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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2014 (28) | 2013 (27) | 2012 (22) | 2011 (25) | 2010 (27)

2014 Affiliate Records
MLB: [90-72] AL Central
AAA: [69-74] International League – Toledo
AA: [71-71] Eastern League – Erie
A+: [62-75] Florida State League – Lakeland
A: [82-58] Midwest League – West Michigan
A(ss): [42-34] New York-Penn League – Connecticut

Graduated Prospects
Nick Castellanos, 3B | Eugenio Suarez, SS

The Gist
The Tigers have a winning team at the major league level, but their farm continues to rank in the bottom third. Nick Castellanos arrived as a big league regular this season. Jake Thompson – considered a top prospect in Detroit’s system – was traded to Texas in the Joakim Soria deal. While there isn’t much impact talent in this top ten, there are a few mid-rotation starters and multiple options at middle infield. Derek Hill was the big name added in the 2014 draft and immediately becomes a top prospect for Detroit.

Top Ten Fantasy Prospects

1. Steven Moya, OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2015

PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB% K% SB CS AVG OBP SLG
549 81 142 33 3 35 101 4.2% 29.3% 16 4 .276 .306 .555

Moya brings as much fantasy upside as any Detroit prospect thanks to his combination of power and speed. The 23-year-old right fielder was named the Eastern League’s MVP in 2014. The biggest concern is his strikeout percentage, which sat at 27% in 2013 and climbed to 29% in 2014. Moya could see regular time in right field as soon as 2015 depending on how Torii Hunter’s situation pans out. Despite the block by Hunter and the big strikeout numbers, Moya is the best fantasy bat on a relatively thin farm.

2. Derek Hill, OF | Age: 18 | ETA: 2018

PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB% K% SB CS AVG OBP SLG
197 20 36 3 3 2 14 9.1% 22.8% 11 2 .208 .296 .295

This year’s first round pick (23rd overall) is a prototypical center field prospect. He’s athletic, speedy, and at only 18 years old still has time to fill out and develop more pop, even if it’s not the over-the-fence variety. Scouts are already impressed with his defense and raw hit tool, and Baseball America considered him one of the best prep athletes in the 2014 draft class. Hopefully things go more smoothly for Hill than they did for the last prep position player the Tigers selected in the first round – Cameron Maybin (2005).

3. Robbie Ray, LHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2015

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB/9 K/9 AVG
7 6 4.22 20 19 0 100.1 106 51 47 6 3.9 6.7 .277

Ray was acquired by the Tigers in the Doug Fister trade with Washington. The 23-year-old southpaw scrapped his curveball after mixed results and replaced it with a slider. Ray already has a fastball with some sink on it and a solid changeup. His ceiling isn’t going to be more than a #3 or #4 starter, but his proximity to the majors and relative low-risk profile make him the best pitching bet in the Tigers’ system. Ray didn’t fare too well in his handful of major league starts in 2014, but he remains one of the internal options to step into the #5 slot in the 2015 rotation. UPDATE: Traded to Arizona

4. Devon Travis, 2B/OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2015

PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB% K% SB CS AVG OBP SLG
441 68 118 20 7 10 50 8.4% 13.6% 16 5 .298 .358 .460

The first in a group of decent middle infield prospects on the Tigers’ farm, Travis was going to transition to the outfield before he required core muscle surgery this fall. Travis was already one of Detroit’s best prospects, and he continued his success in 2014 with Double-A Erie. There isn’t one tool that really stands out, but rather he does a little bit of everything well. That should help him reach the majors as an everyday starter. Once he gets back on the field, expect the Tigers to continue his transition to the outfield. UPDATE: Traded to Toronto

5. Kevin Ziomek, LHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2016

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB/9 K/9 AVG
10 6 2.27 23 23 0 123 89 45 31 5 3.9 11.1 .201

I purposely grouped Ziomek and the next two pitchers together since they are similar in both their upside and risk. If you re-ranked the three of them in another order I wouldn’t put up a big fight. Any of the three could end up as a mid-rotation starter or a reliever. Ziomek, however, had a fantastic 2014 in the Midwest League, where he was the best left-handed starter in the league. He was second in strikeouts (152) and held opposing hitters to a .201 batting average. He showed good control and really turned it on in the second half of the season, posting a 2.4 BB/9 and a 13.3 K/9 in July and August.

