Thomas Jefferson once said “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom”. This is a lesson the 2017 Detroit Tigers took to heart. They knew their window was honestly closing, and sold off aging stars, and spare parts for something Detroit has lacked for a long time, organizational depth. Over the past two drafts and the 2017 trade deadline (both of them), the Tigers added seven of the top ten players on the list below. They’ve focused heavily on adding arms with front of the rotation upsides, and have succeeded for the most part, plucking a handful of exciting pitching talents. The positional side of things is a little thinner, but there’s a small collection of bats with some serious fantasy allure. With the top pick in the upcoming 2018 MLB draft there’s a good chance the Tigers add a couple of impact players before this time next year. The future is bright in the Motor City, with a majority of their top talents years away, this could be a system on the rise over the next 24 months. One side note, I was well trained for this post, by Tigers Prospect writer and friend Emily Waldon. If you’re not following Emily now on twitter you really should. I’ll give you a minute… Now that you’ve obeyed my every command, let’s get into the Detroit Tigers Top Prospects for 2018.
1) Christin Stewart, OF | Level: AA | Age: 24 | 2017 Stats: .256/.335/.501, 28 HR, 86 RBI, 3 SB
The king of the three outcome bats, Stewart has 30 home run hitter written all over him, but that might be his penchant for redundant tattoos. He’s hit 58 homers over the last two seasons, and looks like the first of the Tigers up and coming core to reach the show. He’s a muscle bound slugger with advanced approach, and the ability to barrel balls consistently. He’s done a good job of curbing his strikeout rate and fighting the urge to be overly pull happy. ETA: 2018
2) Matt Manning, RHP | Level: A | Age: 19 | 2017 Stats: 4-2, 51 IP, 3.18 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 62 K, 25 Bb
The 19 year old righty is a tall athletic specimen, with a live four-seam fastball, and a massive amount of upside. The 9th overall pick in the 2016 draft, spent the first half of 2017 refining his mechanics in extended spring training. As should be expected from a player that didn’t fully commit to baseball until his senior year of high school, it might take a little longer for Manning to cultivate refinement in his sequencing and approach. His arsenal is comprised of a rising high 90’s fastball, a changeup, and a spiked curveball. Manning should see assignment to full season ball out of spring training in 2018. Power pitcher with top of the rotation upside. ETA: 2021
3) Franklin Perez, RHP | Level: AA | Age: 20 | 2017 Stats: 6-3, 86.1 IP, 3.02 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 78 K, 27 Bb
The centerpiece of the deal that sent Justin Verlander to the Astros, Perez is a supremely talented 19 year old, who is just the latest in a long line of top notch prospects from Houston’s development machine. While he has no true plus offering, he does have plus command of a quartet of above average pitches (four-seam, changeup, slider, and curveball). The combination of pitchability, and a deep arsenal give Perez front of the rotation upside. ETA: 2019
4) Isaac Paredes, SS | Level: A | Age: 18 | 2017 Stats: .252/.338/.387, 11 HR, 70 RBI, 2 SB
It’s easy to look at Paredes statline and be dismissive, but keep in mind this is an 18 year old who spent the year in full season ball, and was traded at the deadline. With context, it’s not such a bad showing. Paredes possesses above average bat speed, excellent bat to ball skills, and above average power. He’s been described by many as a natural hitter, whatever that means. Draws comps to Jhonny Peralta and Gleyber Torres, not sure if they too were natural hitters. ETA: 2020
5) Alex Faedo, RHP | Level: N/A | Age: 22 | 2017 Stats: Did Not Play
The Tigers rested Faedo after he threw 123.2 innings as the ace of the Florida team that won the national championship. After starting slow in the spring as he recovered from off-season knee surgery, Faedo began to regain the giddy up on his fastball. By the end of the season Faedo was working 92-94, and touching 98 on occasion. His fastball has great action and movement, making it tough to barrel up. Which is why the returned velocity is such a boost to his value. He throws an excellent slider, that gives him a true out pitch, many considered it to be amongst the best breaking balls in the 2017 draft. From time to time he mixes in an average change as well, and the development of this pitch might be key to his future success as a starter. ETA: 2020
6) Daz Cameron, OF | LeveL: A | Age: 20 | 2017 Stats: .271/.351/.463, 14 HR, 74 RBI, 32 SB
Depending on who you read, Cameron either projects as an average across the board everyday player, or a fringe everyday/fourth outfielder type. After struggling with an aggressive full season assignment out of camp in 2016, Cameron improved upon demotion to short season ball. After struggling for the first two months of the 2017 season, the Astros decided to rework Cameron’s swing, scraping a pull-heavy style for a two strike approach. Since then he’s done a better job of going the other way, and has tapped into his raw power with more regularity. Watching his slashline improve month over month (June: .258/.343/.506, July: .309/.374/.532, August: .379/.454/.573) as the season progressed. There’s still swing and miss to his game, but he did manage to get his K% down to a satisfactory 21.5%. While there’s no real standout tool, Cameron brings to the table, power, speed, approach, contact hitting, and enough defensive chops for an everyday gig. He’s no superstar, but he has the makings of a useful fantasy player. ETA: 2020
