I’m not sure he’ll hit enough to be more than a fourth outfielder at the Major League level.
11. Jake Rogers (C)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Backup catcher
- Tools Summary: Premium defensive backstop with average power and a below-average hit tool.
Jake Rogers is known best for his premium defensive behind the plate. The hope is that he will hit enough to be a full-time regular in the big leagues. He split his time between Double and Triple-A as well as the Majors in 2019 and while he once again showed great defense, he still demonstrated that there is a lot of work left on his offensive game.
In 76 games in the minor leagues, he did ok. He hit .250 with a .361 OBP while hitting 14 home runs. He struck out 25% of the time but also walked 10% of the time. However, once he got to the Majors, he was overwhelmed. He only hit .117 with a 41% strikeout rate in 29 games. He’s not that bad, but it shows the work that is left to do.
12. Franklin Perez (RHP)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Electric stuff but two years of shoulder problems has moved his risk factor to extreme.
Franklin Perez was the centerpiece to the Justin Verlander deal in August of 2017. When the Tigers acquired him, they saw a young pitcher with electric raw stuff and a chance to be a mid-rotation arm, maybe more. Unfortunately, he’s been placed on the IL five times over the past two years with shoulder problems and has only thrown 27 innings. If you’re an owner of Perez in a Dynasty League, you should be worried. The ceiling is the same, but the risk is highly elevated. In fact, if he doesn’t pitch without incident in 2020, it might be time to drop him. Not only do you worry about whether he’ll be healthy, but he’s still raw with a lot of work remaining to refine his arsenal. He turns 22 in December.
13. Alex Lange (RHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Reliever with an outside chance to be a closer
- Tools Summary: Now that he’s been moved to the bullpen, his below-average fastball should tick up a notch.
Alex Lange was acquired by the Tigers in the deadline deal that sent Nick Castellanos to the Cubs. Smartly the Tigers moved him to the bullpen and that should allow his fastball to move up a grade and better complement his secondary pitches. His secondary pitches have always been able to miss bats, but when your fastball sits 90 to 92 MPH, it’s hard to get big league batters out.
With the move to the pen, I could see Lange one day working in high leveraged situations. If he can get a little more juice out of his fastball and sits 94 to 95, he could even get an opportunity to close one day.
14. Roberto Campos (OF)
- Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling: Unknown
- Tools Summary: Big 2019 International sign for the Tigers who is projected to have plus power who can hit.
The Tigers spent $2.8 million dollars to sign 16-year-old Cuban Roberto Campos last July. Campos has plus raw power and showed the ability to hit as a youth before defecting from Cuba. Because of his path to being signed, there are not a lot of amateur reports on him. However, the Tigers clearly made a significant investment in him and since they have one of the stronger baseball operations in the Latin market, Dynasty League owners need to take note. He should get his first professional exposure in 2020 in the DSL.
15. Jose De La Cruz (OF)
- Highest Level: DSL ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling: Unknown
- Tools Summary: Big 2018 International sign that has tons of tools but also struck out 30% of the time in the DSL.
Signed in 2018 for nearly $2 million dollars, Jose De La Cruz had a strong performance in the DSL in 2019. In 57 games, he slashed .306/.374/.563 with 12 home runs and 16 stolen bases. He’s tooled up with great bat speed and plus foot speed but struggles to make consistent contact. In those same 57 games, he struck out 77 times. While there is a long way to go, the upside is very high.
He should make his way to the GCL in 2020 with a focus on improving his contact and approach at the plate.