MLB 2020 Farm System Overview: Detroit Tigers

While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers. 

Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our tenth farm system overview will be of the Detroit Tigers. We’ll rank their top ten prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.

#1: RHP Casey Mize

mize
Photo Cred: CBS Sports

Age: 22

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 220 lbs

Drafted: 1st Overall- 2018

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 65 Command: 60

Overall Grade: 60.5

If it wasn’t for the Giants winning the last game of the 2017 regular season, the Tigers would’ve had the second overall pick in the 2018 draft. Instead, they lucked into the first overall pick, and with that, were able to select Casey Mize. Coming out of Auburn, the 22-year-old was as flawless as a prospect as one could hope for, and that has yet to change. His fastball, which comes with plenty of running life, sits in the mid-90s, and although it’s a plus offering, it may be his fourth-best pitch. It’s rare to see a pitcher utilize a devastating splitter to perfection the way Mize does, and to his credit, his breaking ball and cutter are also tremendous pitches. Therefore, he’ll have no problems missing bats, and he also has an advanced feel for pitching and command. Outside of some minor injury concerns, there appears to be nothing that can deter Mize from becoming an ace, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him debut in the majors this year, and hit the ground running right away. Either way, he’ll be the face of the next great Tigers team.

#2: OF Riley Greene

rileygreene
Photo Cred: http://www.milb.com

Age: 19

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 200 lbs

Drafted: 5th Overall- 2019

Hit: 60 Power: 60 Field: 50 Arm: 50 Speed: 47.5

Overall Grade: 55.275

Due to their lack of success in recent years, the Tigers have now had two straight top-five picks, and one year after selecting Mize, they opted for a high-school prospect, drafting outfield Riley Greene with the fifth overall pick in the 2019 draft. However, if you weren’t aware he was a high-school prospect, you’d assume he was a 22-year-old college prospect, as he’s a super mature prospect with a polished skill set. The 19-year-old is a pure hitter with a tremendous approach, and recently, he’s tapped into his power by lifting the ball more. Therefore, his offensive profile is tremendous, and if his defense can be simply average in a corner outfield spot, then he should be a consistent All-Star type of player. In a farm system headlined with plenty of pitching prospects, Greene is by far the Tigers’ best young best position player.

#3: RHP Matt Manning

mattmanning
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 22

Height: 6’6″ Weight: 215 lbs

Drafted: 9th Overall- 2016

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 54

Speaking of players who were top-ten picks out of high school, Matt Manning was a much different prospect than Greene during the draft process in 2016, as he was seen as a project. After all, he was a two-sport player that also was going to play basketball at Loyola-Marymount, but by signing him to an over-slot deal, Detroit was able to secure his services and have reaped the benefits since. Due to his lengthy frame, his fastball, which sits in the mid-90s, has a much higher perceived velocity, and he complements with a power breaking ball; it cannot be overstated how dominant that two-pitch mix is at times. Sure, he still needs to work on changeup and command refinement, but his walk rates have been much better over the past two seasons, and because of that, he finally appears to have put it all together. I expect him to spend the entire year at either Double-A or Triple-A, but he’s getting closer to reaching the majors and becoming a strong #2 starter to Mize.

#4: RHP Franklin Perez

franklinperez
Photo Cred: Bless You Boys

Age: 22

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 197 lbs

Signed: July 2, 2014- HOU

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 55 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 53.75

The centerpiece of a trade that sent franchise icon Justin Verlander to the Astros, expectations are high for Franklin Perez to be a long-term contributor for the Tigers. Therefore, the fact he’s pitched in just 27 innings in two seasons in the Detroit organization is far from ideal, to say the least. The 22-year-old dealt with shoulder inflammation in 2018, and after his rehab didn’t go well in 2019, the club shut him down. That’s a shame, as he’s a terrific pitcher when healthy. With a solid mid 90s fastball, a high-spin breaking ball, and a fantastic changeup, he has the type of three-pitch mix you’re looking for from a starting pitcher, and his control also could be above-average in the future. I see a definite middle-of-the-rotation starter if healthy, but that’s a major if, making this upcoming season a huge one for Perez. His youthful age is still on his side for now, but he’s barely pitched in High-A, and probably remains at least a couple years from making his MLB debut, if that ever happens.

