Detroit Tigers 2014 Top 15 Prospects

June 3, 2012; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles infielder Devon Travis (8) forces out at second Samford Bulldogs outfielder Brandon Miller (25) during the seventh inning in game six of the Tallahassee regional at Dick Howser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing that I want to do before we get into the Tigers system is thank Chad Hillman for giving us a big hand. Chad has gone into semi-retirement from his blogging but is one of the real experts on the Tigers’ system out there. He lives in Michigan and we met last season while I was in Lansing covering the Blue Jays’ Midwest League affiliate. He’s been an invaluable resource about Tigers prospects and gave me a fantastic write up for you Tigers fans out there. When you see the author refer to himself, it’s Chad talking about seeing these players in person or talking to team/organization staff about them.

That said, if you have a problem with anything we’re writing, go talk to him. @HillmanChad

Triple-A: Toledo Mud Hens (International League)
Double-A: Erie SeaWolves (Eastern League)
High-A: Lakeland Flying Tigers (Florida State League)
Class-A: West Michigan White Caps (Midwest League)
Short-Season A: Connecticut Tigers (New York-Penn League)
Complex-Rookie: GCL Tigers (Gulf Coast League)

#15

Tyler Collins – OF
Date of Birth
: June 6, 1990
Height/Weight: 5’11″/215 lbs
Acquired: 6th round of the 2011 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
201323ErieELAADET1295304666711229021794551122.240.323.438.760
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: Collins probably deserves to be ranked higher on this list especially after he saw a big breakout in his power game hitting 21 home runs for Double-A Erie this past season. An expected result of that added power was a dip in his batting average. Collins also had a very solid performance in the Arizona Fall League this year, hitting .260/.382/.356 with a pair of home runs and a very good walk to strikeout ratio. He has good foot speed and can steal the occasional base when needed.

2014 Prognosis: Collins will either start at Double-A or move up to Triple-A, depending on the organization’s need. He most likely projects as a utility outfielder at the MLB level as I suspect he will be an all-or-nothing guy at the MLB level.

#14

Hernan Perez – 2B
Date of Birth
: March 26, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’1″/185 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of Venezuela in 2009;

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
201323ErieELAADET1295304666711229021794551122.240.323.438.760
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.
YearAgeTmLgGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSOPS+
201322DETAL3471661313010510215.197.217.227.44521
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: Perez has spent time in Detroit as a second baseman with a majority of that time coming last season when Omar Infante went down with injury. He has plus range and is a plus defender, but his bat still has a ways to go. He had a really good season in Erie and once Infante returned was assigned to AAA Toledo.

2014 Prognosis: With the trade to acquire 2B Ian Kinsler, Perez is expected to start the season at AAA Toledo.

#13

Melvin Mercedes – RHP
Date of Birth
: November 2, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’3″/250 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2008

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGFSVIPHRERHRBBSOHBPBKWPWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
2013222 Teams2 LgsA+-AADET52.7141.1950452353.046177414363121.1327.80.72.46.12.57
201322LakelandFLORA+DET31.7500.9624211128.0237315171101.0007.40.31.65.53.40
201322ErieELAADET21.6671.4426241225.02310439192021.2808.31.13.26.82.11
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: Mercedes is another prototypical Dave Dombrowski guy. He reminds me of Joel Zumaya and Bruce Rondon in that he is also a bad body guy (Ok. He’s fat; he’s approaching 300 pounds) but he is another guy that can throw the ball 98-100. He also has a slider that needs work. His future is a late inning guy with closer potential at the MLB level depending on the development of his slider.

2014 Prognosis: He will get a long look in Spring Training for a bullpen spot in Detroit, but I think they will ultimately send him to AAA Toledo to continue development of his slider as well as late inning opportunities.

#12

Steven Moya – OF
Date of Birth
: September 8, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’6″/230 lbs
Acquired: Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2008

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
201321LakelandFLORA+DET93388365529319512556018106.255.296.433.729
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: I like Moya, but I’m not as high on him as other guys. He has struggled with injuries during his professional career and I question his durability. He is a big guy standing 6’6” and has awesome power potential but is still learning the outfield position and the bat has gotten better but still needs some work. He has a pretty strong arm that will keep him in the running to be a Major League right fielder depending on what happens with the bat.