7) Beau Burrows, RHP | Level: AA | Age: 21 | 2017 Stats: 10-7, 135 IP, 3.20 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 137 Ks, 44 Bbs
The former 22nd overall pick in the 2015 MLB draft. Burrows overpowered hitters in the Florida State League for the first two months, recording a 1.23 ERA backed by an 18.1% SwStr%, .218 BAA, and a 5.64 K/Bb. Upon promotion to AA Erie, Burrows was inconsistent, having strong starts, followed by a string of blowups. All in all it was a massive step forward for Burrows as he played the entire year at just 20 years of age. His arsenal is led by a plus fastball, that will flash double plus at it’s sharpest. The pitch generates tons of whiffs with lots of movement and late life. He sits mostly low-90’s, but can reach back for 95-96 when needed. His secondaries are led by a curveball, and consist of a slider and changeup as well. Most scouting reports grade each as average/fringe, and more than a couple scouts pinned them as the culprit for his AA struggles. Burrows is a promising talent with some kinks to work out, but at the end of the day a prospect worth rostering in any league where 150-200+ are owned. The aforementioned Emily Waldon praises his smarts, and ability to analyze game situations. During our discussion a few weeks ago she assured us his struggles at AA were nothing too alarming. ETA: 2019
8) Kyle Funkhouser, RHP | Level: A | Age: 23 | 2017 Stats: 5-2, 62.2 IP, 2.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 83 Ks, 19 Bb
The former Louisville ace rebounded early in his Professional career, following a difficult 2016 at Louisville, that saw him struggle in his final year there. Funkhouser tumbled to Detroit in the 4th round of the 2016 draft, after having going 35th overall to the Dodgers a year prior. He had a solid professional debut in the New York Penn League to end the season, and was a popular pick as a potential 2017 breakout. And breakout he did, posting a 5-2 record with a K/9 of 11.92, and a .227 batting average against across 11 starts. Then the elbow fairy bit him, and the righty was shutdown with elbow soreness for the remainder of 2017. Reports are that Funkhouser will be ready for spring training and that he’s back to 100% this offseason. His arsenal is led by his fastball that sits low to mid 90’s with some bite. He uses his slider as his out away pitch, with his curveball more of the first strike get me over variety. He’s also shown feel for a changeup hinting to an above average future. If Funkhouser can stay healthy and pickup where he left off, he could be a riser on Top 100 lists come July. ETA: 2020
9) Jake Rogers, C | Level: A+ | Age: 22 | 2017 Stats: .261/.350/.467, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 14 SB
One of the top defensive catchers in baseball, Rogers was acquired from the Astros in the Justin Verlander trade. After an underwhelming college career at the plate, Rogers flashed plus approach, and above average power in his first pro season. He hits the ball in the air a lot with a good mix of flyballs (42%) and line drives (21%), and walked at an 11% clip while keeping the strikeouts in check at 20.8%. It all adds up to a catcher worth targeting in deeper dynasty leagues, and those with two catcher formats. He’s likely two years away, but he’s flashing some unforeseen offensive prowess. ETA: 2020
10) Gregory Soto, LHP | Level: A+ | Age: 22 | 2017 Stats: 12-2, 124 IP, 2.25 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 144 Ks, 65 Bb
With an impressive 12.6% SwStr% in the Midwest League, Soto flashed the ability to miss bats with his plus heater, improving slurvy breaking ball, and fringe changeup. He’s struggled to maintain his control and issues a few more walks than you’d like to see, but there’s no denying there’s upside. Despite his success this season, I project Soto as best suited for a relief role in the future. An exciting arm stuff wise, but I think he lacks the makeup at the end of the day to make it as a starter at the MLB level. ETA: 2020
11) Michael Gerber, OF | Level: AAA | Age: 25 | 2017 Stats: .304/.373/.496, 14 HR, 50 RBI, 10 SB
A 15th round pick out of Creighton back in 2014, Gerber has had to scratch and claw his way through the minors, finally breaking out a bit last year with AA Erie. Gerber receives rave reviews from people inside the Tigers organization, and he might just have the inside track to a significant chunk of MLB playing time in 2018. He’s had insane line drive rates over the last few years, ranging anywhere from 27% to 20%, he can get pull happy at times, but has the ability to go the other way. He also runs fairly well, flashes about average power, and can play all three outfield spots. Gerber might just be an off the radar deep league sleeper this year. ETA: 2018
12) Sam McMillan, C | Level: Rk | Age: 19 | 2017 Stats: .288/.441/.432, 3 HR, 25 RBI, 1 Sb
