Detroit Tigers Hitting Prospects: Motor City Youngsters Not Revving Up


It seems that the “check engine” light was on, so the Seedlings to Stars scanner headed up to the Motor City for a diagnostic analysis.  And, while the major-league club is hitting on all cylinders, there seems to be a dangerous lack of horsepower in the minors.  In other words, the S2S STAT-Scan of the Detroit Tigers 2012 minor-league results didn’t produce a lot of encouraging results.

Each player is assigned a “Plate Skills Index,” which is based on the ability to “win plate appearances” (described in detail here), a “Production Index,” based on the ability to produce offense (described in detail here), and a “Composite Index,” which is a combination of the two.  Additional detail on “the three numbers,” with some examples, can be found here.

Nick Castellanos

is Detroit’s star prospect, but is he all he seems? Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It is important to remember that age, level and position also factor into the analysis.  And note that this is a statistical analysis of the actual results, so scouting reports don’t factor into the numbers.

On the Radar

Nick Castellanos, 3b/OF  (S2S Top 115 #14) … Age: 20, Level: AA

Plate Skills: 62  Production: 79  Composite: 41

A composite score of 41, you say?  But Castellanos hit .320!  He’s a surefire stud!  Except …

Our particular STAT-Scan minimizes the impact of singles, and Castellanos’ season was very singles-heavy.  In other words, he didn’t set off our alarm bells on the measures that we look for.  He underwhelmed on home runs, walks and extra-base hits in general.  It shows up in his .131 ISO, which is pretty puny for a guy playing a corner position.  Moreover, my research shows that guys who go on to have success in the majors tend to produce an extra-base hit or a walk in more than 19% of plate appearances.  Castellanos did it in only 14%.

Of course, at 20, he was very young for AA, but the fact is that Castellanos’ season did not look the type of season that the usual future MLB hitting star has in the minors (even though it looks very good on the surface).

But that’s just one lukewarm view among a lot of positive ones, so don’t assume my analysis proves anything.

Tyler Collins, OF …  Age: 22, Level: High-A

Plate Skills: 118  Production: 102  Composite: 120

Collins was one of the few Tiger prospects to put together a strong all-around stat line, producing 35 doubles and 58 walks against only 64 strikeouts at Lakeland in the Florida State League.  That being said, he needs all those walks, because his .139 ISO isn’t what you want to see from a corner outfielder.

Devon Travis, 2b … Age: 21, Level: Short Season-A

Plate Skills: 105  Production: 98  Composite: 104

Travis came out of Florida State as a 13th-round pick in the 2012 draft and immediately put up a strong .280/.352/.441 line in the New York-Penn League.  That’s solid for a second baseman if he can keep it up.

Distant Early Warning

Jesus Ustariz, 1b/2b … Age: 19, Level: Rookie

Plate Skills: 131  Production: 101  Composite: 132

Ustariz was the Tigers’ best teen hitter by our measures, drawing 26 walks while striking out only 25 times in 50 games.  But his SLG was only .411, and, after splitting his time between first and third in Venezuela, he played all but one game at first in 2012.  If he’s limited to first base, he’ll need to beef up his power to have a future.

On the Whole

There are other guys in the Tiger system whom the scouts like, but who didn’t show up in our STAT-Scan.  That doesn’t mean write them off; it just means they didn’t produce on the field in 2012 what you’d usually see from a guy who will hit in the majors.  But from these results, at least, the Tiger system is awfully thin.