The Detroit Tigers over the last half decade have thrived with a plentiful farm system. These talented young players (Andy Dirks, Alex Avila, Drew Smyly and Rick Porcello for example) have been brought up over the years and contributed right away to a talented club competing for a playoff spot. Will 2014 produce some gems from the system that will add to the Tigers depth or has the system started to dry up. Let’s take a look.
1. Nick Castellanos OF
Castellanos was called up from Toledo at the end of last year and showed promise for the Tigers. Nick is a pure hitter with solid numbers all throughout his minors career which included becoming MVP of the Futures game ion 2012 when he was in AA. The one thing scouts like about Castellanos is his ability to adjust to pitchers and power is starting to show although that’s one part of his game that hasn’t blossomed yet. Last year in Toledo he hit 18 HRs, had 76 RBI, hit a solid .276 but did strike out 100 times in 143 games. ETA on Castellanos should be this year as a backup outfielder.
2. Jonathan Crawford RHP
Crawford was the #1 pick of the 2013 draft for the Tigers, who have always had an eye for big arms. His main pitch is his fastball that can get up to 96 MPH and he compliments this with a hard breaking ball. There is a lot of upside to Crawford however currently he struggles with his control from time to time and he throws all his pitches hard. If he can develop an off speed pitch to compliment his current repertoire, we could see Crawford in the majors sooner rather than later. His ETA currently is 2016.
3. Jake Thompson RHP
Here is another pitcher from the draft 2 years ago in the first round but is a little more refined than Crawford a this stage. He has an above average fastball, biting slider and a nice changeup. He pitched in Single A West Michigan last year and had a nice 3-3 record with a 3.13 ERA, but the eye popping stat was the 91 Ks in 83.1 innings. Thompson’s ETA is also 2016.
4. Robbie Ray LHP
Ray came over in the deal from the Nationals for Doug Fister and is an instant prospect for the Tigers. A lot about Ray is average including his fastball and changeup, but he made some nice moves up in the minors last year to Double A Erie. He finished with a 5-2 record and a 3.72 ERA with 60 Ks in 58 innings. The fact that he is a lefty is why we could see Ray in the majors by the end of the year, especially is the Tigers are in the race and need another lefty from the bullpen.
5. James McCann C
With Rob Brantly the other top catcher in the organization being traded to Miami, McCann has become the top catching prospect for the Tigers. McCann is known for his defense which is why many think he could have an easier path to the majors and be the backup to Alex Avila. McCann had some solid numbers for a catcher in the minors last year although not known for pop in his bat. He finished with 8 HRs, 54 RBIs and a .277 AVG in 113 games, this included 30 doubles. We could see McCann by the end of this year if know one shines as Avila’s backup during the season.
6. Endrys Briceno RHP
Briceno is a lanky pitcher who has a 90+ fastball with a nice mix of slider and changeup. He has a had some problems with command in the minors and his numbers last year were not very impressive (7-9 , 4.47 ERA in 25 games). The Tigers are on the fence as to whether he can be an effective starter in majors or come out of the bullpen. In either case they see a future in him, his ETA is 2016.
7. Eugenio Suarez SS
Suarez had a nice year in the minors both with Lakeland and then with Erie showing not only is he an asset defensively and when he gets on base, but being one of the better hitters in the organization. Combined he hit 10 HRs, 57 RBI and .264 AVG, but he played most of the games and had a total of 144 Hits and a .OPS of .744. He has the ability to move over to second if the Tigers should need him there, but right now he is in a good spot to move up in the organization regardless because good middle infielders are tough to come by. His expected ETA is 2015.
8. Hernan Perez 2B
Perez is one of the few prospects that has spent some time with the big club. He is a step ahead of Suarez at this point with the ability to play both 2B and SS. Perez is not only a solid but he can hit consistently being know as a line drive hitter. He also can contribute in the stolen base category having swiped 28 bases in the minors. He also add a .301 AVG in the minors and could be a future lead off type of hitter. Perez was invited to spring training this year so we could see him as a utility infielder before its all said and done this year.
9. Drew VerHagen RHP
VerHagen is a big pitcher at 6’6″ 230 lbs with a mid 90′s fastball complimented by a curve and changeup. The Tigers believe if his secondary pitches develop with the fastball he could be a starter. In the minors they are trying to refine his delivery with mixed results. His total stats from the minors last year were 7-8 with a 2.90 ERA with a .223 AVG against in 24 games. The Tigers are high on VerHagen and we could see him at the end of this year coming out of the bullpen in September.
10. Stephen Moya OF
Similar to VerHagen, Moya is an imposing figure also at 6’6″ 230lbs. An impressive start in the minors led to Tommy John surgery a few years back, but Moya is now making strides to be the hitter the Tigers thought he could be. His stats from Lakeland last year were 12 HRs, 55 RBIs with a .255 AVG but the disconcerting stat was 106 Ks in 93 games. If Moya can be more selective at the plate and refine his swing, he could live up to expectations. ETA on Moya is 2015.
So there you have the top 10 prospects for the Tigers in 2014. The organization still has a heavy focus on pitching, but that has been their success over the last few years and the pipeline could continue with these talents. Keep an eye on the Tigers roster this year and don’t miss a chance to pick up one of these prospects that could make a difference in the Tigers next playoff run.