#5: LHP Tarik Skubal

skubal
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 23

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 215 lbs

Drafted: 9th Round- 2018

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 52.5 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 52.875

Unlike the top four prospects on this list, Tarik Skubal came with little expectations from the Tigers organization when drafted, as he was a ninth-round pick in 2018. However, few pitchers dominated in the minor leagues like he did, and not only has he proven to be a steal, but there’s a chance he’s one of the best left-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball. His K-BB ratios in High-A and Double-A were absolutely fantastic, and it’s clear to see why. You’d like to see more consistency from his breaking ball and changeup, but his mid-90s fastball has plenty of late life, and overall, he has a solid four-pitch mix. In the end, it may come down to the development of his command that’ll dictate his future, and right now, the results have been excellent. Still, I’d like to see him be able to back up his monster 2019 was a strong 2020 season at the upper-levels in the minor leagues, and if that’s the case, he’s another pitcher who could headline Detroit’s rotation in 2021.

#6: C Jake Rogers

jakerogers
Photo Cred: The Athletic

Age: 24

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 205 lbs

Drafted: 3rd Round- HOU 2016

Hit: 40 Power: 50 Field: 65 Arm: 62.5 Speed: 35

Overall Grade: 52.8

Another critical part of the Verlander trade, Jake Rogers may not have a very high ceiling, but his skillset gives him a great chance to be a solid major-league catcher. The 24-year-old may be the best defensive catcher in the minors in terms of framing, and better yet, his cannon of an arm will keep would-be base stealers on high alert. Considering how much a priority teams place on defense behind the plate, that would indicate that Rogers has what it takes to be a starting-caliber catcher, though his offense remains a major question mark. He’s shown at least average power throughout his minor-league career, and although he’ll never hit for average and strikes out a lot, he does have a strong enough walk rate to not have completely putrid on-base percentages. In 128 plate appearances in the majors, he did only have a 27 weighted-runs-created plus and a -0.6 WAR, which is not ideal, but since Detroit isn’t a contender, I expect Rogers to receive ample playing time at the big-league level. He’s running out of time to develop, but his floor is very high, so even if his offense completely busts out, he’ll be a tremendous depth catcher than any team would like to have.

#7: LHP Joey Wentz

joeywentz
Photo Cred: Detroit News

Age: 22

Height: 6’5″ Weight: 210 lbs

Drafted: 40th Overall- ATL 2016

Fastball: 55 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 57.5 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 52.75

When the Tigers were shopping reliever Shane Greene ahead of the 2019 trade deadline, they set their sights high, even asking the Nationals for top position player prospect Carter Kieboom. In the end, however, they settled on a deal with the Braves, acquiring left-handed pitching prospect Joey Wentz in the process. The 22-year-old isn’t a well-known prospect, so at the time Detroit fans had a right to feel underwhelmed, but in reality, he’s a great return for an average reliever. The 6’5″ lefty features three above-average pitches, with his changeup being his true out pitch at the moment. It’s a little worrisome that his command slightly regressed in 2019, but he was excellent upon being acquired by the Tigers, and overall, I see him as another middle-of-the-rotation starter for the team in the future. In other words, Detroit’s rotation could be dominant by 2021.

#8: RHP Alex Faedo

faedo
Photo Cred: Bless You Boys

Age: 24

Height: 6’5″ Weight: 230 lbs

Drafted: 18th Overall- 2017

Fastball: 52.5 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 47.5 Command: 52.5

Overall Grade: 52.375

When the Tigers drafted Alex Faedo with the 18th overall pick in the 2017 draft, the general consensus was that they got a steal- he was very accomplished at the University of Flordia. However, since he was a huge part of their championship run, Detroit had to proceed with caution with him, so he didn’t actually pitch until 2018. During that time, the results were concerning, as he experienced diminished fastball velocity and couldn’t strike hitters out. Nevertheless, 2019 was a much different story for the 24-year-old; he posted a 2.96 xFIP, 10.46 K/9, and 1.95 BB/9 in 115.1 innings in Double-A. He’ll never blow hitters away with his fastball, but his slider is a true strikeout pitch, and to his credit, his command is pretty refined. I’m still a little wary about his long-term durability and upside without a true three-pitch mix, but when you don’t walk hitters and get enough strikeouts, you’ll have a spot in a major-league rotation. If you’re counting, he’s the sixth pitcher in Detroit’s farm system that figures to be a big-league starting pitcher by 2021.