2014 Prognosis: There’s a good chance that Moya will start the season in AA Erie.

#11

Devon Travis – 2B
Date of Birth
: February 21, 1991
Height/Weight: 5’9″/183 lbs
Acquired: 13th round of the 2012 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
2013222 Teams2 LgsA-A+DET1325765049317728416762245364.351.418.518.936
201322West MichiganMIDWADET77339290551021726421433532.352.430.486.916
201322LakelandFLORA+DET5523721438751121034811832.350.401.561.962
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: Travis is overlooked by a lot of prospect guys because he is short and there are questions about his durability. To this point though he has been impressive and dominated both the Midwest League and Florida State League this season basically splitting time in both. He hit .352 with a .916 OPS in the Midwest League and didn’t stop with the step up in competition as he hit .350 with a .962 OPS in the Florida State League. He has quick hands and good foot work around second base and while he will probably never be a flashy superstar, he has the potential to be an average everyday player or a very good utility player at the MLB level.

2014 Prognosis: Travis should start in Erie, but may start in Lakeland depending on what the Tigers decide to do with Suarez.

April 01, 2012; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann (81) celebrates after hitting a grand slam in the inning of the spring training game against the New York Mets at Digital Domain Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

#10

Austin Schotts – OF
Date of Birth
: September 16, 1993
Height/Weight: 5’11″/180 lbs
Acquired: 3rd round of the 2012 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
2013192 Teams2 LgsA–ADET121459411478713423031834146.212.278.277.556
201319West MichiganMIDWADET59213193223761117951475.192.248.249.496
201319ConnecticutNYPLA-DET622462182550731132232071.229.305.303.607
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: I’m going to go off the page here a bit and put a guy here that you probably won’t find in the top 10 on almost any other list. Schotts is a high school age kid that the Tigers took in the third round of the 2012 draft. He really made a name for himself and ranked highly on 2013 prospect lists as he dominated the Gulf Coast League after being drafted, hitting .310 with an .812 OPS. The Tigers got aggressive with him and started him in West Michigan in 2013 where he was overmatched and was sent to Connecticut when the short season started. From the few times I saw him, his swing tended to get a bit long and had trouble getting around on a decent fastball. His best tool is the plus speed that he possesses (I timed him home to first at 3.7-3.8 seconds earlier in the season out of the right handed box).

2014 Prognosis: Schotts will likely get another chance at full-season ball in West Michigan in 2014.

#9

Drew VerHagen – RHP
Date of Birth
: October 22, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’6″/230 lbs
Acquired: 4th round of the 2012 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPWPWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
2013222 Teams2 LgsA+-AADET78.4672.902423111127.11025141444175991.1477.20.33.15.31.70
201322LakelandFLORA+DET53.6252.81121110067.1492721127135541.1296.50.13.64.71.30
201322ErieELAADET25.2863.00121201160.0532420317040451.1678.00.42.66.02.35
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
:VerHagen is another big arm that struggles with command of his secondary pitches. His fastball will sit consistently in the mid-90’s and can top out at 97 and is complimented by a changeup and a curveball. He has a good frame for a pitcher standing at 6’6” and 230 pounds. Command of his secondary pitches will be key to keeping him as a starter.

2014 Prognosis: He will most likely start the year in Double-A Erie and, in the long-term, could be a potential bullpen piece for the Tigers.

#8

Eugenio Suarez – SS
Date of Birth
: July 18, 1991
Height/Weight: 5’11″/ 180 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of Venezuela in 2008

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
2013212 Teams2 LgsAA-A+DET136618545701443061057111460123.264.347.396.744
201321LakelandFLORA+DET25122103173262112231425.311.410.437.847
201321ErieELAADET111496442531122449459114698.253.332.387.719
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: Suarez was a guy that I saw taking over the short stop position for the Tigers, however, since the Tigers have acquired Jose Iglesias as their everyday guy, the plan is probably going to change and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him move to second. He is an above average defender in the field, as evidenced by his minor league gold glove in 2012. The question on Suarez will be the bat. He is a light-hitting middle infielder and will be a singles hitter and has average speed, so he isn’t going to be a speed burner on the base paths.

