Detroit Tigers

Original Published Date: Oct. 17, 2012

The lack of a first round selection in the last three drafts is starting to show in the Detroit minor league organization.   Further depleting the system, the Tigers have used their prospects as trade barter to improve their major league squad, moving Chance Ruffin for Doug Fister in 2011 and Jacob Turner for Anibal Sanchez in 2012.

That said there are some gems in the Tigers organization.  Nick Castellanos is an elite prospect with tremendous offensive upside that suddenly is looking for a position with the move of Miguel Cabrera to third base.  Bruce Rondon can consistently throw in the triple digits and seems poised to be the closer of the future in Detroit assuming he can loose weight and harness his elite stuff.  Avisail Garcia was promoted in 2012 and is currently contributing to the Tigers World Series run and while he’s not an elite prospect, should contribute at the major league level.

One final prospect that Tiger fans should monitor closely is Venezuelan outfielder Danry Vasquez.  While Vasquez had an up and down year in 2012, he’ll just turn 19 in January and he can flat out hit.

1. Nick Castellanos (3B/OF)

2013 Age: 21 BP: Florida
Ht:6-4  Weight: 210 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013
2012 A-AA 537 72 10 57 8 .320 .363 78.0 6.7 .393

Nick Castellanos is one of the most exciting hitters in the entire minor leagues.  He has the ability to make solid contact to all fields and while his 10 home runs in 2012 is not impressive, there’s additional power in the 6-foot-4, 210 pound frame that will eventually arrive.  This will occur once Castellanos learns to use his lower body more effectively and create more loft in his swing.

Over the first half of the 2012 season, Castellanous batted an amazing .405 over 55 games in High-A with an 80% contact rate and a 10% walk rate.  With seemingly nothing else to accomplish, the Tigers aggressively moved the 20 year old to Double-A Erie where he struggled.  Contributing to his struggles was the Tigers decision to move Castellanos to the outfield in order to accelerate his move to the majors.  However, the bigger problem was his inability to hit soft stuff away, which I saw in several games.  Will this be a problem as he marches towards Detroit?  Possibly, but long-term I think this will be but a blip on the radar.

Castellanos is continuing his indoctrination to the outfield in the Arizona Fall League, where in the early going, he’s played extremely well.  While moving to a corner outfield position will accelerate his arrival to the majors, third base is the more logical long-term destination.

Fantasy Impact: Castellanos will rank in my top 20 of minor league prospects.  However, with the move to the outfield, this will hurt his fantasy value as I project a .290 batting average with 20 home runs and limited stolen bases.  While this will be a player you want on your fantasy team, it’s the profile of an average fantasy outfielder.

2. Bruce Rondon (RHP)

2013 Age: 22 BP: Venezuela
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 190 (really 280) Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 AAA 53 32 9 3 4.41 11.03 1.53 1.09

What you want in a closer is a guy that throws hard, has a quality secondary offering, can command his pitches, and has the makeup to want the ball in highly leveraged situations.  With this criteria, let’s look at Bruce Rondon….

In terms of velocity, Rondon routinely hits triple digits and demonstrated that in the 2012 Futures Game when he registered 102 MPH on the stadium gun.  His fastball is not just straight either as it has a lot of natural cutting action that generates tons of ground balls (2.5 G/O).  His hard slider has really improved this year and is now considered an above average pitch that should improve with time.  Finally, in terms of his makeup, if you watch him pitch, he’s aggressive and very animated on the mound.  This guy wants the ball.

So that’s three of the four characteristics of a closer with the final being command.  This is where we find problems.  First, Rondon control is vastly improved from 2011 where he had a 7.65 BB/9.  In fact, in High-A and Double-A, his walk rate was actually a respectable 3.78 per nine, but in his brief eight innings in Triple-A, his wildness returned where he walked seven.  With his improved control, his ability to command his fastball is also showing and this is where we can get excited.  However, there is a BUT, and it’s a big BUT.  Rondon is 6-foot-2 and weighs at least 280 pounds, maybe more.  With this extra weight, the ability to repeat a delivery becomes more difficult and this is clearly evident when you watch Rondon pitch.

With an expiring Jose Valverde contract and the lack of a suitable backup closer in Detroit, the opportunity for Rondon might just open in 2013.  Clearly it will be a stretch for him, but with better conditioning and continued improved mechanics, he has the stuff to be a closer.

Fantasy Impact: Rondon has late inning stuff that will play in the major leagues.  He should make an appearance in the majors in 2013 with an outside opportunity to pickup saves.  For Dynasty Leagues, he is worth a late round pick with his strikeout ability and the opportunity for saves.

3. Avisail Garcia (OF)

2013 Age: 21 BP: Venezuela
Ht:6-4 Weight: 240 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2012
2012 A-AA 481 78 14 58 23 .299 .325 80.2 3.7 .347

Avisail Garcia had an excellent year in 2012, moving through two minor league classes to make it all the way to the big leagues.  He’s a big, athletic outfielder at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds with a plus-plus arm who makes great outfield reads.  While he’s athletic, he only has average speed and therefore profiles best in right field where his arm can be used as an asset.  His size and leverage swing should enable Garcia to eventually hit 20 home runs at the highest level.

Garcia is a free swinger as his 3.7% walk rate demonstrates.  Fortunately his contact rate improved from 73% in 2011 to 80.2% and with that improvement, he saw his batting average increase.  However, it will be hard for Garcia to be a quality hitter unless he learns to work the pitch count better.