#9: 3B Issac Paredes

paredes
Photo Cred: The Athletic

Age: 20

Height; 5’11” Weight: 225 lbs

Signed: July 31, 2015- CHC

Hit: 60 Power: 50 Field: 45 Arm: 55 Speed: 42.5

Overall Grade: 52.25

For whatever reason, the Tigers have struck gold on a few reliever acquisitions, and they’ve been able to flip those players for intriguing prospects. In 2017, Justin Wilson was that reliever, as he was packaged with catcher Alex Avila to the Cubs in exchange for intriguing infield prospect Issac Paredes. Since then, all Paredes has done is mash in the minors, and because of that, his offensive profile isn’t in question. He walked nearly as much as he struck out in Double-A (10.3% BB, 11.1%), and with his pure-hitting ability, he was able to post a .368 on-base percentage. Now, he’ll only have average power in the majors, which is fine considering his elite on-base skills, but when you consider he’ll have to move to third base, that could be problematic. Especially, since his defense is also below-average, so he’ll be an offense-first type of player; it’d be nice if he wasn’t completely a one-trick pony, per se. I do see Paredes being an everyday option at third base in the future, but whereas some may view him as a future star, I see him as a low ceiling/high floor type of prospect.

#10: 3B Nick Quintana

quintana
Photo Cred: Las Vegas Review-Journal

Age: 22

Height: 5’10” Weight: 187 lbs

Drafted: 2nd Round- 2019

Hit: 45 Power: 52.5 Field: 60 Arm: 55 Speed: 40

Overall Grade: 52.2

With a rather small frame, Nick Quintana doesn’t look like a third baseman at first glance, but still, he has plenty of power and simply needs to tap into it more consistently. Now, there’s a lot of swing-and-miss to his approach, but his knack for hard contact should help him offensively, especially with his elite defense. Quintana moved off of shortstop when he went to the University of Arizona, but he looks like at third base, displaying great hands and a plus arm. Therefore, he’ll provide enough value on both sides of the ball to be a solid starting third baseman; he doesn’t have much upside, but will have a major-league future. He wasn’t a sexy second-round pick, but Detroit tends to opt for safer prospects, and they stook to that trend with Quintana.

Best of the Rest

  • Daz Cameron was the last piece of the Verlander trade, and has all the athletic traits you’re looking for from an outfielder. Swing-and-miss concerns may cause him to be a fourth outfield type like Keon Broxton, however.
  • Parker Meadows was the first pick of the second round in 2018, and has huge upside with a big, athletic frame, but he’s yet to tap into his power at all.
  • Wenceel Perez is only 20-years-old and has improved on his plate discipline, but he’s struggled so far. He’ll be a on-base/defense type of infielder in the future, as he lacks any sort of power.
  • Willi Castro is a free swinger, and projects to have average tools as a decent depth infielder.

Farm System Overview

When you’re not winning many games, you’re going to have a lot of opportunities to draft blue-chip prospects, which is what the Tigers have done by drafting Mize, Manning, and Greene. However, they’ve also struck gold on Skubal, acquired interesting pieces in the Verlander trade, and may have gotten a steal with Wentz in the Shane Greene trade. Now, the team’s failure to trade players like Michael Fulmer, JD Martinez, and Nicholas Castellanos may come back to haunt them, and they’re following down the same path with Matthew Boyd, but there’s no doubting that this farm system is in strong shape at the moment. You’d like for them to have more position player prospects, but with six pitchers who could be in their rotation by 2021, with Mize dominating at the top of it, they may be closer to contending than we expect.

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