2014 Prognosis: I expect him to start in Double-A Erie at second base.

#7

Endrys Briceno – RHP
Date of Birth
: February 7, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’5″/171 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of Venezuela in 2009

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
201321West MichiganMIDWADET79.4384.472525116.2124725855126564131.5009.60.43.95.01.27
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: Briceno is pretty exciting for me. He is someone that is going to add to his frame as he’s 6’5″ and only weighs 170-180 pounds or so and is already throwing a heavy sinker in the mid-90s. He also features a curveball and changeup that both need a little bit of work but improved in 2013. He will have to improve on his command as he walked a few too many hitters for my liking and he didn’t really feature the kind of swing and miss stuff I expected. This could be due to the fact that his secondary pitches are still developing and hitters focused on his fastball. Mike Henneman, pitching coach for the West Michigan White Caps, said, “His fastball is up around 96-97 and he sits about 94-95 throughout the game. The curveball and the changeup is really what we have been working on with him and he has made really good strides and I’m very happy with where he is right now.”

2014 Prognosis: With a full season under his belt, Briceno will likely move up to some stiffer competition in the Florida State League next year.

#6

James McCann – C
Date of Birth
: June 13, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’2″/210 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2011 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
201323ErieELAADET11948644150122301854333085.277.328.404.731
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: McCann is probably the top defensive catcher in the system but the knock on him has been his bat. He hit a respectable .277 with Erie this last season and hit 30 doubles and 8 home runs, which isn’t bad at all. He will never hit with much power and he can’t run a lick but that’s fine; it will be his game calling and receiving abilities that get him to the big leagues. His big plus is his arm: he has a 39% career percentage in throwing out base runners that try to run on him.

2014 Prognosis: With Bryan Holaday moving up to be the Tigers back up, I see McCann potentially starting the year in AAA Toledo.

Sep 11, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder Nick Castellanos (30) breaks his bat hitting a single against the Chicago White Sox during the fourth inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

#5

Jake Thompson – RHP
Date of Birth
: January 31, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’4″/235 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2012 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSIPHRERHRBBSOHBPWPWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
201319West MichiganMIDWADET33.5003.13171683.1793829432911141.3328.50.43.59.82.84
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: Thompson is young 19-year-old, right-handed pitcher out of Texas. He also spent time throwing in West Michigan after Extended Spring Training and Mike Henneman has been coaching him since age 12. His repertoire includes a fastball, curveball, slider and change up with his slider being his go to pitch when he gets into trouble. The Tigers were focusing on him working off of his fastball more during the second half of the season. Thompson tends to be a bit slow to the plate and I would like to see him work on controlling the running game better. I timed him out of the stretch to home at 1.5 seconds this season. Coincidentally, Lansing stole 5 bases on him in a game this year; maybe not so coincidentally, [baserunning instructor] Tim Raines was in attendance when they did that. Some Henneman quotes for you on Thompson: “Jake is having a really good year. . . . He stayed in extended spring at the beginning of April to work on his curveball. He’s got command of it now his slider has always been really good. He has a really nasty slider. We just have to get him throwing the fastball and locating it better. He tends to fall in love with his breaking stuff.”

2014 Prognosis: After a solid season in the Midwest League, Thompson will likely step up to the Florida State League and start the season with Lakeland in 2014.

#4

Corey Knebel – RHP
Date of Birth
: November 26, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’3″/195 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (39th overall) of the 2013 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGFSVIPHRERHRBBSOHBPWPWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
201321West MichiganMIDWADET21.6670.8731301531.0144301041040.7744.10.02.911.94.10
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: Knebel is another college guy that the Tigers took in the first round of the 2013 draft out of the University of Texas. He started in Class-A West Michigan and instantly became the closer. He pretty much dominated everyone, picked up 15 saves in 31.0 IP, struck out 41, had a K/BB ratio of 4.1, only allowed 14 hits and had an ERA of 0.87 in basically half a season of work.