6. Jonathon Crawford, RHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB/9 K/9 AVG
8 3 2.85 23 23 0 123 93 41 39 3 3.7 6.2 .220

Crawford has a little more zip on his fastball than Ziomek, but also doesn’t show the same level of command with all of his pitches, according to scouting reports. The West Michigan rotation was nasty in 2014 with Crawford, Ziomek, and Farmer all having great seasons. It will take more refining as he climbs the minor league ladder, but the former first-rounder has just as good a shot to reach his ceiling as any of the others. He’ll likely get his first taste of Double-A in 2015. UPDATE: Traded to Cincinnati

7. Buck Farmer, RHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2015

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB/9 K/9 AVG
12 6 3.07 22 22 0 123 112 50 42 8 2.3 9.4 .240

Of the three MWL arms, Baseball America liked Farmer the most this season. His fastball is his best pitch, with a slider and a changeup still developing. While Farmer fared well in the Midwest League, his first taste of the majors in August didn’t go quite as smoothly. Farmer gave up 12 earned runs in just over nine MLB innings before he returned to the minors to finish the season. Like the other two arms mentioned above, Farmer’s upside is limited to a mid-rotation starter. There’s still time to develop those secondary pitches, though, and it’s really hard not to root for a name like Buck Farmer.

8. Javier Betancourt, 2B/SS | Age: 19 | ETA: 2017

PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB% K% SB CS AVG OBP SLG
612 67 150 18 3 6 55 4.2% 13.2% 9 6 .269 .307 .344

Betancourt spent the entire season in the Midwest League, where he was the 11th youngest player in the league at just 19 years old. He makes good contact, hits for some power, and steals a few bases. Nothing flashy – but for a 19-year-old in his first full season there’s a lot to like. The wear and tear may have showed in his .127 August batting average, but overall 2014 was a success. The Tigers gave up another 19-year-old middle infielder named Willy Adames in the David Price trade, but with Betancourt also able to play shortstop and his bat continuing to develop, they may not miss a beat. He’s definitely one to keep an eye on in 2015.

9. Domingo Leyba, 2B | Age: 19 | ETA: 2017

PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB% K% SB CS AVG OBP SLG
278 40 84 18 1 2 23 5.0% 10.8% 3 4 .322 .359 .421

Leyba is still raw at just 19 years old, but he’s another middle infield prospect in the Tigers’ system that does a little bit of everything. He’s a switch hitter that can play both middle infield positions and should add some more pop as he matures. After his promotion, Leyba was one of the youngest players in the Midwest League this season. He more than held his own, hitting .397/.431/.483 with a homer and a steal in 30 games. There is still a lot of development left but it’s easy to get excited about Leyba’s potential. UPDATE: Traded to Arizona

10. Jose Valdez, RHP | Age: 24 | ETA: 2015

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB/9 K/9 AVG
2 3 4.11 47 0 18 57 56 27 26 6 4.1 10.4 .257

Detroit’s bullpen wasn’t exactly the team’s best asset in 2014, but some help may be on the way with Valdez. The 24-year-old has closed out games at each stop of his minor league career. After saving 33 games in 2013, Valdez saved another 18 this season – striking out 66 batters in 57 innings along the way. He improved his walk rate after it ballooned to 6.2 in the 2013 season, but he also posted an ERA over 4.00. It all adds up to a pitcher who may see some high-leverage situations if the Tiger pen continues to flounder, but other than that there’s not too much to get excited about here.

Tigers Previews: 2014 | 2013

AL Top 10 Prospects Index

   
  1. Passive Aggressive says:
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    Although he technically “graduated” last year, do you have any take on Bruce Rondon going forward in 2015 and beyond? Do you think the injury derailed him long term or do you think he’ll be in the mix for a significant late-inning role again?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      He’s in the mix for sure. Just as much as Valdez is at least. Had he been eligible, I would have put him in that 10 spot.

  2. Gonzo_The_Great says:
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    Mike – I know these minor league columns don’t get nearly as many comments, but they’re super interesting. Thanks for the great stuff. I’m worried to see what you have to say about our mutually beloved Phils.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      thanks Gonzo!

      Phils are coming soon…some interesting pieces in that system

  3. stinkbugz says:
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    Love this series.

    I know he just graduated this past year, but when it’s all said and done, do you think Castellanos ever becomes a Top 10 3B? Any chance he moves up in the batting order?