Fantasy Impact: While I like Garcia and believe he will have a major league career, until he improves his approach, he will be a batting average drag on your fantasy team.  Because of this, I don’t believe he’s rosterable in a fantasy league in 2012.  From a Dynasty League standpoint, I believe there are outfielders with higher upsides that I would rather have on my minor league roster than Avisail Garcia.

4. Danry Vasquez (OF)

2013 Age: 19 BP: Venezuela
Ht:6-3 Weight: 175 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2012 A-SS 388 41 3 42 6 .273 .309 83.2 5.2 .321

Signed in 2010 for $1.2 million dollars, the Tigers decided to be aggressive with Danry Vasquez and moved him to the Midwest League to start the 2012 season.  After 99 at-bats and 16 hits, they moved him back to the complex league for more grooming and then onto the NY Penn league where he showed the promise of a large bonus signee.

Vasquez has a nice approach with strong wrist, a compact swing, resulting in a lot of hard contact.  That hard contact resulted in 16 doubles over 289 at-bats in the NY Penn League and as Vasquez continues to develop, some of those doubles will turn into home runs.  While his 5.2% walk rate is concerning, it is very common for managers to instruct their players in the lower levels to work on making contact.

While thin at only 175 pounds, Vasquez is a below average runner that profiles best as a corner outfielder.

Fantasy Impact: While there is potential with Denry Vasquez, he is a long way away from realizing his potential and should be ignore in all Dynasty League formats.  That said monitor his progress as his profile is very intriguing.

5. Jake Thompson (RHP)

2013 Age: 19 BP: Texas
Ht: 6-4  Weight: 235 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015-16
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 R 28.1 14 6 1 3.18 9.85 1.91 0.85

Detroit had to wait until the 91st pick in the 2012 draft to make their first selection.  They settled on high-schooler, Jake Thompson, a projectable 6-foot-4, 235 pound right-handed pitcher.

While Thompson doesn’t have elite stuff, his fastball does sit 89-91 MPH and can touch higher and given his size, he pitches with a nice downward plane that should enable him to keep the ball down in the zone.  Additionally, I believe he will add velocity as he matures and I would not be surprised to see a couple of ticks of improvement on his fastball in 2013.  His only secondary pitch at the moment is a developing slider that should be an above average or better offering in the future.

While in general Rookie League results are not a great predictor of future success, Thompson nonetheless got off to a great start.  He pitched 28.1 innings where he struck out over a batter an inning with a very reasonable walk rate.

Fantasy Impact: While there is projection with Jake Thompson, he is a long way away from realizing his potential and should be ignore in all Dynasty League formats.

6. Casey Crosby (LHP)

2013 Age: 24 BP: Illinois
Ht: 6-5  Weight: 225 Bats: Right Throws: Left ETA: 2012
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 AAA 125.2 112 56 12 4.66 8.02 4.01 1.41

Casey Crosby has great stuff, great size, and is left-handed, but unfortunately he has never been able to put everything together as he struggles badly with his mechanics.  Part of the problem with his mechanics is his 6-foot-5 frame and the other part is his unwillingness to attack hitters.  This was evident in his 12.1 Major League innings in 2012 where he walked 11.

Crosby’s fastball reportedly sits in the low to mid 90’s, but his PitchFx data in those 12 innings, registered 90.24 MPH.  His curve ball is his out pitch as it has nice velocity separation with his fastball with a lot of bite and depth.  His change-up is also an above average pitch.

If Crosby can ever harness the stuff, he has the chance to become a quality number three pitcher with the upside for more.  However, he will be 24 years old next year and with another season or two of similar results, Casey Crosby could fall completely off the prospect radar.

Fantasy Impact: Crosby is a pitcher to monitor but currently is not draftable in a fantasy league.

7. Daniel Fields (OF)

Danny Fields has major league blood lines as he is the son of Cleveland Indians’ hitting coach, Bruce Fields.  Signed for overslot money in 2009, Fields is a good athlete with speed and the chance to have an above average hit tool.  He made major strides with his contact rate in 2012, improving from a woeful 70% in 2011 to a more acceptable 79% in 2012.  This earned Fields a promotion to Double-A.

8. Tyler Collins (OF)

2011 sixth round draft pick Tyler Collins had a really nice year in 2012 with an 87% contact rate and a 12% walk rate in 473 at-bats in High-A.  While his swing can get long as he tries to muscle up balls, he should be able to hit for double digit home runs at the highest level.  The biggest problem with Collins is where he’ll play.   He profiles best defensively in left field but his offensive game does not.  This situation usually results in a fourth outfielder profile in the major leagues.

9. Jose Ortega (RHP)

Ortega is a small, but hard throwing right-handed pitcher that relies on his plus-plus fastball to put away batters.  He also throws a slider that is improving and may develop into an average offering with more instruction.  He’s been a reliever his entire career and while his size could limit his upside, he might have the chance to close games down the road.

10. Adam Wilk (LHP)

There’s not a lot of projection in 24 year old left-handed Adam Wilk, but he could manage a career as end of the rotation pitcher or middle reliever in the major leagues.  He’s a command and control pitcher who’s fastball averaged 88.22 MPH in his 24 innings of major league baseball to complement a decent change-up.  As opposed to other recent lefty soft-tossers such as Tommy Milone, Wilk has very little deception in his delivery and hitters have a tendency to tee-off.

4 comments on “Detroit Tigers

  1. Daniel Fields is the son of BRUCE Fields, not Bob. Just an FYI.

  2. This write up depicts a shallow grave after Castellanos. I’d add that Castellanos will likely end up at 3rd base because Miggy doesn’t project as an answer at 3B for very long.
    Back end starters and career relievers (i’ve heard Ortega compared to Daniel Ray Herrera) bodes poorly for farm help in Detroit….

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