I did an interview with [West Michigan pitching coach] Mike Henneman and he had this to say about Knebel: “He’s got a mid-90’s fastball and a hell of a curveball and he has a slider and changeup in his repertoire but he’s closing out games and has pretty much been going fastball, curveball. You know, he’s 13 for 13 in saves since he came here. We moved our other closer up, Jose Valdez. At this stage of the game though, Corey is pretty dang good and doing alright.”

2014 Prognosis: The Tigers have interest in him being a starter but it sounds like he prefers to continue out of the pen. He will start in Double-A Erie regardless and if he stays in the bullpen, he could be in Detroit by the end of the season.

#3

Robbie Ray – LHP
Date of Birth
: October 1, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’2″/170 lbs
Acquired: Traded to Detroit on December 2, 2013 with two others for Doug Fister; Drafted by Washinton in the 12th round of the 2010 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSCGSHOIPHRERHRBBSOHBPWPWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
2013212 Teams2 LgsA+-AAWSN115.6883.36272741142.0116585313621601081.2547.40.83.910.12.58
201321PotomacCARLA+WSN63.6673.1116163084.0603029941100471.2026.41.04.410.72.44
201321HarrisburgELAAWSN52.7143.7211111158.056282442160611.3288.70.63.39.32.86
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: Ray is a newcomer to the Tigers and was the key piece in the Doug Fister deal. I don’t know a tremendous amount about the left hander but he saw a huge improvement in his numbers across the board this season splitting time in High-A Potomac and finishing in Double-A Harrisburg and has a career K/9 of 9.1. From the scouting reports I have seen he has a fastball that sits at 93 but can get it into the mid-90’s and he couples that with a slider and a changeup. It sounds like he can struggle to command his secondary stuff. Baseball America also made note in their 2013 Prospect Handbook that he had improved on some mechanical flaws in his delivery that caused his arm to lag behind.

2014 Prognosis: I have heard rumors that he will start the year in AAA Toledo and while I can see that happening, I think he may start in AA Erie.

#2

Jonathon Crawford – RHP
Date of Birth
: November 1, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’2″/205 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (20th overall) in the 2013 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSIPHRERHRBBSOHBPWPWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
201321ConnecticutNYPLA-DET02.0001.898819.015540921121.2637.10.04.39.92.33
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: Crawford was drafted by the Tigers in the first round this season out of Florida. Having thrown a full season in college, the Tigers really limited his work as he only threw 19.0 professional innings in Connecticut this year. Still, he struck out 21 in those 19 innings and had an 1.89 ERA. Crawford is a guy that sits in the 92-95 range on his fastball and can add a little bit to it. He also features a plus slider that he can throw in the low to mid 80’s. The question on Crawford will be the development of his change up as his third pitch as it tends to be inconsistent.

2014 Prognosis: I believe he will start the year in High A Lakeland but I expect he will also see time in Double-A Erie at some point.  This is the kind of arm that Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers seemingly go after.

#1

Nick Castellanos – 3B
Date of Birth
: March 4, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’4″/210 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (44th overall) of the 2010 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
201321ToledoILAAADET1345955338114737118764154100.276.343.450.793
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.


Analysis
: Castellanos, as it sits right now, will be the opening day third baseman for the Tigers which is what they drafted him to be. The problem is that he hasn’t played there in a year and half. After the Tigers signed Prince Fielder and moved Miguel Cabrera to third in 2012, they moved Castellanos to right field for Double-A Erie before moving him to left field in the Arizona Fall League that year. He also played left in Triple-A Toledo this season where I saw him play and, while he had improved, he was never very good. Having Jose Iglesias at short will be of tremendous help for the Tigers. The thing Nick can do is hit and he showed that in the 2012 MLB Futures Game as he was named the MVP going 3-4 with a walk and a three run homer.

2014 Prognosis: His bat is Major League ready and I don’t see him struggling at the plate. He hit .278 while seeing very limited playing time for the Tigers in September. He is going to be a 60-65 grade hitter and should hit with average to slightly-above-average power. He projects to be a middle of the order hitter long term.  If the bat plays, I think the Tigers can live with the “on the job” training at third that he will get.