    Thanks

    • Noah says:
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      @stinkbugz: Do you even think Castellanos is going to stick at third?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      I’d say yes to both, even though it might not be in 2015…

      As far as sticking, it’s tough to say, but i don’t see why not. If one of the middle infield specs shifts over there I guess it’s possible he’d move to a corner outfield position

  4. MattTruss

    MattTruss223 says:
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    Jose Iglesias should be good to go for 2015 and at only 24 will hopefully stick at SS for some time, another reason Adames was likely expendable.

    Great work with this series so far Mike, always a fun read.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      yup, Detroit has some nice middle infield pieces to work with…thanks for the kind words!

  5. Birdmann says:
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    Keep up the good stuff, read the article and felt I should write something so we could get to at least ten comments, for such good work. I didn’t realize the Tigers have hardly anything in their well.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Thanks! It’s not a great farm, but pieces like Moya and even Betancourt are pretty interesting fantasy-wise.

  6. DanTheMetsFan says:
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    Hey Mike! Always enjoy you columns.

    Can you try to predict the future tell me your outlook on Lindor and Bogaerts for 2015?. I m in a 16 team Dynasty League(finished second) and I only have Alcides Escobar at SS. Wondering if I should make a play for either one of them. The owner is interested in my Heaney and I have plenty of pitching.

    Many Thanks!

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      thanks Dan!

      I’d make a play for Bogey if it’s on the table. Not only is he a surer bet to start the season in the majors, but I think he’ll be the better all around fantasy bat of the two. Definitely would be willing to part with Heaney for either, but I’d shoot for Bogey.

  7. Swfcdan says:
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    Moya is upsidey but smells very risky to me. Those big K guys are always the most likely to drown at the big league level I feel. Where would he rank in terms of overall prospects for you?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      I feel ya on the Ks…back end of the T100 if he cracked it at all. Power and proximity are the two things he’s got going for him right now compared to the rest of the crop.

      • Swfcdan says:
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        @Mike: And he’s the Tigres top prospect? Wow thats bad…

        • Swfcdan says:
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          @Swfcdan: Tigres? I mean Tigers, though maybe Tigres could be Spanish…

          • Mike

            Mike says:
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            haha maybe you channeled your inner Licey fan…

            • Swfcdan says:
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              @Mike: Haha so it is Spanish. Anyway the Tigres farm system sucks. Suprised you dont have Hill above Moya considering, guess he’s not an impact prospect to target in out offseason prospect drafts either.

              Boo these contending teams farms, we want to see the weak teams farms haha.

              • Mike

                Mike says:
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                yeah, I’d lean Moya in fantasy since he’s closer to contributing

                • Swfcdan says:
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                  @Mike: Yeah proximity is always an important factor, too many people overlook that and instead go for the toolsy guy whos 3/4 years away. Gotta live in the now sometimes.

                  • Mike

                    Mike says:
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                    yup. If Hunter resigns with the Tigers it will be one thing, but if he walks it’s going to be a major opportunity for Moya to take that RF gig.

  8. BootsyBaby says:
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    On my AL only keeper team, when Jaso went down in September, I picked up Bryan Holaday. Seemed to have the potential to be an OK second catcher. I note he is not on your list – thoughts on him for the next few years? Could the Tigers go with him over Avila at some point before the end of the 2015 season?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Holaday exceeded his rookie limits in 2013, so he’s not eligible for a list like this. As far as getting some playing time over Avila, it’s hard to say. Avila is a good catcher and swings a decent enough bat.

      • BootsyBaby says:
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        Duh. Did not realize he lost rookie status a few years ago. Now that I look, he is 27…almost as olod as Avila! Anyhoo, thanks for the opinion. I enjoy your writing. Keep up the good work –

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          ha no worries…thanks!

  9. Joey Jo Jo Jr Shabadoo says:
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    did valdez come over from BOS recently, since fantrax seems to have their only jose valdez being on BOS.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      as far as I know he’s been with DET the whole time, so not sure why they have him listed there like that. I play on Fantrax too and checked out his player page. News blurb is from Detroit (the guy mentioned above), but the age/team listed on his player card don’t match (they have him listed as a 31 year old). My guess is that’s him and they just have his bio screwed up.

  10. TK says:
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    Hi Mike, Is James McCann the Tigers catcher of the future or is he more likely a back-up with good D?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Yup, I think he leapfrogs Holaday. He’s defense-first like you mentioned, but he had decent offensive numbers in the minors this past year. Should get a real crack at backing up Avila to start the year in 2015.

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