A talented high school player out of Florida, the Tigers signed McMillan for second round money with a $1 million signing bonus. That proved enough to lure the backstop away from a Florida commitment, and into the professional ranks. With a fluid swing, strong hands and wrists, and a really keen eye for a teenager, “Sammy McMilly” has a shot at developing into a plus hitting catcher. Though he’s outside the Top 10, he should be a player on the rise in the Tigers system over the coming years. ETA: 2022
13) Victor Reyes, OF | Level: AA | Age: 23 | 2017 Stats: .292/.332/.399, 4 HR, 51 RBI, 18 SB
The top overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft, Reyes is a speed and defense player with a line drive focused swing from both sides of the plate. He’s a contact first hitter, rarely striking out, but not walking a ton either. He puts the ball in play with consistent solid contact, and is adept at going the opposite way. Part of the condition of his selection in the Rule 5 draft is that he remains on the big league roster all season. With shallow depth in the Tigers outfield, Reyes will get some playing time, and might just be a sleeper this season and beyond if his skills translate. Wouldn’t hurt if he could find a little more extra base power. ETA: 2018
14) Derek Hill, OF | Level: A+ | Age: 22 | 2017 Stats: .246/.346/.379, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 29 SB
A former first round pick, Hill’s career has been derailed by a string of injuries. An up the middle speed and defense centerfield type, Hill has been the victim of unreal expectations to a certain extent. When you look a little deeper he does a lot of good things at the plate from a contact standpoint. He hits the ball in the air a fair amount, mixing in a good balance of line drives, groundballs, and flyballs. Pointing to a possible untapped power ceiling, even if it’s only a modest 10-12 homers. He also goes the other way, works counts, and gets on base. He’s an absolute terror on the bases as well, stealing 29 on 34 attempts in 58 games last season. There’s potential still for a solid everyday centerfielder, but Hill will need to stay healthy. Reining in his all or nothing pace, in favor of a little more control might be what Hill needs to do to find the durability his career covets. ETA: 2019
15) Dawel Lugo, 2B/3B/SS | Level: AA | Age: 22 | 2017 Stats: .277/.321/.424, 13 HR, 65 RBI, 3 Sb
One of the players acquired for J.D. Martinez, Lugo is the kind of player I want to like on paper, but really can’t get into when I watch him. His batting stance is stiff, with a really wide lower half, and an arm heavy swing. On paper the numbers aren’t bad, but he swings at everything, and gets his bat on a large chunk of it. I’m worried he might not get his bat on as much against upper level pitching. Every so often his timing clicks and he drives a ball over the fence, but his power is just average. There’s a ton of questions about his ultimate defensive home too, the Tigers gave him 13 starts at second, and with Ian Kinsler out the door, and a spot on the 40 man, there’s a good chance we see Lugo in 2018. ETA: 2018
16) Reynaldo Rivera, OF | Level: A- | Age: 20 | 2017 Stats: .187/.261/.280, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 3 SB
A big (6’6 250) strong lefthanded hitter out of the JuCo World Series champ Chipola College, he finished Top 10 nationally in average, on base, and slugging before going to the Tigers in the second round. There’s some swing and miss to his game, and he’s a bit raw, but there’s a ton of pop in his bat, and more athleticism than you think. With the ability to play the corner outfield spots and first base, Rivera has multiple avenues to playing time. There’s a lot of upside, but Rivera is certainly a work in progress. ETA: 2021
Find all of the 30 Minor League Previews, and Offseason Rankings on the Minor League Index
On Twitter as @ProspectJesus
So, here is a different question than you have probably ever had before. I live in Wichita, KS, former home of the Wichita Wranglers (Kansas City’s AA team prior to moving to North Arknasas). The mayor is talking about bringing an affiliated team back to Wichita. I don’t think it is going to be a Kansas City Royals’ affiliated team. Any of your contacts have any idea who it may be?
I have been looking forward to this post for awhile! Good honest analysis of this farm. I am excited to see what the Tigers do in the draft, and how they continue to progress with the transition toward the future. If we can just find a way to get rid of Miggy/Victor and those gross contracts.
Is JaCoby Jones in any way resembling a useful piece in the majors? I liked him in dynasties a couple years back but the results against big league pitching have been ugly
@Russ: Yeah, unless he makes some adjustments he’s a boarderline guy for me.
Funk has had consistent fatigue issues going back to college. Do you think they keep trying him as a starter or transition him to relief?
@Miketron: For now the plan is proceed with him as a starter. It might just be an improvement needed in conditioning.
HAPPY NEW YEARS EVE PJ!
Christian Stewart, big time power, does he start the year in Motown?
@Malicious Phenoms: Probably not. Emily thinks he’ll start the year in AAA, and I tend to agree. I do think we see him sometime mid-summer.